Tag Archives: Craft fairs

Cracking on… (for Christmas. Shhh.)

It’s less than two weeks. No, not to Christmas, come down from the ceiling, it’s not that scary though it is nearly as bad. Nope, it’s less than two weeks until the big Harlech Craft Fair and I am picnicking.

PANICKING, thank you, WordPress autocorrect.

Wish I was picnicking, but there you go. In fact, here is Picnic Central, otherwise known as the kitchen table, complete with iPad, knitting and one of the 85,345,278 cups of tea I drink in the course of a day.

table

Ahem.

It’s a great Fair, the Harlech one – really more of a makers’ market, as the craftspeople are professionals who all earn at least part of their income doing what they do. But everyone is used to it being called Harlech Christmas Craft Fair, and so it stays as that. I’m one of the stallholders and this year, due to having had a crazy summer where I almost sold out of everything, I’m diversifying.

No, not into ‘innovative jam’ (copyright Teresa May) or pottery or pyrographing my name on my forehead or doing anything surprising in metal. Into a few simple woolly kits. It struck me, during the summer of eeeeeekkkkkk!!!!!!!, that I was missing some potential customers. Knitters came to chat about knitting, great, enjoyed it, loved it – can happily talk about knitting until the cows have come home, changed and gone out on the town partying – but they didn’t buy. Well, the chances are that I wouldn’t buy knitting either on a woolly stall, though I would always make a beeline for any such stalls at similar events.

This got me thinking, as did some of the things these knitters said, such as ‘what’s a three-needle bind off?’ and ‘Russian splicing? What’s that?’ When you knit and know things, you tend to assume that other knitters also know those things, and yet sometimes they don’t. Take me, f’r instance. I can’t do kitchener stitch (I know) or work on double-pointed needles without tying myself in knots: we all have things which aren’t our thing, if you get my drift.

So: basic kits for my own straightforward but effective patterns, each incorporating a technique or alternative approach – that is the idea. I’ve sourced some wool which is good quality but reasonable so it allows me to sell it on at an equally reasonable price, though not in huge quantities – this is just a test, after all. I’ve worked up some patterns, tested them, made silly mistakes, corrected them, retested them and now all I need to do is type them out. The most complicated one is my Woolwinding Shawl, and that’s not really complicated; the simplest one is an offset rib double cowl. But the one I am most absurdly pleased with is almost as easy, a pair of simple fingerless mitts / wrist warmers.

mitt

I spent ages fiddling around with the cables, after one silly mistake with the pattern I thought I was going to use made them look like varicose veins (definitely best discarded, mistake or no mistake, largely because I couldn’t stop laughing). They’re a variation on the classic claw Aran pattern, but without the long thread across the traditional 1/3 cable which can catch on things. There’s a right and a left mitt; the palms are plain because that’s more practical (and it helps the wool go further so you can get two mitts out of a single ball of loveliness; these test mitts are in Rowan Pure Wool DK, but I’ve got a few balls of delicious DK alpaca for the kits themselves). I’ve also got a fingerless glove pattern in 4 ply which is more complicated, but I’ll see how these go first.

This made me think about fingerless mitts. I’ve always used them – before I even knitted -because I was a photographer and needed my fingertips free. They were really difficult to find, once, too. Not so now; I’ve noticed them in the outdoor and mountaineering shops round here, often with a mitt bit (must trademark that) which fastens back, but I’ve also seen them in general shops, and whenever I have them for sale they always fly out. Maybe it’s something to do with all the tech we use nowadays, rather than the fact that we’re all rock climbing?

Anyway, let’s see how the kits go. If nothing else, it will take some of the pressure off me for finished objects (took some off by not doing commissions any more, and that helps), and they can go on etsy too, when I get my act together. And now I’m back in love with cables, too.

mitt2

And with warm radiators, even though they make a disconcerting background for photos. Doing a selfie of your hand is not as easy as you’d think (thank goodness for protective cases for tech). Hey ho!

2015, a year in wool

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and that 2016 proves to be a wonderful year. What more can I say, except for BAAAAA!

Baaaaaa

(Was tickled by this slightly louche Shetland matriarch, wearing her ear tag like a clubbing accessory)

Now the festivities – and other events – have settled down a bit, I’ve fired up my trusty MacBook Pro for the first time in a few days (never thought an iPad would change my life, but hey ho) and have taken a look through the year’s photographs. Two things struck me: a) that I’d actually fitted quite a bit in, despite being really busy on the work front, and b) that photographs don’t always reflect what’s really happening in your life. Not even if, like a friend of mine who is way too old to know better, you are the world’s most obsessive taker (and, yawn, yawn, sharer) of bad selfies. But I’m going to talk about the knitting which has marked this year out, and not the fact that it’s been bookended with funerals. Plus there’ve been deaths in between – mostly of the older generation, but still.* Back to wool!

I started the knitting year with turquoise, and I’m ending it in the same colour,

admittedly, turquoise with other colours but still unusual enough to be remarked upon.

The wooly highlight had to be another journey north: Shetland, and first stop Jamieson’s in Lerwick as I’d heard great things of the revamped shop. They were all, unfortunately, true. Rats. I just had to spend money. Plus there was the museum and the excellent taatit rugs exhibition, and the Bod of Gremista, from which I think these two shots come,

and what with one thing and another I came back with the makings of a Fair Isle cardigan. It’ll be done when I’ve finished the one currently on the needles (also in yarn bought in Shetland, cough, cough).

My hands have been so much better, and I’ve really enjoyed knitting for things like the Harlech Fibre and Fabric Fair in the summer, where I also got a chance to talk about natural dyes with people. Er, once the Fair was actually open, that is. Prior to that it was a frenzy of sorting out signage and bunting and pricing and labels and craftspeople and people doing the teas and, and, and thank heavens I wasn’t doing it alone. Many thanks to Julie. Many, many, many thanks!

woolwinding

I’m not the world’s most expert dyer – by a long stretch – but I still have the daft enthusiasm that allows me to be fascinated by the fact that rinsing a skein dyed with elderberry in water at a friend’s house – on the wool winder – could have a completely different result when I rinsed the next one at my own place (all the colour leeched out – it was most alarming, but did allow me to overdye the wool).

High summer – we did have one, briefly, I have more photographic evidence – saw me spinning in public with some members of the Llyn Guild. It was a completely delightful day, even if we were all quite hoarse by the time we were winding down.

sip

In fact, it was so good that we’re not spinning in public on the official day – towards the end of September – any more. There are so many more people about in August, and the weather is more predictable, plus we can return here. Where there is also cake.

Along the way I’ve opened a twitter account for a cat,

Bramble

who thinks she runs a wool shop (thinks?) – she’s at @WoolShopCat, naturally – and saw her followers increase in both numbers and interaction in the first twenty-four hours way more than my own (it’s settled down now, which is more than can be said for Bramble, currently in Christmas-catnip mode). I’ve been in a pop-up craft shop during the summer, which was fab, and had a very successful time at the Harlech Craft Fair at the end of November. The problem has been keeping pace but, as I said, my hands are much better. I’ve even fitted in some knitting for me.

And now I need to go and lie down for a bit. But I just have this sleeve to finish, you see, and…
Best woolly wishes to everyone for 2016!

*why this year should have been particularly bad on the funerals front, I don’t know. Except, that is, for the fact that several people were either in their 90s or nearly there, so not entirely unexpected. But why do deaths come in flurries? My grandfather used to get quite wary if there’d been two until there was a third, and it’s not as though there was a geographical factor at work – they ranged from the highlands of Scotland to South Africa. Very odd.

I’ve been a bit quiet…

… and this is why:

Belinda

Even I realise this needs some explanation. This, incidentally, is Belinda and he is modelling a bias cowl knitted in a yarn I wouldn’t normally go for but which is one of the best ‘fake fur’ yarns I’ve come across, Sirdar’s Touch.

OK, the elephant in the room. Or perhaps the cross-gender bear on the bed.

I’ve no idea why he’s called Belinda but he is definitely male. Not sure how I knew, I just did. I think I wanted a brother when I was given Belinda (a year or so later I experienced the reality and, let me tell you, it was not what I’d imagined) and that may account for my certainty, but why Belinda? I didn’t know any Belindas. I knew a Chloe and a Jean-Louis and a Gerald and a Simon and a Didier and a Susan, but I didn’t know a Belinda. Anyway, Belinda it is and he’s not changing it now.

Ahem.

I’ve been busy because of this (well, and work, natch):

a4 craft fair christmas poster 2015

of which I am one of the organisers. And ‘organising’ is probably not the best word, because organising craftspeople, and I class myself in this, is an art right up there with herding kittens and trying to rearrange clouds. And now I’m trying to prepare myself for the inevitable – the lovely customers, the fellow knitters, are a joy – of course. But there’s also the ‘I can make one of these myself, so can you let me have it cheaper?’ / ‘you can get these in Asda for £2.50’ brigade. Sigh.

Will be back once next weekend is over. Possibly traumatised.

Poleaxed by plague

Oh, OK, it’s a bad cold. Well, one with added bronchitis and a cough that can probably be heard in Ulan Bator, but hey. I am feeling somewhat sorry for myself – especially since this week was supposedly a week off for a family visit over half term. Instead of which I have probably achieved nothing other than to give my nearest and dearest their worst colds of the winter. Nice.

But stop – I have also achieved this:

cowl

I know, it looks like small furry animal all curled up like that. Soft and fuzzy – which, according to a recent wildlife documentary, is the essence of cute. Admittedly so are big, front-facing eyes which this has not got, but – hm, maybe I’be had too much Ventolin.

It’s actually a cowl,

cowl

A double-moss-stitch moebius cowl, to be exact, and it will end up as one of my simple patterns on Ravelry (and here) eventually. It’s part of my determined effort to use up my stash, and specifically the huge amount of lovely angora mix I bought at Wonderwool ahem years ago, and which hasn’t quite found its way into a finished garment. It’s being used double, which means it knits up really quickly.

And I’ve started another variation on the theme. I was going to repeat the moss-stitch but in my current befuddled, be-Ventolined, be-Paracetamolled condition I was unable to cope with the complexities of the pattern (!). So this is a displaced rib, as it were, and I’m loving the texture:

ribbed cowl

Again, I’m using yarn from the stash and again I’m using it double. This is a Queensland DK, 100% pure Merino, very lovely. There were no dye lots, because it’s a small dye-run, totally artisan product, and they suggest you do what is, in effect, a Colinette – knit with two balls, using them alternately every two rows. Tried that: stripes. Marked stripes. My skeins are very different,

different colours of yarn

as is glaringly obvious – in this case, one brownish, one greyish. Using them double is the perfect solution, and so they have been rescued from the ‘Feck this, you’re going to a charity shop’ bin. I don’t need all these cowls (in theory), but there’s going to be a designer-makers’ fair focusing on fabric and fibre in Harlech in the summer, and they’ll make good stock. I’m hoping it won’t be the sort of summer to require 100% Merino cowls, but that people will instead buy them for Christmas.

In the meanwhile, life in this village is a bit like the ‘bring out your dead’ scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (and it’s not just me: someone I know said working at a nearby surgery ATM was like ‘working in a bucket of rats’). Now Monty P: that’s something I might watch. Either that or the box set of The  Nazis: A Warning from History. Not that I’m getting depressed about the forthcoming election, oh no. I’m depressed about there being another eleven weeks of pointless point-scoring and bitching and bickering and silly repetitious sound bites and spin doctors and slanted media and far too many ******** politicians. AGH!

Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!

 

What not to do at a craft fair…

Just before the big Harlech Craft Fair at the weekend, this materialised on the Fair’s Facebook page. It’s from the California Arts Council:

agh!

We were very busy – it’s the first year we’ve used social media in an organised campaign – but a couple of us amused ourselves by collecting these. I had several 5s, as usual quite a few 7s (yes, but when will you?), several 10s and a 9 from someone who wanted me to make a long dangly scarf, crocheted in eyelash yarn. Had to explain that not all knitters can crochet (don’t get me going on the eyelash yarn), and she left shaking her head sadly at my incompetence (she can’t do either).

But there were two prize winners. One wasn’t from my stall. There was a pair of fingerless gloves on the other knitter’s stall, very reasonably priced. One of our very right-on residents picked them up and delivered herself of a 1 – though without the specific Walmart ref, natch – with what could only be described as a sneer; I think she was looking for a fight. Stallholder resisted urge to biff this person over the head, which I considered very restrained, and pointed out that the gloves she was talking about were not wool, not handmade, and might easily have have manufactured in some far-eastern sweatshop by eight year olds – the perfect response for our guardian of all social causes.

My prizewinner was a version of 10, I suppose (why these people have to be so furtive, I do not know, but the close examination and muttering always gives the game away – just ask, and I’ll help). Two women approach stall, second visit for one. Returnee goes back to cushion she was examining earlier. Friend also fondles cushion. Meanwhile, I am dealing with another customer. After some time, the two walk away; intrigued, I follow. One is saying to the other ‘so you could do that for me with an old sweater?’ and the other assures her that it would be easy, could do it for Christmas, though she was expressing slight worries about the rib pulling in. Had they asked I would have enlightened them: no, you can’t use an old sweater. It has to be knitted from scratch, largely because of the rib pulling in, plus old sweaters are never quite the right size and some have a surprising tendency to unravel and develop strange bald patches that really show up. I wasted many hours and several sweaters, including one in cashmere, before realising the truth. I hope they’re not planning to do anything else in December…

But it was a lovely craft fair, and because several people have asked, here’s a general montage of some of the stalls:

Selling my babies (as it were)

Just a quickie post, because it’s the big Harlech Arts and Crafts Fair this weekend and I am one of the organisers. (It’s highly professional, and is absolutely not toecover territory, see previous post, well… generally it isn’t.) I’m also a stallholder, and I have a terrible habit of being very, very, very last minute. I also have a terrible habit of forgetting to photograph things I sell…

This year I have rediscovered my love for all things Colinette. Well, not quite all things, because the patterns are still bonkers and I’m not a huge fan of having unintentionally indigo hands or red bamboo needles. But I can forgive their Giotto yarn almost anything:

giotto 1

simply because the colours are so gorgeous, the texture is so appealing, and it drapes beautifully,

cowl 1

with just enough body to work as a light cowl. It’s my own pattern, dead simple, and I sold several of these last year. One was bought by a friend who wore it all summer, and that’s even though it was a good summer. I’ve some bits left over so I’m experimenting with necklaces, but I’ve not made one I think really works. Yet.

Even the more subdued colourways appeal:

Giotto 2

and I freely admit that I often find them very difficult to sell. Um, to part with: they’re very easy to sell… my inner two year old surfaces and I start channelling Stewie from Family Guy when it suddenly happens to him: Mine! Mine!! MINE!!! (Some might say I channel Stewie at other times too, but I couldn’t possibly comment.)

So sometimes I just give up. Generally I try not to do this with more than one item, but often I fail. My item of choice for this year, which is going nowhere near my stall, is a double mobius cowl, also in a Colinette yarn, Prism this time:

Prism cowl

It’s too smooshy. It’s too soft. It would be cruel, sending it out into the wide world. Wearing it is like having a nestful of kittens draped round your neck, except there’s no fighting and nobody dribbles or pees down your front. It’s just too cuddly:

prism detail

I’ve used Prism before, for a cardigan, and let me just say that it felts beautifully despite being  blend of cotton and wool. I’ll leave it at that, but boy am I going to be careful with this. See? I couldn’t trust anyone else to look after it.

MINE!

Crafty fairing

I’m going slightly out of my mind, I think.

I’m exhausted  – something woke lots of people round here at 2.29 a.m., probably night-flying RAF* – and it’s the half-yearly Harlech Craft Fair tomorrow and Sunday. It doesn’t seem long since the last one, which was actually in November when the weather was a little different:

and it was a real pain struggling downhill to the Memorial Hall with all the stock, slithering and teetering over the sheets of ice. Somehow, whatever the weather throws at us, I don’t think there’ll be a snowstorm coming in over the sea tomorrow. Gobeithio (hopefully)…

But there will be lots of goodies, and it will be great to see everyone and meet some new craftspeople, too. There’ll be weaving:

There’ll be paintings in a range of styles; there’ll be driftwood furniture, hand-dyed yarns (I must resist, I must resist), photographs, baskets:

And there’ll also be glass, children’s clothes, quilts, jewellery, pots, chocolate (don’t imagine there’ll be much left after the craftspeople have raided that particular stall), and other edibles, possibly less festive in nature than this kitcheny assortment:

Plus there’ll be teas and coffees to raise money for our local swimming pool, just taken into community ownership after a long – um, process. Yes, I think that’s the most tactful best way of describing the last few years since the council closed it suddenly because of an electrical fault.

So if you happen to be anywhere near this big castle-shaped object

tomorrow or Sunday, come and visit us (photo courtesy Welsh Tourist Board, aka Visit Wales – and note the sheep; I’m probably spinning one of those right now – er,  the fleece from one, that is). There may even be some chocolate left.

And we’ve got quite a good beach and some mountains, too:

*Allegedly a local farmer, fed up with the low flying which is endemic in many remote rural areas, wrote ‘F••• OFF BIGGLES’ on the roof of his barn. His life was not improved by the pilots coming down even lower to have a look. I don’t care if this story is apocryphal or not; I love it.