Tag Archives: Knitting

What makes a good wool shop?

I’ve been considering this – and I’d better fess up, because I work in one, half a day a week, to get me a) out of the house, b) working with all sorts of yarn fabulousness, and c) to give me an excuse to make the most enormous fuss of the individual who really runs Knit one… in Dolgellau, the lovely and somewhat bossy imperious Bramble:

I’m abandoning North Wales briefly next week, as I have a meeting in London. Conveniently close to Loop. I mean, it would be silly not to investigate, wouldn’t it? Even though I have been before?

So, what does constitute a good wool – for wool, read yarn – shop?

First, I suppose, that it exists. There are not as many wool shops as there once were, but I do think the ones which have made it through are an enormous improvement in terms of quality. The first wool shop I remember was a dark cavern of a place in York, where my mother took me in despair when she saw the ‘easy’ object I had picked as my first garment to knit. It was beige. It was a tank top. It was super chunky. I have no idea why, and neither did she. After one horrified look, she stuffed me in the car and drove to a then-notorious area where, in a brutalist block of shops, stood a wool shop. It was stuffed. Stuffed. You couldn’t see in (or out). Ma showed the woman behind the counter what I had been knitting and they both became slightly hysterical. I was allowed to leave, eventually, with a cardigan pattern and some mohair in peacock and jade and purple. I loved that cardigan.

That leads on to the second point: inspiration. Inspiration and colour. Here is Jamieson’s in Lerwick:

and I defy anyone not to be inspired by this. I certainly could not resist, which led to the most complex of my (many, ahem) WiPs, a Fair Isle cardigan, colours chosen to reflect the landscape of Shetland. I am amazed that I managed to restrict myself to enough wool for just one, really.

Texture is part of this as well: you need to be able to fondle those balls (ooo, matron). Even if it is just to stroke them, as on the Oliver Twist stand at Wonderwool Wales:

Which reminds me, it’s Wonderwool next weekend. I will be there, or be square and deprived of yarn, on the Sunday. I have to go, no really I do, because Jamieson’s will be there and I have to collect some more of the yarn for the cardigan. Forced to go, basically. Life is hard.

Next, and maybe it should be right at the top, comes customer service.

I remember a wool shop, now unsurprisingly closed, where the owner spent all her time leaning on the counter and moaning. About the tourists (her bread and butter); about parking; about the weather; about how hard it was to run a wool shop because people would keep coming in wanting to buy stuff (not to worry – they soon went elsewhere); about politics (anyone to the left of Attila the Hun); about the bad service she had received elsewhere – the woman had no sense of irony – and about how the people who went to the local knit and natter groups failed to buy all their yarn from her. Really? You surprise me.

There’s another, too, I’ve encountered. In this one the problem wasn’t lackadaisical service but rather the opposite: you WILL knit this, and you WILL knit it in this yarn. What do you mean, you want to make your own mind up?

Ideally, the service should be just at the right level, and that means being aware of what customers are happy with – some people want to chat, some people want to look in silence (and some people come to see the cat rather than the yarn, but that’s fine). I think it should also involve help where necessary and if required:

(like me being taught magic loop, yet again, yes, I know, I’m blaming my hand surgery). Though there is a fine line between providing help and people who expect you to finish their knitting…

So where, I wonder, will Loop fit in? I’ve not been wildly impressed so far, but I’ve been there with non-knitters – which doesn’t really give you the chance to get a proper impression. We will see. If nothing else, I’m going to enjoy the pattern books. Laine magazine particularly.

And, as a final note, look what we found on the inside of a Zauberball label:

They’re not wrong.

 

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Well, hello (again)

I am, finally, back. Or so I think. I’ve been working on a huge project, completely unrelated to knitting or wool, and am beginning to come out from under. Beginning is the word, though. But, yes, it’s definitely a beginning. I’ve been feeling guilty about not blogging while spending so much time nailed to the laptop doing Other Stuff, so here I am. Back. Back, with a revamp. So hello – again!

It may have been snowy over Easter but three of us huddled together in a pop-up craft-makers’ shop (I sat next to, and occasionally on, the radiator) which gave me a c-c-chance to shiver leave the aforementioned major project and think about wooly things instead. And about how fabulous knitting is in detail:

This, natch, is Noro. Taiyo Sock. I’m in love with Noro, which is odd for someone who habitually dresses in black, but hey ho.

and how wonderfully splendid a variegated yarn looks with stitch detail:

This is a skein I picked up at Wonderwool a few years ago, hand-dyed by Ripples Crafts. The colourway was called ‘lichen’: bang on.

This is another Wonderwool find (which reminds me, the 2018 Wonderwool Wales is very, very close), but I can’t find the label. I think it was dyed by Nimu. Actually, I’m sure it was dyed by Nimu. Beautiful – and the pattern is Stitchnerds’ TGV:

It was refreshing – after spending so long editing and writing and considering and checking and and and and and – to spend some time in the close company of wool. Beautiful wool. And it’s also interesting, when you normally work on your own, to work with other people. No, I did not bite anyone. It was fun.

And, as a final note, some more Noro:

Kureyon Sock, I think. Fabulous colours, just fabulous!

Nearly autumn (thank all the gods)

And I’ve survived!

That is, always supposing something terrible doesn’t happen in the next ten days or so. Quite frankly, this holiday season, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a gnu eating ice creams and riding a unicycle landed on me from a great height. It’s been one of those Augusts. And Julys.

Knitting has happened, however:

(this is a Woolwinding shawl in Rowan’s Grainy Silk) which always makes me feel better. Better despite the fact that I’ve begun to wonder why I don’t just paint a big target on my car and have done with it. Losses? Two wing mirrors, both to tourists going too fast. In one case the German driver was delightful and it was either me or the cyclist he was overtaking, so obviously it was me; in the other, the (British plates) driver vamoosed. Dents? Numerous, including one from being barrelled into a wall by a motor home driving on the wrong side of the road. British, again.

And the weather’s been iffy. But I can warm my hands on this:

I once worked in a major gallery. I went off to do a stage in the US, and one museum where I worked had a lunar chart on the back of the staffroom door. I thought flaky, typical – but no. They’d charted bad customer behaviour and it did coincide with phases of the moon. When I returned to the UK we tried it.

Nah.

Then we tried atmospheric pressure.

Bang on.

Weather changes, either good or bad? Changes in visitor dingbattiness. This summer has provided further support for this theory, to the extent that I submit that it no longer qualifies as theoretical. Been in craft pop up. Woman picks up long thin shawl, holds it right out, studies it. Turns to me: ‘Is this a hat?’

No, it’s a shawl. But do try winding it around your head, it might keep your brain warm.

It is really, really hard keeping the sarcasm level at acceptable. Really hard. So if anyone reading this gets a bit of a sharp response from some hardworking shop keeper this season, please bear in mind the effects of atmospheric pressure, and that if we have to explain once more that ‘please do eat or drink in this shop’ includes you with the can, your child with the crisps, the one with the ice cream and above all the one with the squishy banana, and take it in the spirit it was intended.

And also take your sticky child, your quavers, your magnum, your banana, your dripping can of cola out. Because I am armed with sharp sticks, and by this stage I am not afraid to use them.

WiPs and WiWs

Busy, busy, busy. I love summer (actually I don’t, particularly; autumn’s my favourite) but round here summer means extra work, and lots of it. The work that gets me out if the house and away from the laptop’s titanium grip, that is. Knitting work. Helping-friends-who-have-interesting-shops work. But at least I’m down to only three works in progress, and one thing on the spinning wheel. Mind you, I have only the one wheel.

Here’s the first, a big jumper in Rowan Cocoon. Naturally I’m not knitting to the same gauge as the pattern, so adjustments have been made. We’ll see. Love the yarn, though, even if it sheds like the devil and all his angels.

Then there’s the Megaproject. This is an Orkney cardigan, also a Rowan pattern but knitted in Jamiesons shetland DK instead of Felted Tweed. This has also needed tweaking to get gauge. Naturally.

Happily the only ither thing on the needles (for the moment) does not need me to explore the realms of higher mathematics. It’s a shawlette, culled from Ravelry, and it’s being knitted in some really ancient Jaeger pure silk which I bought in a sale at Rowan in Holmfirth.

and I’m loving the yarn. It will look even better when it’s been blocked, of course, but it is de-lic-ious. Supposedly this is being knitted for the stall, but we will see.

Then on the wheel, in my lamentable attemot to join the Tour de Fleece this year, is some drum-carder blended fibre. There’s silk in here too, and heaven only knows what else.

Not enough to do much with, either, but I decided I would use the TdF to spin up some bits and then… well, who knows? One wristwarmer, perhaps. Which will add a fourth WiP, of course. And might be very useful for someone with one wrist.

Knitting Shetland

In, ahem, 2015 I was in Shetland – not for Shetland Wool Week, but for a holiday. While there I went a bit mad in Jamiesons revamped Lerwick shop, with the intention of knitting myself a Fair Isle in colours which I thought would remind me of Shetland, and I wrote about the colour choice I had tried to make at the time.

That was then, and this is now:

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It’s coming along – I’ve reached the stage where I have to decrease for the armholes at the back (I’m knitting it in pieces rather than in the round; I like the stability of seams… sorry about that). The pattern is Marie Wallin’s Orkney, from Rowan 52; the charts are some of the most confusing I have ever come across and I’ve knitted a lot of Fair Isle, but then there are thirteen colours involved. Thirteen…

And, and, one section has three colours in a row. In traditional FI, that is frowned upon, but this isn’t a traditional Fair Isle. It is, however, not being knitted in the wool for which it was designed – naturally, why make life easy for yourself – but in Jamieson’s DK, from their fab shop (sigh), which has to be a contender for most tempting yarn shop in the known universe.

Jamiesons

This is slightly thicker than the Rowan Felted Tweed used in the original. So not only have I had to allow for the difference in the size I’m knitting (gauge was carefully measured), it also means that a three-colour section is just too bulky. Plus – of course – this row will fall right over the boobs. Hm. So that’s been redrawn.

Still, I am loving the texture and colour of the wool:

img_4286

and its natural stick-with-it-ness means I am getting away with a float across five stitches, as it will felt in enough. Excellent!

I’ve been diving into some of my photographs from Shetland, seeing if my colour choices have indeed worked, and I think they have. Sort of.

Eshaness

The bright green of the seaweed below (and to some extent the grass above, at Eshaness lighthouse) – Jamiesons colour ‘Leprechaun’ – hasn’t been used yet, but it will be. Just a flash.

Mousa ferry

The previous time I was in Shetland it was all about sunsets. On balance, I am happy I went with the more subdued colours from the latest trip. Eighteen months ago. Must be time for another expedition!

I aten’t dead!

In the immortal (literally) words of Pratchett’s fabulous witch Granny Weatherwax, I aten’t dead. I am still here, but have been rushed off my silly feet. Plus my stupid stalker evidently didn’t have enough to do around the festive period and was back tracking me over social media, which isn’t exactly encouraging. However said stalker now appears to be back in their box (I haven’t abandoned my love of grammar and correct use of pronouns, I just refuse to grant ss even the tiniest level of respect). So I should be back, posting away. And I will be, once my lovely MacBookPro comes back from having loads more memory put in it, and a consequent upgrade to the OS.

So in the meanwhile, here’s what I’ve just finished:

snuggle

A scarf in a mix of Noro and Rowan’s Kidsilk Haze. I didn’t even start the new year by making use of the stash (which I certainly should have done), as this was something I unravelled. And I didn’t get round to making a pussyhat (which I should also have done), partly because I didn’t have any pink other than this and I wasn’t unravelling it again, and also because I was working and not travelling to London to march. Best intentions, etc. But I shall carry on channelling Granny Weatherwax anyway.

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!