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Looking Forward To… Yarnporium 2016

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I’m currently packing my bags for London. This weekend, November 5 & 6, I’ll be teaching at Yarnporium which is taking place at King’s College on the Strand.

(Let’s just stay with that mental image for a while. If you had told me 20 years ago that one day I’d be teaching at King’s College, London, I would have swooned. It is so exciting for this bookish girl from Nowheresville, Denmark)

I’m teaching two workshops: my popular Introduction to Shetland Haps class and a new workshop called Knitting the Landscape which I have developed by request. Obviously I’m really excited (and a little bit nervous) about these classes and I cannot wait to meet the people taking my classes.

Teaching is really rewarding: I feel I always leave a workshop feeling I’ve learned something – this can be anything from a cast-on someone’s grandma taught them to a better understanding of why one specific thing can feel daunting for a knitter. I take these things and I pour them into the other parts of my working life – I’m particularly focused on demystifying knitting and helping people the best I can.

You cannot talk about an event like Yarnporium without talking vendors. I have several earmarked already: my friends at Blacker Yarns (we are currently collaborating on my book!), Ginger Twist Studio, Midwinter Yarns, Kettle Yarn Co, Travelknitter (also a book collaborator!), The Wool Kitchen, Woollenflower, Triskelion yarns and the awesome ladies of The Crochet Project .. and that is just to start! Also excited to finally catch up with Knit With Attitude and A Yarn Story! There’s also an Indie Focus section which I’m really pleased to see.

And to cap it all off: I have a thing at the V&A on Friday which relates to my book research. It’s going to be a glorious weekend and I really hope to see a lot of friendly & lovely faces there.

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With Love From Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016..

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I just waved goodbye to a good friend who had been teaching at EYF 2016 and was passing through Glasgow this morning. We never got a chance to connect during the festival itself – the weekend was hectic – so it was good to relax together for a few hours. This is what I both love and find so frustrating about fibre events: I get to see all these incredible people but I only meet them for a brief second.

Glimpses of connections. Fragments of conversations. Moments of meeting like-minded folks. I talked to Tori Seierstad on the bus about knitting local and Norwegian spinning mills. Donna Smith made a comment to me that made me think about knitting in a new light. Career advice was doled out (I both gave it and was on the receiving end – there will be a few changes going forward). I saw old friends and made new ones. And so many people I did not even know was there or that I missed seeing.

Never one for big crowds, I stayed away from the really big vendors – but the marketplace still felt really intense. So many lovely people! So much amazing knitwear! Such a buzz! It felt so exciting and so overwhelming. I was very thankful to have Mr D with me – not only does he love a good chat but he was also excellent at supplying me with coffee.

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I think it will take a few more days for me to process EYF 2016. It was more international than ever – I felt this both in the Corn Exchange itself and certainly in my classes. It also felt more colourful – if that makes sense. Knitters were more stylish than ever and I saw so much incredible colourwork and colour combinations. I saw some incredible yarns up close – from undyed single-breed yarns where the vendor could tell me the name of the sheep to the high-end luxury blends with saturated colours. Orange and yellow were everywhere, but plant-dyed yarns were also pretty hot. Shawls dominated (so many Byatts! I loved them!) and socks were definitely less of a thing than they had been in previous years.

But mostly, like all EYFs, it is all about the people. I got to spend time with some very awesome people and it made me so very happy. Thank you Jo & Mica for another terrific year!

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This is one of my favourite photos. We were very, very silly.
L-R: Larissa of Travelknitter, me high on yarn fumes, Helen of the Wool Kitchen, and Amelia of Woollen Words

See You at EYF 2016, Lovelies

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I’m currently knee-deep in prepping for this year’s EYF. It’ll get done but I’m thankful I have Mr D chipping in! We will be at EYF Friday and Saturday (I’m also teaching Sunday). Will you be there? Wave your hands here, so I know to look out for you!!

(Note: I’m *terrible* with names & faces but can spot good knitwear from ten miles away! Don’t be offended if I mess up your name even if we spoke yesterday – I sometimes call my best friend by the wrong name!)

FRIDAY I’M IN LOVE

  • Come & say hello at the Ripples Crafts stand between 11.30am and noon.
  • I am teaching Pattern Writing in the afternoon – it’s a new & exclusive EYF class and I’m really looking forward to talk really nerdy stuff :)
  • I won’t be at the dinner or ceilidh, sorry.

SATURDAY’S ALRIGHT FOR, er, KNITTING (sorry Elton)

  • I’m teaching Faroese Shawls in the morning. Another new class and another one where I get a bit nerdy.
  • I’m doing a signing session/trunk show at Ysolda’s stall at 2.15pm. Bring your Wool Tribe magazines! Come and show me your projects! Grab a shawlfie with me! I’m bringing samples and patterns! Wheee!

LAZING ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON..

  • Except I’m teaching Beaded Knitting in the afternoon. This is always one of the most relaxing workshops I teach and it’ll be a lovely way to wind-down after a hectic weekend.

GENERAL STUFF

  • Ripples Crafts will be stocking Frances Herself kits & is happy to talk colour choices if you cannot decide! She also has a few Byatt patterns in stock if you are looking for a hard copy. I won’t be bringing any Byatt patterns myself, just fyi!
  • The Queen of Purls is selling several of my patterns (including Mahy and Scollay) and is also bringing some really luscious samples. Her Mahy is just beautiful – go check it out!
  • I have recently cut my hair, so if you see a long-haired chubby brunette with a blunt fringe & black specs .. that is no longer me! I am now a bobbed-haired chubby brunette with a blunt fringe & black specs! I know this is a strange thing to point out but I have had this happen to an acquaintance recently!

RIGHT – WHO’S GOING?! What are your plans?

PS. If you are waiting for an email from me, please be patient. It’s all EYF prep, festival and recovery in Casa Bookish. If it’s urgent, please text me.

Getting Ready for Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

March 2015 052I cannot believe Edinburgh Yarn Festival is less than two weeks away. Where did the time go?!

Last year I was so busy that I never really made it into the marketplace and I missed out on so much. This year I may be teaching three classes, but I’ve made sure not to overcommit myself. No pop-up stall, no evening shenanigans, and no .. well, okay.. I do have a few things planned but I’ll get back to those closer to the Festival.

If you have never been to a fibre festival before, I wrote a small survival guide last year. EYF is one of the biggest events on the knitting calendar and my guide contains some great tips.

However, I’ve heard from people that they think EYF sounds too big and stressful – this could not be further from the truth. Despite the apparent scale of EYF, it is rooted in community. It is a real celebration of the knitting community, you’ll be among like-minded people, and there are big pockets of calm throughout. Last year the Podcast Lounge was an amazing place to hang out with comfy sofas, people knitting, and lovely podcasters like Louise, Jo & Louise spreading joy (and calmness). It looks set to be another great year for the Lounge, so that’s a great place to visit if you need a break from the marketplace.

Speaking of the marketplace, I have quite a few places I want to check out.

Blacker Yarns is one of my top priorities. They are sponsoring the Podcast Lounge and I’m keen on seeing the Tamar colour range as well as checking out a few other yarns I am curious about. Jamieson’s of Shetland is always another draw for me. And naturally I am going to swing past my friends at Midwinter Yarns to have a look at their Nordic goodies. I’ve primarily worked with their Pirkkalanka yarns  from Finland, but the Ullcentrum and Filcolana yarns are also well worth a look. The Gotland yarn is particularly lovely but you do owe it to yourself to have a look at Pirkkalanka. I’m also excited about New Lanark showing up to spread the word about their fantastic workhorse yarns spun just down the road from me.

Then the small indie yarnies. I missed Dublin Dye last year and I was kicking myself. The Little Grey Sheep is also on my list (mmm, gradient packs) and I’m so excited to see The Wool Kitchen with their modern, zingy approach to dyeing. If you’ve yet to see the stunning mohair/Wensleydale yarns from Whistlebare, you are also in for a treat. I’ll be there gazing adoringly.

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And perennial favourites too. I think it’ll be the first visit up north for Kettle Yarn Company – do not miss her. Linda has some really special yarns and a painterly approach to dyeing. Caerthan of Triskelion is your go-to man for rich, deep, astounding jewel colours. Eden Cottage Yarns is another must-visit with her soft, wistful colour palette and unique bases. Skein Queen is back this year with her luxury yarns – I especially love her eye for semi-solids. My good friend Old Maiden Aunt will also be back with her dark, rich colours dyed on the West Coast of Scotland. Finally, Wollmeise. If you need an introduction to Wollmeise, try a Ravelry search. Wollmeise is stuff of knitting legends: strong, vibrant colours on bases that appeal to both sock fans and lace geeks. I think she might be quite busy but I’m still planning to drop by.

ETA. Pretty darn excited to hear that the Knitting Goddess is not just bringing her exquisite hand-dyed yarns (don’t miss her Colour Wheels) but also FQs with screen-printed knitting designs. I swooned over them on Twitter and will be first in line to see these wih my own eyes.

Skein Queen Gotland loveliness

Three stalls you and I won’t want to miss:

Shilasdair hails from the Isle of Skye and I used their stunning Luxury 4ply for my Burnet hat you’ll find in Wool Tribe. Their yarns are naturally dyed (the plants are still picked by hand) and the colours are inspired by the Scottish Highlands.

The Queen of Purls is not just my local yarn shop, but also the name under which Queen Zoe dyes her own yarns. She leans towards a soft, nature-inspired palette (particularly good on yellows and oranges which can be hard to find). It’ll be her first time vending at EYF as Queen of Purls and I cannot wait to see her selection.

Ripples Crafts probably needs no introduction either. Helen lives up, up, up north in the Highlands and dyes yarns that reflect her surroundings. She has a big number of fans already, but if you are curious to see the yarn I used for Frances Herself, do pop by. I am certainly planning to do so!

Finally, finally, I am planning on simply catching up with friends. Because Edinburgh Yarn Festival is essentially about catching up with friends, forging new friendship bonds and being part of a big, lovely, squishy community. See you there.

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Joeli’s Kitchen Retreat 2016

This past weekend I made my way south to Manchester. I was invited by Joeli to teach at her first ever knitting retreat. Usually my experience of knitting retreats is restricted to pyjamas, an open fire, 1980s films on DVD & a very small group of friends, so this was very different. The JKRetreat was basically a mini-knitting festival with a handful of teachers (*coughs*), Q&As with awesome folk, around 248919304 knitters making new friends or meeting old ones, and a totally fantastic vendor market.

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I lived briefly in Manchester in the 1990s, so I was excited about heading there again. I didn’t recognise a thing! It took me forever to find my way out of the train station and make my way to the hotel where we were all gathered. Granted, I could get lost in a phone booth (remember those?) but I used to live there! On the first night there, it was a joy to meet up with the other teachers and the speakers: Kate Heppell, Kate Atherley, Jules Billings, Louise Scollay, Isla Davison, Allison of Yarn in the City (launching the London Craft Guide in the north!), and Joeli herself. Usually we only meet in crowded halls at festivals, so it was nice to have an evening to chat and catch up.

The sociable evening turned out to be an omen for how the retreat itself went. I was so happy to recognise many familiar faces and I especially loved seeing all the splendid knitwear on display. I live vicariously through other knitters and the knitwear was just astounding. I started the first morning by recognising CountrySinger by her Byatt shawl (it is even more beautiful up close) and that set the standard for the rest of the weekend. So many creative, warm, funny people. I am not going to mention you all because I’d invariably forget someone – but everyone was so lovely.

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I taught two classes (colourwork & lace), the indomitable Scollay waxed lyrically about British sheep breeds, Joeli taught tech editing & drop spindling, Kate Atherley spoke about her knitting journey as well as taught classes on designing and garment fit; Kate H. talked about how a magazine is put together and Jules ran a finishing class and a class on knitting technique. I soaked up the atmosphere and I learned so much just from being around brilliant knitters.

Yarn. There was a lot.

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I was mysteriously restrained, but I think I was overwhelmed! Three rooms were opened to vendors and there were some really stunning yarns. The naturally dyed classy shades from Sylvan Tiger Yarn in Yorkshire (I love her gradient packs), BritYarn showcased some fantastic local yarns (I was especially smitten by her Dodgson Wood Castlemilk Moorit/BFL DK), the rich jewel colours of Travelknitter, and then I fell head over heels in love with Countess Ablaze. I have never met a saturated colour I didn’t love and thankfully the Countess shares my predicament. I’m not a sock knitter, otherwise the damage to my bank account would have been much worse. I left with just one skein.

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But that colour, right? This is a glorious 50% Masham/50% BFL blend in a DK weight and the moment I laid eyes on it, I knew it was going to be my preciousssss. I had such a fantastic time at the retreat recharging my creative juices and I left with my head spinning. See you next year (I hope?).

Back at work today and it is going to be a manic fortnight leading up to Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I’ve designed a hat called Burnet for WOOL TRIBE, the Edinburgh Yarn Festival exclusive magazine. Inspired by tenement tiles, the hat is knitted in two shades of Shilasdair Luxury 4ply – a stunning yarn dyed on the Isle of Skye here in Scotland. I’m just one of a handful of designers featured – the others are Ysolda Teague, Gudrun Johnston, Lucy Hague and EYF’s own Jo & Mica.

Pre-orders for WOOL TRIBE can be found here. The magazine will not be available as a digital download, but you can have it sent to your home or collect it at the festival.

I’ll be back soon with more, more news.

Authors & Artists: Hello Astrid

When I grew up my best friend was called Astrid. I don’t know if she were named after Astrid Lindgren (I suspect as much) but I do know that I loved reading books by someone called the same as my best friend. Then Astrid moved schools and met cool girls who liked clothes and makeup way more than books. Heartbreak is really hard (especially when you are a kid) but books get you through.

Yesterday I released the Astrid hat.

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When I released the Lindgren mittens back in December, I had a slew of people asking about a hat. As it happens, I had left-over yarn from the mittens – and I also had cold ears. You can see where this is going. Yes, this is a companion pattern.

It became very clear during the design process that I didn’t just want to take the colourwork pattern from the mittens and slab that on top of a generic hat. I just don’t work that way and I wanted something that had its own identity whilst still calling back to the mittens. Instead I took the pattern from the thumb and opened it up across the top of the hat. The lower rim has the same pattern as the mittens but I love how the hat plays with “open” and “close” patterns.

The pompom is striped – Katya Frankel has a neat little tutorial on how to get a speckled pompom. To get a stripe you simply add more layers of your contrast colour before going back to the pompom’s main colour.

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We had the first photo shoot on Boxing Day on the beach in my favourite Scottish fishing village. The weather was horrendous. I had sleet flying in my face and the wind was blowing a gale. I was so happy to be wearing my cosy mittens and hat. The weather did not make for great photos, though.

The next day we went back as the weather had cleared. We had a lovely time climbing the rocks, watching the surf and strolling down the coastal path.

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And I felt much better about having a camera pointing at me.

As Dave was taking photos, I thought about my life and the things we go through that make us the people we are today. As a lonely child, I found solace and strength in books. As an adult I do the same – but I also find strength and joy in making things, sharing my makes with other makers, and in walking down steep coastal paths with my best friend who understands silence and everyday beauty and me.

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Southwards Bound – pt 2

So. London to Cambridge and back to London. I had considered adding Brighton to the itinerary, but I am very glad I decided against it. The weather was hot and clammy – and it sucked all the energy right of me. Instead of doing the thousand things on my list, I opted to visit The National Gallery which I hadn’t visited for nearly twenty years. I knew it would be cool, relatively free of crowds and very restorative to my sanity

But first a gratuitous photo of The Thing which is currently blocking.

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A grey woolly blob pre-blocking transformation. I like the early evening light.

The National Gallery in London had played a big part in my days of living in London two decades ago. I spent much of my free time wandering through the galleries and several paintings had become old friends by the time I left. It was a great joy to see these paintings again – a certain Titian, Fra Filippo Lippi’s The Annuciation (it had not lost any of its power and mystery) and Paul Cezanne’s Les Grandes Baigneuses (Cezanne’s painting took on extra meaning for me this time as I’m now so familiar with J.D. Fergusson’s Les Eus). But I kept coming back to a simple portrait by Albrecht Dürer.

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Detail from The Painter’s Father by Dürer. This portrait is over 500 years old and it is still so achingly alive.

But my favourite discovery at NG was the mosaic floor in the Main Vestibule. I spent a lot of time looking at it (much to the bemusement of other visitors).

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Detail from The Awakening of the Muses (1928-1933) by Boris Anrep. That man bears an uncanny resemblance to TS Eliot.

After the National Gallery, I headed next door to the National Portrait Gallery. I tend to visit NPG whenever I am in London – it is the perfect size for an impromptu visit and yet I see something new every time. This time I was struck by a painting of Aleister Crowley – the yellow colour vibrated and clashed beautifully against the red robe. I’ll need to see it again.

And then I headed out to Hackney to teach at the very delightful Wild & Woolly yarn shop. I always say that yarn shops reflect their owners – Wild & Woolly is owned by Anna who I liked on sight. We sat down with a pot of tea and proceeded to have a fantastic in-depth talk about knitting as lifestyle, knitting as art form, and knitting as pleasure. And the shop reflects Anna’s warm personality, sense of humour and eye for detail.

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I was teaching a class on my Byatt shawl – and it was a blast. we talked colour choices, techniques and how to knit lace at the pub. The students were all lively and funny. A very brief hello from Larissa and I wish I could have stayed longer – always a good sign – but I had to dash into the dark of night as I was staying with my good friend Ben who lives quite a trek from Hackney.

And so I spent my very last hours of my time in London talking gender identity, privilege and Men Who Knit with Ben. We’ve known each other for years and I don’t see him often enough. I don’t see many friends often enough, actually, as they are all spread out across the world (that’s a complaint for another day).

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Exotic travel: Birmingham

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Somewhere north of Preston.

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Almost sure I travelled across that viaduct on my journey to Settle just two weeks ago.

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Oh Scotland. Home.

I have been travelling a lot the past month or so. As a confirmed introvert (and homebody) I can feel I need some time to recover from adventuring. I do try to soak up as many impressions and ideas as I can while I am travelling – but then I need time to sort through them all. The good news is I have finished quite a few things and I’ll be able to share a new design with you very shortly. Yes, it’s the grey blob shown above and no, it is no longer a blob but a Very Beautiful Thing.

A big thank you to everybody I met on my travels south – the people who came to my classes; Anna and Sarah who both jumped at the chance to host my workshops; Joanne and Ben who let me stay at their places; and all the lovely strangers who talked to me because I was knitting. I salute you.

Southwards Bound – Part 1

Mid-1990s I lived in London. The timing was impeccable; it was the year that Blur released Parklife, Pulp finally broke through with His’n’HersManic Street Preachers released the seminal The Holy Bible, and Suede completed Dog Man Star (one of my all-time favourite albums to this day). I was on the periphery of all these things, but a brief moment in time I lived where a major cultural shift was gathering strength before sweeping away everything in its wake. It is so odd to return to London now because the London of those halcyon days no longer exists. I have been back many times since the 1990s and, every time I visit London now, it feels like the city is slipping further and further away. London still exists but its heart is now on the outskirts of the city.

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Shades of grey in the Bloomsbury area

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Pomp & circumstance in Hyde Park. I was walking back from an appointment at the embassy.

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Assyrian stone relief; British Museum. These depictions of sheep are important to Indo-European linguists, by the way.

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Early highlight: Soviet revolutionary ceramics at British Museum.

After spending less than two days in London chasing my own tail, meeting with embassy staff, and doing research in the British Museum, I left for Cambridgeshire where my good friend Joanne Scrace lives. Staying with her proved to be the perfect antidote to all the razzmatazz of the capital (sorry, had to get another Pulp reference in there).

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It spooked me slightly how much this looks like where I grew up.

After staying with Joanne & her gorgeous family, my batteries were recharged and I went to teach Nordic Knitting at Cambridge’s beautiful The Sheep Shop.

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Beautiful display – The Sheep Shop was full of gorgeous samples.

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Sarah of The Sheep Shop – full of warmth and personality.

I had a fabulous time teaching the class – the students were smart and asked on-the-nose questions. I am only sorry that I could not stay longer and get to know everyone better. Hopefully this won’t be my last time teaching in Cambridge!

I’ll leave my return to London and my second class for another blog post. I have much to share – including some details about an exciting KAL and a brand new design.

That Friday Feeling – Knitting Included

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I came across this shop sign whilst I was away in Yorkshire. It tickled my funny bone as I thought about all my gin-loving friends. Well, today is Friday.. !

A round-up of all things knitterly and not.

  • Less Is More. A blog post from Nordic Bakery in London had me sit up straight. The post argues that we don’t need 37 different coffee blends, a wifi connection, and ‘soothing’ background music. We need a calm space that shelters us from the chaos of life. I used my Yorkshire retreat as a digital detox. I can really recommend that.
  • My good friend Ben Wilson is appearing at Etsy’s Manmade event in London on June 13. The lovely Ben is talking about constructed masculinity, craftsMANship, and gender in the handmade world. Tickets are £5 – I’d love to go but I have to settle for re-reading Ben’s article on the novelty of male knitters (first published in Mollie Makes).
  • Speaking of London, the Great London Yarn Crawl is back for its third year. This year it’s taking place on September 5. This year it comes with an added Pop-Up Marketplace which sounds really exciting – I heard a few whispers about the sort of Very Nice Stuff to expect.
  • Oh, and I was interviewed for the Yarn in the City podcast about lifestyle and knitting (which is how I heard the aforementioned whispers about the Very Nice Stuff).
  •  More Very Nice Stuff: Brityarn has finally opened its doors. Isla Davison is incredibly passionate about provenance and local wool producers – I have had a couple of conversations with Isla and it’s fantastic to see someone with a very clear direction and vision do what she really believes in.
  • Heather has written a great blog post about struggling with and reclaiming her creative identity. Going back to the very first blog post I linked today, I think we are under such bombardment of Clutter and Noise that finding our own creative voice can be hard. I really like Heather’s blog post. it is beautiful.

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A Yorkshire Retreat

I don’t think many hen nights turn into a knitting retreat, but it’s the logical solution when every participant is a knitter. One of my best friends is getting married later this year and we all met up in Yorkshire for a weekend of knitting and relaxation. I had been to Yorkshire before for work, but I had never had a chance to spend time in a stunning landscape filled with textile heritage.

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We took the train from Carlisle to Settle – to our great surprise (and delight) the train journey turned out to be spectacular. It runs past the Pennines and through the Yorkshire Dales.

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Every station was a Victorian delight with ornate architecture and beautiful details. I can only recommend taking the train journey – it is absolutely stunning and I feel fortunate to have experienced it.

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May 2015 227And there are sheep everywhere. I was particularly interested in seeing the varieties of sheep in the fields we passed. The Swaledale sheep is the official ‘face’ of the Yorkshire dales and I spotted a few on my train journey. I am not Deb Robson, so I could not identify all the little dots scampering around the fells but it was still great seeing so many varieties.

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We had rented a house a few miles outside Settle. It was pretty much my dream house: Georgian proportions, a country kitchen (though I found cooking on an AGA fairly intimidating), a small conservatory with built-in book shelves and open fires in each of the living rooms. Did I mention the views?

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This was the view from my bedroom (where I sat in the window seat as I took this picture). It looked like merino sheep in the cow-parsley/buttercup field. They fled as soon as I tried getting closer for a better view. Roses in the front garden and a beautiful back garden with views across the dale.

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It was a bit too cold for me to sit outside and knit, but I was tempted! Once inside, the house offered many temptations..

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.. but I stuck to my knitting mostly. I currently have three projects on the go – one that requires a lot of maths, one that requires a lot of concentration and, er, one that’s 1 ply lace. I mainly worked on the latter as it seemed more straightforward given the high level of hilarity.

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I did not move from my comfy chair most of the weekend, though I discovered just how bad I am at playing pool. The adjacent house had a ruby spaniel that loved cuddles, so time was spent doing that too. And copious amounts of tea, tea and tea. Cake was had from the interestingly-named local pub/bakery.

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It was a lovely weekend. We took the train back to Carlisle yesterday.

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And then a rail-replacement bus back to Glasgow (when I fell asleep – all that fresh country air!). I’m having the day off today as I’m oddly exhausted after my relaxing weekend away. While it was fun waltzing around a 19th country house for a few days, it’s rather lovely to be home in my humble abode again. I’m down to London next week – when I pass Carlisle on my way down, I’ll think fondly of this trip.