A Yarn-Shop Jaunt to Edinburgh: Kathy's Knits, Ginger Twist Studio & Be Inspired Fibres.

In early 2009 I was in the process of setting up my own yarn shop in Glasgow. I had done the research, I had sourced my suppliers, I had the business USP worked out, and I had even found the premises. Unfortunately I had also found a shady landlord and I ended up having to pull the plug on the shop before it hadn't even opened. It was a hard time, but today I am thankful that it did not work out. I have taken a very different path in my knitting life and it is one I find incredibly fulfilling. But it is always interesting to visit yarn shops and see how the people who did make the leap have done so. I look at the yarns the shops stock, how the yarns are displayed, the type of signage they use – heck, I even look at the fonts they use and how the window displays are merchandised. I get paid to notice these things when I am working, so it makes sense that I notice all these things even if I am not officially on the job.

Kathy's Knits - EdinburghIn mid-July I went on a merry jaunt to Edinburgh to have lunch with Susan Crawford (who is quickly becoming a dear friend). It was a sunny day and we decided to combine our lunch with a trip to a few local yarn shops. Edinburgh is lucky to host several quality yarn shops but we were only able to visit three on the day. All three turned out to be fantastic but they were also very different. As someone who had a very strong idea about the shop she was going to open, I just love how shops carve out their own niches and identities. A yarn shop isn't just a place that sells yarn.

Kathy's Knits was our first stop.

Cathy specialises in British yarns and is really passionate about stocking local products. We had a good look at the fabled St Kilda laceweight yarn and I ended up buying some 4-ply yarn for a specific fair-isle project. I also love how Cathy really cares about the local knitting community. I first met her when she was volunteering for us at the Kaffe Fassett event last year, she backed The Edinburgh Yarn Fest, and she is very vocal in supporting the other local yarn shops in Edinburgh.

Susan and I bumped into Emily of Tin Can Knits at Cathy's – it does feel like a hub for talent.

Jess of Ginger Twist Studio, EdinburghCathy stocks predominantly British yarns like JC Rennie, Blacker yarns, and Jamieson & Smith as well as some great hand-dyed yarns from the likes of Eden Cottage Yarns and YarnPony. You can follow Cathy & Kathy's Knits on Twitter.

Ginger Twist Studio is one of the newest LYSs in town and a nice walking distance from Kathy's.

Its owner Jess is a bundle of energy and warmth - she's as tiny  as her shop which bears her cheerful, vintage-inspired trademark. I just felt instantly at ease in her company and her shop. She has a strong focus on what I'd call the typical Ravelry knitter: young students who love colour, affordable natural fibres, and offbeat design. It was such a fun visit and I wanted to sit down next to her and knit away whilst gossiping about yarns and patterns. And I think that is a strong indicator that Jess is making things happen.

Jess & Susan had a great discussion about their shared love for vintage designs - it was hugely inspiring.

Jess stocks New Lanark, various yarns from Cascade,  and King Cole among others and also hosts "yarn of the month" and "designer of the month" ensuring an ever fresh selection. Ginger Twist Studio is on Twitter, of course. You can also find Jess working stalls at various vintage craft fairs throughout Edinburgh.

Be Inspired Fibres - EdinburghBe Inspired Fibres was our last yarn shop visit of the day.

Situated in an upmarket area, Be Inspired has a definite 'boutique' feel to it with plenty of space and natural light. The shop takes a step back to let its customers browse and inspiration from its many different products. Mei has worked in the yarn business for many years in various roles and is very passionate about luxury yarns. Her shop is a beautiful, very calm space and Mei has a strong selection of very unusual yarns and designs. Like the other two shops, Be Inspired reflects its owner - Mei is very conscious of design, clean lines and wanting to offer her customer an exquisite experience.

We had a very long conversation about Scandinavia - Mei draws a lot of inspiration from Japanese and Scandinavian design - and we were shown glimpses of what Mei plans to stock in the future. I will be teaching a couple of workshops at Be Inspired in the autumn - all with a focus on clean lines, Scandinavian heritage and modern knitting design. Keep an eye on Mei's workshop schedule for more information.

Mei stocks Ito yarns, ChaioGoo needles, Malabrigo, Fyberspates, Lotus Yarns, Habu yarns and BomBella Kits as well as a cracking selection of international design magazines ( I am very excited about her future plans too - and you should be too). Be Inspired Fibres also have a twitter feed.

After having walked miles in stunning sunshine, Susan & I finished up with refreshments at Peter's Yard - a Swedish bakery. Cardamon buns, oh yes. What a lovely, lovely day - and what lovely company!  Three so very different shops: I love their shared passion and their individual visions.

I need to make my way to Edinburgh more often.

What the Kids Do Today

My local Unnamed Major Supermarket is the gift that keeps giving. It used to be really dodgy, then it was given an Unnamed Major Supermarket Extra! overhaul and is now twice the size and twice as dodgy but does its thing twenty-four-seven. Going to Unnamed Major Supermarket is always an adventure. What will it be today? Junkies in wheelchairs fighting over a cat on a leash that doesn't belong to either of them? A happy birthday card saying "Daddy, I love you more than chips"? Shady Lady having very suggestive mobile phone conversations in the middle of the Tinned Food section? Junkie challenging Mormon preacher on Hitler's Christianity? Or will it be as mundane as being elbowed by Angry Old Lady Who Doesn't Want That Luxury Hummus (And What the Hell IS hummus) But Doesn't Want Me To Have It Either.

All these stories are true.

But today my Unnamed Major Supermarket adventure was different. I was sending a birthday parcel to my BFF and the Post Office lady looked at me: "Is it one of those yarn swap parcels the kids do today?"

.. let us just pause and rewind..

"Is it one of those yarn swap parcels the kids do today?"

My Unnamed Major Supermarket just gets weirder and weirder.

(Also, it just dawned on me that I was identified as A Knitter by the Post Office lady. Note to self: must wear fewer layers of wool if I am to blend in with native population)


Addendum: If you are struggling to find me a gift, I'd be perfectly happy to accept Lord Byron's copy of Frankenstein, inscribed by Mary Shelley.. This Hark! A Vagrant! comic is wonderfully on-topic.

Denmark 2012: A Bit of History & A Lot of Knitting (part 3)

Photo Shoot Feb 2012Denmark was not just us larking about Viking settlements or eating six types of pork for lunch (true fact!). Denmark was also about knitting. I had a photo shoot! I am about to release a new pattern - Elsinore - and we had the photo shoot in the middle of the Kastellet fortifications in northern Copenhagen.

It was an incredible cold day, so whenever there was a break in the shoot, I rushed forth to wrap a warm cardigan around the brave model. The photos turned out amazing. Stay tuned!

I also met up with Signest, aka Signe Simonsen who has been published in Knitty, Twist Collective and Petite Purls among other places. She is one of my favourite designers for innovative, colourful and bold childrenswear (check ouWrapped In Wordst the Nova dress and the Viola hat!) but Signe has several, several strings to her bow as you are sure to find out in months to come. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at a design she is currently working on for Danish yarn company Filcolana.

And Signe's also the genius behind my current favourite attire, the I YARN CPH tee. Sorry about the photo - it is not the most flattering one of me but it is the only one I have of me wearing the tee.

Yes, I rather liked Peter Greenaway's The Pillow Book. Why do you ask?

Oh, and there was yarn. Nothing really, really fascinating because I only had a few hours to spare so I could not explore new yarns, but I did buy a vast amount of yarn: mainly laceweight - which shocks no one - and mainly of the North Atlantic variety - which should shock absolutely no one either.

My usual Snældan yarn pusher had shut down since my last visit to Copenhagen, so I 'settled' for some more Navia Uno from Jorun Garn in Frederiksberg. They have similar fiber content (though the Navia introduces some merino into the blend) but the construction is slightly different. The Snældan is a slightly overspun  single ply whereas Navia Uno is plied with a tightly spun 'thread' around a soft wool core. Navia Uno works up slightly softer than Snældan but has a smidgen less stitch definition. In other words, I should not be writing about 'settling' for anything as the two yarns are so similar and so beautiful. I am just concerned about minutiae.

Alt Om HåndarbejdeAnd then I visited a charity shop where I uncovered a pile of Alt om Håndarbejde (eng: All About Crafts) magazines from the 1970s.

Alt om was really instrumental in kickstarting my lifelong love of all things crafty and I remember trying out loads of their easy kids' projects when I was a kid. I even think the first garment I ever made for myself (a pair of shorts!) was from an Alt om pattern.

Some of the projects are just outlandish seen with today's eyes but others transcend their time period with aplomb. I only took some of the magazines with me (the rest are staying with my mum until further notice) but I picked a few with fantastic sewing patterns for dresses and skirts. I don't think I shall ever outgrow my 1970s dress sense..Alt Om Håndarbejde

There are also quite a few big knitting projects that I can admire knowing I will never ever knit them. Just look at that coat. It is absolutely stunning. I have instructed my grandmother to snap up any old Alt Om that she might come across as the tutorials are worth their weight in gold.

I tried finding Alt Om's modern incarnation - the rather splendid Symagasinet which is all about sewing - but the local shops let me down. Earlier this year I also contacted the publisher about a possible subscription but the shipping costs were ridiculous, so I dropped that idea. Oh, Scandinavia, why do you taunt me so?

Anyway. To come: a brand-new pattern release, news about other patterns, some FOs and so forth. My life's really busy right now!

Shimmy On

What a lovely, productive weekend. The UK enjoyed two days of glorious sunshine, blue skies and summer-like temperatures. Ahhh... Of course, being as clueless as ever, I was wearing boots and black tights underneath my dress whilst everyone else was showing off their nicest summer outfits. In the evening I wore my Millbrook cardigan for the first time since last summer. I still love it so very, very much. Note to self: I need to solve my summer clothes situation, I need to knit more summery cardigans and I need more Rennie yarn - particularly as the company has sadly gone into administration. (This is not the time for a good rant about how UK knitters need to support the UK wool industry instead of importing US yarns in the name of supporting small, local producers. But, mark my words, there will be a rant at some point.)

April 2011 066Ah, but first a small aside about a beautiful Sunday.

We started off with our usual trip to Auntie M's Cake Lounge, then ran into a rather rowdy Alasdair Gray at The Hillhead Bookclub (which has nothing to do with books, incidentally, but has tonnes of atmosphere), got massively tempted by Miss Katie Cupcake's wares at HB's Granny Would Be Proud craft fair (still the best curated craft fair in Glasgow), caught up with our good friends at The Life Craft whilst taking in a new Colorimetry trunk show, happened upon some real vintage bargains in Ruthven Lane (the shop owner, Stephen, was delighted: "I was told nobody would ever buy that but here you are an hour later.."), and finally ended up alongside the River Kelvin where we found some wild garlic that was put to good use in our dinner.. Ahhh.

April 2011 076But the lack of summer clothes is an issue. Today I'm going to cut several sewing projects. Huzzah!

I could not resist the 1950s-esque print of this cotton/poly. The colours are not very summery, but they are good, versatile ones. I'm making the Simplicity/Lisette Passport dress, although with some trepidation as I usually need to do an FBA (full bust adjustment) on tops and I haven't a clue how to do one on this pattern. We shall see.

I am also going to cut the Crepe dress in some African cotton I scored on eBay and while I'm at it, I might as well cut a skirt in Amy Butler's Daisy Chain Blush (top fabric - not my usual colours but it was a remnant) which'll be perfect for work.

April 2011 077Also in the works: oh gosh, it is my ill-fated Kim Hargreaves cardigan finally blocking! I finished knitting this cardigan back in January, realised that I should have done an FBA on it (somehow), and left it lying in a bag behind the sofa. I'm blocking the bejeebus out of it and I hope the alpaca will also stretch beyond belief. If it doesn't work, I'll just wear the cardigan unbuttoned. It'd look nice over the Passport dress, wouldn't it?

April 2011 078

And my Kaffe Goes Bollywood wrap is almost done. It has been a great relaxing knit - and one of those where you thought "oh, just one more row".

I'm still not convinced I chose the right colours - it is not quite as eye-searingly bright as I had hoped - but it is one of those projects where you don't have to be a colour genius like Kaffe Fassett to figure out a colourway. The colours will magically work together no matter which ones you choose.

Now, let me get the ironing board out, find my scissors and start getting down to work..


Quilt 1Yesterday I went shopping for supplies for my quilt class next week at Mandors, a downtown fabric store, with my good friend Dr JB who is doing the same quilt class as me. It was an interesting shopping experience. Mandors was hosting its quilt group/class and it was quite intimidating. The leader/teacher of the group was shooing us about whilst issuing short, sharp commands at her group/students. I felt rather glad that I signed up elsewhere as I probably would not have taken nicely to someone barking "I have fifteen years of quilting experience and my mother hand-quilted.." at me if I asked a newbie question.

But it was very fun finding fabrics.

Mandors has a large area devoted to quilt cottons which meant we almost had too much to choose from. Dr JB ended up with a gorgeous burgundy/cream/light green combination while I have obviously been inspired by Roobeedoo's current obsession with orange. That art deco-esque cotton just .. yes.

However, again I felt slightly weirded out by Mandors whilst I was choosing my fabrics.

Thanks to my day job (and my other preoccupations) I know I have a good eye for colour. I want a contemporary edge to my quilt so I deliberately stayed far away from flowery fabrics and cuddly teddy bear prints and instead opting for fabric with clean, simple visual design - but I had to do battle with the young sales girl to get away with this (yes I'm serious when I say I don't like blue) and I now regret giving up on a grey-and-orange idea I had going into the store. I wonder what the girl would have made of the Oh, Fransson! quilting aesthetic which I think takes quilting into the 21st century.

Mandors is a good shop with a great selection (and I happen to have friends working there too, so I think some of their staff members are wonderful). I just feel a bit odd about how my aesthetics match up what I ended up buying. The fabric selection is lovely but perhaps a touch more matchy than what I had anticipated..

Questions: how do you choose your supplies, dear crafters/knitters/sewers? Do you have a strong, distinctive style that you do not deviate from? Do you go for "things that go together" in a slightly nebulous way? Do you have an idea in mind before you purchase? Do you look for inspiration in the shop? How much does staff influence your choice? How much advice do you look for?

Sunday Craft Thoughts

Quite apart from celebrating my ten-year blogging anniversary, I have also been celebrating my thirty-mumble-th birthday this week. Among the many excellent presents, I received The Perfect Fit: A Practical Guide to Adjusting Sewing Patterns and The Sewing Book - both of which sent my heart a-flutter. I was also lucky enough to be given a sweater amount of ruby Kidsilk Haze and a shawl amount of burgundy Faroese wool. My sewing machine also arrived this week which called for a bit of fabric shopping. I feel very consumerist right now. shirt plansHowever, my consumerism is linked to a feeling of wanting to become less of a consumerist. My fabric purchases have been very deliberate and are linked to my desire to have an almost self-stitched capsule wardrobe. I've been reading Sewingplum's blog intently and while I'm not yet at a level where I can consider making 6 (let alone 24!) staple wardrobe pieces, I can at least become a much more thoughtful dresser - and crafter.

The photo shows two of the fabrics in my stash. The one on the left is the Liberty cotton lawn which D gave me for Christmas. Right now I feel slightly daunted by this fabric. The fabric on the right is a Joel Dewberry cotton which is earmarked for my first 'proper' sewing project: the Simplicity 2501 blouse. It's a very versatile pattern (check out this very vintage-looking version!) and one I can imagine myself making several times. You might think I am batting above my weight with this pattern. We shall see. After all, I used to be a decent dressmaker back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I'm yet to find an equally versatile pattern for the lower pattern of my body. I'm also trying to decide whether I would ever feel confident enough to wear the Ceylon dress - I'm already pretty sure the Crepe dress will be a go-to pattern: it would look equally nice in neutrals and bold prints (versatility is the key to my heart, it seems).

As I have previously mentioned, I'm going to have a real go at making clothes appropriate for warm(ish) weather which makes knitting and crochet slightly trickier. Fancy is still on my list, but it will probably be the only big knitting project I'll undertake. I'll be looking into making a couple of small shrugs - Veronique ticks my boxes but it's also knitted in KSH and two projects in KSH might be a bit much even for me. Right now, though, I am contrating on a knitted art piece I shall be exhibiting at the Glasgow Tramway art gallery next month (link NSFW due to artistic nudity). I'm behind schedule and need to press on.

Finally: thank you for all your comments recently. I'll try to get back to each and every one of you!