Happily Unravelled

When I completed last month’s #31daychallenge to blog everyday I had such high hopes and plans to blog twice a week and less than a month later I’m failing….. miserably. I do have quite a bit of work on at the moment and this seems to be turning my brain into mince so almost every word I type first appears like the 7 letter selection you get in Scrabble. Absolutely nothing makes sense until you take time to untangle the letters. Anyway, I’m not posting on a grey Monday morning to dribble on about any head yet again but rather to say what a fantastic time I had on Saturday at the Unravel festival.

I was really looking forward to going having had so much time out from yarnie gatherings so after being picked up early by Christine, my lovely editor from Knitting, we toddled off to Farnham Maltings for the show. When I say ‘toddled’ I actually meant that Christine drove while I sat, knitted and double checked the sat nav wasn’t going to lead us up a narrow one way street with a deep muddy puddle at the end of it.

I’ve had a stall at Unravel in the past and although you always plan to have a good look around there’s never quite enough time and before you know it the show is over. This year it was lovely to have a leisurely mooch around with a friend who drools over yarn as much as you do and will step in when needed should you look like you’re about to make an impulse purchase of an expensive yarn in an unflattering colour that won’t even knit a pot holder. No danger with Christine and I though. We were really very restrained.  When we first arrived Christine had to pop over to interview Louisa Harding about her recently launched Yarntelier range of luxury yarns and while she was gone I seized the opportunity to  have a coffee, look through the catalogue and make a plan of action based on who was showing where.

fullsizeoutput_3bc
Cards by Tilly Flop Designs

The internet is a very strange entity as it can make you feel that you already personally know people whose social media account you follow when in fact you only ever see tiny, daily snatches of their life. Well once I met back up with Christine we started off in the Great Hall and after saying a quick hello to Maggie and Colin at Textile Garden  we wandered up to the stage and found JulietTillyFlop. (I know that’s not her actual name but that’s how I know her on Instagram ). Now I’ve never met Julie in person before but we gave each other that ‘we’ve never met but I know who you are’ look before actually introducing ourselves. Oh yes and she’s also got one of those wonderful, broad smiles that makes you feel you think ‘I do know you…don’t I? Like the lady herself there is a genuine warmth and wit to Julie’s work and despite swearing to myself that I wasn’t going to buy anything my first purchase was a handful of her beautiful cards one of which will be winging it’s way to it’s recipient in London later today. You can shop online through here Etsy shop Tilly Flop Designs.

I spent the rest of the day chatting to, being inspired by or flashing a quick hello to the likes of (deep breath) …. Triskelian Yarns, Easyknits, Fine Fish Yarns from Belfast  (who I hadn’t known before so thanks to Bronagh Miskelly who I also saw for flagging them up) Louise from Sincerely Louise (who from this week will be working full time with Iesha previously one of my Kingston Uni students), Lyn Roberts whose solid silver crochet hooks, dpns and cables needs are just exquisite, Mariusz and Vida from Namolio, Nicola & Louise from The Knitting Shed, my lovely friend Jane Crowfoot, Sarah from Bigwigs Angora who chatted so affectionately about her 100 rabbits from which she ethically sources her British angora fibre, Heather from Sparkleduck, plus Rachel Coopey, Joanne  Scrace (notsogranny), the ladies from Waltham Abbey Wool Show (who recognised me whilst I looked at them blankly, I’m so sorry my memory for faces is even more crap than it used to be), Francesca Hughes & Juliet from John Arbon, Belinda Harris Reid, Sue Blacker and Woolly Wormhead. Phew! Oh yes Christine and I also had a lovely long chat with Susie and Emma from The Little Grey Sheep whose display of soft, juicy coloured, hand dyed yarns smacked you in the face as soon as you entered the hall and whose Hampshire Chunky yarn I’m looking forward to using for a design to be published in an upcoming issue of Knitting. Of course I’ll post more details nearer the time.  Now whilst this may sound like a hideous round of name dropping it’s really just to give you an idea of the great selection of makers, spinners and designers that the Maltings brings together so if you weren’t fortunate enough to have visited at the weekend, get it in your the diary for next year.

img_0398
Yarns & books from The Little Grey Sheep

There was lots of chat at the weekend about the Edinburgh Yarn Festival which is the next stop for a lot of those showing at the weekend and whilst I’m hugely jealous that I won’t be there I hope they have a great time. I’ll content myself with the good vibes I got from meeting so many lovely people on Saturday and look forward to Unravel 2018.

J x

The story of the blues

img_3345We all have a favourite yarn, season, stitch, technique or colour don’t we? For me the yarn would be anything deliciously soft and expensive, the season would be winter, the stitch would be mmm…you know I’m not so sure, I guess it depends on my mood. As for colour it would have to be orange…..or pink…..or better yet a combination of both. So it’s a little strange to have so much blue yarn sitting on my desk this week.

I like blue but I don’t LOVE it…. unless it’s a really vibrant turquoise bringing to mind warm tropical breezes, cool rum cocktails and soft white sandy beaches. In general blue tends to leave me a little cold and it although it doesn’t feature largely in my wardrobe there are some notable denimy exceptions. I mean who doesn’t wear denim in one form or another?

As for the fate of all this blue yarn, the chunky baby alpaca is for a friend’s surprise birthday gift that I’ll be hand knitting tomorrow. The variegated sock yarn is for Sam’s ribbed scarf that will be machine knitted later today and the denim yarn is for a magazine commission that’s been lingering around for a while. (I was due to submit it last year but got waylaid by the brain squatters). I’ve loved working with Rowan’s Denim since I was a student and am definitely looking forward to knitting with it again. Not only can you machine wash it at 60ºc but it can also be  tumble dried so it’s pretty indestructible plus it ages beautifully with every subsequent wash which adds wonderful character to the garment. This for me makes it a classic and a winner.

The week started off a little wobbly yesterday but I’m hoping I’ll catch up as my diary is pretty full.Thankfully though it’s a good mix of work and play and to get me in the mood I’m going to start by listening to The Mighty Wah! whilst I work

What story will be told by the yarn you’re using this week?

Yarn Love Challenge

img_3330A little late to the party (but who cares) I’ve taken up another monthly challenge for February. This one was devised by Mary Heather & Christina from Ravelry has a yarnie theme. It’s called the #yarnlovechallenge and prompted by a list of daily themes you’re encouraged to post pictures showing your current project(s), your stash, your crafting room, library and….well basicallly it’ll be a month of yarn /craft porn.

fullsizeoutput_366The lovely thing about it is that when you ‘sign up’ (there is no formal sign up you’ll be relieved to hear) there’s absolutely no pressure to post every single day which is what made me start even a couple of days in.  Not only can you see what every other yarn obsessed crafter is up to following the #yarnlovechallenge hashtag but hopefully also find out a bit more about the non fibre side of their lives.  All of this is happening over on Instagram here  but don’t feel excluded if you don’t have an account. There’s also a group over on Ravelry where you can join in, share pictures and chat to others taking part.

Right I’d better get back to winding off this yarn.

J x

Yarn snobbery and the element of surprise

31 Day Challenge Day 23

fullsizeoutput_351

Every month a package of yarn is delivered to my door. Now that’s not unusual, I’m very lucky to have been Knitting’s resident yarn reviewer for some years now and surely, it’s every knitter’s dream job isn’t it? Playing with yarn and then getting to write about it? For each issue the yarns are selected and ‘themed’ by my editor Christine so I’m never quite sure what to expect from the mysterious package until it actually arrives. And you know what, I love that element of surprise.

Because we work a few months in advance the yarns don’t always chime in with the weather at the actual time of writing. I could be knitting with chunky wintry wools in the middle of August or slinky summery cottons in December. (Today it’s a cold, foggy day and there’s a mix of cottons and wool with a touch of mohair thrown in). It’s also really interesting that the yarns reflect just some of what’s available on the market and the thing that really challenges me is that they’re not always yarns I’d choose to knit with were I knitting for myself. Ok I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a yarn snob. On a personal level I prefer natural fibres such as wool, cotton, viscose and bamboo and as for the luxury of fibres like alpaca, silk and cashmere well, that for me is fibre heaven. I’m drawn to strong colours because they literally make my heart sing with pink, orange, red, lime and turquoise among my favourites whilst washed out, pale shades..well, they just make me feel a little sad. I don’t mind if a yarn is roving, plied, twisted, chainette or eyelash in it’s construction or commercially versus hand dyed in it’s colouring but I’m not a huge fan of 100% synthetic fibres. I think it was learning to knit with nylon as a child (it literally set my teeth on edge) but I understand that they’re durable, can add strength to other fibres and are easy to care for so they have their place allowing lots of people with tighter budgets to knit away to their heart’s content.

The monthly knock of the postman followed by the cry of ‘MORE yarn for you’ marks the arrival of the next 8 yarns that may just shake up my yarny status quo. And rightly so, it’s too easy to get stuck in a rut. I don’t get to choose so they could include all, or more interestingly, none of my ‘got to’ favourites but it really doesn’t matter. My job is to explore them all and tell you what I make of them.

So would you admit that there’s a yarn snob in you? And what, if anything, will you do you do to challenge it?

I’m off to challenge mine, see you tomorrow

Jx

Love at first sight

31 Day Challenge Day 17

 

fullsizeoutput_338

I first came across John Arbon’s Alpaca Delight way back in 2015 when reviewing it for Knitting Magazine (issue 154). Writing yarns reviews is a job I really enjoy as I get to ‘play’ with a wide range of yarns from a variety of spinners and dyers, some big and some not so big. I can’t begin to think how many I’ve swatched over the years but I fell in love with this yarn at first sight, well actually it was first touch. It’s a 4ply blend of 70% alpaca 30% Falklands merino with an incredibly soft feel and just the right amount of blur.

Now you may imagine that I’ve got the world’s most mountainous stash (Sam already thinks I have) but no, thankfully I return the yarns to my editor Christine once the job is done and it’s just as well otherwise I’d be the mad, bald, wool-stashing woman of Hove. Somehow though this yarn never quite made it out of the house (coughs) and it’s destined for a one hank design that I’ll be working on today. Not quite sure how that happened (coughs again) but I do love my job….

J x

The magic of Twitter

31 Day Challenge Day 13

DCIM100GOPRO
Meg with a batch of her Hebridean sheep

I joined Twitter (as @jeanettesloan) way back in 2010 and somehow have gathered a following of 665 lovely souls who seem happy to read my sometimes random tweets. (And given the way my rambling brain now works I’m glad there’s a limit of 140 characters ). There’s been a lot of negative things said about social media platforms like Twitter with people often tweeting before thinking about how their harsh words and opinions can sometimes be hurtful to others. That said there’s also a lot of good to be found there and I’ve had lots of lovely interactions with other users whether it was discussing the disappointing lack of sloes pre Christmas or finding out about a new yarn. Well earlier this week I was really happy to find that I had a new follower and, as is my habit, I clicked the link in their profile to find out more about them. I’m so glad I did because I’ve discovered a new yarn company.

The Birlinn Yarn company is based on the Isle of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. It was started in 2015 by Meg Rodger who felt there was real value in the wool produced by the herd of Hebridean sheep she rears on the family run croft, Sunhill. With an emphasis on sustainability and small batch production the product range features natural coloured yarns and specially selected sheepskins but there are also exciting new products currently being developed. I was really interested in the back story to this new yarnie discovery and having had a few email conversations with Meg I found out that she is also a practising artist. Along with another artist Peter Ferguson she’s showing her work as part of Elemental, an exhibition exploring each of their relationships with the wind and weather of the Outer Hebrides.

Having made contact with Meg I look forward to reviewing her yarns more formally in a future issue of Knitting Magazine. In the meantime I hope she’s wrapped up warm as it’s bound to be freezing up there at the moment. If you’d like to find out more about her yarns visit Birlin Yarns’ website  and for more info on the exhibition visit Taigh Chearsabhagh website here 

J x

 

Knitting IOUs

31 Day Challenge Day 12

fullsizeoutput_324

Some knitters are super organised and work away all year lovingly and patiently creating every stitch and row until the cast off is complete and the last end sewn in. I, however, am not that knitter. So having promised Sam a hat to match a pair of cabled mittens made for a previous Christmas present I’ve settled down in front of the woodburner to honour that IOU.

Currently the weather is foul with icy showers forecast across the UK both tonight and into tomorrow morning and that gives me the perfect excuse to stay inside and cosy up. Thankfully the yarn I’m using – *Lang’s Merino 50 – is a dream to knit. Not only does it have a lovely fat, rounded handle but it’s also got a wonderful bouncy construction that makes for soft but perfectly formed cables and I’m working them in a panel contrasted on either side by beautifully even stocking stitch. I’m not exactly sure how the two balls I’ve got found their way into my stash but I’m really happy they did. Another huge bonus is that it knits up quickly (the ball band recommends 9mm needles but I’m using 6.5mm) and that’s just as well because given how cold it’s going to get tomorrow I’m sure Sam will be wearing it as soon as the last end’s been sewn in.

Wherever you are I hope you’re keeping warm.

J x

*This is not a paid review but is entirely based on my personal experience of working with this yarn