Saturday, 27 February 2016

Unravel 2016

Last Saturday I met a group of 8 friends from Loop to make our way out to Farnham, Surrey, for Unravel a knitting show.  It was a 50 minute train ride through the commuter belt surrounding London, in a carriage with plenty of other knitters, so lots of exclamations of ‘I love your jumper’!

Unravel, Farnham Maltings, Unravel Sheep, London
Emma and I enjoying the photo ops
While on the train we plotted and planned and 2 clear groups emerged – the group that wasn’t planning on buying much but was there to enjoy the day out and the group that had serious purchases in mind – sweater quantities were contemplated. I fell into the minimal purchasing group – which I stuck to, more on that later.

We arrived at the Farnham Maltings just in time for the doors to open, and we joined the decent size queue.  It moved relatively quickly, particularly as I had won a pair of tickets from the Yarn in the City podcast (thanks Rachel, Allison) and then we were off.  As with any largish group, we fragmented, heading off to the different rooms.  I think there were 5 or 6 separate rooms, including 1 large hall area, with vendors spread through out.  Mostly yarn companies, there were a few designers/magazines with stalls as well as a stall for the Brinkley Looms.  Brinkley Looms are weaving looms that operate unlike any other loom that I have seen – to warp on you turn the frame and then you insert the reed, which looks like a square rolling pin.  Tempting because the warping is my least favourite aspect of Geoff’s weaving (it’s also the only aspect that requires my participation). 

Yarn bomb, Unravel, Farnham Maltings, London
Some welcoming yarn bombing
Pre-lunch was wandering, touching, planning.  There was a little yarn purchasing – but come lunch time most people had limited hauls, but big plans for the post lunch burst of shopping.  Lunch was at Loch Fyne, which is a chain restaurant in the UK (but a good one).  We enjoyed a very good value set lunch with wine and lots of chatting, as our original London group was bolstered by further friends we ran into during the morning.

As well as shopping, I enjoyed opportunities to try on sample garments, chat to designers whose patterns I was knitting and find out about upcoming releases like John Arbon’s Knit by Numbers in 4ply (to complement the existing 8ply offering). Another treat at Unravel was that Jules (aka Woollenflower) was a stall holder, so I spent most of the afternoon chatting and catching up. 

Yarn, Unravel, Farnham Maltings, London
 Some amazing handspun available at Unravel

A smaller group for the train ride home – a couple of the minimal purchasers had left directly after our long lunch; a couple of those purchasing more were keen to stay until the close of play.  My purchases were 2 balls of self patterning sock yarn (yes, I can buy that anywhere, but for a reasonably price and no postage it was a good deal) and the Tiny Tails from Easy Knits with a complementary solid skein of their Deeply Wicked yarn.  A colourwork shawl is in the works.  Some spinning fibre from John Arbon Textiles and a couple of spinning tools. 

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


Now that we are two months passed the winter solstice, the days are noticeably longer.  It’s no longer dark while I am out running before work, and it shall soon be twilight as I leave work.  The weekend days feel significantly longer than in January, and I am pleased.
Daffodils, Spring, London, Golders, Golders Green

There are other signs of Spring – daffodils and snow drops in the nature strips and parks.  The smell of jasmine in unexpected green spaces in the city.  It seems too early, and although (meterological) spring will start soon, I expect that it will still be rather cold in London – after all, we experienced top temperatures of 12 to 15 degrees last May. 

But the nights will be warmer, the days will be longer.  Eventually the heaters will turn off for a few months, and one day, we will open the window and let in the spring breeze. I am already plotting how to spend my summery birthday.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A cause for some celebration

A 33rd birthday is surely cause for some celebration, though perhaps not on the scale of a birthday that ends in 0. It was also Geoff’s first birthday in winter, which needed to be marked in some way (mostly by staying inside).  
scones, crumbs and doilies, marks and spencer, M&S

To celebrate both of these events, I put on a very English high tea for Geoff over the weekend.  A veritable spread of savouries and sweet treats while the heater roared in our flat, as it was just a few degrees above zero outside.
Cupcake Jemima, Cupcakes, London, Crumbs and Doilies, Carnaby, Kingly Court
There was a birthday crown, and candles (though he wasn’t sure that they were required), but no balloons or streamers – some decorum please. 
Birthday, Cupcakes, Crumbs and Doilies, Cupcake Jemima
The spread was a combination of procurement (cupcakes, hot food, a pork pie for Geoff), arrangement (bruschetta), and actual effort in the kitchen (2 varieties of sandwiches), obtained from some of the best the British high street has to offer!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Golders Green

Geoff and I set off on Sunday morning to explore a suburb area just to the North of us – Golders Green.  Sundays in London aren’t known for being terribly lively, as most businesses don’t open until midday.  However, Golders Green is an area that is quite densely populated with Kosher eateries and shops, so the place was quite busy, even before 11am.
Golders Green, London, Carmelli, Carmelli Bakery, Bages

We had read the Time Out guide and had a plan.  First stop was to stock up on provisions for lunch, and the (long and arduous) walk home.  We hit up Carmelli Bakery (the first Time Out recommendation) and bought biscuits, which are sold by weight, and bagels heavy with smoked salmon and cream cheese.  There were some delicious looking salads, but not particularly portable, so we stuck to the sandwiches. There were a number of kosher bakeries and delis, and most impressively a kosher Korean BBQ restaurant!

While on the high street, we wandered into a fabric shop – an unbelievable mix of glitter eyelash yarn, African wax print fabrics and the most vibrant display of embellished ribbon.  I will need to make a trip back here!
Ribbon, Golders Green, London

We walked over to the secondary high street, past a fairly impressive Catholic Church, St Edwards the Confessor and sat down to an unfortunately mediocre coffee at Piacare (a Time Out recommendation).
Golders Green, London, Heath, Hampstead Heath

Our walk home, through the West Heath, started in Golders Hill Park, which is also home to a funny little zoo (yet another Time Out recommendation).  We saw kookaburras, a giant owl, birds that looked like small emus, donkeys and deer.  Also in the ‘zoo’ were some giant dinosaur sculptures.  The park smelled like Spring, and certainly looked it with daffodils blooming all over.  We ate our bagels, obeying the signs not to feed the animals. In summer I think this part of the Heath would be very busy, as there is a great childrens play area there as well. 
Deer, Golders, Golders Green, Heath, Hampstead Heath

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Saul Leiter & Ors

The Photographer's Gallery is currently hosting 3 main exhibitions - a Saul Leiter retrospective, an installation by Rosangelo Renno and photographs documenting the Easter Uprising 1916. 

The Photographer's Gallery is one of my favourite places in London.  A variety of exhibitions that change relatively quickly so I feel a fairly regular impetus to visit.  Free admission before midday and only 3 quid thereafter.  They also have a really great bookshop and a print sales room (I wish!). 

The Saul Leiter retrospective is the exhibition I enjoyed the most this time, though I hadn't heard of him before the visit.  An American, a painter by trade, and a real proponent of colour photography.  I really enjoyed Leiter's use of reflection and framing in the images, and hand colouring over the top which really highlighted his skills as a painter.  

Saul Leiter, London, Photographer's Gallery
This one is my favourite image from the exhibition - ignore the reflection of other attendees!  I love the framing of the umbrella, the flashes of other colour in the image and the way my eye is drawn in different directions by the geometry of the image. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

A pair of Stitch Surfers

To say that this pattern intimidated me is an understatement.  Having queued it in May of 2014, purchased yarn in about September 2014 I simply could not bring myself to cast on.  I packed the yarn and brought it with me to the UK, thinking that at some stage I would make them.  Instead, I attended knitting shows and visited various shops and bought other yarn, knitted other pairs of socks.

Finally, it seemed like the time had come.  The start of a new year, a commitment to exploration and various online ‘learn new skills’ challenges.  Also, some time off, and some you tube videos saved from 2014 to assist!
stitch surfers, purple goddess designs, self stripe, self striping yarn

The pattern
Stitch Surfers by Louise Robert, published in Knitty, Deep Fall 2012.  Quite poorly written I thought, with too much room for interpretation.  You Tube certainly helped in this regard. Called ‘Stitch Surfers’ because the pattern is described as creating the waves by surfing left, then surfing right.

Basically, this is intarsia in the round which requires wraps and turns, so the socks are knitted and then purled, which is not the fastest knitting around.  The other option would be to knit flat, and then seam, which would probably involve an after thought heel.  There is a little ridge on the inside, both at the wrap and turn point, and the twisting the yarns around one another point (normal intarsia method) but neither are noticeable when worn.

The yarn
Night Vision (grey and green) and The Ginger is a Clever One (orange, blue and purple) both by Purple Goddess Designs.  10% cashmere no less.  Lovely, mostly saturated colours with little blips to remind me that it was a hand dyed product and therefore complete with its own idiosyncrasies.
stitch surfers, purple goddess designs, self stripe, self striping yarn

The knitting
Cast on and increase up to 68 stitches for the foot, and I ended up doing a Fish Lips Kiss Heel, increasing to 36 stitches on the bottom needle in the round before starting the heel.  I also did the heel entirely in one colour, which means it looks a little off centre when the sock is just languishing in the sock drawer, but really makes no difference as to fit.

72 stitches for the leg, though 14 rounds without surfing immediately after the heel, and then just a little, before ribbing.  I had considered doing the ribbing in just one colour but decided it would look too abrupt, so I kept up the intarsia in the round, but without the surfing.

Friday, 5 February 2016

A little repair work

I knit Happy Street, a shawl pattern by Veera Valimaki last October.  A well written pattern and a pattern that encapsulates Veera's style - simple knitting, stripes and short rows.  While not as popular as the ubiquitous Color Affection, Happy Street is an oft-knitted project.  As is common in 'top down' patterns I cast on just a few stitches and those early rows just flew by.  Once the 'short' rows begin though, I ended up with hundreds of stitches in each row. 

The pattern calls for 3 colours, each in 400m lots.  I looked through projects on Ravelry and realised that this wasn't strictly necessary, so I ended up using 3 skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Loft in Embers (burnt orange), Snow Bound (pale grey) and Old World (the navy), that I purchased in 2013 at FiberSpace in Alexandria, Virginia.

Happy Street, Veera, Ravelry, Loft, Brooklyn Tweed, Fiber Space, FiberSpace
As many people have said, Loft is a fragile yarn - woollen spun, the loftiness of the yarn is very visible just by looking at a strand.  I was careful, winding the hanks into balls, and careful whilst knitting.  It was all fine until the final stretch of navy knitting, which I decided to do in a mesh stitch, rather than garter.  The navy just kept breaking so I had to pay close attention and knit very loose yarnovers.  Frustrating, but manageable.  I was also very cautious when washing and blocking the shawl.  After soaking it, I patted it out flat to dry - none of my usual aggressive stretching and pulling it into shape.

Other than knitting the border in a stitch patter, the other modification that I made was to knit just 9 stripes - because of the shorter yarn skeins I had - but the shawl is still a significant size. 

It's a scarf/blanket that I wear regularly - and apparently I also regularly catch it on things, probably the zipper on my coat.  As a result I've had to perform 3 repairs. 

Step 1 - I use a running stitch and work back and forwards along the tear.  I do this step multiple times, probably at least 4 or 5 times to make sure I catch all the threads.  

Happy Street, Veera, Ravelry, Loft, Brooklyn Tweed, Fiber Space, FiberSpace

Step 2 - this is sort of wrapping.  I insert the needle from the wrong side, to the right side below the running stitch.  Then I pull the yarn up and over the edge and bring the needle back through the shawl, this time from right side to wrong side, always under the running stitch all along the tear.
Happy Street, Veera, Ravelry, Loft, Brooklyn Tweed, Fiber Space, FiberSpace

It's certainly not invisible, but it hasn't affected the stretch of the shawl and looks quite presentable. 
Happy Street, Veera, Ravelry, Loft, Brooklyn Tweed, Fiber Space, FiberSpace

I have resolved to be more careful, particularly as I only have a very small amount of each yarn left for future repairs.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The food delights in Copenhagen

Geoff and I ate everything that Copenhagen threw at us!  We went to supermarkets, posh indoor farmer's markets/food halls, funny Italian restaurants where you could also get a mango lassi, bakeries, chocolatiers and everything in between!

Highlight 1 - Smorrebrod

Basically an open faced sandwich with very beautiful (and delicious) toppings.  Geoff and I shared three for lunch one day.  The first was rare roast beef, topped with pickled vegies (onions, cucumber and cauliflower), grated horseradish and deep fried onion. 
Smorrebrod, Torvehallerne, Copenhage

The second was potato salad, which came with lemon, mayo, chives and deep fried onion and the third was raw salmon topped with shaved pickled fennel and grapefruit segments. 

Highlight 2 - Torvehallerne
Torvehallerne, Copenhagen

This is the posh indoor farmer's market/food hall referred to above, full of delicious produce - coffee, alcohol, seafood and beef and fruit and vegetables.  We enjoyed fish fritters, fresh salads, tuna sashimi, poached salmon and all kinds of bread and pastries. 

Torvehallerne is made up of 2 halls on Israelplads, near the Norreport metro station - very accessible!  The stall holders were friendly and swapped between Danish and English without even trying (as did most Danes with whom we interacted).  Torvehallerne contains almost too many delicious choices - and if we'd had access to a full kitchen we would have stocked up on some of the amazing looking raw produce for a cooking fiesta!
Rye bread, Torvehallerne, Copenhagen

In addition to fresh and ready made food, there were some amazing kitchen supplies.  I wish we'd had more than just carry-on luggage and I would have bought a kitchen knife. 
Copenhagen, Ro chokolade, Copenhagen chocolate

Some other delicious stops we made included Ro Chokolade (we ate truffles), Coffee Collective (coffee was quite milky), Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Karamelleriet (handmade caramels and fudge), Summerbird chocolates (delicious marzipan and I don't normally like marzipan) and perhaps least surprising to those who know Geoff, we went to The Donut Shop