Craft, News & Updates

The First Edinburgh Yarn Festival

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Sitting around the tables with the tea, the knitting and the conversation all flowing we often turn to the same topic – Wouldn’t it be great if… This is generally followed by something like “they made all kids learn how to knit again”, or “there was the perfect cafe with the perfect lighting and free cake/tea/champagne on tap” or “it could be gloriously warm and sunny in Edinburgh for more than 2 days” or “we could all afford to quit our day jobs and just tat/crochet/knit”. In the weeks leading up to and following on from any kind of craft show the “wouldn’t it be great” was invariably followed by “we had something like that here”.

And then it happened.

3 of our group took the Wouldn’t it be great and asked the next question – Why not? and then they started working.

The result, after many months of hard work and what must have been incredibly stressful enthusiasm from the rest of us (what if it fizzled?) was the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

Mica, Jo and Linda managed to pull together an impressive list of vendors from all over Scotland and as the event drew closer and the vendor interviews went online you could feel the excitement in the air. What you couldn’t do was actually see Mica, Jo and Linda – they were far too busy.

We heard about all manner of exciting things, like cake and lots of hand dyed yarn, celebrities, buttons, banners, badges, mugs and bags. Those of us not involved in volunteering (I opted out as I’d have the girl to look after, but I did agree to teach) were squirrelling away our spare £2 coins and planning our purchases. We even had the press arrive at our knitting night! Some were also making travel arrangements – Ilze and Paul took the opportunity to have a weekend away in Edinburgh and so flew up from London on Friday night.

What I Expected…

To be perfectly frank, I expected to see a hall with quite a few vendors and a respectable number of people mingling amongst the stalls, squishing and purchasing at a leisurely pace. Something a bit like this picture from a holiday craft market in Flint, MI, USA.

In my mind’s eye there were some couches and a cafe serving the 400 slices of cake at a calm pace. Still, this event was set up by my friends and my friends were volunteering at it and also having their own stalls so I was still excited. At the very east I’d be able to sit down with my friends and have some cake and chat and knit. But the implications if this could actually be successful are huge – I miss the amazing atmosphere of Dublin’s craft scene and while I’ve found the most amazing group of people here, the lack of shopping makes you feel a bit on the niche side. With that in mind I set myself a generous budget and determined to spend it all on lovely squishy yarn. I even went so far as to warn my fellow Stashdown group that March would involve adding to my stash, not depleting it as planned.

Cow Sheep

And then came Saturday. Despite the horrid weather and non-stop rain we woke up feeling like kids at Christmas. A quick breakfast and sort out the baby and we were off, in the pouring rain (did I mention it was raining – it was, lots!) and onto the bus.

On our way in to town I started to get the text messages from friends to tell me there was a queue. A queue! In this rain! As we walked up the street to the venue we saw a steady stream of people walking towards us, most with yarn poking out of the tops of bags.

Luckily the queue had gone by the time we arrived and so we ran in under cover, past the Cow that was now a Sheep:

And on into the main hall. So remember that picture I showed you before, nicely ordered people calmly walking past the vendor tables? They organisers were hoping for about 400-500 people on the day, which over 7 hours works out at about 70 per hour. That’s not what we found! Once we’d squeezed past the crowds actually getting to the tables to see the stock was hard work – I haven’t seen a scrum like this for a long time! The final tally was 1600 people – 228 per hour or 3.5 people every minute!

The vendors were working their behinds off, with some of them even selling out completely and most completely forgetting to eat during the day. The cafe called in extra staff, there was even queueing for the couches. After a while we popped back out to get lunch in Leith and came back. Th ecrowd had died down a little, but was still crazy. With a slight break we could at least stop a bit and look at all the wonderful hand-knits that were on display, with lots of “ooh what pattern is that hat”, I swear it’s better than the red carpet at the Grammy’s!

I tried to get some photos but it was too crazy for good ones – these are the best I could do!

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And my class? It went fabulously with all of my students picking up the technique – 4 new needle tatters in under an hour!

My haul was rather pathetic. In all the excitement I was overwhelmed by the choices and ended up not purchasing anything except some stitch markers. I did however get home and start placing orders for things I’d seen. Oh and I got myself my new favourite mug!

All of the team, the organisers, the volunteers and the vendors were amazing and managed to pull off a truly phenomenal professional event that will be the talk of the town for some time.

I can’t wait until next year. On the back of the success of this one we all expect it to be even bigger! Now if you need me I’ve got to plan what I’m going to knit to wear for the second Edinburgh Yarn Festival…


OK I think I have enough now

OK I think I have enough now

I’ve joined a stashdown group with the wonderful Dublin knitters. First step – get a handle on how much stash you actually have. This is mine. It’s all logged and photographed and it turns out that I have a total of 68km.

This is not an excessive stash. I’ve only been at it for 2 years after all. If you do a quick google search you’ll find plenty of stashes that make this one look modest. (The fabric stashes of quilters are amazing!) Just take a look at this woman’s –

I’d say that she’s gone way past SABLE – Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy!

So the goal this year is to end with less than I started. I’ll put a little graph in the side bar in case you’re interested in following my progress.

So tell me, how much is in your stash? Or are you not game to find out?

My Week in Pictures

Week 13.01 A New Year

Week 1 of 2013 runs from December 31st, 2012 to January 6th 2013. We’re still in Germany this week.

Katja loves playtime with Opa

20121231 – Katja loves playtime with Opa. It’s actually interesting that she totally recognised Oma and Opa even though she last saw them a couple of months ago. All down to Skype.

Nomnom bubbles!

20130101 – Nomnom bubbles!

130101 - cast on new year new project

20120101 – Cast on new year new project. These will be fingerless mittens in a soft and squidgy llama blend

Whole minutes of fun to be had flicking through a German phonebook

20130102 – Whole minutes of fun to be had flicking through a German phonebook

Tausche ehemann... #knitters

20130104 – Tausche ehemann… Will swap husband for yarn!

Yesterday was spent in Würzburg catching up with Tim

20130105 – Catching up with Tim in Würzburg

According to people of Würzburg, fetal Jesus slid down pipe God attached to Mary's ear #immaculateconception #err

20130105 – According to people of Würzburg, fetal Jesus slid down pipe God attached to Mary’s ear #immaculateconception #errr

Craft, Knitting, Shopping, Travel

Glasgow School of Yarn

Today I met up with a few fellow knitters for a trip to Glasgow and the Glasgow School of Yarn which is run by the Yarn Cake there.

As it was an early start, the normally bustling street where I caught my bus was eerily quiet.

After a train trip that seemed over in no time and a short cab ride we found ourselves at the Charles Rennie Macintosh Church at Queen’s Cross. A fairly humble looking building…

…until you take a closer look at the detailing.

Inside the market hall were a number of suppliers, including among others…

A Peppermint Penguin selling project bags and cards

The Yarn Yard with all those gorgeous colours and tatting threads too

Ripples Crafts

Old Maiden Aunt – sorry about the blur there!

I stole the next pic of Old Maiden Aunt from @yarnpony which is so much better than mine!

Hilltop Cloud

After a close inspection of the stalls, @yarnpony and S settle in for some knitting and spinning…

…while V showed off her “Boobie Socks”…

…and L preferred to do some photo bombing. (second 2 photos by @yarnpony)

Meanwhile, in the main hall of the church the Yarn Cake’s own stall was in full swing under that amazing window.

In the end I was most restrained and this is all I came away with.

After the main event we all piled into a cab back into town where this sad looking empty building made me laugh

And then I found heaven!

or so I thought, for “wool” read “plastic” and “footwear” read “slut or granny options only”, still the idea of combining the two is utter genius!

All in all a good day, must do it again soon!

Craft, Knitting, Parenthood, Tatting

Next Project is Picked!

That went a lot faster than I thought it would – yes, I’ve managed to pick my next project. In fact I think I’ve picked my next two projects. This is a huge achievement, normally it takes me a week to pick a project, not a day. I tend to umm and ahh about which yarn, which colour, what pattern and then go around and around in circles for ages. I’ve been wanting to do cushion covers for months now and finally I’ve settled on a yarn/colourway which I’ll need to order. Haven’t worked out the pattern yet!

After going through pretty much every beret pattern on Ravelry I’ve settled on Frukttradgard by Melissa LaBarre. It has the lacy prettyness that I am always drawn to, but with the added bonus of it being in the right yarn weight (roughly) and having a good number of projects with positive notes. For those who can’t see it or who don’t want to follow the links here’s the pattern image and the yarn I’m planning on making it in:

That yarn is absolutely divine – it’s 50% Merino wool, 10% silk and 40% possum. It is so amazingly soft and warm. Unfortunately the possum is harvested after the animals have been culled and so this yarn is a by-product of pest control processes in New Zealand. It’s not a nice thing to have to cull pests, but with New Zealand’s fauna being even more crazily endangered than Australia’s I fully understand. It’s a nice thing that we can at least use the product and so not let these guys go to waste.

And as for the next project after that – it will be crochet but more details when we get there (yes, I’m likely to change my mind!).

I met another Aussie at knitting last night. Jen is doing her own show at the Fringe Festival and decided to join us. Always great to be able to talk about home and to hear the accent as well. I do often wonder if I sound like that! Part of me kinda hopes I do, at least a little. I also designed a new tatting piece, which is currently blocking. I’m quite excited about it but I shall tell you all about it in another post very very soon.

So far I’ve been to the last 3 Thursday knitting nights. It’s getting to be quite a nice routine that we have going on. Christian comes home from work a little earlier so that he can take Katja and I can have some me-time. We are so lucky that he has the ability to control his day like that and bottle-feeding certainly gives us a lot of freedom. Christian also looks forward to his Daddy time with Katja which is lovely.

And talking about Katja (which I know I will do an awful lot, but then I’m not forcing you to read am I?) one of the things we wanted to buy before she came along was a baby monitor, but being all frugal we opted instead for a security webcam. For £50 our little unit can be controlled by our PCs so we can tilt and pan as we like. It works with infra-red so no need to keep lights on, has audio and you can also set it up to transmit so that the family in Australia can log on and see what the Munchkin is up to.

We decided not to set up that last feature, even though it’s a big part of the £200 “proper” baby monitors. Katja is sleeping in our room as per the SIDS recommendations, the idea of others being able to log in and move the camera around our bedroom is a bit freaky. Still, as a basic baby monitor it works very well and it is nice to be able to peek at her as she sleeps. When we nolonger want a baby monitor we’ll be able to use it as a security camera – you can set it up to email you if it detects movement.

So to end today’s post here’s Katja sleeping “soundly”.

Knitting, Stuff

Why a little bit of snobbery is good for you

It is generally understood that if you learn too much about something, so much that you understand how it works, that you become a snob. It is generally thought that this is a Bad Thing.

I disagree. Strongly. And I’m going to explain why using a couple of examples.

Yarn. My first example is yarn. Less than 2 years ago I didn’t know how to knit. The wonderful knitters of Dublin fixed that failing and now I’m quite happy to count knitting as one of my skills. But before I started to knit I was learning about yarn. Sure, I’d grown up with the Australian Wool Board’s adverts so generally had an idea that wool rather than acrylic was “better” but to be honest I hadn’t given much thought to the fibre itself and certainly not to the different finishes and other animal fibres that it could be blended with or substituted by.

I soon learned about different brands (granted it’s shopping so I pick this stuff up fast) and what types of yarns cost how much and had an idea of what was a reasonable price, so instead of comparing the gorgeous hand-dyed pure wools or wool blends with the giant balls of acrylic, I was in a position to compare like with like.

Eventually I picked up some gorgeous merino wool from Australia for my first knitting project, and I am so glad I did – the yarn was a pleasure to work with, and the pattern (a softly cabled cowl) was tricky enough to keep me interested which meant that not only did I finish that project, but I actually wanted to do another… and another…

Then earlier this year I decided to grab some acrylic. It was for a “throw-away” project. I cast on and the squeaking was the first thing I noticed. I knit the first row, my hands felt horrible. The yarn was truly awful, even though it came in a good range of colours and was a good price. After a few days of trying to persevere I could stand it no more and I put it away.

Now, if I had not learnt about yarn and become a yarn snob I still would not have continued with that acrylic – it was beyond ghastly. If that had been my first knitting project I wouldn’t have enjoyed it at all, and I wouldn’t have continued through the tricky side of learning a new skill and I certainly wouldn’t have had anything at the end if I had continued that I would have wanted to wear. What a waste! If I hadn’t learnt to knit I probably wouldn’t have found the knitting group in Edinburgh, which means I would be minus some great people in my life. How horrible! And all for the sake of not being a snob? I’m very happy to be a yarn snob, thank-you!

Coffee. When I was younger I didn’t like coffee. I know, sacrilege for someone born and bread in Melbourne! I generally found it bitter and the aftertaste of foul. But that was before I started to learn about coffee.

I learnt that coffee can be burnt, that a barrister makes a difference. I learnt that different brands/origins of coffee have different notes and subsequently different flavours. I started to pay attention when I was in a cafe and I liked or didn’t like the coffee and you know what, I noticed a trend. It turned out that I could after a while quite reliably know that I would not enjoy Lavazza or Grinders, but that illy and Coffee Mio would leave me feeling happy. Once I’d figured that out I simply stopped ordering coffee if the brand was one I didn’t enjoy. I also made sure that if I was stocking up for home that I bought the brand I did enjoy. Simple. And I don’t feel I’ve missed out at all – in fact by being able to make an informed decision, I’m rarely disappointed when I have coffee, which is totally awesome compared to the old days of pot-luck randomness I used to experience!

Do I still like instant? Sure, there’s some that I do like and some that I don’t. I see instant as a different type of drink really. I did learn one trick, and that was to put in my milk before hot water so that the grounds don;t get burnt – makes a huge difference to the instant experience for me.

So, whatever it is, don’t feel that you need to shy away from learning about something just to avoid becoming a snob. Being a snob is just another way of saying that you’re discerning and being discerning is not a bad thing at all. After all, life’s too short for scratchy jumpers and bad coffee!

Image and pattern for cosy – Design Sponge