London Trip

So my husband and I did this honeymoon do-over (let’s not talk about the first one, which was full of sickness and tropical storms) in August. Yes, that is over two months ago. My life has been crazy busy.

London was fantastic. We did so much in the nine days we were there, but could definitely have spent more time.

Not only did I most definitely find a knitting store:

from whence I got some lovely English yarn.

(it’s called Bowland DK by Eden Cottage Yarns. I fell in love with the colour. I also picked up a shawl pin, plus they gave me the bag for free!)

but I also chronicled my fibre-related exploits for y’all. In true librarian fashion.

The sign says:

               This door was at Westminster Abbey, if you’re curious.

I’ll start with a very cool find at All Hallows-by-the-Tower. Though it’s right by the Tower of London, it’s easy to miss. I only found out about it through an obscure blog post. Even my guide book didn’t mention it, but it’s totally worth a visit. Not just for the fibre-craft related objects I’m going to show you, but it’s a beautiful old church. In fact it’s the oldest in London. It was built on the remains of a Roman house and road, which you can still see in the basement. An added bonus? It’s one of the few churches that lets you take photos inside.

See the weird rectangle-shaped objects hanging below the pews? They are cushions: each handmade by a member of the congregation, going back generations. Here are some close-ups:

There is also this lovely weaving near the altar.

Another very cool find was the textile collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

I was SO excited to see these very famous ancient Egyptian socks made for wearing with sandals (ignore the “shoes” description. That’s for another item). These socks are often cited as an example of early knitting made using one needle, much like nålbinding.

The works below are woven tapestries from Byzantium.

The above is a woven silk piece depicting a bishop. It dates to 12-1300’s Germany or Italy. The very modern (i.e.: cartoon-like) looking face (complete with what looks like spectacles!) just kills me.

These woven pieces date to early Christianity in Egypt, around 400-600:

Here is a close up of the tapestry on the left. It depicts ankhs – an ancient Egyptian symbol of life that was adopted by the Christian Copts around the 4th century.

Below we have a quilt dating to 1360-1400. Probably made as a wedding gift, it depicts fourteen episodes from the adventures of Tristan. It was hard to take in all the detail on our camera, but you get the idea: lots and lots of stitching BY HAND. So gorgeous. It really has to be seen in person.

This next one is obviously a passion of the Christ scene. Probably from France around 1400-25. Once again woven BY HAND, folks. Our tour guide told us it took a professional weaver about a month working full time (sunrise to sunset) to make 1 square meter. Remember, most of these were big enough to cover a castle wall!

By the way, if you’re curious why tapestries were so common in the medieval period, here’s an answer: no central heating. Well-to-do homes that could afford tapestries were also typically made of stone. That sh*t gets cold!

We also got to see the famous, and enormous, ‘Boar and Bear Hunt’ woven wool tapestry, probably made in Arras, France or Tournai, Belgium around 1425-30.

The last fibre arts related stop that we made was at the Globe Theatre. I was super stoked to find a whole reproduction of an Elizabethan costume textile workshop in the museum.

Can you say “heaven”?

I really doubt that the following close-up images need introduction. Fleece, yarn, dye pots, sewing, pattern drafting, embroidery and lace work, it’s all here.

Pssst: the velvet above is authentic 15th-17th century Spanish and Italian handmade velvet.

And here we have the costume worn by an actress who played Queen Elizabeth at the Globe re-opening.

Check out the handmade lace!

I’ll end with this cool video my husband took of the Swiss Glockenspeil in Leicester Square near Piccadilly Circus/Covent Garden. Not textile related, but still a pretty cool handicraft.

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TTC Knitalong 2014

A little late, but I changed jobs last week so I’ve been a bit swamped.

Saturday July 12 was the annual TTC Knitalong. It’s that annual event where Toronto’s knitters (and others! I know people come from far and wide) break off into teams and travel from LYS to LYS via Toronto’s public transit system, the TTC. I was on the best team (sorry, everyone else): Team Lace. We got to visit Passionknit, Creative Yarns, The Purple Purl, and Romni Wools.

Here is a great photo of us at the Purple Purl that I stole from Lynn.

Jennifer the Happy has another version of the same picture on Instagram and Twitter:

And here is the day’s stash additions of my 3 knitting group friends and myself. Not too shabby.

I especially enjoy Alia‘s open mouth of joy and Kara’s fingering of the silk ball in the bottom right corner. I regret none of the innuendos in the preceding sentence.

There are more awesome photos in Lynn’s blog post.

Here’s what I got 😀

(click on the photo for what store and colourway/dye lot info)

100% silk! And Passionknit had 25% off all yarn so… I really couldn’t say no.

NEON SOCK YARN. Need I say more? Lynn, Kara, and I decided we had to have it as soon as we saw it at Creative Yarns. Other team members judged us, but I don’t care. At one of our knit nights we plan on all showing up with neon socks-in-progress. It’s going to be epic.

And that is all the yarn I bought. I KNOW, right? But Lord knows I have enough stash at the moment.

BUT, Passionknit was lovely enough to give out free Mirasol lace weight. Yes, you read that right.

Other awesome freebies included this gorgeous wooden crochet hook and some stitch markers from the Purple Purl,

 

 

 

 

and this cool button from Wool Gathering (then again, I love buttons) sporting a sentiment I happen to share,

 

 

 

 

 

 

as well as a bag, back-issue magazine, and yarn from Romni Wools. How incredibly generous LYSes can be.

And here is this year’s official button and bag, both of which are probably my favourite of the three years I’ve been doing this.

I also won a prize! Which floored me, because I never win anything. I won a copy of French Girl Knits by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes and a skein of Diamond Luxury Collection Fine Merino Superwash Lace from Knitty and Diamond, respectively.

And I like almost every pattern in French Girl Knits. Bonus! I mean, how could you not. Look at this gorgeousness:

I also bought two books. This is likely not a surprise to anyone who reads this blog…

Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Workshop is a classic. The late Mrs. Zimmermann was a master knitter from a European generation who memorized “recipes” for patterns, rather than rely on following written patterns verbatim. Take this page from her instructions for The Original Shetland Shawl as an example:

Marianne Kinzel’s First Book of Modern Lace Knitting is in the same vein, albeit the lace work featured in it is so detailed, some instructions are needed. I would like to try this doozy. Wish me luck.

Of course I will be using it as a shawl rather than a dinner cloth 😉 I’ll be damned if I let anyone eat off of this sucker.

Can’t wait till next year’s TTC Knitalong. It will be the 10th anniversary!

Knitter’s Frolic

So this past weekend was the annual Knitter’s Frolic. I went with some members of my knitting group, and we had a lot of fun.

  Above photos from CanadianChia.

And saw some amazing things.

  CASHMERE ROVING. IT FEELS LIKE CLOUDS.

And when it comes to shopping, I made out like a bandit this year. A bandit who pays for all their loot, but a bandit nonetheless.

Everything there was just SO AWESOME this year. More awesome than it already normally is. Plus I got more back that I thought I would with my tax return, so happy early birthday to me.

Here is the pile, in all its glory:

IMG_0533

And now for the breakdown, minus the Addi Turbos and the Indigodragonfly project bag with the hilarious print.

First we have some beautiful lace weight. Seriously, the picture does not do the emerald tones of this skein justice. It’s Shalimar Yarn‘s Breathless Lace in Loden. Handpainted! 850 yds! $30! 😀

I plan on making this beauty with it.

Then I stopped by a family-owned farm‘s stall and grabbed me some more hand painted goodness:

Once again, my camera does not do the deep hues of this yellow any justice. I normally don’t go for yellows, but it was so gorgeous it had to come home with me.

The Black Lamb (another local yarn producer) had this at their booth:

Merino mixed with angora rabbit! Get in my shopping bag now please!

Then at the booth for Gateway Fibreworks (another local outfit that makes yarn from Ontario alpacas – noticing a “local” theme yet?) I saw this skein, the last one they had of it’s colourful yet undyed (these are natural alpaca fleece colours) kind and had to have it.

While I was there I grabbed these mini skeins because alpaca mini skeins.

I’m thinking it should be enough for fingerless gloves.

So that’s it for the local fibres. I had planned on buying only local, normally-hard-to-get-your-hands-on stuff, but then…

Classic Elite Yarns Provence on sale for 30% off at EweKnit‘s booth.

Since I needed some DK weight cotton for this vest, I figured I might as well buy it while it’s on sale.

This Habu skein was also 50% off at Unraveled. I’ve always wanted to try Habu (the ones that brought you yarns made from paper, steel, and etc) and at this price for a little skein I figured why not?

It’s called Kibiso silk. It may not look very silky, but that’s because it is actually made from the waste silk, which is the fuzzy bits on the surface one gets when you reel silk from a cocoon.

And last, but not least, we have this skein from Skein (har har). When I saw it at Shall We Knit‘s booth, I had to have it. It’s just so different. The colourway is Tuscany.

I also got a good deal on hand carders from Gemini Fibres. I’ll need them if I ever actually start spinning.

Speaking of starting spinning, I’ve taken a step in the right direction! I took Barb Aikman’s class on the Sunday of the Frolic.

I’ve got a long way to go, but at least it’s a start. I had trouble with the single treadle I was using, so a fellow student was kind enough to let me try her Ashford Joy2. Muuuuch better.

…aaand now I want an Ashford Joy2. It’s a beautiful machine.

But, before I can think of that, or use all this new yarn that is burning a hole in my stash, I must finish the baby knitting (yes, there is still another set of these:

as well as a blanket to go) plus the shawl I’ve started for myself:

I think I needed to finally make something for myself. People are starting to ask why I knit so much but hardly wear any knitwear :S

Luckily this shawl is in worsted weight, so hopefully it won’t take too long.

I am not a crocheter

As you may remember from my last (real) post that I recently finished my fingerless mittens, using Julia V’s pattern:

While I am enjoying them (aran weight merino is lovely warm and soft, though sadly the brand I used no longer exists) I recently had the revelation that I don’t think I entirely enjoyed making them.

How can this be?!

The problem, I believe, lies in the fact that a) they were crocheted, and b) my answer to the age old “are you a process or a product knitter?” question is that I am a process knitter. How are these two things related? And how did I come to these conclusions? Let me explain:

These fingerless mittens took much less time to whip up than the last pair I made, which seemed to prove the oft-heard adage that crocheting is faster than knitting. So, when my brother asked for a pair of convertible gloves, I immediately searched for crochet versions on Ravelry.

I even went so far as to narrow it down to Sue Norrad’s Crocheted Mittens / Fingerless Gloves

Yet when it came time to start the foundation chain (like casting on for you knitting-only folk) I felt something I had never felt before: reluctance. I did not want to start the bloody thing, regardless of how much I admired the pattern and liked the idea of getting the mittens made quickly. For a brief moment, this made me fear I was loosing interest in a hobby that has been such a focal point in my life, but as I thought about it some more, I realized my problem was that I did not want to start another crochet project so soon. My hands were missing their beloved needles. I think there is something in the process of knitting, in holding a needle in each hand and working with them in tandem that I crave. Indeed, as I performed the same Ravelry search for knitted convertible mittens, I felt noticeably happier.

So, I learned some things today:

1) though I thought I didn’t have a preference when it came to knit vs. crochet, it would seem I do, and 2) despite the fact that I had assumed I was a product knitter since I like the feeling of completing a project, it looks like it may actually be the process I am infatuated with (let’s be frank, at this point my love of yarn is an infatuation).

(However, I have to say that I am a little adverse to lumping people into two tight categories. I may enjoy the process, but I’ll be damned if I don’t also enjoy getting the product at the end of it.)

So, are you curious as to what pattern I ended up with?

At first I thought I had narrowed it down to Glenna C.‘s Podster Gloves pattern

but I thought “the maximum size given is a men’s small. My brother most definitely does not wear size small” and “I’m really not feeling the each-finger-has-a-hole thing. That took a lot of time last year, and I still have a lot of holiday knitting to do. Plus the last thing I need is another part of the mittens that might not fit my brother’s massive fingers.”

Finally I stumbled across Lauren Perruzza’s appropriately titled Manly-Man Man Mittens.

Perfect! Albeit, Lauren claims the pattern is a work-in-progress so some directions may be difficult to decipher. But she’s open to helping, the size is already set to ‘men’s large’ and there are no finicky finger holes outside of the thumbs. I can work with this.

The only thing missing is the awesomeness that is the ‘podster’ thumb from Glenna’s pattern. I’m thinking of trying to incorporate it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Mine are coming along nicely, having just cast on:

I’ve been using the Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool I got on sale last year. Relatively inexpensive real virgin wool with the lanolin still in. I forgot how much I love wool like this. Plus it’s perfect for my outdoors-loving brother who is known for being rather hard on clothing.

Needless to say, I’m back from my post crocheted fingerless mitten slump 🙂

The bad side to this new mitten project, however, is that my Hitckhiker shawl, which I was all excited about starting in my last post, is going to be stuck at the 25th row mark for a while..

What might cause it to languish even longer is the fact that The DROPS Advent Calendar has come out. Thanks to katknit for pointing this out. Free pattern every day, yes please.

Here’s the cute mini stockings for Dec 1:

http://www.garnstudio.com/lang/us/pattern.php?id=5903&lang=us

One last thing to share before I go:

Believe it or not, this isn’t just another picture of my cat (though I love any opportunity to post one, let’s be honest). The focus here is on the yarn and needles (or the end of one of them anyway)

The yarn isn’t super sexy, I know. And straight needles are kind of out-or-character for me. I’m using them to practice a new knitting technique! Lever knitting.

Last Saturday I took a class taught by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot) on Knitting for Speed and Efficiency at Unwind Yarn House, where she taught us this technique. We’re supposed to practice it for 30 days (a little per day, as much as we can stand it). Apparently that’s about how long it takes to master a new way of knitting. I can believe it, since my stitches are not at all uniform and are ridiculously tight, which has brought back buried childhood memories. Yet slowly, day by day, I’m getting there. Just like when I was nine 🙂

Felicia Lo of SweetGeorgia Yarns has a great summary of the Stephanie’s explanation of the differences between lever (aka Irish cottage), throwing (aka English), and picking (aka Continental, though Americans like to call it American) and how they came to be. She also has links to Youtube videos of Stephanie lever knitting, though FYI Stephanie herself advises to watch sans sound/commentary.

Because Size Matters: Foot Size Survey

Because Size Matters: Foot Size Survey | knittyBlog.

Every knitter should do this. It’s a brilliant idea!

From knittyBlog:

“Since foot length is remarkably unrelated to foot circumference – small feet can be wide, long feet can be narrow – telling me your shoe size tells me very little about how big your socks should be. A lot of the time, when designers are creating socks, we’re guessing about how they should be sized.

With help from our friends and collaborators at Sock Summit and Cooperative Press, we’re trying to change this. We’re launching a foot size survey, and we’re hoping you can help us out.”