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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Up in the northcountry

Only the weekend after Rhinebeck my knitting group had our annual cottage trip.

It’s always a great time, but an added bonus was that this year was especially productive for me.

Exhibit A) I learned how to chain ply on a spindle! In beautiful surroundings, no less.

You might recognize the Briar Rose roving and David Reed Smith spindle from my last post.

PS: if you haven’t heard of chain plying, you should look into it. It is magical, time saving, and generally awesome.

Exhibit B) I  learned how to use my spinning wheel. A big undertaking considering last time I tried it was at the Frolic.

After a bumpy start I finally got something that resembled yarn 😀

Exhibit C) Happy Seamstress let me use her drum carder!

Wensleydale + second quality angora I got at Rhinebeck, plus some firestar = pretty AND pretty soft.

But perhaps the best part of the cottage is the time away from the city with friends, fibre, yarn, and good food.

Yes, that is a chocolate marshmallow. A HOMEMADE chocolate marshmallow.

I’ll leave you with the doodle Lynn left in the cottage owners’ guest book.

Rhinebeck

So this was my first year experiencing the yarn mecca that is Rhinebeck. Needless to say it surpassed all expectations.

When we first got there, we had quite a line ahead of us.

and then even more started to assemble behind us…

As uninitiated, we were a little worried we might be in for a long wait. But once the gates were open we sailed in and past some beautiful New England (or close to it anyway) foliage.

     

Oh, and I forgot to mention that we were sure to wear handknits. Though that probably goes without saying.

Here is a summary of some of my favourite sights. Most photos are my own, some are the work of Off the Hook Astronomy and Happy Seamstress.

The typical country fair staple of judging entries was not to be missed. The fair is so large there are entries from all over. It’s really the cream of the crop here.

Sheep-to-Shawl!

     

      

Look at all that fibre fluff.

Speaking of fluff.

Believe it or not, this is not wool roving, it’s actually delicious delicious maple cotton candy.

Though some members of our group felt compelled to taste actual roving…

You have to be one of us fibre freaks to get it.

Speaking of eats, omg apple cider donuts.

I think the look on my face says it all.

Besides food, there were also animals. Super cute fibre-producing animals (the best kind!).

The underbite kills me.

Llamas are actually quite affectionate. Who knew?

SO FLOOFY!

That right there is a cashmere goat.

And here is a paco vicuña:

Not only are they the cutest of camelids, they make delightful, if expensive, fibre. This skein from Victory Farms shares my name! Alas I didn’t have the budget to actually buy one…

A final animal-related thing I have to share:

Voilà my video of the leaping llama show.

On our last night in town we sampled some local food: AKA The Melting Pot fondue restaurant! We don’t have fondue restaurants in Canada, so we got really excited. The fact that we filled up on chocolate alcoholic drinks before we got our food after a long day of walking around Rhinebeck probably didn’t help…

But I digress…

Finally, here is a summary of the goodies I brought home.

Beautiful hand dyed roving from Briar Rose Fibers and a drop spindle from David Reed Smith. I got the Susan model for fine weights. I highly recommend it.

I also got some angora rabbit for only $10. Second quality, but it will be great for spinning in with other fibres. I also picked up a gorgeous shade of blue silk and merino roving from Pucker Brush Farm. I’ll post a photo soon.

Greener Shades environmentally friendly dye starter kit.

Some soft leather for putting grips on gloves or slippers from Bittersweet Baskets and Homestead Handles.

Silk hankies from Sheepshed.

And, the pièce de résistance… a SPINNING WHEEL.

Tali likes it too.

It’s a Roadbug from The Merlin Tree. SUPER portable.

Inked

So I got this yesterday.

I am very, very happy. It’s something I’ve wanted for a long while. My knitting and cat obsessions are likely obvious if you read this blog, but what might not be is that I learned to knit from my grandma and come from a line of crafty women. Hence, this design has multiple meanings for me.

Putting it on my wrist was a bit of a big decision, but I’m ultimately very happy. My first tattoo isn’t so visible, and I’ve always wished I could show it off more. So, I figured why not take the plunge with this second one?

Another thing that I’m excited about with this tattoo? My husband drew it 🙂

Of course, small tweaks needed to be done by the tattoo artist. He added the detail on the yarn for example, which I LOVE. It was really cool to bring the hubby and let the two artists figure out the final product. I of course had input, but my art skills are so terrible I was happy to defer to them.

PS: the artist is Peter Belej at TCB Tattoos. HIGHLY recommended.

Tools of the trade

I recently was given some coupons for some good deals, so naturally I decided to get some tools I’ve had my eye on for a bit. Regular household items like a steamer and a kitchen scale…

  

Except that I have ulterior plans.

Sure, they will come in handy for cleaning pet stains, steaming wrinkles out of clothes (I HATE ironing, so this is good) and measuring recipe ingredients. However their main purpose will be yarn related. The steamer will help me block with greater ease, and the scale will help me figure out how many grams I have of a particular yarn. There is nothing more annoying than having to guesstimate because you want to cast on for a project that needs 120 grams and you have the perfect yarn for it but you no longer have the ball band and/or used only part of the skein in an earlier project and so have absolutely no idea how many grams you have left.

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.

A Winter Wonderland

sheep_shearing_1_mdContinuing on the topic of using real wool from another recent post, I wanted to point out an exciting trend of going “back to wool” that I’ve noticed in my web travels. And I don’t mean just knitting with it, I mean interest in the whole process, from farm to shearer to spindle to needle.

1) Clara Parkes of Knitter’s Review recently accounced her Great White Bale project.

2) Juniper Moon’s The Shepherd and The Shearer

3) Kate Davies‘ love of Jamieson & Smith Real Shetland Wool.

If I had more disposable income, I’d be all over all of these.

Instead, I’ve made a slightly smaller splurge and bought Parkes’ book The Knitter’s Book of Yarn

It’s a delightful doorstop of a book, with lots of info on fibre types and sources, how it’s made, plying, and what each yarn is best used for. To illustrate the latter over 38 patterns are featured, which includes gorgeousness such as this:

I was also coveting her The Knitter’s Book of Wool:

It is equally as gorgeous, and perhaps even more detailed since it goes into great depth on sheep breeds and their wools. But since I don’t use wool exclusively (and since my budget and bookshelf can only take so many new acquisitions), the more general overview in The Knitter’s Book of Yarn won out.

Speaking of great depths, Penny Walsh’s The Yarn Book, a part of the University of Pennsylvania Press’ Textile Arts series, is brimming with all of the technical information you’ll ever need.

Baaaa

baa

I’m also excited about…

I’m on the organizing committee for Pucks n’ Purls this year. This is our second year and we’re continuing to grow. Over 200 seats sold so far! Hockey (a Canadian tradition), ice skating (likewise), and so many prizes to win, donated by some awesome companies, designers, and local yarn stores. Just look at all of the names on this list:

Knit-O-Matic, Lettuce Knit, Old Mill Knitting, Estelle, Michelle Porter, Creative Yarns, Denise Powell, Indigodragonfly, Tanis Fiber Arts, Wool & Wicker, Linda’s Craftique, Soak, Westminster Fibers, and Fiona Ellis.

One of the prizes is temporarily living in my house until game day. So much temptation…

And now I’m finally going to share what I made for the holidays.

Hat for Dad

TravelWees (such a cute idea) for my neices.

This was the first time I’ve sewn in a while. Luckily, it doesn’t look like I forgot how. I also made my nieces each a necklace, as well as another type of necklace for my stepmom and a brooch for my Grandma.

And a holiday recap isn’t complete without mention of my awesome present:

Voilà my Pandora braclet. I’ve slowly started collecting charms, and was dismayed to find there is no knitting related one. I found this delightful yarn basket charm on eBay. It’s not official Pandora, but it fits, it’s .925 silver and it’s knitting!

I leave you with some snow-filled photos of my New Years spent up north.