Yarn Shop Day – This Saturday!

This Saturday (3rd May) is Yarn Shop Day!

Yarn Shop Day 3rd May 2014

Launched by Let’s Knit Magazine, Yarn Shop Day is part of their ‘Love Your Yarn Shop’ campaign and lots of yarn shops across the country are holding special events to help you get to know your yarn shop better.  You can find events happening in your local area here.

Yarn Shop Day 3rd May 2014

I’m lucky enough to have the best job a knitter can have, working at my independent LYS (local yarn shop), Stash Fine Yarns in Chester (I work part time and today is one of my days off, so don’t worry I’m not skiving!) and we’re really excited about the event we’re holding this Saturday!

So what’s going on at Stash on Saturday? 

We’ll be open from 11am – 5pm for all this:

Louisa Harding is visiting us in the afternoon with a trunk show!  She’ll be bringing a selection of her design samples from her latest books and will be available to sign her books too.  Louisa has visited us before during her Himalayan Hiking Hats campaign to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and she’s really friendly and enthusiastic so I’m sure you’ll all enjoy meeting her.

Andy from the Chester Wool Company (who supply independent hand dyers with undyed yarns) will be joining us too and he’ll also be bringing along some yummy Fyberspates yarns!

We’ll all be demonstrating knitting techniques during the day, such as mattress stitch, magic loop, Jeny’s Surprisingly stretchy bind/cast off, Kitchener Stitch and more, there’ll be refreshments, goodie bags and a raffle.  It’s sure to be a good day, so do come and join us if you’re in the local area.

You can find directions to Stash Fine Yarns including a map here

So why are local yarn shops important?  Well, as a knitter, if you are lucky enough to have a local yarn shop they really are an invaluable resource and it really is a case of ‘use it or lose it’.  Who knows, there might be one near you that you didn’t know about, so why not check here, or do an internet search on ‘yarn shop (insert your area/town/city here)’, you could be surprised!

Reasons to Love Your Yarn Shop:

  • Get to feel the textures of the yarns

This can make all the different to your project, enabling you to pick the right yarn to really make your project sing.  Plus, the more yarns you get to know, the easier it will be to choose the right fibres for your next project.  Also if you want advice about whether or not the yarn you’ve fallen in love with will suit the project you want to make, you can get it, which brings me to my next point….

  • Help from knowledgeable staff

Yarn shop staff are as passionate about knitting as you are!  We’re always interested in what you’re making and personally I love being able to give other knitters help with their projects.  If you’ve bought a pattern at your LYS and you’re having trouble with it there is usually someone on hand who can explain that new cast on, or advise you why you need that circular needle and which length you should buy for the collar on that cardigan.

  • Advice on yarn substitutions

You know how it is.  You really love that pattern and you’re desperate to make it, but either the yarn has been discontinued, or isn’t available in this country, or just isn’t a yarn that you like (maybe you’re allergic to wool, or don’t the colour range).  But you still have to knit that pattern.  What to do?  Why not ask for help at your LYS?  We know a lot about our yarn ranges and can usually show you plenty of different options for suitable substitutions, and make sure you have the correct amount of yarn to complete your project (remember, you need the same number of metres of yarn, not the same number of grams, but don’t worry, we’ll do all the maths for you).

  • Colour matching

If you fancy making a cardigan to go with that new dress, or a pretty shawl to go with a wedding outfit, or maybe you just want to see if that colour will really suit your skin tone, seeing the yarn in the flesh is essential!

  • Choosing patterns more efficiently

If you’re just starting out as a knitter, why not ask the assistant to point you in the direction of patterns suitable for your current skills?  Most shops will have a range of patterns for all abilities.  Whether you’re looking for a christening shawl or an Aran style sweater, if you ask an assistant to help you find what you’re after, you’ll save yourself a lot of time.

  • A second opinion

Which yarn is more hardwearing?  Will this one have good stitch definition?  Which pattern is easier to knit?  Which needles will suit my style of knitting best?  Your yarn shop can help you with all these questions!

So if you can, go and support your local yarn shop this Saturday!  We’d love to see you 🙂

Lottie x

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Barmouth

I’ve got a new design to tell you about today, Barmouth, in the latest issue of Let’s Knit Magazine (Issue 79, May 2014):

Barmouth Headband

Barmouth Headband
Copyright Let’s Knit 2014
Used with kind permission

The inspiration for this design is very personal to me.  As a child I spend many happy summer holidays on the beach at the Welsh seaside town of Barmouth with my parents, brother and grandparents. When Sarah from Let’s knit sent me a ball of Rowan Silkystones with a request to design a headband for one of their spring/summer issues, I wasn’t really sure what I would do exactly before I saw the yarn…. Rowan SilkystonesBut once I’d taken it out of the envelope I knew straight away that it would be connected to this place:

Barmouth (about 1995-96 ish)

Barmouth (about 1995-96 ish)

The colours took me back there straight away.  The grass on the headland, the ripples of the sand on the beach, the hours my brother and I spent making sandcastles, and with the help of my Mum and my late Grandpa, digging elaborate moats around them that went right down to the sea, so that they’d fill up with seawater.

Boats in Barmouth harbour (1995 - 1996 ish)

Boats in Barmouth harbour (1995 – 1996 ish)

As it was Wales, the weather could be extremely variable.  As you can see, this was not one of the very best days, but not too bad (it’s not raining!), or too hot (one year – maybe 1995 – it was scorching, we had a plague of ladybirds – yes really – and it was so hot we couldn’t go down to the beach until 5pm).

Barmouth Bridge (1995-1996) - the bridge is for the Cambrian Coast Railway line

Barmouth Bridge (1995-1996) – the bridge is for the Cambrian Coast Railway line

These photos were taken by me on one of those holidays during a walk on the headland with my family.  Though I can’t remember when exactly, I’m fairly sure that it was around 1995 – 96, so I would have been about 9 or 10 years old.  Please excuse the quality, this was the days of film cameras after all, with 24 or 36 exposures…. eeh, kids today, they don’t know they’re born!

It’s the time on the beach that I remember most of all (including having such a good time that I had to be persuaded for around an hour that it was time to leave).  My memories of that are all tied in with memories of my wonderful Grandpa, who encouraged me to be adventurous, swim further out (but never too far) and was always eager to join in our silly games, even if it meant being buried in the sand!  Anyway, back to the design, before I wallow in mid-nineties nostalgia any more…..

Barmouth headband

Barmouth headband
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

Welsh beaches are very windy, so a headband would be the perfect accessory to a walk along the shoreline or a day at the beach!  With this in mind and thoughts of the ripples in the sand, I began to work out some cable and lace ripple patterns that would go together well but still make a sturdy enough fabric to keep your hair in check.

Barmouth Headband

Barmouth Headband
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

Starting with an i-cord tie, you increase into rib, which flows into the rippling cable and lace patterns, then back into rib, ready to decrease for the i-cord tie at the other end.

You can easily adjust the size of the headband by working fewer cable and lace pattern repeats before decreasing, if you wanted to make a child’s headband for example. Rowan Silkystones (a mix of silk and linen with a really beautiful sheen and soft handle) is a lovely yarn to work with, but if you wanted something easier to care for Rowan Handknit Cotton knits to the same tension and would make a great substitute if you wanted to make a headband for a child, and there are lots of bright colours to choose from too.

Because I’m feeling brave, here’s a photo of me, in Barmouth, wearing a headband, aged about 9 or 10 (I was always very small for my age):

Me in Barmouth, about 9 or 10 years old

Me in Barmouth, about 9 or 10 years old

My Grandpa was long gone by the time I learnt to knit, so he never saw any of my designs, but Grandpa, this one is for you.

Lottie x

On the value of craft

If you frequent various social media outlets on a regular basis you probably will have seen this article from The Observer causing a bit of a stir amongst the online knitting community.

If you can’t be bothered to read the whole article (and I don’t blame you – it’s almost guaranteed to raise your hackles) here’s a quick summary of the main points:

  • Knitting used to be a necessity.  Now it isn’t.

Fair enough, knitting used to be cheaper than buying ready made clothes, so being able to knit and sew was an important skill.  Now high street bought clothes are cheaper to buy than knitting or sewing your own, so you don’t have to.

  • Once knitting wasn’t a necessity it was an activity only practised by grannies.  To quote the article, knitting is:

old-fashioned and something you did if you were a little frail and didn’t get out much

Oh good, a well worn stereotype.  Knitting is just for grannies!  Are you feeling cross yet?  Well brace yourself, we’re not finished!

  • Knitting has been revived thanks in part to celebrities who knit, such as Kate Moss and the Duchess of Cambridge.

Of course, we’re all shallow little girls who want to do whatever Princesses and models do!  I started knitting nearly eight years ago, not because of celebrities or anything like that, but because when I was a child I’d had a knitting kit with appalling instructions and it had always beaten me.  I was quite poorly at the time (and no longer a child) and in some ways life had beaten me, through no fault of my own.  So I thought maybe I can conquer this!  Then I will have done something worthwhile!  With the help of books (not the internet) I taught myself.  At the time I had no idea that knitting would help me rebuild my life like it has done, but I got addicted and it just went from there.  (The rest is another story for another time.)

I’d also like to point out that knitting has been in a revival for the past decade, not just the past week, and perhaps this is more likely to be down to the internet and social media (Ravelry and it’s 4 million members anyone?) which has improved access to patterns, yarns and information and made solving your knitting problems easier than ever before (YouTube is a godsend if you’re stuck with a technique).

Perhaps handknits coming back into fashion also plays a role.  Knitting patterns are so much more fashion led now than ever before and all yarn companies and magazines study fashion trends in both garment styles and yarn colours and textures when launching their new ranges.

But of course knitting is basically a waste of time because to quote the article again:

Needlecraft, it seems, is just not relevant to the reality of modern women’s lives.

If that wasn’t enough, the article goes on to even more bizarre territory:

  •  Needlecraft is mentioned in Greek mythology, but according to myths, legends and fairytales, spinners are power crazed and evil.

What?  How is this relevant?

  • Knitting is empowering and Ghandi knitted, spun and wove.

Is this included for balance after the evil fairytale spinners?

  • Knitting is subversive

This statement is not qualified.

So to sum up, according to this article, knitting isn’t something anyone needs to do, it’s old fashioned and mainly practised by grannies, if you’re not a granny, you must be knitting because celebrities knit, because knitting is irrelevant, the stuff of myth, legend and fairy stories but subversive all at the same time.  You know the worst thing?  This article was supposedly written by a knitter.

Personally I think these attitudes and poorly written articles are all part of wider perception that crafts in general are unimportant, outdated, a waste of time, or produce silly and badly made things that nobody wants.

But why are crafts not valued?  I don’t think I have a definitive answer to that.

But I do have a few thoughts on what might contribute to this view.

Maybe we have to look to the experience of crafts that non-crafters have.  When do all of us make things?  At school, I suppose, and being inexperienced in making, often the products of school crafting are not as well executed as they might be.  But you’re just learning so that’s fine and only to be expected.

We all have to start somewhere and which of us can honestly say that our first attempts at knitting were perfect?  Certainly not me!  My first piece of knitting had very loose stitches at the start and very tight stitches at the end and all the stitches were knitted through the back of the loop!

I present exhibit A, my first ever piece of knitting:

20140416-205825.jpg

The only way to become proficient at something is practice.  There is no shortcut to skill and if you only try a particular craft once you never have the opportunity to improve and improving your skills is very rewarding.

Now for exhibit B: Look what I can design and make now!

Avocetta Capelet

Avocetta (Photograph Copyright Dam Walmsley for Practical Publishing 2013)

 

The other common experience of knitting in particular is the unwanted Christmas jumper, knitted by the well meaning elderly relative who didn’t realise that you wouldn’t like it.  I can’t say that this was something I experienced myself, but lazy journalism does tend to refer to this quite often when mentioning knitting so I suppose we have to assume that it is one of the things that springs to mind when knitting is mentioned (think Bridget Jones’ Diary).  See my guide to gift knitting to avoid disappointment and the unwanted Christmas knit!

If these are the only things someone associates with craft, is it any wonder that it is undervalued?  If you’ve never spent the hours, days, weeks or even sometimes months it takes to make a sweater (hideously Christmassy or otherwise), or spent even longer getting good enough to attempt that sweater in the first place, you won’t be able to see why paying £20 at a craft fair for an adult sweater is pitifully inadequate.  (Of course this leads into the free pattern debate, but I don’t want to open that particular can of worms right now.)

But is the attitude to crafts improving?  Certainly in some areas of the media I think.  The Great British Sewing Bee, for example presents sewing as a worthwhile activity that takes time, patience and skill, but rather than present the competition in an X-Factor style, the BBC has chosen to focus on the enjoyment and camaraderie of the craft, the joy of learning new skills and improving.  All the sewers gain from the experience, which is wonderful.  I’d love the media to view more crafts in this way.

Phew!  What a long post!  I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you’re a crafter or not.  I’m sure there’s more I could say on the subject and I certainly can’t claim to have covered everything, but I hope I’ve been able to set the record straight a little.

For more insight and opinions on the Observer article, check out the hashtag #ANDknitting on twitter set up in response to the article and the assertion that knitters have too much time on their hands.  There are some really well thought out blog posts to be found and much better written than the original piece, especially this and this.

Next time I’ll have a new design to show you 🙂 along with the story behind it!

Lottie x