Tuesday, February 28, 2006

a fibre-filled fortnight (part two)

Before the Skip North weekend I spent a marvellous (and exhausting) weekend at Textiles in Focus, a fascinating event held just outside Cambridge. It is a magnet for local fibre enthusiasts and attracts many people from further afield. To my great shame, I've not been along in previous years but now that I know what I've missed... This event has it all: lectures, workshops, demonstrations and supplies galore. (Momentary detour here: is it just me, or does the word "galore" make other people laugh too? Strikes me as one of that category of words usually only found in newspaper headlines: "galore!" "bonanza!" and so on...) Meanwhile, back at Textiles in Focus...I got (willingly) roped in by Liz to teach a workshop on knitting in every direction (log cabin squares, short rows--see hat crown on left--, i-cord) which was huge fun and we also shared a sales stall selling things we'd knitted. Liz added some striking hand-dyed yarns. Remember R2 "paper" yarn (nylon, actually) in strange, almost grubby, shades? Liz transformed it into works of art that were eagerly snapped up by knitters and embroiderers. Perhaps the very best thing about the event, though, is that our stall was placed right next to Woolly Workshop. Oh, the joys of temptation. And the pleasures of giving in. I'm now the proud owner of a set of Denise needles which are a joy to knit with. (Mind you, having seen the pretty colours of Alison's set of Boye interchangeables at Skip North I reckon I may suddenly find that I need 2 sets of intercahgeable needles. Odd that).

surely not?

Heard some mention on Radio 4 this evening that comedian Linda Smith had died, aged 48. Couldn't believe it, but a little bit of digging around the BBC website reveals that she had been ill with ovarian cancer for some time. Jeremy Hardy says that even when she was seriously ill she was still making her friends laugh. She certainly made me laugh and that's how I'll remember her but just at the moment I feel so sad. Ovarian cancer is the sneakiest thing, rarely making its presence felt until it is beyond treatment. There'll be a tribute edition of the News Quiz at 6.30pm on Friday. Off to do some knitting to restore my equilibrium.

Monday, February 27, 2006

a fibre-filled fortnight (part one)

I'm just pausing to draw breath after a fabulous couple of weeks. So much done that I'll give you this weekend's fun in a post today and then tell you about the previous weekend later in the week. Yesterday I got back from Skip North, billed as "the UK's first knitting and spinning in public holiday". Hmm, we certainly did knit in public (spinning was done in private, which was just as well as, despite having a wonderful time, I was the class dunce) but we also spent many happy hours buying yarn. Once I find out how to include links I'll link you to the website for the holiday. I suspect you will get the wrong impression of me (!) from pictures taken over the weekend. I was snapped boozing on a steam train, balancing on one leg in a Youth Hostel and hiding behind my hat whenever I realised a mugshot was being taken. I did do knitting, too, honest. And shopping, hmm, yes.

The Youth Hostel was far more comfy than I'd expected (based on memories of hostelling widely in the UK and France between 1976 and 1982). Dorms are smaller, beds are better, meals are not just edible but actually tasty, showers are (a) hot and (b) free and (c) no longer communal and alcohol is not only permitted but on sale at reception (so I needn't have knocked back that swift half of cider on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway but the buffet car was so elegant and the bar so well-stocked and a certain person who knits on the green was so persuasive...)

We were a really friendly bunch (the only people I already knew were Liz, Lucy and Lucy's young daughter, Lily). The holiday was action packed. Liz and I walked the almost-mile up a vertical cliff face to the youth hostel from Haworth station surprisingly fast. (NB you might think that "vertical cliff face" is something of an exaggeration but please do bear mind that I grew up in Norfolk and live in Cambridge). We arrived to find a fabulous grange (cue Kate Bush singing Wuthering Heights) with very arts and crafts style decor and were directed to a dorm. It was warm. It had lockers (though you do need to bring your own padlock). It was ours and ours alone. We unpacked hastily and descended to the study room to begin spinning all sorts of feathers and fibres and things into yarn. Well, most people did spinning, I just made an exciting tanlge. Then we made stitch markers (see scanned image, appear to have found a way around having no camera!). It was like being at Grandma's with all sorts of exciting treasures at our disposal. After a tasty meal we spent the evening knitting (and eating cake and imbibing) in the lounge. Olympic projects were completed. Saturday found us buzzing around West Yorkshire in a luxury minubus (such was the luxury that the driver even provided Disney DVDs to entertain Lily, aged 7). Cold Harbour Mills (yummy Jo Sharp and Debbie Bliss yarns at about 4p/gram..), The Skep (100g 100% wool 4-ply, space dyed in tasteful colours for £1/ball perfect, 50p/ball with slight colour problems; skeins of bargain mohair), Bombay Stores (incredible fabrics, trimmings and shoes), The Knitting & Crochet Guild Collection (thought I'd get out of here without spending but forgot that KCG Trading has just about the best selection of knitting books available in the UK and then there was the yarn mountain: all you wanted --including discontinued Rowan yarns-- for 1p/gram. We also got to see some of the Guild's treasures: knitted/crocheted items from the C18th to the present day.)

On the route from Bombay Stores (Bradford) to Lee Mills (KCG warehouse just outside Holmfirth) we passed (literally) over the place where I first tasted coca cola (and hated it). My grandparents lived at 490 Bradford Road, Huddersfield from the early 1920s until the house was demolished for road widening in the 1970s. The road had changed so much that it bore no relation to my happy childhood memories. The mill where Grandad worked has gone, too. Some things endure, though. Back in Cambridge I wound all the skeins of yarn I purchased into balls using my grandmother's swift, which I first saw in action at 490 Bradford Road. I found this very impressive as my other grandmother used me as her swift! On Sunday we went to Wingham Wool Workshop (South Yorkshire) which was heaven. Think of an old-fashioned sweet shop only larger, filled with bags of wool tops in every colour of the rainbow (rather than sweets in jars ), overflowing with hand-dyed yarns and pencil rovings and with a wall of the most beautifully carved knitting needles (made from surina wood). The Workshop's credit card machine went into meltdown whilst we were in there. I now have lots of luscious yarn and my poshest-ever knitting needles (they are shinier than my Brittanys and I *love* shiny, though not on my t-zone, natch).

But I also feel more connected to my father's family's past. I'd known that Dad's ancestors included itinerant weavers and dyers (think we'll gloss over the spinners given my lack of prowess with a drop spindle) but I hadn't really stopped to think that this must be where my love of wide open space comes from. Must be why I coped surprisingly well with the hill up to the hostel, too.

I rounded off the weekend in style: the first leg of the journey home found me knitting up a storm in the steam locamotive (secretly pretending that I was one of the Railway children). It was idyllic until some stupid person's mobile 'phone rang. A mobile 'phone on a steam train, how anachronistic is that? And yes, I was that stupid person. But I've only had a mobile 'phone for a week longer than I've had a blog, so reckon I can be excused.

I know that Nic and Alex are planning more Skip Holidays. If you get the chance: go!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

'ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go

A neophyte writes: since I'm cheerleading for Team Cambridge in the Knitting Olympics, I thought I'd set up a blog. Am so new to this that I don't know how to add links and I've no camera, so no pictures... And I've just accidnetally published this and seen that I've not even set the time correctly. Hope there's an edit button somewhere...