Friday, 22 September 2017

Top tips for visiting a yarn festival

This weekend I'm off to Yarndale for the day, and I am am very excited! Having been to several yarn festivals, I thought I'd share a few of my top tips for visiting a yarn festival.

Ahead of time

Book your accommodation
If you're having to travel some distance to the yarn festival and need to stay overnight, book your accommodation as soon as you can. If the festival is somewhere small like Yarndale (held in Skipton, a market town in Yorkshire), accommodation will be limited and is likely to book up fast. If there's no accommodation available very locally, it's worth looking a little further afield and making a weekend of it. For last year's Yarndale I stayed in York with my friend Amy and we got to enjoy a visit to that city as well as the yarn festival. One thing to consider is how easy it is to get between the accommodation and the festival; Skipton has a railway station, so you can make life a little easier for yourself by booking accommodation in a town on the same train line - this will allow you a chance to have a rest on the train while getting back to your hotel in the evening, rather than having to drive after a long day.

Buy your ticket
Yarn festival tickets are often available ahead of time, sometimes at a discount rate, or with preferential entry for advance ticket holders. Last year Edinburgh Yarn Festival, for example, gave priority to those with advance tickets, and advised those without tickets to arrive a little later in the day when numbers in the venue start to fall. I missed out on an advance ticket and was a little concerned about not getting in (it was fine in the end!).

Plan your transport
Some venues have parking outside, others don't, so it's a good idea to check before hand and work out what your plan for the day is. Yarndale provides a park and ride service, as well as a free bus to transport visitors from the town centre and railway station. I can also be nice to take a walk to the venue, especially if yarn bombing has been laid on to greet visitors.

Work out who you really want to go and see
Most festivals release their vendor lists and maps several weeks before the event, which gives you the perfect opportunity to see who'll be there and work out whether there are any 'must see' vendors. If there is something you really want to buy, it can be worth making a beeline for that stall before the thing you want sells out.

Write a list of what you want to buy
When you get to the yarn festival, it's really easy to be overtaken by yarn fumes and buy all sorts of things on a whim. In the weeks leading up to the festival, I make a mental plan of the things I'd like to buy, and work out roughly what they might cost. This can help to avoid overspending and buying things you might not really want when you get them home (or duplicating things you already have).

Set a budget
I have been to yarn festivals with all sorts of budgets, and have had fun at each, regardless of how much I had allowed myself to spend. But I do always work out ahead of time what I can afford, and have that in my head before I set off. It really helps focus the mind if you know you can't buy everything!

Check the festival website for what you can and can't take
Some venues have restrictions on what you can take into the venue (the Yarndale organisers have requested that no suitcases or large rucksacks are brought in, and they'll be conducting bag searches on entry), so you should always check the festival website before you arrive.

On the day

Travel light
Not all festivals have cloakroom space; it's wise to check so you're not carrying too much stuff into the venue and are left lugging it round with you all day. You'll probably be adding things to your bag throughout the day, and don't want to be weighed down too much at the start.

Wear comfy shoes and layers
Yarn festivals can require a lot of walking, so I always make sure I'm wearing comfy, lightweight shoes. I also make sure I dress in layers so I can remove layers if I get hot once I'm in amonng the crowds.

Show off your knitwear
One of the most enojyable things about visiting a yarn festival is admiring everyone's knitwear. A yarn festival is the perfect place to show off something you've knitted that you're proud of!

Take cash 
While most vendors will probably take cards, some won't, and others will have problems with their cards machine, so it's a good idea to take your budget as cash (this also helps you not to overspend). I also take some extra spare cash for food and drink or emergencies and keep it separate from my yarn budget so I don't accidentally spend it.

Take some food and water
While there are generally places to buy food and drink on site, the queues are often quite long, and I find that sometimes I want a break from the crowds, so would rather find a quiet corner and have a quick drink from my bag than queue.

Carry a notebook and pen
The one thing I always take to yarn festival is a notepad and pen. I find I can get really disoriented at yarn festivals, and struggle to remember where I saw a particular thing, so if I see something I like I make a note of what it is and who was selling it so I can go back later (or order it online at a later date if my budget on the day won't stretch that far).

Pack a bag
It's fairly inevitable that you'll ending picking up the odd purchase while you're at the festival, so it's good idea to make sure you have a bag to hand to keep your acquisitions safe and clean.

Take your knitting
Every festival I have visited has a knit and natter space for visitors to take a seat, have a rest and get their knitting out. Make the project small and easy - venues are often noisy and you won't want to be working on something that takes your full attention.

I hope you've found these tips useful. Whether you're going to your first or your fortieth yarn festival, I hope you have a great time.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Yarning Along: On to the sleeves!

This week's knitting is focused solely on sleeves, because the body of my Pavement Sweater is done! Ideally I would have it completed in time to wear to Yarndale on Sunday, which would involve getting the jumper knitted and cast off by Friday so that I can get it washed and blocked in time. I'm not certain that's going to happen, but I can try. If I can get a sleeve done by the end of today I feel like there might be some hope! On thing that did hold me up yesterday was picking up the stitches for the sleeves. I had allowed the marker indicating the centre of the underarm stitches to travel down the sweater as I knitted, then removed it when I was knitting the hem. It turns out I needed the marker to indicate where to start picking up the stitches. Oops. As a result I had to do rather more counting yesterday than I had hoped...

I have finally finished reading The Miniaturist! I feel like I've been reading this for ages, but this week I have made a concerted effort to spend a little more time reading rather than watching TV. I really enjoyed The Miniaturist; I found it a bit slow at the start, but once I had read a third of the book (the point where the first mystery in the book is resolved) I started really getting into it. The book is made up of several small mysteries within one larger story, resulting in a story with a lot of twists and turns, and everything is resolved neatly at the end. This story had me guessing the whole way through, and I would definitely recommend it.

Last night I started reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which Amy recommended to me and I picked up at the weekend. I have only read a couple of chapters, but already know that I am going to enjoy it. I'm glad I got it in hardback as I can read it while I get on with my sleeeves. I wouldn't be that surprised if I finish it by next week's post.

What are you reading this week?

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A little yarny adventure: Bea and Rose in Newcastle

This weekend my friend Fay from Bea and Rose was holding a trunk show at The Knit Studio in Newcastle. It's been ages since I've been to Newcastle (even though it's only about a half-hour drive from us), so I decided to take the opportunity for a little day trip.

The plan to go to Newcastle was rather last minute, so by the time we got into the city it was almost lunchtime, but as I knew my daughter would only want to spend so long looking at yarn, we headed straight from the car park to The Knit Studio. I can now get to the shop easily, but the first few times it took a little hunting. The shop is housed in Blackfriers, a restored 13th Century friary in Newcastle city centre, and the easiest way to get there is to walk to The Gates entertainment complex and turn down the path directly to the left of the main entrance, then take the smaller path to the right. The shop is on the right hand side of the square of grass, and if the shop is open, there'll be knitted bunting saying 'OPEN' hanging outside.

The Knit Studio is a lovely welcoming little yarn shop. It has sofas and large tables for their knitting group and workshops. The selection of yarn is interesting, and covers a wide range of weights and materials. They also stock a large selection of knitting accessories. This time I was there to see Fay and her yarn, and was not disappointed. All of Fay's yarn was laid out beautifully on the large table in the centre of the room, and all of it was beautifully saturated. Fay also had some amazing project bags in fabrics woven in the UK and designed by Fay.

Fay at The Knit Studio

While there was no obligation to buy anything, I did come away with two purchases: a 100g skein of 4 ply merino/nylon in the colourway Juliette, which features purple splashes on a minty aqua background, and a sock blank in the colourway Whovian, inspired by Doctor Who and Van Gogh's Starry Night. Both yarns are rich and intense and I cannot wait to get them on the needles.

Top: Juliette; bottom: Whovian - Images copyright Bea and Rose

Once we'd finished in The Knit Studio (I knew time was up when my daughter tried leaving!), we headed to Waterstones' Cafe for lunch. I love the Newcastle branch of Waterstones (for those not in the UK, Waterstones is a branch of book shops), which is housed in the Art Nouveau Emerson Chambers building, built in 1903; while each floor is quite small there are four of them, with an ornamental spiral staircase running up the centre of the building. The bookshop has a very cosy feel, and all the staff are friendly and helpful. Our toasted tea cakes with jam were very welcome!

After lunch we spent a little while in the children's department, me looking at the new releases and my daughter playing with the children's play table. I came across a brand new children's book called Izzy Gizmo, about a little girl who wants to be an inventor, and is everything I want in a children's book - a feisty girl who doesn't give up easily, and doesn't need rescuing, beautiful illustrations, and excellent writing (and yes, I have already requested it from a friend for my daughter for Christmas). Before we headed back to the slightly cold and damp autumnal day, I picked up a copy of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which has been recommended by several people recently, so I'm excited to start reading that soon.

All in all we had a lovely day out: yarn, food and books is always an excellent combination!

Friday, 15 September 2017

A pooling predicament

Yesterday I finished my socks (hooray) and picked up my Pavement Sweater for the first time in a few days. I inspected it, and realised that I was really close to the main section of the body being done. I always have to add extra length to the backs and sleeves of jumpers, so I decided to try the jumper on to assess how much more I had to knit. The jumper currently falls at about t-shirt length and the hem adds another 4 inches, so I was really not far off being done.

But one thing struck me as I glanced in the mirror: the yarn has pooled horribly. The jumper is knitted from Araucania Ranco, a hand-dyed 4-ply yarn, that probably falls into the category 'semi-solid' - a yarn with various shades of the same colour within it. The advice generally given when knitting with hand-dyed yarns is to alternate skeins while knitting to avoid pooling, and I did that throughout the jumper, so I really have been unlucky. I could almost live with the spiralled pooling round the torso, if it had happened for the whole jumper. For no apparent reason the pooling stops in the section nearest the bottom.

So, do I pull the pooled section out (probably the full 15 inches of body that I've knitted so far)? Or live with it? I really wanted to get this done in time to wear to Yarndale (next weekend), but I'm not sure I'm going to love it when it's finished. Answers on a postcard please.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Yarning Along: Decision deferred

Last week I shared a ball of yarn that was destined to become a pair of socks, and this week that's rather more obvious. As is the fact that I have knitted almost two socks, but finished neither.

Cables everywhere!

I did the swatching for this design earlier in the summer, possibly as far back as July, and was happy with the foot and leg patterns, but hadn't swatched as far as the leg-to-cuff transition, and when I got to that stage on sock one I decided that I would think about that section for a day or two before committing it to yarn. Rather than waste time, I decided it would be prudent to make a start on the second sock. And somehow I've found myself at the end of the sock without having gone back to make a the design decision, oops. I do have a good idea of what I'll be doing to finish the socks, but need to work out exactly how that will work when knitted. Fingers crossed I should have a finished pair of socks before too long.*

My husband was away last week, so I made the most of the opportunity to re-watch some films I haven't seen in ages. We have a huge collection of DVDs, but since the arrival of Netflix, we don't venture to the DVD shelves too often. I had been wanting to re-watch Closer for a long time, so hunted out the DVD, and while I was there stumbled across Atonement, which I watched when it came out at the cinema and bought the DVD as soon as it came out, but when I found it on the shelf it was still in the packaging. I'm really glad I made the (admittedly, quite minimal) effort of finding the DVDs as I really enjoyed them both.

And yes, I am still reading The Miniaturist...

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along.

*The socks are a collaboration with indie dyer Bea and Rose.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

New design: From Breton with Love

You may remember earlier in the year I shared my tale of woe about a jumper that I managed to scorch while I was blocking it in the sun? Well, over the past few months I have reknitted the sample, finished writing up the pattern and had it tested, and last weekend I finally got round to taking some photos of it in the last of the summer sun. So here is my latest pattern: From Breton with Love.

The inspiration for this sweater is obvious: from Breton with Love is inspired by my day to day wardrobe, which features an awful lot of Breton-striped t-shirts. One day I decided that it would be really cute if my daughter could almost but not quite match me when we're out and about, and this is what I came up with. While I was researching Breton stripes and their history I learnt that the wider (white) stripes should be 2 cm wide, and the narrower (blue) stripes 1 cm wide, which would have worked with the gauge for this pattern, but only if you changed colours at three row intervals, which any knitter will tell you is a pain! So I've gone with the correct ratio, but much more sensible 4 and 2 row stripes.

The jumper is knitted in pieces from the bottom up; the neckline is knitted on in the round after seaming the shoulders of the jumper. The heart motif is added using the intarsia technique. The pattern for the intarsia section is provided both as a chart and as written instructions - this pattern could be knitted by an ambitious beginner.

The jumper is knitted in DK weight yarn, making it an excellent lightweight jumper for spring and autumn, or as a layering piece in winter. The blue sample is knitted in Stylecraft Life DK* (75% wool, 25% acrylic, 298 m [325 yds] per 100 g ball) and the white sample is knitted in Patons Merino Extrafine DK* (100% virgin wool, 120 m [131 yds] per 50 g ball). 

The pattern is written in 6 sizes (ages 2 to 12 years), to fit chest sizes 53 cm [20.75 in] to 76 cm [30 in] with 5 cm [2 in] positive ease.

Fancy getting From Breton with Love straight on to your needles? You can pick up the pattern from my Ravelry store from today, and if you use the code CLASSIC before 11.59pm BST Thursday 21st September 2017 you can have a 20% discount (or click here to buy the pattern).

*Affiliate links.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Yarning Along: Low sun and long shadows

I did consider not sharing a book this week. I am still reading The Miniaturist, but very, very slowly. A more accurate 'what I'm doing' post would feature a photo of my diary as this week is a bit of a whirlwind: yesterday was the final day of the summer holidays so leisurely mornings are a thing of the past; all the after school activities have started up again, as well as a couple of new ones. On the plus side today I have time to do some pattern writing (for the first time in what feels like ages), and this morning I got to visit my friend's newborn daughter and deliver the corner to corner blanket I shared a couple of weeks ago.

I have several projects on the go at the minute, not least my Pavement Sweater, which needs about 4 inches more stocking stitch on the body before I start the short rows and the hem. I'm certain that if I worked solidly on it I could have it done in time for Yarndale in a couple of weeks, but I know that I have a lot of other things that need to take priority. I spent yesterday evening working on it while I watched Bake Off, and felt like I made fairly significant progress on it, so there is some hope, but maybe not quite enough...

The project that is currently at the top of the list is a new design I am working on with Fay of Bea and Rose yarns. I'm casting the project on this evening, and can't tell you much more than that I will be making socks, but I can share the yarn. Isn't it pretty? I sat outside earlier to wind the skein into a ball, and was struck by how long the shadows were - autumn really is just around the corner.

I hope that you're having a good week whatever you're up to.

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along.