Karie Bookish Dot Net

Countdown to Edinburgh Yarn Fest

It is the most wonderful time of the year: the Edinburgh Yarn Festival is just over a week away!

Attending a fibre festival is always a great day (or weekend) out. You are surrounded by people who love the same activities as you do, and you get to do some serious knitwear-spotting too. It can also be a really exhausting time because there are just so many things to see and do – and you might find yourself so overwhelmed that you end up leaving empty-handed and slightly burned out.

With Edinburgh Yarn Festival just around the corner, I thought I’d update my survival guide and share some of my tricks for having a fabulous time.

  • Plan aheadHave an honest look at your stash, go through your Ravelry queue, and then make a note of yarn requirements. Yes, smartphones are handy for looking up requirements on the fly, but you have more time to browse if you already have all the information available! Do the same for any needles, hooks, and other tools you want to pick up.
  • Plan ahead. Start looking through the vendor list and visit their websites, so you know roughly what to expect. Make a short-list of your must-visit vendors and grab the official EYF map to find out where their stalls are. This stops you from feeling completely overwhelmed by everything on offer! Remember to factor in time to browse other stalls – you never know what might grab you on the day.
  • Plan ahead. If you are meeting with far-flung friends at EYF, make sure you know where and when to meet. EYF has an excellent cafe area that is perfect for an informal get-together. Check your favourite Ravelry groups for any meet-ups and, if you don’t have any photos of yourself online, make sure to describe yourself (“I’m short with curly brown hair and will be wearing a blue Waiting for the Rain shawl”) if you are meeting up with friends who may not have met you before.
  • Food. If you have special dietary requirements, always make sure to bring a back-up lunch. Personally I always carry some bottled water to keep myself hydrated and a small bag of mixed nuts to snack on so my blood sugar stays level throughout the day. The cafe sells nice cakes and there are coffee vendors strategically placed. Just remember to stay hydrated and don’t get hangry!
  • Bags. The UK has implemented the carrier bag charge (very good news for the environment!) so remember to bring your own carrier bags. You can also buy gorgeous tote bags at the events, of course. Do not rely on vendors having bags (though most will).
  • Wear sensible shoes & clothes! You will be on your feet most of the day, so leave your high heels at home. I hear the “wear sensible shoes!” advice all the time and yet I keep seeing miserable-looking people in high-heeled boots at events. Obviously EYF and other events are perfect places to show off your favourite makes, but try not to overheat!
  • Budget. Unless you are a multi-millionaire, chances are that you will have to make some tough decisions at EYF. Decide before you leave home how much you are going to spend. Decide how much you’ll spend on yarn, how much on notions, and how much on cute accessories like tote bags, mugs etc. Then leave room in your budget for impulse buys. Even the smallest budget should have an impulse buy allowance. You will fall in love with something unexpected.
  • Classes. If you have signed up for a class, make sure you have everything you need several days in advance. Don’t rely on picking up supplies at the event itself. Check if you need to do any homework and sure to arrive on time.
  • Travel. The EYF website and Ravelry group contain everything you need to know about transport, so make sure you know your train times and keep your tickets in a safe spot. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to and from the venue. Make sure you have a perfect travel project on the go – travelling to a fibre festival is part of the festival fun! If you are going by bus, you will instantly know which bus to take – it’ll be filled with knitters!
  • Be Social. Say hello to people! Smile and talk knitting while you are waiting in a queue. Let strangers know how awesome their cardigans are. Enjoy the atmosphere. If a vendor or a tutor has been especially incredible, let them know! Take pictures of amazing things and share them on the internet. Use the hashtag #eyf17 so others can enjoy your fabulous memories!
  • Remember to Breathe. Fibre festivals can be very exhausting (especially as so many of us are introverts and the buzz can get overwhelming). If you get tired, take a break. If you need some fresh air, go for a short walk. Nothing is more important than you enjoying yourself, so be kind to yourself rather than push through. The perfect buttons will still be there ten minutes later. The Leith Water Walk Way is not far from the Corn Exchange if you need a touch of nature.
  • And just have fun! This is going to be one of the highlights of your year.

I’ll be teaching three classes (Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons) so do say hello if you see me! I love seeing what people have made from my patterns, so don’t be shy. Looking forward to seeing a lot of lovely faces.

Authors & Artists: Alma’s Song

A few years ago I read Florian Illies’ excellent book 1913: The Year Before the Storm. Following the entangled lives of artists and cultural mavericks in 1913, Illies weaves a fragmented fabric of a world tethering on the brink of something new – change is in the air and artists respond to it, though they are unsure what that change will be (we know it will be the First World War). The book stayed with me – and the result is Alma’s Song.

Alma Schindler-Mahler was a key figure in Vienna’s cultural life at the turn of the 20th century. She served as a muse for the painter Gustav Klimt, married the composer Gustav Mahler, then had a fling with the expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka, before she married architect Walter Gropius. She ended up fleeing the Nazi regime with her third husband, poet and playwright Franz Werfel – first heading to France, then to the US where she died in 1960s.

Alma’s torrid love life tends to be what most people focus on – after all, she was involved with some very famous artists – and you will often hear her described as a femme fatale. This focus has much in common with today’s celebrity gossip, of course. The headlines talk about Amal Clooney‘s personal life rather than her work. Alma was a composer, you see, but she had to give up her own music when she married Gustav Mahler and only returned to composing much later. On the other hand, Alma’s notoriety saved her from sinking into obscurity unlike most of her fellow women on the contemporary Viennese arts scene. Names like Broncia Koller and Teresa Ries have been consigned to oblivion for decades – a desperately sad combination of anti-Semitism and misogyny. It is a familiar tale throughout early 20th century Europe.

Reading Illies’ book and later hearing Alma’s music, I could not stop thinking about these artists living through an age of upheaval, uncertainty and eventual darkness. I wanted to design something that celebrated them.

So, the shawl. It is a crescent shawl with easy stitch patterns, both written and charted. 

The vivid colours are inspired by the Vienna Secession movement and, in particular, the look of the secession building’s gold dome against the blue sky. The body of the crescent shawl has a simple eyelet pattern designed to contrast greatly with the textured frieze section. Garter stitch ridges form horizontal lines in the vein of the Secession’s use of linear ornamentation. The cast-off is extended and decorative with dramatic loops that soften the angularity.

Alma’s Song has dramatic flair that befits its inspiration but it retains simplicity and a sinuous angularity which I rather adore.

The yarn is Camel/Silk Fingering by DyeNinja – an extraordinarily decadent yarn which soaks up colour. I used Byzantium as the main blue colour and Shantung as the contrast gold colour, and I used just over half a skein each for this shawl. I have included instructions for a larger shawl in the pattern and you’d be able to knit the large size with one skein of each colour. I’m lucky enough to have a full box of mini-balls of CSF, so I came up with some alternative colour combinations.

From the top, L to R: Tashkent and KarakorumScimitar and DjinnGrand Vizier and Scheradzad; and, finally, Karakorum and Taklamakan.

Alma’s Song is the first new pattern I’ve published in roughly a year. I’ve obviously been busy working on my forthcoming book, This Thing of Paper, so there will be a deluge of new material coming. It just feels so nice to have a pattern out & I hope you enjoy! Both DyeNinja & myself will be at Edinburgh Yarn Fest in just a few weeks, so I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

Current State of Mind: All The Things (Preview)

I am currently hard at work editing the book projects. However, I did find time to design a shawl which marks the first collaboration with local dyer Sheila of DyeNinja. Sheila dyes exquisite rich jewel tones on beautiful bases and I know many of you have already fallen in love with her palette. I have more to say about the forthcoming pattern once it is closer to being released (cross fingers it won’t be long) but I shall leave you with a little preview and a tiny hint about the inspiration:

“To every age its art, to every art its freedom”

Important notice

Dear all.

I have to travel across to Denmark next week. This is an unexpected but unavoidable journey.

Today is January 27. Emails and messages received after today will not be read or answered until Tuesday February 7. Any outstanding business will be dealt with before I leave.

Thank you.

 

 

This Is About Lilly

(my great-grandmother with my mother)

These days I find myself thinking a lot about my great-grandmother, Lilly.

Lilly was born whilst the First World War was raging outside Danish borders. Born into a poor family, she would pick grains from fields at dusk hoping to get enough for her mother to bake bread. At fourteen she was already working as a servant girl. At twenty (or twenty-one) she married her employer – a man nearly thirty years her senior. By this time she had already acted as a mother figure to her soon-to-be husband’s seven motherless children. She would end up having eleven children of her own. Relying solely on her oldest children to help her, Lilly brought up eighteen (18) children in the 1930s and 1940s during the Great Depression and World War Two. The house had no running water and no central heating. The family lived off the land and whatever petty jobs could be had.

Lilly was in her sixties when I was born and she looked after me until I was old enough to start school. She brought me old dish rags on which I could embroider my name and I made dolls’ clothes using her hand-crank Singer sewing machine. Her button box gave me endless hours of pleasure and it was passed down to me.

And she taught me to knit next to the kerosene stove in her living room.

Family lore has it that she fell out with her mother in the early 1930s and, as revenge, Lilly changed from knitting throwing-style to knitting Continental-style. They made up, but every subsequent generation of women was taught to knit Continental-style by Lilly. She was a formidable, smart woman who played the long game. Lilly would have made an excellent army general.

These days I think a lot about Lilly and her generation. I heard her stories about World War Two (during which Denmark was occupied) and these stories run through my head when I see people talking about inspiring WW2 heroes and kicking Nazi butt.

I was brought up in a family very much altered by World War Two. Someone came home to dinner one night wearing a uniform as he had signed up to guard Allied prisoners. I never knew that family branch existed until Lilly’s funeral and his son showed up. Lilly’s oldest brother went into the Resistance and when he passed away (at age 100!), we found a medal. The files are still sealed by the government and my great-granduncle refused to utter as much as a word about the War. We have no idea what he did but his eyes spoke volumes. My grandmother recalls seeing planes flying over the fields, columns of emaciated German soldiers marching through the village and Lilly ushering everybody into the threshing barn.

My great-grandmother taught me World War Two was a time of hardship, strife, loss, bitterness, and heartbreaking despair. Resistance heroes were ordinary men and women. They weren’t “absolute legends”, nor clickbait, nor Brad Pitt with a comedic accent, nor a jingoistic poster. Their actions ranged from whatever my great-granduncle did (but which affected him for the rest of his very long life) to Lilly’s refusal to break bread with a family member. War is dirty and terrible – and I really dislike seeing people almost fetishising the idea of reliving World War Two in 2017. This is not a chance to live out your favourite films nor indulge in cosplay (link from 2010 but it still strikes me as tone-deaf). I genuinely wonder what part our collective sense of nostalgia has played in Recent Events – a sense of nostalgia that has been fed by the media we consume. How is it we react to things?

I don’t honestly know where I am going with this. I really, really do not know. These days I just find myself thinking of Lilly a lot. I think of what she taught her daughter, her grand-daughter and what she taught me. Lessons of resilience and the many complexities of life. She would have turned 101 years this year and I honestly don’t know what she would have made of this mess.

(Lilly with her parents, my great-great-grandparents)

On Finding your Way Back to Making

I lost my voice, then I found it again. It is a true story (I had a cold over the holidays) but I think this is also true of most people’s crafting. We go through peaks and troughs where we fall in and out of love with making stuff. Sometimes we make stuff that feels true to us, other times we may work away at something but it doesn’t feel right.

Thanks to my day job of teaching workshops to creative people like you, I hear a lot of stories about falling in and out of love with making. I view making as a sort of story-telling: knitting a garment allows me to express myself and stitching the hem of a dress makes me imagine every stitch as a word. But sometime we run out of stories to tell and we lose our voices. We stop knitting the socks and squirrel away a half-finished shirt.

This narrative exhaustion is fine. Making will come back to you once you have stories inside of you again. Once you are energised enough to have words that will out through your fingers.

I lost my voice, then I found it again. I slept a lot, drank a lot of tea, wrapped up warm, and made sure I took care of my run-down body.

Practise self-care if you need to nurture your making: read books, go for walks, look at art, jump in puddles, and make big mugs of tea. Making is patient and will be there when you decide it is time to get back to your unfinished projects.

What are you planning for 2017?

2016: Let’s Make This Very Brief & With Some Good News

I am not going to write a long post rehashing 2016. I usually write these retrospective posts every year, but this year is different. You know this too. You don’t need me to remind you.

Instead I am going to share some very good news with you. I learned this a few weeks ago and shared it with my Kickstarter pals yesterday. Recently I have been travelling a lot for work. I have been to London, Northern Ireland, and off the Scottish coast. This month took me to Mainland Europe where I spent a lot of time in medieval town centres and museums as well as talking to textile people in Denmark, Germany and Belgium.

The highlight of my Mainland Europe trip was a visit to the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany. Johannes Gutenberg was born and worked in Mainz and the museum is a real treat for anybody interested in book history and print culture. I was given special permission to work with their collections (which includes two Gutenberg bibles) and the staff were all incredibly generous with their knowledge of early printed books. The museum also contains extensive material on book-binding, paper-making, and print ephemera. I can heartily recommend it. Currently the museum is also hosting an exhibition on the Futura font which sent this early 20th C loving gal into rapture (I contain multitudes).

Now for my very, very good news:

I am exceptionally pleased to announce that the Gutenberg Museum has requested a copy of This Thing of Paper for their archives.

Obviously they have a great deal of material in their archives, but I believe this will be the first knitting book to be included! I am very excited about this – it shows that the scope of what a knitting book can be and do is endless. Felicity Ford has written eloquently about knitting’s potential, and I’m so proud to make a small contribution to this breaking down of barriers.

And I cannot thank my Kickstarter supporters enough to helping me do this. I love knowing that your names will be in the Gutenberg Museum Archives too. Thank you.

I am slowly winding up all work for this year. Today will be my last rugby match with the inbox but I will continue to knit until 2016 runs out of breath. You might be amused to know that my word for 2017 is nope and that my resolutions are to swear more, say hell no a lot more, and spread a lot of love in the darkness.

Peace x

P.S. If you are looking for a gift for a knitting friend, I have decided to do a 20% discount off the Frances Herself shawl with the rav code courage. Code is valid December 20-21, 2016.

Frances Herself was inspired by Frances Macdonald McNair – a wonderful artist whose work was derailed by her husband. I designed this shawl for women everywhere – we are makers, lovers, fighters, and human. I chose the word courage as the code because we are facing a world where we need all the courage we have buried inside us.

The Knitter’s Gift Guide – 2016 Edition

9a

So, you have a knitter in your life and you want to spoil them. Maybe it’s a Secret Santa gift you are looking for – maybe it is the love of your life you are hoping to impress. But what to buy them? What would make a great present? Fear not, I have some really great ideas for you.

9b5

The Yarnistry shop on Etsy has some fabulous wooden laser cut badges that let people proudly declare their love for spinning, knitting, crochet or yarn. Continuing with the theme, Marissa Thereze has fair-isle button sets that I think look really cool.

Stitch markers are great stocking fillers or Secret Santa gifts. If you search on Etsy for “knitting + stitch markers” you will find themed sets on everything from Alice in Wonderland to zombies. Personally I quite like this set of Green Man themed markers and these markers that will not get tangled up in your knitter’s project.

In the whimsical section, you can buy knitting-themed tea, a cute sheep print, or a car sticker warning off potential yarn thieves.

You can buy yarn for well under £5, but you rarely get enough to make anything substantial or the yarn isn’t the nicest. However, one ball of Drops Kidsilk is enough to knit a scarf (my Florence pattern is free to download from Ravelry) and it is quite, quite lovely.  West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley DK is a great yarn and Woolly Wormhead’s Rainbowret pattern (free on Ravelry) would look fabulous in one of the variegated shades.

9b10

Knitters love small project bags in which they can store & transport whatever they are working on. I really like this Woodland bag from QuincePie and this contemporary project bag from The Stitch Society, but search on Etsy for “knitting + project + bag” for a spectacular range of project bags. Tote bags are also a huge hit: try Knit Long And Prosper for geek chic, Every Week is Wool Week for Shetland knitting enthusiasts, or Cake Lovin’ Yarn Rubbin’ Tea Gluggin’ for the giggles.

Namolio does seriously stylish accessories & notions. This fabulous linen needle book (which stores sewing needles) also comes in a version with hedgehog buttons. I also adore her linen/crochet badges and stunning pincushions.

Does your knitter like to read? Clara Parkes’ Knitlandia is a beautiful and funny love letter to the international knitting community. How about something else for the home? TillyFlopDesigns has this gorgeous Oh! How I’d Rather Be Knitting! tea towel, Debbie Bliss has some rather splendid knitting-themed mugs and Skein Queen sells cute lavender satchels that help ward off yarn-munching moths. Finally, knitters use SOAK to wash and finish their knits.

Yarn and pattern-wise, you have a wider choice. My Lindgren mitts (Ravelry download; not free) take 4 balls of Drops Lima. A skein of Malabrigo Worsted will make a Fuego hat by Justyna Lorkowska (Ravelry download; not free). You can buy a ball of self-patterning sockyarn (always make sure to buy 100g!) or some handdyed Pokemon-inspired yarn for the geek in your life. Sock designer Rachel Coopley has launched her own sock yarn: check out Socks Yeah!

9b25

 

Knitting jewellery can make for an incredibly thoughtful gift and comes in a variety of styles. Knitting jewellery can be anything from this knitting basket brooch to this laser-cut necklace. YellowBearWares make pieces from recycled knitting needles – this red bracelet is pretty and leaves room in the budget for other things. You can also buy knitting jewellery kits. I like this striking green beaded necklace kit by Mahliqa. The independent dyer Kettle Yarn Co sells this shawl pin on her site. If you’d rather decorate the tree, Gabi Reith offers a really nice “knitted mitten” decoration which she will personalise for your knitter.

Beautiful kits (pattern and yarn packaged together) include a traditional Fair Isle hat from a Shetland yarn company and a contemporary colourwork hat from Scotland-based designer Kate Davies. Ella Austin designs quirky toys with a retro flavour: her Tawny Owl kit is really cute but explore the rest of her shop.

Speaking of yarn, the world is your oyster. Yarn is one of the best presents a knitter can get. There are a truly dazzling array of yarns and it can be difficult to figure out what to buy (and how much!) if you are not a knitter yourself.

Independent dyers and small yarn companies produce some of the nicest, unique yarns around. You often only need one 100g hank from them to make a pair of socks or a small shawl. For subtle and delicate shades, try Eden Cottage Yarns’ Harewood 4ply, Skein Queen’s Lustrous. For deep jewel-like shades, I really like the silk blends from Travelknitter and DyeNinja. Cool and contemporary design? Explore EasyKnits’ Dusted Dreams series, Scotland-based dyer Rusty Ferret and London dyer The Wool Kitchen. Should your yarn be single origin-esque with proven provenance? Kettle Yarn Co makes the exquisite Baskerville 4ply, designer Ysolda Teague has launched her first yarn with the beautiful Blend no. 1 (pair it with her Newhaven hat pattern), Tamar DK from  Blacker Yarns is just lovely, and Daughter of a Shepherd is yarn that can be traced to one single clip.

And if you’d rather gift something that can be worn immediately, witty t-shirts abound: The World’s Okayest Knitter, Francis the Alpaca, Knitted Spaghetti and around 32,000 other tshirts.

9bo25

Gifts over £25 for the knitter in your life? Apart from combining some of the items mentioned previously (and what a special treat that would be!), one of the best ideas would be to get a gift certificate from a local yarn shop. Not only does your knitter get to go on a shopping spree but it also supports the local knitting community. You can also look into gifting a space on a workshop – a day out learning new skills and meeting fellow crafters is a great experience. Check your local yarn shop for more details.

Needle sets can be pricey but they are a fabulous gift to give an intermediate or advanced knitter. KnitPro Zings are great everyday needles while the KnitPro Rosewood interchangeables set makes for a really luxurious gift. I’m personally a big fan of ChiaoGoo Red Lace needles. Sock knitters will love the Hiya Hiya Bamboo DPN set.

Kits range from intricate colourwork garments from Alice Starmore, a classic yoke jumper from Marie Wallin to a vintage-style jumper from Shetland.

Finally, I’d suggest giving your knitter the gift of time. If you are feeling extremely generous, you could look into knitting holidays (France, Scotland, or Iceland), but a cheaper – and equally nice option – would be a weekend without anybody to disturb them (and throw in a selection of awesome teas/coffees, food items, and knitterly goodness as mentioned above).

I hope this inspires you to give a lovely present to the knitter in your life – whether it is a cheerful Secret Santa gift or a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Happy holidays.

Pattern: Lausavisa

Earlier this year I had the great pleasure of collaborating with Kate Heppell & the Knit Now team on a very special issue of their magazine. I designed the Lausavisa jumper for the issue and also wrote an article.

lausa2

Lausavisa is a traditional Icelandic yoked jumper worked in the wonderful Álafoss Lopi. The brief was to design a lopapeysa inspired by the Northern Lights and I immediately began to think about the sailors traversing the sea underneath that beautiful lightshow. The jumper is knitted bottom up and features a yoke with an abstract interpretation of a sky with sun, moon, stars, and dancing lights. Lausavisa uses four colours (navy, pale blue, pale heathered grey/beige and mustard yellow) and is so incredibly cosy.

And the name? Lausavisa is a poetic convention in Icelandic/Skaldic poetry – an interjection or a bit of a detour from the main narrative. A bit like the jumper was in my normal working life!

lausa1

My article deals with my constant preoccupations: how does the landscape influence us as human beings, how does it change our knitting, and how do we make our marks on a landscape? The North Atlantic region spans many of our best loved knitting traditions – how have the ever-moving sea and the colourful skies changed those? The article is very much a companion piece to my recent Knitting the Landscape workshop (and if you took part/missed out, I recommend this wonderful art documentary on BBC).

I also helped Kate select the other patterns in the Northern Lights collection. Murray Stewart from Orkney has designed a beautiful colourwork set depicting a lighthouse spreading its rays across the sea – I literally saw Murray’s submission and yelled out loud I NEED THAT IN MY LIFE. Lana Jois uses the traditional Shetland Old Shale pattern in a lovely lace capelet and Rosee Woodland reinterprets the traditional gansey jumper. Canadian Jessie McKitrick happens to be one of my favourite colourwork designers. Her Magnetospheric Gloves are both clever and a cool colourwork project for beginners. Finally, Shetland Wool Week patron Ella Gordon is interviewed and has designed a headband pattern using a traditional Shetland motif. So, all patterns have a strong connection to the sea and to the North Atlantic region in general. I’m pretty proud of that!

Also out for old favourites like Midwinter Yarns and the Island Wool Company who make guest appearances. Thank you, Kate, for allowing me to roam around your domain briefly!

Knit Now issue 67 is out now. You can buy it from major UK retailers and supermarkets – or you can buy it online. If you are only interested in Lausavisa, I will be releasing it as an individual pattern at some stage next autumn but you will miss out on my article and all the lovely patterns from other designers. Consider yourself warned!

Photos by Dan Walmsley for Practical Publishing.

About Handknitted Scarves

June 2015 022

Just a very brief note as I catch my breath. Workshop season is in full swing and this means I am not home much. On the road I get to meet so many wonderful people and I see so many wonderful projects. This keeps me going until I am home on my sofa, snuggled up under the crochet blanket my mother once made me.

Knitting is one of the most soothing and calming activities I know. There is something so meditative about the repetitive hand actions and the small pattern repeats we keep in our heads: k2, p1, k8, p1.. As we sit there working, we ward off the troubles of life and can focus on something that makes sense. And then we put that scarf around our neck and it keeps us warm both in body and soul. We are reminded of that little meditative space as we go out to meet others and challenge a world that feels cold and fractured. And then when the world gets really cold and we face a very long winter, we know how to stay warm.

People talk a lot about symbols these days. They talk about baseball caps and safety pins. For me, a handknitted scarf is a symbol as well. It is a symbol of patience and perseverance. Tiny stitches are joined up in wonderful, joyful patterns to create a colourful scarf that keep us warm and happier. There is beauty in complexity and we should not forget that.

I don’t have any answers. But I try to pass on skills that will let you knit a handknitted scarf that you will be wearing in the years ahead.

Stay warm.