WWKIPD, 2017: K10tog!

We were sitting in Starbucks on a cold Wednesday afternoon, as usual. Nikki said, ‘What are we going to do about our anniversary this year?’

In a group of crafters, we all knew she wasn’t talking about her wedding anniversary. She was talking about the anniversary of the year Belfast Stitch n Bitch was formed. It was our big ten. There were mumbles and shifting glances around the table. No one really had any spectacular ideas. Although in retrospect, I think they were probably just afraid to voice any ideas lest they be put in charge of executing them. But anyway.

‘Well, I did have one idea,’ she said. Everyone perked up. ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we published a pattern book?’

Suddenly there was lots of chatter. People had ideas and were full of enthusiasm. A few of us already had patterns in the works that we were testing. That was it! A pattern book full of patterns written by us: ‘amateur’ crafters with very little pattern writing experience, and yet we were confident it would be great. We discussed the logistics, and came to a few hard conclusions: we could only manage a small number of patterns to start with. They all had to be tested and we wanted the book printed in time for WWKIPD in June. It was almost December. There wasn’t much time, because I knew the patterns would then have to be edited, proofread, spell-checked, and photographs taken of the finished products. We were also funding this amongst ourselves, which meant a tight budget. Because I had a little publishing experience already (albeit in academia), these tasks fell to me, and I became the person to Make It Happen.

[This is the montage part, where you see me toiling away on a laptop surrounded by kids and cats, swearing up a storm as Word shifts my formatting, auto-correct changes my spellings to the American, and photographs refuse to slot seamlessly into the text. And also editing, editing, editing, and editing some more. During this process I also started nursing school, finished tweaking my own contribution to the book, and survived a nearly 3-week hospital stay with my 19-month-old when he came down with a particularly nasty case of pneumonia and pleural effusion. Then there was the back-and-forth process of contacting a printer, negotiating a price, sending in drafts, proofreading proofs, making changes, sending them back, taking photographs, arranging delivery of books and payments, arranging launch dates, fundraisers, marketing and sponsors. So it was stressful, to say the least.]

And then suddenly it was June, and the books were being delivered. Our launch day had been confirmed as 10 June, World Wide Knit in Public Day, and Nikki had come up with some really cool ideas for tote bags with our design printed on the front, and some finishing touches for presentation. She also secured a load of raffle prizes to help offset some of the costs we incurred. She made lemon drizzle cakes, I made brownies, Sharon made Greek dip and we gathered in the Dock Cafe in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter to celebrate the launch of our first collaborative pattern book, fittingly titled Knit 10 Together.

So! What can you find in the book? You can find four knitting patterns and two crochet patterns, and there are a range of skill levels and techniques: from beading and cabling to fair isle and toy-making. Here’s a sneak peek:

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Whew. So WWKIP Day is over for another year. But this time, we have something more tangible than just memories to keep. We’re pretty happy with how it turned out, too. Ten years of community crafting at its best.

Here’s to another happy decade. ❤

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of our book, or would like to know more about it, please email us at craftingrabbithole@gmail.com.

Cute & Quick

These two words – cute & quick – sum up just about everything I hope for when I’m making something, because you never know when the baby will wake up, or someone will need a snack, or an argument will need refereeing. I rarely get my wish, since crafting takes time and patience (and often some peace and quiet too!), but these little trousers are the perfect fit. Excuse the pun. Ahem.

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Anyway, as I was saying. I’ve made several pairs now, mostly out of second hand stuff, so it’s a great project for upcycling too! Things I’ve used include an old maternity dress that I made that no longer fits, a shirt from a charity shop with cool colours, another old dress that I never wore anymore. But you could make these from new fabric too, obviously! I used jersey knit for all of these, since it’s comfy, doesn’t fray, and looks so cute!

First, I drafted a paper pattern from a pair of my son’s jeans. I used a size that fit well on him, with a little bit of wiggle room. I lay them flat and drew around their shape. Then I added a half inch seam allowance to my tracing, with two inches added at the waist and cuffs.

 

Then, using my paper pattern, I cut out my fabric times two (you’ll want a front and a back). Next, with right sides together, sew up those side seams, and then the inside seams, using a half inch seam allowance. Lastly, create a channel for the waistband (I turn the edge down 1/4″, then again another 1.25″. Sew it shut, leaving an opening to thread through some 1″ elastic. Then hem your cuffs to the desired length and you’re done!

How quick and easy is that? Not to mention cute….though I may be biased. 😉

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10 Years

Last week it was my husband’s and my ten year anniversary. He surprised me by booking us a trip out to Enniskillen. Having not spent much time there, I was delighted. A chance to explore! And explore we did.

We checked out a lot of the ruins in the area, and drove or hiked around many of the forest parks, including Lough Navar Forest, Castle Caldwell, Castle Archdale, Castle Monea, the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark and the Drumskinny Stone Circle. The trees seemed to be putting on a show just for us; it was almost impossible to capture the incredible colours of the changing leaves.

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Mushrooms at Castle Archdale

To finish up our trip, he had gotten us tickets to see the live video broadcast of the Anastasia ballet in London. It was incredible. The lead, danced by Natalia Osipova, was just breath taking. The story opens with scenes from the life of the young Anastasia Romanov, before the revolution, when her family enjoyed comfort and opulence. Presumably, these are the memories of Anna Anderson, a woman fished out of the river in Berlin after attempting suicide. At first, she suffers from amnesia and cannot recall who she is, but as her memories return, she believes herself to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. (It was confirmed in 1994 that in fact she was not, but at the time the ballet was written, this was not known.) The first two acts serve as a prequel, and are largely the domain of Anna’s memories. They are set to Tchaikovsky’s First and Third Symphonies. Osipova captured both innocence and youth beautifully, and the tricky pas de deux in the second act between the ballerina (and the tsar’s mistress) Mathilde Kschessinska and her partner seemed flawless. The third act, set at the moment when Anna is beginning to ‘remember’, is danced to Martinu’s Fantaisies Symphoniques, and is chilling. It conveys the utter despair that Anna Anderson must have felt, searching for her true identity, and sends goose bumps up your arms at both the beauty of the dancing and sheer agony she feels from her memories and from her uncertainty at who she really is.

And what did I get him? I got him a keychain inscribed with the same phrase as on our wedding rings, ‘a deal is a deal’, along with the date and our initials. I also made him a painting that encapsulates some highlights of our last 17 years (total) together:

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So here’s to another couple of decades!

For more info on what to do in and around Enniskillen, click here.

Spinning Out of Nothingness

Ever since I got my spinning wheel, I had been thinking about personalising it in some way. The wood was just crying out for some attention, and as much as I loved the look of the natural wood freshly oiled in all its plain glory, I also felt it was missing a little something.

Not wanting to paint it, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So I did nothing and waited for inspiration. And eventually, it came! I came across a quote on the internet while doing some Googling for something else, and I knew it was perfect. It just felt right. And I love the little bit of darkness that the quote – by Persian poet Rumi – implies:

“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.”

This quote had to be on my wheel somehow. So I got to work.

 

I mapped out in pencil where I wanted the words, checked my spacing, had a look at some fonts I liked on Pinterest (I’m a bit of a nerd that way – I have a whole board dedicated to fonts) and went for it. I mixed up a lovely dark shade of blue, like midnight, and after I had painted a couple of coats, I went over it again, just highlighting the letters, in a slightly lighter shade.

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I LOVE the way it turned out. Absolutely love it. There are still some pencil marks in these photos because I waited until it was definitely dry before I rubbed them out, but I was impatient to take photos. So this is Margaret, my not-new-but-improved Ashford Kiwi 2!

 

So, pimping your wheel: yay or nay? What do you think?

Thistle Rambles Shawl

Back in June I cast on Kirsten Kapur’s Mystery Shawl KAL (now renamed Thistle Rambles). I can’t resist MKALs. I really can’t.

As usual, I dithered over colour combinations and yarn options, and eventually settled on using a skein of cool blue-aqua merino/stellina-blend handpsun that my friend had spun up and given me for my birthday (years ago I might add…it waited a long time to find the perfect project!) and a skein of Wollmeise in startling multi-tonal reds (colourway Wilder Mohn) that I won at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in 2015.

 

The results were nothing short of breathtakingly beautiful! I absolutely adore this colour combination as well as the pattern, and my gamble paid off big time! Of course, it helps that Kirsten is such an amazing designer and I loved all her designs to start with! So I knew I couldn’t go far wrong.

 

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Yeah, I’m pretty chuffed with it. Thanks, Kirsten, for the pattern and thank you, Siún, for the handspun!!

My First Fleece, Part Two

You may remember a couple months ago I posted about My First Fleece. In that post, I went through skirting the fleece to washing it to drying it. So what happens next?

After the fleece was dry, I began to experiment with how to best prepare it for spinning. I tried a few different things: I tried combing the locks with wool combs, carding them with hand carders, and finally, passing it through a drum carder.

What I found was that for this particular fleece, hand carding worked best. Combing was equally awesome, but it took a lot more time (the wool combs I borrowed are small), and the end result was pretty much the same. Drum carding it produced a very neppy fibre, and left in a lot of the kemp, whereas hand carding and combing minimised those.

I spun it using a supported long draft style, which I’m not great at, so it’s not as consistent. But I really enjoyed having fun with it and playing around with different thicknesses.

Here are some pictures of it spun, plied, and knit up:

You can see the kemp hairs sticking out at crazy angles.

 

I knit up this sample on 6mm needles in plain stockinette.

 

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All in all, this was a great experience and I learned a lot, although I don’t think I’ll be using this fleece for any garments. I’m currently working on preparing some alpaca fibre….man, do those animals love the dirt lol! If all goes well, I’m hoping to carding it with some merino and spin it up into a DK weight for a cardigan. Fingers crossed!

 

Shetland Wool Week 2016

This year, I had the amazing (somewhat last minute) opportunity to visit the Shetland Islands during Shetland Wool Week. This amazing wool festival celebrates knitting, spinning, and other fibre textiles as well as the truly fascinating community and history of Shetland. One of my dear friends moved to Shetland over the summer, and part of her research revolves around the knitting community so it just seemed a perfect excuse – I mean chance  – to go visit.

Getting to Shetland may seem daunting, but actually, the ferry was quite luxurious. I flew to Aberdeen in the afternoon and boarded the ferry in plenty of time to set sail at 7pm.

One of the first things I saw when I set foot in Lerwick was all the rainbows! They were everywhere! Bottom right is a picture of the famous Clickimin Broch.

After a ‘peerie’ hot chocolate at the Peerie Shop Cafe, which showcases local artists as well as serves the best hot chocolate, my first stop was Jamieson and Smith’s Woolbrokers. It was like visiting a candy shop for knitters – the colours and choices were overwhelming! I also got a sneak peek at their sorting room, where they sort the fleeces for their wool and for export.

 

Then we hit up Jamieson’s on the street, the other Shetland wool shop! So much wool, so much colour! So little time!

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Then we attended a knitting group in Scalloway and spent some time pottering about Scalloway Castle.

 

That evening we went to a lecture on Baltic Knitting at the Shetland Museum and Archives. The museum is amazing – I highly recommend it! There is also a dedicated Textile Museum. It might be smaller but it also offers an astounding array of photos, examples of lace and fair isle knitting samples, and a small gift shop.

One day we went to a spinning wheel demonstration in Hoswick, in the southern part of the island. We chatted to several of the folk there, saw the premises of textile artist Nielanell. We were shown a demo of how to comb and prepare Shetland sheep fleece. (I took my sample back to my friend Siún’s house and spun it up on her Lendrum!)

 

Everywhere you turned in Shetland, the views were breathtaking!

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Looking out towards Foula and Culswick Broch.

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Hiking out to Culswick Broch.

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Veensgarth, Tingwall.

Another day I took a trip out to Whalsay, a tiny island in the east. The ferry took about 25 minutes, and then I found myself in the company of a lovely woman named Joan who showed me all around the island, introduced me to her family and her fellow Shetland Guild members, and showed me around the Heritage Centre. Its history is fascinating, and the small centre has an amazing collection of knitwear, WWII displays and detailed accounts of the fishing industry on Whalsay. Although most of the islanders work on mainland Shetland these days, it’s clear from the museum how important it used to be for everyone to pitch in at home. So while men fished, women took to textile crafts, selling their knitwear, taking orders, mending fishing nets, gutting and preparing fish for the markets, etc. The skill of the knitting, spinning, and lace making was truly incredible.

 

And then there was the Saturday Craft Market to attend, with local wares and handmades, and the famous Sunday Tea in Tingwall with more homebakes than you could possibly imagine (or eat! Although we did our best! And yes, they were all lovely!). The Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers also had a display, and their spinners were graciously giving a demo.

The top middle photo is one of Ina Irvine’s intricate lace haps, and top right is one of Kathleen Anderson’s. Both were knit with handspun Shetland fleece in a cobweb weight and double plied. Bottom left is Kathleen’s mini hap in progress, and bottom right is a snap of Ina Irvine’s superfine lace bobbin. The Guild were so friendly, and so knowledgeable, it was almost overwhelming to be in their awesome presence and witness such skill!

And a trip to Shetland wouldn’t be complete without witnessing the famous Flock Book, which is where they assess and grade different flocks and pedigrees of Shetland Sheep.

 

Shetland is one of those places that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. Not just because of its northernly location, but because the skies are enormous and the landscape lends itself to vast expanses of rolling hills and spectacular cloud formations. Bring your wellies, grab some provisions and it’s not long before you’re on your own in the blessed silence, with just the occasional bleat of nearby ever-present sheep. Just don’t forget your knitting!

Top left is Ella Gordon’s Crofthoose Hat pattern, the official pattern of Shetland Wool Week 2016.

 

First time for everything

Awesome free mitt pattern by my stitching mate Anja!

Down the Crafting Rabbit Hole

I’ll keep this short and sweet, simply because I do not wish to distract from the point of the post. Which is, obviously, shameless self-advertising.

I have mentioned before that I designed a pattern for fingerless mitts last year, to be used as a sample item for Terri’s stall at the show in Dublin. I have finally put the pattern up on Ravelry, and yes, it is free. I’m not that presumptuous.

The pattern is called Twisted Heart.

There will still be a few adjustments to the description and more pictures added, but the pattern itself is correct.

Give it a try if you want, and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think.

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A Fine Dye Workshop

A couple months ago I attended a workshop with local indie yarn dyer Terri from A Fine Fish Yarns. It was a fabulous day filled with friendly chat, eye-popping experiments in colour and some epic skeins of yarn!

Terri started by giving us a great intro talk about how yarn dyeing works and the types of dyes we’d be using, as well as some awesome tips for using colour to maximise our choices.

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Happy crafters!

We ended the day with some amazing skeins of yarn. Terri also gave us the option of adding on a second skein for a very reasonable price, so who could say no? Not me!!

Everyone left happy with their creations.

I can’t WAIT to knit up mine (bottom right, above)! I even gave them colourway names: the one on the left is Grey Street and on the right is Estimated Due Date.

I can’t recommend Terri’s workshops enough. She’s so much fun to work with, her enthusiasm is infectious. I hope to attend more in the future! In the meantime, I’ll be stalking her Facebook page and her website for shop updates!

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The Perfect Sweater

Awhile ago (a little over a year, in fact), I posted about dyeing some yarn to make Mama Vertebrae, a lovely cardigan pattern I found on Ravelry.

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My dear friend Nikki gifted me the pattern, and when I bemoaned the fact that I really really wanted one but had very little time to knit one, she generously offered to knit one for me! I had the yarn and the needles, so I packed them all up and gratefully handed them over. My plan was to stripe the grey yarn that I had dyed with all kinds of colours: vermilion, teal, gold, and a variegated colourway I had with reds, golds, purples, and browns.

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Well, what she came up with was nothing short of stunning. And it is to date the only knitted item of clothing I have that fits me absolutely perfectly, despite the tedious gauge swatching and mid-knit fittings I have done on my own knits! I absolutely love it, and will cherish it for as long as it holds up, which should be a very long time!

 

Sometimes, like food, a handmade item is so much better when it comes from someone else. ❤