Monday, 11 September 2017

A Perfect Day At Perth

I had  a wonderful day out yesterday at Perth Festival of Yarn.  Here I am ready to go in my newly finished hand-knit jumper adorned with my wool girl brooch by local maker, Gabrielle Reith.

It's only the second time this event has been held and the team behind the festival, headed by Eva Christie, organised an excellent day out for fibre lovers.

I was accompanied by two knitting pals from the village and had also arranged to meet two more Perthshire friends once I was there. Here's my friend Alison enjoying the Midwinter Yarns stand.  She was really easy to spot in her beautiful hand-knitted Noro coat!

So - what makes a good yarn festival?  Well, the release of event information on Facebook and Instagram in the weeks beforehand certainly helped build anticipation for me.  Receiving the event guide by e-mail a few days prior to travelling also helped us plan our trip and, more importantly, our purchases!

The Dewars Centre venue was easy to find, parking was free and entry registration well streamlined. The food was good and service was efficient in the cafeteria.  There was lots of space to move around amongst the vendors so no jostling!  The provision of plenty of places to sit meant you could knit and chat, or just have a breather whilst perusing the festival guide and consider where to visit next.  

There were classes and talks for those interested but we'd come to shop and enjoy a chat with the traders.  I caught up with my friend, Lindsay aka The Border Tart.

There was a mouth watering selection of yarns on display ranging from the vibrant skeins of Glasgow based Mothy And The Squid on the left and, on the right,  Ovis Yarns who'd travelled from Merseyside... the delicate shades of naturally dyed vegan yarns by Flora Fibres from Fife.

With all these pretties on display - and many, many more - it  would be easy to become overwhelmed and just want to buy everything.  From past experience, this has lead to me going home from a festival with single skeins of lovely wool and not a clue what to do with them or, as has also happened, seeing what my friends have bought and wishing I'd bought some too!  So this time I did a little forward planning, scouting out the websites of those vendors I follow on Instagram to see in advance what I might like as well as thinking about the patterns I know I want to knit.  Here's my more considered purchases, though impulse still may have played a small part!

I'm going to knit another jumper like my green one using this huge ball of Eclipse 100% wool indigo dyed by Lindsay.  The pattern is the Peppered Top by Katya Frankel.

This beautiful turquoise BFL from Edinburgh boutique Kingfishersblue is destined to be made into the shawl to replace the one I knitted for my sister which got lost in the post.  Want to read more of my sob story? - you can here. 

My final yarny purchase was this set of mini skeins from My Mama Knits to make another On the edge shawl (and you already know how much I love this one because I keep going on and on about it!)

I love listening to Tania talk about Skye and her Dorset button business on the TJFrog podcast so I treated myself to one of her kits to make a Dorset button decoration.  This pretty silver shawl pin from Linda at Couthie Designs will help secure my Therapy shawl amongst others.

Finally, I enjoyed a chat with quite a few stall holders but especially the ladies at Wool 'n' Wood as I'd bought a set of their Malawi-produced knitting needles at the shop in the Scottish Parliament last year. Yesterday I bought this wee handcrafted bowl to use for my notions whilst I'm crafting.  So cheery!

Such a fun outing - enjoying the company of like-minded friends, meeting new people and purchasing lovely things.

Well done Perth Festival of Yarn 2017 - see you next year!


Wednesday, 16 August 2017


I was approached a few weeks ago to see if I could help to make some decorations for an event at work.  I'm currently working for the National Trust for Scotland at Pitmedden Garden, a beautiful 17th century property in Aberdeenshire.
On August 15th 2017 it was 100 years since Major James Keith returned to his home, and beloved garden at Pitmedden, after serving in the First World War.  This extraordinary gentleman was later to bequeath his home, garden and extensive estates to the National Trust for Scotland.  In the 1950's, the recreated Great Garden at Pitmedden was opened to the public and it has been enjoyed by many, many visitors ever since.

It was agreed that poppies would make a fitting decoration for the tearoom where an afternoon tea for invited guests would mark the centenary.  Turning to the internet for inspiration, I found this tutorial from Woman's Weekly which showed how to make a wreath from knitted and crocheted poppies.  I then set about making my flowers and firstly followed this pattern to crochet these poppies with the button centres.
For those who like a video tutorial, blogger Sarah-Jayne of the craft and lifestyle blog provides clear instructions here to crochet these small poppies with their handmade centre and leaf.
I also enlisted the help of two friends.  Carol is the highly skilled baker at the Pitmedden Garden tearoom and receives many compliments for her scones, cakes and tray-bakes.  She also knitted the poppies below on the right, whilst those on the left were created by Sabina - a friend from my regular Wednesday morning knitting group.
Their productivity helped me crack on and complete these poppies.
Sewing the poppies onto the rattan wreathes, sourced from Hobbycraft, was much easier than I thought.
I added a hanging loop so the wreathes could be displayed on the wall if desired.
So here are the finished wreathes, smallest first...
The middle sized one...
 And the big one...
I'm really proud of our collaborative achievement!


Wednesday, 26 July 2017


Back in April I started a new knitting project.

I've gone on at length in a previous blog post about how much I love my On The Edge Shawl, by Joy, aka The Knitting Goddess.  I love it so much, in fact, that I decided to make another one - this time for my sister, as a surprise for her birthday.

I chose turquoise merino in three toning gradient yarns.  Turquoise is her favourite colour and the wool was really soft and cosy.

It knitted up really quickly and in under two weeks it was done.  I didn't really photograph the finished shawl particularly carefully as I was looking forward to seeing my sister wearing it.  I wrapped it up and posted it off, not at my local Post Office on this occasion and so I wasn't routinely offered a proof of posting.  I was so looking forward to her reaction to the surprise that I didn't even tell my sister about the parcel...

... BUT -  and here's why Star the dog looks so sad - THE SHAWL NEVER ARRIVED!!!

So gutted - and with no proof of posting I'd  absolutely no comeback with the Post Office.

Eventually I had to tell my sister what I'd done  - but up til now she's never seen what it was I sent.

Next time I make something for her I'll wait til we're together and hand her gift to her in person!


Friday, 30 June 2017

The shape of things to come... my world of knitting and crochet anyway is..... The Asymmetric Triangle!

I'm talking about shawls.  Knitted shawls and crocheted shawls...and I am happy to have finally discovered a shape which I like wearing.  So happy, as it turns out, that I'm smiling before this one's even been cast off!

It's been a bit of a journey for me and dates back to the first shawl I ever made back in 2014.

There are many reasons I reckon for the crafting community's fascination with shawls.  Firstly, it's a good step-up after making a rectangular scarf if you're new to knitting (or crochet).  Many shawl patterns are designed to use only one skein of yarn so are perfect for that precious one-off purchase.  Shawls make lovely gifts and can be quite quick to produce.  Here's a selection of those I've crocheted for friends:

Shawls require no sewing up - and there are many makers who love the process of making but who hate the final project construction.  Historically, shawls have kept women warm for as long as we've been making them.  I made a triangular half hap for my Mum when she moved into her new house two years ago. Its design is based on the traditional square Shetland hap which has been keeping the young and old of the islands warm for centuries.  Mum's is light and cosy alpaca instead of traditional Shetland lambswool.

So I started off making triangular shawls for myself.  With mixed success.

I wore the first one (Lala's Simple Shawl) a few times as I loved the yarn- a special purchase from Old Maiden Aunt in West Kilbride - but mostly it lives in the wardrobe.  I have never yet worn the frilled version (the pattern's called A Bit Of A Frill) outwith my bedroom, despite it being knitted in yarn hand-dyed by my very good friend Ethmay in colours chosen by my daughters.  I just can't get beyond the fact that I look like a 19th century peasant woman!

I used another special yarn to crochet my very own version of Fortune's Shawlette by Tamara Kelly aka Moogly.  This yarn was a gift from yarn dyer extraordinaire, Helen Lockhart of Ripples Crafts, following the knitting retreat I attended with her in the North West Highlands of Scotland in October 2015, and it matched my outfit so perfectly.  I still wear it a lot as I love the way it drapes and it seems to work worn either tied simply or with a scarf ring.

Perhaps my problem with the small triangles is that they don't sit well on me tied at the front without an additional pin or ring.

I just couldn't get to grips with a crescent shaped shawl at all so have only made one (Lynn Ashton's pattern) which again, sadly, (as it's made from more gorgeous Old Maiden Aunt yarn) lives in the wardrobe.

Oversized triangular shawls seem easier to wear.  Both of these Thousand Kisses Shawls were made as gifts but I do plan to make one for myself one of these days...

...but joyous to me was the day I finished my On the Edge Shawl by Joy McMillan aka The Knitting Goddess.

Joy not only dyed the beautiful mini skein set composed of 40% British Falkland Polwarth, 20% British Wensleydale, 20% British Alpaca and 20% nylon yarn I used to knit this shawl but she also designed this pattern especially for it.  I love it and have been wearing it ALL the time since I finished it in February!  Look....

I loved it so much that I looked for another pattern with a similar shape - and there are lots!  So I've just completed my second asymmetric triangle - a bigger shawl using three colours this time.

The pattern is Therapy by Laura Aylor and the yarns are a veritable Scottish indie dyer hattrick!  The pink tail is Blue Moon BFL 4ply by Lindsay the Border Tart from the Borders (unsurprisingly!), the variegated section is 4ply merino/silk/cashmere in the Yesnaby colourway by Hilary The Fabulous Mr G from Deeside and the stunning grey is the same sumptuous mix in Lewissian Gneiss by Helen at Ripples Crafts from Lochinver.

I know I'm going to wear this a lot - and it isn't going to live in the wardrobe!


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

I'd done this before - making a felt cover for a notebook.  How difficult could it be to make another?
I made this one for my daughter a few years ago when she liked to doodle a lot - before she went to art school!
So I expected it would be dead easy to create a piece of felted fabric and make an A5 sized notebook cover.  (as was the requirement for this month's Scottish Woman's Institute craft competition at my local branch)


Here's my first attempt.
It's been made by wet felting - a process whereby a robust fabric is created from carded wool - wonderfully soft merino in this case.  There's some dyed Wensleydale curls in there as well for added texture.  The process requires quite simple equipment and materials - a towel to work on as warm water is involved, bubble wrap, a reed mat, soap flakes, nylon netting as well as my chosen wool.  (I bought the wool from Queen of Purls, a lovely yarn store in the Saltmarket in Glasgow, a wee while ago.)
 Laying out the fibre is the fun creative part.
Making the fibres felt together takes elbow grease!
I was happy with the colours and the density of my felt.  Netting holds the fibres in place whilst warm soapy water combined with the agitation of rubbing with bubble wrap makes the natural fibres stick together.  Rolling the piece in the textured mat causes it to 'full'. At this stage the fabric becomes compacted so it shrinks in size - just like it would if you put your treasured woolly in the washing machine.  Trouble is, mine no longer fitted the A5 notebook!

So onto attempt number two.
This time I added some loops of a pretty variegated knitting yarn as well as silk fibres and curly locks.  A thorough rinse is required to get rid of all the soap then the piece can be reshaped whilst damp.  Again, though, I'd misjudged the size.  In order for this finished fabric to cover the notebook I had to trim off the uneven edges and glue it on.
Though it made a neat finished item, I couldn't help feeling that using glue was 'cheating'.  The felt will have to be discarded once the notebook is all used up and that seems a shame.  Ideally I wanted to make a removable cover which could be re-used, just like the one I made my daughter.

Back to the drawing board.  This time, though, I resorted to what my husband calls 'the last refuge of a scoundrel'* and I actually read some instructions!
I referred to an excellent book I own called Art in Felt and Stitch by Moy Mackay as well as this online tutorial by felt maker Angela Barrow.

Once more I assembled all the equipment I needed
and then I made a 'resist' which acts as a barrier when you don't want your felt to felt to itself!  Mine is made of packing foam as it's waterproof and not completely rigid.  It's bigger than the desired finished size to allow for shrinkage.  Here's the second attempt on the resist for size comparison.
And here's the fun part again, placing all the fibres.
I added lots more wool and silk this time
and had very clean hands after all this!
Then I wrapped the fibres around the resist so the notebook can be slipped inside the cover.
I kept measuring this time as the felt fulled and shrank so it wouldn't be too small.  I also cut down an inexpensive thin plastic chopping mat to the same size as the notebook cover and inserted it into the felted shape so it wouldn't shrink any further as it dried.
All that remained was a bit of trimming of the lining to allow the notebook to fit snugly inside.
Ta dah!  How appropriate then,  as I reveal my finished covered notebook, that it's National Stationery Week in the UK.

Time to find all my favourite pens and pencils and get scribbling.....

*For the record, in this quote Samuel Johnston is talking about patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel - which may be timely as another election looms!

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