Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A Protracted Yarn Hunt & A Trip To London

With both myself & my partner working in jobs where our annual leave is allocated, it can often be difficult to arrange breaks away together.  This time we didn't manage so, following a weekend in London volunteering at the London marathon, I continued my week off work with trips to several wonderful yarn shops.

my (very restrained) haul

By recommendation (and due to limited time), I visited two yarn shops in London.  The first was Loop.  This was a beautifully appointed, two storey shop on a very sweet street.  It's filled from top to bottom with shelves upon shelves of beautifully curated yarn.

Downstairs was filled with yarn, accessories & a beautifully appointed window.  The button collection was adorable, and sat alongside threads & knitting accoutrements.  Squeezing up the tiny back staircase, you emerge into what looks like a yarn-collectors living room.  There's a large dining table covered in all kinds of yarn books, wool-filled shelving around the walls.  Over by the window, a cute little couch beside which stands a very well dressed mannequin sporting the sous-sous sweater.  I became very excited when I spotted a little pile of 'dyed for loop' angora/wool, which is the little yellow cake of yarn I ended up leaving with (along with a handful of wooden duck buttons!).

Loop upstairs

Loop window

Loop London

Second, was Wild & Woolly.  This little shop was incredibly welcoming, & I spent a very happy morning having a good nosey at all of the yarn!  There's a great range, including a beautiful 100% linen yarn (I think there's something similar at Ginger Twist now, too).   The shop displays some beautiful samples, & has a great range of classes which you can browse on the website

There were some brilliant shelves of travelknitter yarn, & I simply had to leave with some.  Orange, of course.  I'm beginning to wonder if I should've bought two for a nice squishy shawl, but there we go, I'm sure I'll find a use for it :D

Wild & Wooly samples

Wonderful display at Wild & Wooly

Also!  You can now buy my stitch markers at Wild and Wooly!  She now has beautiful denim project bags, which I am *very* tempted to make a return trip for one day.  If you can't make it there, the markers are still available in my etsy shop

the buttons & yellow yarn from loop, travelknitter from wild & woolly, & bag from fluph

Around marathon-ing & yarn-ing, we managed some general wandering around London, & decided to visit the site of the Olympics. This red fiasco is some sort of giant olympic tower construction with upside-down mirrors at the top.  It was a dreary day so no spectacular photos from the top, but the boyfolk couldn't resist interfering with the metalwork.

On the morning I visited Wild & Woolly, I travelled with the boy (man? boyman? partner? 26 yo companion?) to his station on the marathon trail, then left in an endeavour to find myself somewhere to sit with a coffee & a bit of knitting before I headed on a yarn trip.

Being very early, everywhere was closed, my phone was dead, I walked for miles, they started shutting the roads, I still couldn't find coffee, I needed to pee, the one place I did find was full *deep breath* - long ramble short, I wedged myself into a little seat in the window of a tiny coffee place & bought a coffee (mainly to use the facilities) only to discover that the coffee was great and that I had positioned myself right on the edge of the race road, as I realised once wheelchairs started whizzing past. 

Croissants were also 40p.  Really couldn't complain.  I'm a bit of a worrier.

Having not learned any sort of lesson, I then proceeded to tweet about how lost I may or may not be on my way to the yarn shop.  I did get there in the end (as evidenced by yarn purchases). 



The marathon really is such an undertaking, the sheer amount of people flocking to the race route in the morning is enormous.  Each mile there's a first aid station with lots of staff, police along the whole route, volunteers pointing onlookers to mile markers as they desperately search for spots to wave from somewhere vaguely matching where they had discussed being in pre-race waving-to-runners planning.   Volunteers in all of the subway, train & bus stations.  Marathon t-shirts everywhere. 

Outwith the ridiculous hustle & bustle of London, I visited Leona at Fluph in Dundee! Leona is an absolute gem, & I ended up spending several happy hours chatting & eating pastry from the local bakers.  Her shop is lovely, her puppy dogs very sweet & her friends who popped in were amazing too!  Apparently she has a trunk-show event happening on Wednesday the 27th with Yarns from the Plain, which should be interesting, if any of you live closer.


As an aside, I spent a wee bit of time watching Craftsy classes during my time off, and there's currently a sale on the classes during this bank holiday weekend.  I've found them pretty useful, and they might be worth a nosey :)


Did you visit london for the marathon?  Or have you been to any great yarny places recently?  DO share :p


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Stitch Marker Giveaway & Prospective Job Pondering

Good morning!

This fortnight, the lovely Corrie of Plutonium Muffin Podcast is running a giveaway for a set of my stitch markers.  To enter, you pop on over to my shop here to see which set if your favourite, and post that along with your email address or ravelry username on Corries blog post here.  The giveaway closes at 5pm GMT on 31st of May.  

I'm having quite an exciting day myself, because I just received a phone call letting me know I've been short-listed for a medical teaching job which I'm very keen on.   The interview isn't for two weeks, but I know you'll all be crossing your fingers for me until then :D.

Our job track is always set out in segments, which last a set amount of time.  For example, everyone starts on a two year 'Foundation Year' track, which involves six 4 month placements, spread across medical and surgical specialties.  After this you need to re-apply for the next segment.

It's a little bit of a pain a lot of the time, for example - we are technically on a series of temporary 4 month placements, due to this estate agents don't recognise that we have a permanent job & we needed my partners mum to be a guarantor for our rental flat last year.

(Just to clarify, because I understand I don't usually talk about work - I'm a doctor, have been for two years since graduating at Edinburgh University with a medical degree in 2013). 

I'm now finished the two foundation years & am in the process of applying for the next segment.  This is where it gets overly complicated, and competitive!  You can choose from several 'core training' tracks, which are very general; e.g. medicine or surgery.  If you know what you want to do, you can start down a specialty track instead - obstetrics, psychiatry, A&E, many more.  

Some specialities can be reached via more than one track, some are more competitive than others either due to the work/life balance it provides or due to the reputation of a speciality.  Similarly, location heavily influences how competitive a post will be - is it a large teaching hospital with lots of support and opportunities for research?  If so, this will be more desirable than being left to your own devices in a district general. 

Personally, I've applied to core medical training, which will be one of 50 jobs spread throughout the west of Scotland, anywhere between Glasgow down to Dumfries.  I'm crossing my fingers that they won't post me too far away from my flat in the West End of Glasgow, because I really don't want to live in temporary accommodation :/.  

The job I mentioned above is a single clinical teaching post based near Glasgow, which involves working out of hours shifts in hospitals when not teaching undergraduate medical students from the university and junior doctors from the hospitals.  I'm very keen on teaching, so it would be wonderful to be able to apply myself to that for a year!  There's a real sense of accomplishment when you get to the end of a tutorial & know people understand more than they arrived with - and if they don't?  That's your challenge - to work out what they don't understand, what base knowledge they need to understand the next part, why it isn't making sense & if you can change the mode of delivery or approach to the topic in order to better facilitate learning of this particular subject to this particular group.  It's a dynamic process of mutual understanding which won't work if either the teacher or the student isn't engaged, and it's also a good tutors job to get everyone engaged in the first place!  Also, it really helps me consolidate my own learning when I teach.

I'm sure if I don't get this job you'll all know due to the vast amounts of twitter grumbling that'll be going on next month.  If I go in and say all of that, will they give me the job please?

Now I've built it all up.  Crumbs.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Talavera; new pattern in PomPom Summer!


It's rather exciting - I have a new pattern released, which is published in this quarters PomPom Magazine!  I've always loved this little mag,  & I am guilty of repeatedly flicking through drooling over all the pretty patterns, pictures & articles.

The other evening in the Dumpling Monkey (yes, this is the name of one of our favourite restaurants), we had a lovely evening - each of us having gained something this week, whether small or large, which made us feel a little sense of affirmation about what we're doing.  

Talavera is a lace top, knit in the round on 4mm needles.  Its easy peasy, and a quick, lightweight knit for summer.  I promise: knit in the round to the underarms, knit the front flat, knit the back flat, join the shoulders, knit the collar in the round as you've just knit for the body.  Done.

It's inspired by outdoor summer strolls, by delicate stems & that rich green which only appears in full bloom.  For me, this season is nothing if not time to get a little obsessive over green yarns & gardening.   I live near the river Kelvin, which bypasses both tree museums & artisan pubs, so you'd likely fall in love with it too.

It is often difficult to decide what to knit in summer (do you really need chunky sweaters, right now?), and my go to is always an openwork project.  Given that I wear more lacy tops than shawls, this was bound to happen.  

PomPom is a great publication (with an awesome podcast!).  Set up in 2012 by Lydia & Meghan to fulfil their knitting vision, which they've certainly achieved.  You can read more about them here.  

The yarn, from Kismet, is *beautiful*.  I really can't express how lovely this was to knit with.  Their camel/silk blend was both soft and light, but still hung wonderfully in the garment.  They have lots of great colours, & their studio is incredible!  (They also do some great gradients, which I chatted about before)

Sizes: 1 (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Finished bust: 88.5 (98.5, 108.5, 118, 128, 138) cm / 35 (38¾, 42¾, 46½, 50½, 54¼)” – to be worn with up to 7.5 cm / 3” positive ease.

Yarn: Kismet Refuge (4ply/Fingering weight; 50% baby camel, 50% silk; 401 m / 438 yds per 100g)
Shade: T-Rex; 2 (2, 2, 2, 3, 3) skeins.

Gauge: 16.5 sts x 28 rows = 10cm / 4” over lace pattern

Needles: 4 mm / US 6 circular needle, 60-80 cm / 24-32” length
4 mm / US 6 circular needle, 40 cm / 16” length for neck and 3-needle cast off
Always use a needle size that will result in the correct gauge after blocking.

Notions: stitch marker, stitch holder or waste yarn

Notes: Talavera is knit from the bottom upwards in the round to the underarms before splitting and working flat. Shoulders are seamed using a 3-needle cast off and the lace pattern is continued in the round for the collar.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Glorious Gradients Roundup


Recently I've found I just can't get enough of gradient yarns. 

1. Knitting Goddess - I first found these beautiful little packs of yarn at YarnDale last year.  Composed of 75% superwash british wool, 25% nylon, they'll suit most projects.  Pictured above, these packs come in sets of seven 10g mini-skeins, each a slightly different shade from the last. I've split each in half because I plan to knit little mittens out of this set, and they're knitting up wonderfully.

2. Namolio - these cakes were found at a yarn festival, but Namolio also has an online shop.  The yarn is simply stated as 'wool', so I'm not entirely sure how it'll knit up or behave.  The colour changes are nice & gradual, and the yarn does feel nice - I imagine it'll soften even more with washing.  It's approximately 4-ply / DK, and I do look forward to knitting with it, though haven't found a perfect project yet!

3. EasyKnits Sushi Rolls - I adore these.  My roll is in the Peach Pie colourway.  These sock blanks are dyed symmetrically by Jon of easyknits, and unravel as you knit.  I'm planning on making some socks, knitting from both ends toward the middle to make use of as much of this yarn as I can, would be a shame if any of it went to waste! 

4. Kismet Gradient Packs - these are big packs!  They're made up of 5 skeins of 50g each, meaning you can make a significant project out of these little beauties and composed of superwash merino & nylon, so would suit a range of projects.  

I've used Kismet yarn recently in my Talavera pattern published in this quarters Pom Pom Magazine, and it was a delight to knit with.  The t-rex colourway is SO GREEN, the depth and consistency of colour is absolutely marvellous.  so a set of these pretties might just have to find their way to me too.


5. Wollelfe - having never ordered from Wollelfe myself I can't describe the yarn, but they do look pretty. My favourite from the etsy shop is this 'Granny Green', which would make a beautiful summer shawlette.  Most of these gradients are in superwash merino but there are some other fibre types available. 

6. Countess Ablaze has some amazing sock rolls, but unfortunately they disappear in minutes, so I can't find you a pretty picture :(  Her website is here regardless - you can sign up to her newletter to find out when the shop will be restocked.  

7. Natali Stewart -  whose stall I noticed at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.  It was filled with beautiful silks, and the cakes are no exception.  Being silk they aren't cheap, but most are also laceweight so will go a long way.  I'm very tempted to move into the realm of laceweight knitting just to make use of a yarn like this one. 

  Gradient Dyed Silk Yarn 16 2 NM GS 25a

8. Saras Texture Craft - last but not least, I've knit with this lovely yarn before too, and it made a yummy pair of socks.  Sara has now begun dyeing gradient cakes, and they're good.  


As for fibre?  I adore the gradient fibre from Hilltop Katie.  For example, this gorgeous braid, which I spoke about in this previous blog post, and am spinning up today (it's currently soaking, but I'll keep you updated!). 

What's your favourite gradient yarn?  Have you managed to knit anything with it yet or is it still sitting as a squishing ball on your desk?

Friday, 1 May 2015

Gratitude (A Playful Day Love Your Blog Challenge)

Part four in the Love Your Blog challenge, inspired by A Playful Day.  Better late than never.

This one is about gratitude, and it's difficult to chat about this topic without becoming decidedly soppy.  My overriding sentiment will be one of optimism. 

Isn't this the cutest plant pot you've ever laid your eyes on?  It's a little 'hedgehog', which you're supposed to plant your cacti in.  I didn't have enough jaggy plants, so there's a wee succulent and a tiny cactus in there instead.  This little guy is from Barruntando, a great wee handmade pottery shop on etsy.   (They also do the most incredible foxy yarn bowls :o). 

The yarn in the top photo is Titus, from Baa ram ewe.  This yarn is SO SOFT - it's 50% Wensleydale, 20% Bluefaced Leicester wool & 30% British Alpaca.  The colours are inspired by Baa ram ewes surroundings in Yorkshire; each and every one is beautiful! 

I love that items like this exist.  Sheepy wool blended beautifully for our knitting pleasure, and someone who felt we needed a tiny sleepy fox bowl to keep it in?  How can we complain about a life with such things.

The world is full of wonderful people, creative types all in our own way.  We're all great at different things, and we're better when we draw together to do incredible things.  Take for example the recent Edinburgh Yarn Festival (which has been blogged & podded about wonderfully by the inspirational Louise at Knit British).  It was an incredible feat of organisation, crafting, creating & socialising.  From the most famous knitter, to the volunteers and that lovely lady making us the coffee to keep us all going, everyone pulled together to make the weekend great.

Generally, I'm pretty grateful for most things I have in life.
In relation to blogging, I'm grateful mainly for you lot.  You lot who read this blog.  The lovely ladies who encouraged me to publish my first pattern, to people who introduced me to new techniques, new yarns & whole new yarn related hobbies!!

With each new technique I learn, it makes me feel more involved in our wonderful fibre community. 

At the end of the day, it's the simple things which make us happy.

Like new socks drying in a sunny window.

What's your favourite thing about knitting & the fibre community?  & Last but not least, I'd love to thank A Playful Day, for inspiring this series.  

Sock yarn from Stray Cat Yarns

Monday, 20 April 2015

Ugly (Love Your Blog Challenge); "A Gross Parody of Life in a Wicker Basket"

Part three in the 'Love Your Blog' series inspired by A Playful Day.

It took me a very long time to decide what to write about for the A Playful Day challenge this week.  The prompt is 'ugly'.  Should I take a photo of all of those WIPs I don't like anymore and will never finish?  Of that horrible pink acrylic yarn I was hell-bent on collecting when I first started knitting?  Or the knitting projects I have properly messed up and are now sitting in a depressing pile of pretty-but-ruined yarn behind the sofa. 

We all struggle to see past our mistakes, past the flaws which make us doubt ourselves, our goals and the things which we create.   What we know, yet consistently forget, is that the flaws which bother us are mainly noticeable only to ourselves.

In the end, I took a good look at myself, and a photo without any make-up on (super close-up).

I'm tired.  You can tell by the little bruises under my eyes.  I try to do too many things.  My skin is dry, I don't look after it.  My cheeks are getting a little chubby, because I make no effort with my diet.  It's late, because I start ten things at a time and so never concentrate on any properly or finish any of them.  

A lot of us look at ourselves this way.  Critically.  With no kindness or forgiving.  With no trace of compassion for ourselves.  Would you judge another so harshly?  Is this what you think they think of you?

I couldn't take a picture of those 'ugly' skeins of pink aran acrylic, because when I really sit down to think about it, they're not ugly at all, they're just not what I want to knit my next shawl with.  Bright pink aran owls, anyone?  I'm sure there are many fans of obscenely pink yarn, and who am I to say it's ugly. 

I couldn't take a photo of the WIPs I don't like and will never finish.  They remind me of choices I've made - good choices at the time - which turned out not to work so well.  All twists & turns, tangled knots, repeats knit wrongly, ripped out three times before being discarded.  Reviewed by friends & family along the way.  Yarn which, after enjoying the idea of how it was created, just didn't feel nice.  Patterns which did not go well with the yarn, which looked like they would match together but simply did not work in the end.  The love of a pattern which would never have looked good on you in the first place.  A gross parody of life in a wicker basket. 

The pretty-but-ruined yarn behind the sofa isn't ruined, I've just not figured out how to save it yet. 

There is no ugly.  There is only a perception - an opinion.  There is an outlook on life which is not fixed, and need not be dictated by others.  You can choose what kind of day you have, what kind of outlook you will have on it and what you will do with the outcome of your day.  There is always something to learn even from the worst of situations. 

I'm tired, my skin is dry, I can't cook, I try to do to many things at once.  And there's a smile on my face, because I'm happy this way. 

You can find one thing you thought was ruined or too difficult, whether it be in life or crafting, and you can have a wee optimistic think about it.  It's not as ugly as it seems. 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Beginnings (Love Your Blog Challenge)

The second post in the 'Love Your Blog' series, inspired by A Playful Day.

Like all good discoveries, I stumbled on blogging almost by accident.  It was a diary with an audience, a place to throw out ideas and receive feedback from like-minded bloggy folk. 

I certainly didn't expect anyone to actually read it.

For me, the beginning is the most exciting part (the end, the most satisfying).  This applies to all things, not least knitting.  

The pleasure of finding that perfect yarn; and the stitch which suits it perfectly.  Sitting with the skein in your hands, eyes closed, feeling what it wants to become.  Is it soft?  drapey?  does it feel like it wants to wrap lazily around your neck or is it a hardworking, sturdy yarn which would work hard to keep you warm on a bitterly cold day.

Obviously, we don't all start this way.  I'm a yarn-starter.  There are pattern starters, stitch starters and those who throw themselves in head-first and start a different way every time.

This skein of golden joy is 100% silk from Dye For Yarn.  It was one of my guilty purchases at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, a yarn which I couldn't possibly walk past without gravitating towards.  I needed to touch it, to pick it up, to buy it.  Rarely am I so drawn to a skein, and so it had to come home with me.  Being a yarn-starter, I know what this yarn will be - what it needs to be.  You don't make a hat out of a skein like this.  I'll keep what it'll grow up to be secret for now :p

The Yarn-Starter
This method involves the grabby yarn hands.  You love yarn - you see it, you want it, you buy it.   This, whilst incredibly fun at the time, leads to stash overload.  Maybe you're disciplined and don't let your grabby hands get the best of you until you've finished your current project, and if so you're a better knitter than me.

The Pattern-Starter
Ah, so you're the considered type.  Can I stretch it to the "slightly more sensible" type?  You get pattern first, yarn later.  This will obviously cut down on the (ever more terrifying) growth of the stash monster.  You could just have ended up with a stash of patterns instead, which makes you just as insensible as those yarn starters up there. 

The Yarn & Pattern Starter
Ach well.  Maybe you'll get through it all one day.

Each new pattern I begin to design is a mini adventure all of it's own.  I'll inevitably bite off more than I can chew and need to learn a new technique, attempt a new cast off, knit a new swatch for the giant swatch-blanket-to-be.  

Each new person we meet bring new ideas, opinions, talents and inevitably a funny story or two.  Harking back to the last love your blog post, but how far would we get without the advice and support of those around us?   

New(ly washed) bedsheets, new socks, new notebooks - all things which make me very, very happy.

Not to say we should endlessly chase beginnings!  There's nothing so satisfying as a well-done project, be that at work, for a hobby, with a friend, cleaning the house...  The ability to chose a project and stick with it is required if you ever intend to finish, and we all love the satisfaction of casting off that final stitch to lay your newly knitted cardigan/hat/shawl out in front of you, to wear it in front of the mirror.  To show it off in your LYS or on ravelry (or your blog). 

Which kind of starter are you, and why?

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