Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Road Trip! Crieff Is Nice

I'd be surprised if I haven't already told you, but I passed my driving test a couple of weeks ago!  Yes, I'm a little late to the party, but I was just never interested in it before.  

Obviously, the next thing to do is go buy a car.  Quite a few people had quite a lot of advice on buying your 'first car'.  It seems sensible to choose an older car in case you bump it, a cheaper car because of the expensive insurance.  Of course I ignored this and popped out for a bright yellow Fiat 500 Lounge.  I wanted the shiny wheels, blue-tooth & sun roof, what can I say? 

Since the obvious thing to do with a new car is go on a road trip, this is what we did. With no fixed plans (except to end up in Crieff) we set off, vowing to follow those brown tourist board to things which appeared in our path.  

The first to appear was the Falkirk Wheel.  We found this sign by accident after scooting off the motorway mainly due to a huge queue we spotted building up!  Pulling into a little village from the motorway, some nice brown signs led us straight to the wheel.  

It's far bigger than I though it was, and I realised that, far from being moved sideways (which is what I always believed to be happening when looking at pictures) the boats are hoisted many metres into the air and plopped into a runway of canal which looks like it wouldn't be out of place in some sort of raised level airport.  

The weather was a little (read: very) rainy, shall we call it atmospheric?  But there's a great wee mini-museum and cafe near the wheel to watch it turn around.  

It wouldn't be a weekend away with the boy without some sort of outdoor activity, so we decided to do the treetop adventure course which is up on the hill beside Crieff Hydro.  This was quite a lot of fun & I'd highly recommend it.  The staff were lovely, and the sun even came out for us!

After all the outdoorsing, we arrived at our hotel, which was very pretty.  We stayed in Knock Castle in Crieff.  It's small(ish), warm and welcoming, and had a beautiful pool in a garden house in the grounds!  Sadly the only dinner time available when we arrived was 9pm, but we had a very lovely dinner in Crieff instead. 

On the second day, and our return to Glasgow, we happened across several more touristy places.  First was Drummond Castle Gardens in the morning.  The drive up to this castle is several miles of tree-lined forrestyness (I really did begin to wonder when it was going to end), opening out to these perfect gardens!  Apparently they're arranged in the shape of the Scottish Saltire, with the different colours representing the families coat of arms.  We were provided with a wee map which told us what all of the different kind of trees were, though I'm terrible at remembering these things. 

Last but not least, we spotted signs for Stirling Castle.  I've not visited here since I was quite wee, and the boy has never been!  So, in true road tripping couply style, we signed up for a Historic Scotland membership.  As you do.  Because we're cool & stuff.  I'd also like to point out that the boy is wearing the socks I knitted for him.  Sock knitting win.

Rather upsettingly, due to a combination of lots of 12 hour shifts at work with this lovely little trip to Crieff on my two days off, I've accomplished virtually no knitting over the past two weeks!

The flat is in quite a mess due to kitchen and bathroom works, so I'll tackle that today, but I'll try to have some knitting to show for next week :p

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Guest Post: Louise Tilbrook Designs

After the blog post on relaxation, knitting and 'What is Mindfullness?' last week, there was a bit of chat in internet-land about what each of us do to unwind.  

Louise (of the very lovely Louise Tilbrook  Designs) shares her view of calm & crafting, and I'm sure it resonates with many of us.  She is a sock knitting queen!  And creates some really very beautiful sock patterns which are available on ravelry

"Crafting for me has become such an integral part of my life that I've almost forgotten why I craft in the first place - it's like breathing. I craft therefore I am.  Knitting was and remains my first love. I knit for many reasons but if I had to pick one, I would say for relaxation. My husband might dispute this as he watches me try for the third time to execute a long tailed cast on over 300 stitches, but the rhythmic, repetitive act of knitting soothes and calms me more than I can say.

Obviously, not all knitting is created equal. There are times when my poor frazzled brain craves nothing more than a simple garter stitch blanket. At other times, the focus needed to work out a tricky heel turn or to follow a complex lace chart are just the kind of distraction needed from some external source of stress.

And, invariably, knitting is something I also do whilst doing other things; watching TV, reading, listening to podcasts, cooking, watching offspring at sporting events - the list is endless. The one thing I never do is knit and drive, but I do pack spare knitting just in case of long motorway delays.

Recently I have started spinning using both a wheel and a drop spindle and interestingly I had found that when I spin, it's all I do. I don't feel the need to pop the TV on or catch up with a podcast. It's just me and the fibre - soothing, meditative and yet stimulating at the same time.

I used to think that with knitting and more recently with my design work I had no time for another hobby. But increasingly I am aware that there is a place in a life for both - each just fills it's own niche perfectly."

You can find Louise on 
twitter: https://twitter.com/Madmumknits 
blog: http://www.louisetilbrookdesigns.blogspot.co.uk/
ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/louise-tilbrook

And some of my favourite socks from Louise, which were published in the Pom Pom Magazine!

(c) Juju Vail (for Pom Pom Magazine)

What do you think of craft & chilling out?  Or about the mindfullness movement?


Friday, 10 July 2015

What is Mindfullness? On Knitting, Crafting & Chilling Out

There appears to have been a huge upsurge in the popularity of 'Mindfullness' as a concept.  A quick browse through the top 100 books on amazon is filled with both self help books and a strange new breed of book - the mindfullness colouring book.

Now, I am not one for the self help book.  I understand that (much like religion) they are of immense value to those who can believe in and act on what is read.  For me, speaking with the authority of one who has read half of two self-help books out of interest as to why they are so popular, I find them obvious and annoying.  I fail to see why the writer feels they have the authority to tell other people how to live their lives.  To essentially impart common sense.  To be fair, I suppose common sense does sometimes need a little top up.  

These books all seem to have at least 4.5 stars on amazon, which does sometimes make me feel like I'm missing something.  They include titles such as 'Sane New World' by Ruby Wax, 'The Little Book of Mindfullness' by Patrizia Collard, and 'The Mindfullness Journal' by Corinne Sweet.  The common theme is essentially to explain that you're not crazy, and that you should take a wee five minutes to yourself to calm down.  Which is all very sensible and does seem reasonable. 

However. Having said all of this about mindfullness books.  You want me to chill out whilst colouring in tiny intricate pictures? Yes, ok.  Why not?  I'm sold.  

After toying with the idea for a little while, I finally purchased a couple of books.  And a new pack of pencils, because there's no way I have enough of those already.   It feels a little like lazy creativity.  The creation of a beautiful thing without having to think about what it should be, how it should be constructed, or worry about the quality of the end product.  I suppose that's not necessarily any different from knitting from a pattern, but it's simpler than that.

Today, I've engaged in a little 'Mindfullness' colouring, some easy knitting from a pattern (Tambourine by Julia Farewell-Clay), and working on a chart for an exciting collaboration coming out later in the year.  Though relaxed almost to the point of napping by the colouring book, I felt no sense of achievement, and moving onto my chart again seemed to cheer me up more.

The pictures in the book (I'd highly recommend Animal Kingdom by Millie Marotta) are beautiful.  The ones in 'The Mindfullness Colouring Book' are more basic, and I admit I'm unlikely to engage very much with that one.  I will enjoy spending a little time colouring in.  Is it going to change my life?  No, but then again we always knew I was a cynic.

Knitting calms me, occupies my mind and a little simple knitting will de-stress.  Crafting in general will usually cheer me up on a bad day and even rifling though stash if short of time will usually work the trick!  No, I wouldn't be able to accept a book telling me to 'take five minutes to myself', but maybe that's because I already do.

How do you de-stress?  What is crafting/knitting to you?  And what do you think if the 'Mindfulness Movement'?

Friday, 3 July 2015

Indie Burgh Yarn Crawl & New Socks

Oh I've had such a wonderful, wooly week to remember during this stressful week!  Recently I attended the second annual Indie Burgh Yarn Crawl in Edinburgh.  This ran over Saturday & Sunday, with a party on Sunday evening which I, unfortunately, couldn't attend.

Three yarn stores in Edinburgh take part: Ginger Twist Studio, Kathys Knits & Be Inspired Fibres.  The aim of the game is to trail around the different shops, collecting stamps on your crawl card (& yarn, & needles, & notions) as you go.  It's very friendly, each of the shops stock quite different yarns so it really is a worthwhile wander, and it's a good excuse for a day out!



I arrived bright and early before the crawl for exciting yarny chat, then proceeded to buy the first skein of yarn I managed to lay my hands upon in Ginger Twist Studio!  It really couldn't be resisted, because it was a one-off yarn crawl colourway on a very smooshy sock base.

The yarn is hand dyed by Jess, proprietress of Ginger Twist Studio. It's a wonderful purple, and due to the nature of hand dyed, I picked out a more uniformly dyed skein from the pile (I'm such a fan of those semi-solids).  The base is Swell Ewe Sock, which is 80% superwash merino, 20% nylon.

Also hidden away in a corner of Jess shop was the lovely Clare Devine, who was launching her new Sock Anatomy book.  It's filled with simple yet effective socks which use a variety of construction methods, explaining the rationale behind each method, when to use it and why.  Each sock also comes sized from baby to giant so will fit everyone!  Maybe you could even knit a you and tiny size for matching sets...

This wonderful combination of ladies couldn't be passed up, and I quickly cast on some Tarsi socks from the book with my new yarn.  My poor friend Cia ended up playing at skein-winder-extraordinaire on the train home because I simply couldn't wait to cast on :D

I've been wearing these socks ever since they were finished, and am loving them.  I knit the XS size and did worry part-way through that they'd be too small but they've turned out wonderfully.  They've been keeping me very comfortable during what has otherwise been a very stressful couple of weeks.  My grandmum had been quite sick for a couple of weeks and passed away last Wednesday, so this week has mainly been attending her funeral, which was remarkably lovely, and sitting the two day exam you've probably noticed me moaning about lots.  

It feels like a strange thing to say, that a funeral for a loved one was lovely, but there really is no other way to describe it.  If there's a way to be sent off, that was it.  I couldn't have asked for more, for her or for my family, and that makes everything feel a little easier.  The strange thing about funerals is that, whilst saying goodbye to someone you won't see again, you also end up seeing lots of people you wouldn't see otherwise.  It's an odd sort of symmetry.

The evilmassivestupid exam is now over too - it was 8 hours on Wednesday & 4 hours on Thursday.  I won't find out the result for four weeks, but it's a massive weight off my shoulders.

However, I appear to have broken myself slightly!  It's very lovely and sunny outside, and my mum has offered to pick me up for a barbecue in her garden before my night-shift tonight, so I think I'll take her up on that :)  

There are quite a few work emails to reply to which have piled up over the past few days, and some wonderful knitting ones which have waited slightly longer, but I'm afraid they'll have to wait another day or so.  

Sometimes, perhaps, it's braver to accept that you're only mortal than to plough on regardless. 


As an aside, it looks like this little guy is going to flower soon :D 


Monday, 22 June 2015

Inspired by: Rainbow Heirloom

Rainbow Heirloom yarn is dyed by Emily Wessel (the lady who brought you half of Tin Can Knits) & it is glorious.  I'm particularly excited, though, because Rainbow Heirloom has launched a yarn club.

It's called the Nostalgia club; inspired by fond memories and important moments.  The Tin Can Knits books are among my favourite, and it's down to the little details - the pretty family photos, the well thought out inspiration essays and the simple yet very pretty knits that the pair produce each and every time.  For the same reasons, this club has really grabbed my attention. 

Every time I attend a yarn show at which Rainbow Heirloom has a stall, I melt at all the brilliant colours.  This time, as they're accompanied by stories, I simply couldn't resist having a good look.   Each month is a unique colour, on a different base - so lets you try lots of different kinds of Rainbow Heirloom yarn!

If you're signing up before the end of June for the whole 9 month club, it's 20% less than you'll be paying later, so something to think about :p 

Junes yarn is already here - meet Verdant DK merino.  It is LUSH, I can almost feel the forresty places used inspiration for this one.  The other thing I find appealing about RH yarn is that all of their one-off 'experiment' yarns are also for sale in the shop, so you can find truly wonderful one of a kind colourways floating around in amongst the reproducibles.   

Last month I listened to Emily talking on the Shinybees podcast, about her yarn journey and how she began designing patterns.  It was all very interesting, and such a pleasant chat.  You can hear how much she adores creating beautiful yet functional garments and accessories from yarn, & I suppose that's why her knitting patterns always look so wonderfully simple yet interesting.

In my own patterns I often aim for the 'pretty yet practical' look, and sometimes worry that I'll never quite get there!  Each new pattern is a wonderful experience but also carries all the innate stresses which probably cross the minds of most knitting designers.  Will people like it?  Is it clear & concise? I hope it fits the way it's supposed to!  And a million, million other thoughts.   

But what's to gain if it's too easy, eh?!  Maybe there'll just have to be a little creative venture with some of this yarn in future :p

The yarn story aspect really appeals to be because of my love of a good tale!  My happiest knitting is spent listening to audiobooks.  

Most recently, I've been listening to Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch.  It's about a London copper who discovers magic whilst trying to fight crime.  Yes, yes, I realise this sounds ridiculous, but it's really good!  This is the 5th book in the series & I'm hooked.  Also, I ADORE who they've cast to read the story for the audiobook.  I read the first book whilst on holiday a couple of years ago, and have listened to the next 4 on audiobook.  The directors have completely captured who the main character is.  The narrator just sounds exactly as I had imagined the main character to sound; accent, inflections, sarcastic tone and all.  I hope I never see a picture, because I've decided what he looks like in my head and don't want that taken away!

What yarn have you been coveting recently?  Do you have any good book recommendations for me?!

'Inspired by' is a new blog section, in which I'll try to feature a yarn or designer once a month who really inspires me to knit & design.   Who do you feel inspired by?

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Spinning & Un-broken Phones

As a method of procrastination, I appear to have spun all of the things.  Summer is here, I bought new oil for the old wheel, I've got better things to do - so obviously I'm spending hours with the wheel!

The steady trundle of my old wheel is hypnotic, & the small pleasure of seeing the bobbin of yarn grow as it fills with yarn is addictive.  

The yarns this month are a wee mixture from a stash that has been slowly building.  It'd be great to say that I'm implimenting a 'one in-one out' policy, if not 'all out', but I don't really trust myself. 

Another *very* exciting event this week is that I had my phone screen fixed!  Once the initial barrage of glass splinters had passed, I had largely grown to accept the dilapidated appearance of my phone.  Yes, there was tape over the top holding the pieces in, but it worked, and I was ok with it.  

I have a rant but, long story short - friends & family teasing about state of phone / concerned about my delicate wee face = not a problem.  Ladies at work implying at the condition of my phone reflects my lifestyle choices and how dilligently I'll do my job = not ok.  It's fixed now, but for the wrong group of people.

On to the yarn! (you can also see all of these in my Ravelry stash).   After my ravings about gradient yarns earlier this month, I couldn't help but spin up all of the gradient braids I could lay my hands on. 

I have no preferred method for spinning gradients, I'm aware that many people like to chain ply to preserve the gradient to it's best, but I quite enjoy the overlapping effects achieved by splitting the braid into two, & just seeing how the two halves marry up when you ply them.

In this case, with the polwarth, I left a lot of black on one half & a lot of blue on the other, so the marching is dubious but has resulted in wonderful short-ish runs of 'barber-pole' effect, which worked really well!


This lovely grey skein is a sample from Sara's Texture Crafts, (who dyed the beautiful yarn used in the Fearlas Mor sock pattern). 

It's made up of Alpaca, BFL, Merino & Silk.  Is is light, very easy to draft and well blended.  It's dreamy and I think I might have to find some more of this beautiful fluff.  As it stands, I see a little pair of wristy/mitts?  We shall see.  It ended up at 88 yards of... probably DK.

Polwarth from Fiber Artemis.  This one was good.  The fibre itself feels so smooth, and as such feels a little dense so I worried about how easy it'd be to spin, but this was wonderful too.  So even with minimal effort.  The gradient is lovely too - I'd usually go for a more prolonged gradient, in that this one changes colour relatively quickly, but we'll soon see how it knits up!

I've noticed that in this etsy shop, you're allowed to chose which base you'd like the colour dyed onto, which seems like a very nice option!  I have another braid still to spin from this dyer, this time a mix of polwarth & silk, so very intrigued to see how that goes!

Last but not least, Merino/Seacell/Shetland from Hilltop Cloud.  I love how the seacell pops through this yarn a little bit, giving little runs of pearly white through the warm berry shades.  This is another gradient braid, which changes gradually from purple, then pink, through orange to yellow.  Yum.  It's like a fruit pastel roll.

As ever, fibre from Hilltop Cloud is never difficult to draft, and spins up easily.  This lot has ended up around a DK, so I'm thinking a wee cowl might be in order!

That's my lot, I'm off to a BBQ now for my grandpops birthday!  What do you have planned for this weekend?

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 beautiful 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


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