beanie for wool week

58 days to go! 58 days until I climb aboard the ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick and head to my first ever Shetland Wool Week.

Let me take you back to the beginning.  Some time in 2018 I saw a link for the Loch Ness Knit Fest.  Since we used to have a house near Ardgay in Sutherland and been going to the Highlands since the heady days of the race to the last Ballachulish ferry (or the Glencoe Death Race as my mother called it) it didn’t take long to persuade Stuart that this would be the perfect birthday present.  And it was, we took a cottage just outside Dingwall, Bea and Eloise joined us for a couple of days up from Glasgow as did a friend heading home to Thurso from the south.  We revisited some old haunts and I had a whole day at the Loch Ness Knit Fest.

8A6A4C85-EB2C-448B-88EF-E6DBFC2C9AA6

A little purchase from Tine and Floyd at LNKF that became a fishing hat for Stuart.

Loch Ness Knit Fest is, imho, a standout amongst the many wool events sprouting up.  It’s not vast, but every stall is an interesting, independent supplier.  No big companies offloading unsold stock, or row after row of identical mass produced rubbish (Knitting and Stitching Fairs I am looking at you).  But real people with a passion to share, to talk and spread the wooly word.

The little things make the difference, plenty of places to sit, from tables to to big squishy sofas and chairs, homemade soup and cakes and a floor show from highland dancers and musicians to talks on sheep farming to spinning silk.

And it was here I discovered three new potential wooly destinations.  Shetland Wool Week, Prjónagleði – Iceland Knit Fest and Fanø Knit Festival in Denmark.  We had already had a holiday booked in Iceland in January, which provided for some serious wool research but did mean that punting for Prjónagleði was unlikely to be a goer.  A quick email to my Danish godmother and I had all the information I needed about Fanø together with the contact details of one of her friends who would be delighted to accompany me.

It helps to have a partner who is as obsessed with fishing as you are with wool if you want to tour some of the best yarn festivals.  So it was that we booked ourselves into a beautiful cottage in Sandwick,  and waited for the ferry timetable and festival tickets to be released.  Meanwhile Stuart researched fishing and made friends with the husband of a fellow knitter from Texas and sorted out several days of loch and seafish bothering.

Now the ferry is booked (hurry up LNER and release the October train tickets!), the workshops are booked, the birthday dinner is booked (The String) So it was time to get on and finish the Roadside Beanie, designed by Oliver Henry, this year’s wool week patron.

And I have,

2019-07-30 17.10.52

With a golden sun in the middle.

2019-07-30 17.11.30

And guess what … only 58 days to go!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

vital mending

I have a couple of free days, days where all I actually HAVE to do are the usual minutiae of life, no appointments, no deadlines.  Perfect for spinning or knitting.

2019-07-26 09.24.17

Only it’s not.  It’s too hot to be playing with wool, and I am not knitting with this on my lap.

2019-07-26 09.23.38

I’m not complaining about the weather (well I was when I was stuck in my daughter’s car for over an hour, no idea how to get home,  with no air con, no map (who doesn’t have a map in their car) and no phone charger, so no google maps either).  I was complaining about a lot then.

I have been doing a spot of decluttering over the past week (stay with me, there is a sequitur).  Finally, those irritating things around the house have tipped me over the edge and they are all allocated to new homes (divided between the local Clothing bank and a friend who runs charity sales every week – she ought to be on the route to canonisation if you are reading this up there!)   Even our old fridge (working but surplus to requirements), a duvet, some linen and a memory foam mattress went somewhere where they will be appreciated rather than snarled at as we pass by.

2019-07-26 08.56.02

Yesterday I decided it was time to face my studio, which is rather overstocked.  Part of the overstock is the pile of mending that has been waiting patiently for attention.  Top of the pile is a dress I made out of two dresses that no longer fitted.  It’s a summer dress, it’s cool (as in temperature, I wouldn’t dream of aspiring to social or fashion coolness) and perfect for the railway track melting temperatures we are currently experiencing.  Well it would be if I mended it.  So I did.

2019-07-26 09.01.14

Then I hemmed a pair of trousers, sewed on quite a lot of buttons, ran up a few seams and done!  I love the colours.  Now I have to wash and iron it all.

 

2019-07-26 09.41.36

I, like many of my generation, was fortunate enough to have been brought up in a family where mending was the norm.  There were times when my mother’s frugal ways mortified the arrogant youth in me.  Grating up soap heels to make new bars was something I don’t believe any of my friends did on a Saturday afternoon.  But guess what I still do it.

I’m not banging a new drum in saying that we have become a throwaway society, but we have done it at remarkable speed.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could become a mending society just as quickly.  Actually, it wouldn’t just be lovely …. it’s vital.

Love Gillie x

and it’s from the old we travel to the new

Yesterday I cried on and off most of the evening, went to bed and cried a little bit more. Woke up at 2.30am and failed to go back to sleep for another 2 hours as my mind wove its way through memories.  Had a near one died? No.  Was a loved one diagnosed with  terminal illness? No.  Were we about to declare bankruptcy? No.  The source of my sadness … a friend moved to the other end of the country.

We make friends at many different stages in our lives.  When we are young children our friends are mainly determined by our parents, they tend to be the children of their own friends.  We start to take control of our friendships at nursery and then school.  Some of our most enduring relationships are made at that time and I can include two friends I know I could call in the middle of the night from that era.  However, most of those don’t last the strains of time, travel and growing up.  During university and the early career years friends come and go as we move jobs, towns and even countries before we finally settle down in a career and/or a family.

It was at this stage in my life that this friendship was born.  I had moved to Durham from Scotland, newly married and with a toddler daughter following my husband’s medical career to his first consultant post.  She had just returned to Durham after a decade away, with three young children following her husband’s medical career to his first consultant post.  We both had a ribald sense of humour seasoned with plenty of sarcasm and an instant understanding of what is was like to be the non-working, non-medical wife of a hospital consultant (in those days – fairly shit – you are pretty much a non-person in the eyes of many of their colleagues of all ranks). It transpired our husbands had been at the same college at Cambridge (although like most men they couldn’t remember)  Our children were about to start in the same class at the same school.  Hello new friend.

Like all relationships we moved along with the tides and there would be periods when we didn’t see each other as much.  Once children became old enough to have outside interests and hobbies and husbands senior enough to be rarely around as they are sought after for conferences and committees across the country free time for coffee with friends is in short supply.  Thank goodness for friends with more time who arranged dinner parties etc.

Then finally the children gained driving licences and then moved away to university.  We began  a regular knitting and stitching group, six friends with a wicked sense of humour and a mutual love of knitting and stitching.  Ladies in Stitches was born.  Twice a month we spent the day at my friend’s house and upped the yarn and thread ante.  I learned to crochet, a dyed in the wool (no pun intended) stitcher learned to knit and has just completed her first pair of socks.

My friend introduced me to crewel work and I am still inordinately proud of my first ever attempt.

2019-07-18 08.09.16

I rediscovered ribbon embroidery.

2019-07-18 08.08.03

 

Another, a seriously accomplished crafter and professional seamstress took up lace work knitting with astonishing speed and equally astonishing skill.

2019-07-09 18.05.28

We had in-jokes.  At least five other people reading this will appreciate the significance of the squirrel!

We had days out  to festivals, exhibitions, gardens, we opened each other’s eyes, we learned from each other, we had a lot of fun and we supported each other quietly as we did so.  As each of us faced crises of sometimes quite frightening severity Ladies in Stitches wove a small part of the overall net that caught our fall.

Then a little part unravelled.  My friend announced that they were moving to the other end of the country.  It made perfect sense, that was where all their children lived, including her new grandchild.  Having brought my own children up without grandparents within 300 miles I understood, but my lower lip wobbled just a little.

They sold their house but without somewhere to move to down south they were looking to rent.  Lo and behold the tenants in our Barn had just left and they moved in next door.  My girls thought it was hysterical.  When they were younger the house next door to one of their friend’s in a nearby village came up for sale.  They were desperate for us to buy it so they could live next door to their best friend, they planned on digging tunnels  between the houses for ease of access!

We didn’t need tunnels. For a glorious year I had a good friend (and their two lovely dogs one of whom became bosom buddies with Poppy) a mere couple of yards away.  We didn’t live in each other’s pockets but the kettle was often on.

It couldn’t go on forever.  Yesterday she started the next stage in her journey and I wish her nothing but love and good fortune.  I am mourning the death of one friendship and learning to love the birth of a different one.  I am 55 years old, I have lived in this part of the world for 25 years, longer than I have ever lived anywhere in my entire life, I have been married for 25 years and this friendship has spanned almost all the time I have been married and lived here and so is intrinsically linked to a major part of my life so far.  It is hard to unpick it and re-work it into a different form.

But I will.

Love Gillie x

 

tour de fleece

Today is stage 6 of the Tour de France and all 160.5 km of it is pretty steep.  However, whilst Giulio Ciccone et al are spinning their wheels from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belle Filles, I and thousands of other people are spinning their wheels for yarn.

spinning

The Tour de Fleece was started by Star Athina and a few friends back in 2006  The idea was to dedicate 21 days in July to spinning, and maybe watch a little cycling too.  Flash forward 14 years and there are thousands of spinners all around the world, spinning on thousands of different wheels and drop spindles all united in their desire to meet whatever personal challenge they have set themselves.

This is my first Tour de Fleece.  Mainly because although I have done a little drop spinning, I haven’t done much and I only learned to spin on a wheel earlier this year (with the lovely Katie Seal of Sealy MacWheely in Kirkintilloch).

2019-01-16 14.48.54

However, I have been making up for lost time, and whilst my new (to me) wheel is being given the once over by the superb Dr John, Physician to spinning wheels of distinction, I am currently spinning on Frankie, a wheel belonging to his lovely wife Carol.

2019-07-09 09.02.40

There are teams you can join, prizes, challenges and all sorts going on.  I am starting small.  I am a member of the FB group which is as close to a team membership as I have got and my challenge (met so far) is to spin a minimum of 30 minutes per day.

At the moment I am getting myself by into the spin of things (pun intended) by using up some Blue Faced Leicester which is nice and easy.  But I have some lovely fleece I bought in Iceland

2019-07-09 09.04.29

and a fabulous top and batt (which I designed myself)

2019-01-16 16.22.12

from Sealy MacWheely

2019-01-16 16.31.15

and when I am confident enough I shall move over to them.  I can’t wait!

Love Gillie x

lovely left-overs

We have had a busy couple of days.  On Wednesday we were here.

230A7A73-77C1-49E0-9B35-018733F34E19

That is Novak Djokovic serving at the end of the day on Centre Court.

The weather was perfect, the tennis excellent and the Pimms and knitting not bad either.

8016BB65-95D1-4A14-AC7D-B743E3BBCE74

We found a small but perfect airbnb The Pancras Parlour just around the corner from Kings Cross with, and this is very important, quite the most comfortable bed.  There is nothing more irritating than a house/hotel who has scrimped on the bed.  I was once told by a B&B owner in Tintern that when asked what made the perfect B&B (his was pretty darn close) he always replied The Bed and The Breakfast.  He is right it really is that simple, anything else is a pleasant extra but get the bed (and in the case of a B&B the breakfast) wrong, then all the toiletries and fancy gizmos will never make up.

However, the previous day I had been hosting our bi-weekly Ladies in Stitches stitching group.  In fact most of us were knitting this week, only one lady brought her stitching, but only after she completed her first pair of socks, we bring most people over to the knitting side at one point or another!  And alongside all of that I have been suffering from a ghastly throat/chest virus, which a week later is still hanging on.  Net result, by the time we returned home from London last night I was in no mood to cook a proper meal, supper was most definitely going to be a fridge left-over offering.

Sour mint lamb pockets (sounds so much better than left-overs)

  • left-over roast lamb sliced thinly
  • half a small red chilli
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon (in this case rather in need of using up as I had zested it a couple of days a go for a madeira cake and it was looking rather sad)
  • 2-4 tbsp mint sauce (our mint is going ballistic, I have masses of home made, if you use commercial mint sauce you might want to dilute it down or use slightly less
  • Left over gravy, if you don’t have gravy water or a little stock would be fine, you just want something to keep the meat moist.
  • Salad
  • Pitta bread
  • yoghurt

Layer the sliced lamb in a baking dish.  The cake tin was already out so rather than dirty a new dish I used that!

3DE13A7A-6D4B-4493-9377-17A457640543

Sprinkle sliced chilli, minced garlic and mint sauce, squeeze the lemon over the top, repeat until all lamb used up.

Dollop the left over gravy over the top (or dribble a little water or stock over)

D947A84B-4DF9-4755-964C-92A2A1D5CD6A

I appreciate this doesn’t look too appetising.  Stay with me!  Cover tightly with tin foil and pop in a medium oven (180 C) for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile chop a couple of tomatoes and grab a few lettuce leaves.  Warm the pitta breads.

863D1963-422B-4E51-94EB-CE6147929BED

The lamb is ready.  Stuff the pittas with lettuce and tomato, fill to the brim with lamb and top with a good sized tablespoon of thick yoghurt.

91C2AB28-DC0F-46B9-89CF-54ED4EF46A90

This is a messy eat, serve with napkins!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

I give you blood orange

First there was Spring Onion, now I give you Blood Orange.

93024CB0-E98F-449E-A41B-67C502A6C12A

It’s a quiet weekend and I thought I was getting over the last of a nasty virus (I was wrong, it came back for a second wave last night) so I thought a quick visit to see Lucy at Woolaballo would perk me up.  It most certainly did – I had turned up in time for an impromptu dying session.

Dying with food dye is easy and offers such a huge potential for colour experiments.  Sadly I had come out without my phone so the photos are from the session I did with Lucy last year (the one that produced Spring Onion).  Lucy offers regular dying sessions,  so if you are in the area give her a call.  If you are a bit further afield, here are the instructions to make your own personal yarn.

You need

  • warm water
  • white distilled vinegar
  • food colouring gels (I used Wiltons) they are stronger than most liquid colour
  • dropper (the ones that come with liquid paracetamol are perfect)
  • Wide paintbrush

The first step is to soak the yarn in a white vinegar and water mix (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water).  Food dyes need an acid environment to fix the colour and prevent it running off in the first wash.  It doesn’t need long,  15-30 minutes is fine.  Remove and squeeze out the excess liquid.

Now comes the fun, and the messy part.  Dissolve your chosen food colouring in warm water.  Add colouring until you get the strength you want, test by dropping on a piece of kitchen paper or an old white cloth.  Then start painting your yarn.

B3DEF13C-E800-4BD8-A9A8-9443633A5097

Both Spring Onion and Blood Orange were dyed in solid blocks, but you can get a lovely  mottled effect by dropping dye on the yarn using the dropper/paracetamol syringe.  If you are going for the block colour look you will need to turn your yarn over and ensure that you have covered it entirely with dye.

Once you are happy with your yarn you will need to set it.  You have two options.  Either roll up and place in a steamer on the oven top for 45-60 minutes.  Or if time is limited you can microwave.  The latter works just as well but you must be careful not to overheat or you will felt your yarn.

If you are going to microwave you will need cling film (personally imho a good reason to go for the stove top method which doesn’t require plastic) but everyone has different needs and in a workshop or perhaps a birthday party, the steamer method might not be practical!  Wrap up your yarn into a long sausage ensuring that there are no gaps or holes where water or steam can escape.

C9F05210-72DF-49BD-A7DD-C78C2827D2D3

Then roll up like a multicoloured Cumberland sausage.

AB83F499-3E01-4637-92ED-3CA172FB6E3A

This is where you need to pay attention.  Place in the microwave slightly below top temperature (about 75% depending on how fancy your microwave is – mine is extremely basic).  Heat for 60 seconds and remove,  let it cool until you can comfortably touch it and pour off any water that has escaped.  Repeat until the water you have poured off runs clear (usually three goes).

Leave to cool, unwrap the cling film and leave to cool again until you can comfortably hold the yarn.  Wash in warm water with a little washing up liquid.  Rinse in warm water (not cold).  Squeeze out the excess liquid and hang up to dry – or give it a go in a salad spinner!

C64A9637-2239-4490-8FE7-7AE73139C654

Bespoke yarn 🙂

Thank you to Lucy for introducing me to dying with food colouring.  Now I am going to take Blood Orange and have a root through Ravelry for the best pattern to show her off.

56047CFC-BDDB-4B72-AD4B-7728C9D3C033

Love Gillie x

knitting in a not quite summer

Despite purchasing a pair of splendid summer shoes, summer has failed to turn up in our corner of the UK.

A92DDA98-08F4-44F3-A008-4708F15584D2

The upside is that the garden is wild and lush, a northeastern jungle.  Unfortunately it is too wet to actually sit in it and enjoy the smell and sounds.  We have to admire it through the window.

57BA20B1-6DC4-4338-9FA5-95A39AA863E0

 

However, it does make for excellent knitting.  At this time of year I am usually more inclined to sew or embroider, knitting in hot weather can be a little hard work.  But this year the productivity rate is soaring.

These came along with me on our trip to London a couple of weeks ago.  I dyed the yarn using Wilton’s food dye on a wonderful Saturday morning with Lucy at Woolaballoo.  There is definitely a yellow and green theme to my wardrobe this [not quite] summer.

5AB1168F-36E1-42AE-BD3F-B45930EEA779

Unfortunately I forgot the stitch holder and the yarn shop I found only had large ones ,  too big for my socks.  So I had little option but to put them aside and purchase a replacement yarn.  I couldn’t spend the entire weekend without something to knit!

I discovered The Village Haberdashery was only a hop, skip and a jump from our Airbnb and I was persuaded to step back from the yellows and greens so plumped for this gorgeous colour combination, Almond Rocks from Knit the Bed.

356BDB60-B2D4-44DB-9415-D1A0ADD27C75

Meanwhile back at home (too big for a weekend away project) The Boxy by Joji Locatelli is coming along well.  The yarn is The Barber by Uschitita.  I originally read the name as The Berber, which explained why I failed to find any examples of what it looked like knitted up!

816B09DC-8912-4ABA-ADD0-EA30F5B4DD81

However, I am feeling the urge for something a little more challenging.  So I intend to finish the socks this weekend and start on The Roadside Beanie so I am ready for Shetland Wool Week.  I think that will play along nicely with the Boxy, something to think about and something I can knit on autopilot.  Perfect.

582F14DE-BD07-4AEA-82DF-CD45AF860D1C

Love Gillie

 

hats

On my return from Loch Ness Knit Fest in October, I showed the Boss my purchases.  Yes, all my purchases!  One of them was this gorgeous little number from Tine and Floyd.

8A6A4C85-EB2C-448B-88EF-E6DBFC2C9AA6

The Boss took a shine to it and suggested it would make a fine hat.  In particular it would make a fine hat with ear flaps.  A fine hat with ear flaps that would be perfect to keep his head and ears warm whilst out fishing.   Since the wind off the North Sea is pretty piercing if you are on land I can only assume it is vicious when out at sea.

So I disappeared down the rabbit hole that is Ravelry and found this wonderful pattern by Mitzy Moore

IMG_5187_small2

Obviously I am doing it in one colour way, but after a month or so of lacework I am loving the speed with which it knits up!  I’m not sure about the bobble though.  Not quite his style I don’t think!

What’s on your needles today?

Love Gillie x

 

 

lacework


It was  many years before I was brave enough to try lace work.  I will never forget going to a workshop at the wonderful WhistlebareYarns and after we had chosen our yarn and settled down I saw a line that could have been written in Arabic for all I understood it.  I panicked.  I looked at the women around me who were all happily clicking away.  And then I got to the dreaded line, it was line 9 I can remember it well.

My heart headed south faster than a swallow in autumn.  But do you know what it was dead easy!  Just follow the instructions and keep knitting.  It does help to  have pencil and paper to record where you are up to.  I rather like these as well.

mbll

Also if you are easily distracted, don’t do the lace row when you are watching television or people are trying to talk to you.  It is the Devil’s own job to frog a lace row!

When people look at lacework so many of them take a deep in breath and declaim they couldn’t possibly do that.  But in all honesty all lacework is is a planned pattern of holes!  I think we can all put our hand on our hearts and say we can make holes in knitting.  If you can knit, purl and wind yarn around a needle you can do lacework!

This is my work in progress using the silk and baby camel hair (just writing that makes me go all gooey) I bought from Dye Ninjaat Loch Ness Knit Fest.  The pattern is Rogue Wrap by Helen Dillon (available on Ravelry) and is a doddle to knit, particularly when using such gorgeous yarn.

Only a short post today as the weather is awful and it feels like a knitting kind of day!

Love Gillie x

P.S.  Don’t worry if you lacework looks like a dishrag!  All lacework looks like a dishrag until it is blocked (well mine does!).

baby camels and silk

This week I have been mostly frogging.  When you are knitting with lace-weight silk and baby camel hair yarn you don’t want mistakes.  Knitting with this yarn is like knitting with the dreams of baby fairies, it  makes cashmere feel like barbed wire and is quite frankly the stuff of which unicorn dreams are made.

camel and silk yarn

I’m sorry I can’t offer a touch and feel blog.  I’m sure that will be possible in time, meanwhile you will just have to take my word for it.  Or go to Dye Ninja and buy some for yourself.  Hand dyed bliss from Livingston.

I didn’t go to Livingston to get mine, I went to Inverness.  For my birthday the Boss took me to a lovely cosy cabin on the Beauly Firth and sent me to the Loch Ness Knit Fest.  Seriously, how good can a guy be at present buying?  Two of the daughters (Medic 1 and the Rock Geek) joined us as did a friend travelling home to Thurso from Ayrshire.  And of course Poppy came too.  She spent the week making friends, particularly on the train.  She is quite the seasoned train traveller now.

Poppy

LNKF was the bees knees.  It wasn’t huge, but every single stall was interesting and had something worth stopping for.  Lots of hand dyers (oh my the colours ….), spinners, unusual yarns (camel of course, but have you tried husky hair?)  But what really singled it out was the knitting hub.  It was big, it was comfortable with big tables and chairs and big squishy sofas and a splendid stage with live music, talks, demonstrations.  I sat and knitted and made lots of new friends from Denmark, from Birmingham, from the West Country.

It is a rather splendid fact that the best yarn festivals are held in places where the fishing is excellent.  Hence the enthusiasm of the Boss to join me at Shetland Wool Week, possibly the Iceland Wool Festival and maybe even Farnøstrik .  Lucky girl!

love gillie x