Where did the last 2 weeks go?
It has been thoroughy manic here, between Glasgow School of Yarn (where I nealry sold out of everything), doing the dyeing for the next round of the BoB club and Stitch Solihull the end of October has whistled by with a speed to rival the winds we've had reccently.
As a result I have next to nothing to share with you. Knitting and spinning have been minimal, and the poor chickens have forgotten what I look like. There is however light at the end of the tunnel now, normal blogging service will resume shortly.
In the meantime, here's a guest post from my friend Katharine. She lives just up the road from me (well as close as up the road gets round here), has her own flock of sheep, and is a very talented fbre artist in her own right. I dragged her up to Glasgow with me for an extra pair of hands, and also because I knew she'd really enjoy it.
GSoY is offcially the last fibre show of the year that Katie takes HilltopCloud to (although she has been persuaded to venture to Stitch Solihull for a last hurrah this weekend as well!) and last year she asked if I wanted to join her to give her a hand. I did, very much, but it wasn’t possible given the stuff going on at home.
So I wasn’t going to miss out this year and bagged a seat in her car very early on in the summer - in fact I’m not sure I even gave her a choice about whether I was coming or not! I’ve long wanted to visit Scotland; each time I’ve tried to get there, the trip has had to be abandoned and I was beginning to think it was never going to happen. My Grandpa’s family are from Ayrshire and mum spent a lot of childhood holidays in Scotland and my uncle went to school there but the other half of my heritage is Welsh of course both on mum and dad’s sides so somehow I never went to Scotland as a child, we always holidayed in Wales. So I was very much looking forward to this trip being a combination of things I love most - fibre and friends, exploring new things, making new friends and visiting somewhere I wanted to go.
We set off on Thursday morning from my house, the sun was shining brilliantly in Wales and up through England. It seemed really strange to simply pass through Lancashire, a county that has always been a destination for me, not just part of the route We stopped at Tebay services in the Lakes for lunch - it’s part of the rules I think - and we made good time up to Scotland in all, which I was grateful for as my back is still suffering from some unknown damage and 6 hours in a car was making it fairly unhappy.
As we got close to Glasgow it started to rain…. and Katie’s car started to complain, little things were not quite right and both of us were secretly worried but tried not to let it show to each other and talked brightly of non-car things to distract us. Katie appeared to be directing all her powers of persuasion at the car NOT to break down on the M8 giving it soothing pats on the dashboard and I was praying that the apparently failing electrics didn’t affect the brakes as I felt it would be a shame for my first trip over the border to end suddenly with us under the wheels of a lorry. We limped round the back of the MacKintosh church and parked up. And the car died….
So Katie sorted out recovery people and sat in the drizzle in the boot of her car waiting for them whilst I sweated to heave the contents of her car round the corner into the church ready to set up with all the other stallholders. In the end it was about 2 hours before Recovery Man arrived and diagnosed Car Trouble and took Katie’s car off to who knows where to fix it whilst we got down to setting up Katie’s stall at break neck speed. By then Wrigglefingers and her friend Lisa had arrived to set up her stall and she kindly agreed to give us a lift to our hotel where we collapsed, damp and knackered and too tired to go out and explore Glasgow for food.
We ate in the hotel - as it turned out it would have been quicker to go out as the service was ridiculously slow - and then beetled back to our room and rolled into our beds like hibernating dormouse at some very early hour.
I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to like Glasgow very much at that point. It was wet and dark and the first impressions had been unfortunate due to the problems we’d had but hey, it was great to catch up with Jill and we’d had a massive welcome from Antje and her wonderful staff which was lovely.
And this was the view from our window - we were staying at the Charing Cross Premier Inn and it had huge windows so even through the rain we could see the cityscape lit up behind the roaring M8 just below us.
Next morning…. it was still raining!! :0)
We had spoken to some fellow ravellers in the hotel the night before who offered to share a taxi with us in the morning so we needed to be up bright and early to “nip” off to Sauchiehall St to stock up on breakfasts/lunches in M&S and be back in time to meet our travel mates in reception.
Now it was daylight I was able to see the wonderful stained glass window that I hadn’t noticed the night before. Isn’t it lovely?
We made the last minute adjustments to the stall and Katie and Jill sorted out stuff for the drumcarding demonstrations they were running over the weekend and also I had a quick chance to get a hug fromAnnecosse who’d come to help Jill for the day before I abandoned them all to go on my knit design course for the day with Amy Singer of Knitty.com.
Amy teaches classes on spinning and knitting and photography all over the UK and USA and if you get the chance to go on one of her classes then I urge you to take it - she is a wonderful teacher and a lovely person and I had the most marvellous day and learned a LOT. I had misgivings the night before; what was I - a pretty novice knitter - doing thinking she could design anything???? It felt so presumptuous and I was worried that maybe I was wasting time and money when I should be helping Katie on her stall and a fair chunk of the course had been a birthday present from Katie and I wanted to get the most out of such a generous present…
I needn’t have worried. If I was more experienced I’m sure I would have gotten even more out of it but as it was I was fine, I learned new things, I met new people and Amy was so patient both with me and with the other ladies on the course - I think we all went away with new ideas in out heads. All the ladies are on Ravelry and I need to find them and friend them! But the one person I did know was TutleyMutley and it was really good to finally meet her as I’ve always missed her at Wonderwool Wales. Terri was going great guns on her design and I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished design as I think she’s planning on having it published and it would be so cool to knit a design I saw from the start!
I hoofed it back to the church at lunchtime and bolted my food and sold a few things to people in the marketplace before scooting back to my class for the afternoon. Most of my photos of the stalls are rubbish so I’m not posting them but here is one of half of Katie’s stall next to Old Maiden Aunt. Behind the shoppers is The Yarn Yard. This was actually after about half of Katie’s stuff had sold so it’s not a very good photo at all but I feel like I should show you something…
Here’s another of Jill demonstrating - hope you don’t mind me posting it Jill :0) Someone made a so-called funny quip about taking photos of Katie doing a demo because she’s “young and pretty” which I find incredibly rude no matter how tongue in cheek it was meant to be so I’m just redressing the balance by posting one of Jill too because Katie and I think she’s very beautiful. And she’s also one of our fave people :0)
In all I think everyone had a pretty good day, Katie and Jill didn’t seem to have lost either their voices or their sanity from a full day of demo’s and best of all the news on the car was good and it had been fixed very easily and Andsewtoknit and her OH very kindly gave us a lift to go pick it up after the show was closed - it was MILES away and we were very grateful to them both for this. Having picked up the car we headed back onto the M8 just in time for all the traffic to come to a standstill as there had been a 5 car pile up. Luckily it didn’t seem to be a bad one despite the 3 fire engines, police, paramedics and traffic control vehicles blue lighting it through the 4 lanes of traffic and it was quickly resolved and it looked as though the folks involved might have got off more lightly than they could have - I hope so anyway.
It was still raining - yup - although after a good day we were determined to go and find interesting food in the city centre. Rural Wales has many many virtues but some things you just can’t get and Japansese food is one of them. I’ve wanted to try Japanese food for a while; my brothers travel a lot and/or live in Asia so I’ve eaten my fair share of Asian food since I was little and I really love it but Japanese is something I haven’t had.
Ichiban did not let us down, I had a wonderful seafood cha-han and even braved the wasabi paste which made Katie give me a “mad fool” eyebrow sneer as I did so but I’m a bit of a chilli-head and despite the fact that the microscopic amount I tasted drilled a hole through my right sinus, ricocheted off the back of my skull and flew out through my right eyeball woohooo! it didn’t stop me from mixing more into my cha-han. I do like heat…. ;0)
Walking around Glasgow at night was just amazing. I started to appreciate just how beautiful the architecture is there - I wished I’d had my camera on me. I took a couple of crappy phone pics which I haven’t managed to upload yet so can’t post here but I’d have been quite happy to stay out longer even in the rain to look at more buildings.
Back in our hotel room Katie crashed out after a truly busy day but I’m a hopeless insomniac and some incredibly giggly noisy girls were in the room behind us and got louder the drunker they got. After about an hour I heard a champagne cork pop and groaned - clearly they weren’t done for the night!!!! After about another half hour there was a terrific crash as one fell off the bed laughing like a hyena on nitrous oxide. Her friend was screeching “are you all right????!!!!” and she was giggling and screeching back that she was fine. Given that the bang on the dividing wall had resounded through my bed I can only conclude she was completely anaesthetised by alcohol. I came very close to storming out onto the landing in my jammies and bashing on their door to tell them to shut the ---- up but luckily tiredness claimed me before I picked a fight. I still can’t believe Katie slept through all that. Oh to sleep the sleep of the just… ;0)
Saturday dawned - still raining - and we had the luxury of getting up a bit later as we now had both breakfast supplies AND a car to get to the MacKintosh church. This time it was Katie’s chance to take a class with Liz Lovick of NorthernLace and I was in charge of her stall and her iPad/iZettle (eep!) but we managed OK and silk seemed to be very popular as Amy Singer was teaching a silk spinning class later in the day. I had a lovely time meeting various people, some of them Ravellers such as WyeSue and getting a chance to talk to some of the Yarn cake helpers and staff such as SadieLou and Walkyouhome as well as their customers and ravelry friends like Handa, WrenMontgomery (thanks for getting me a coffee Wren!! ;0) and Whitehart. Many more people stopped to chat and shop, some I’d met at Woolfest and some I knew from online, after a while I’m afraid faces and conversations start to blur and if you saw me there and I don’t seem to recall you or I didn’t make sense - I’m sorry. It’s not personal!! I don’t have an amazing memory anymore but I do really enjoy meeting fellow spinners and knitters and helping people to choose something new to spin so believe me - I love working on Katie’s stall and having those conversations.
Jill’s daughter GingerPig had come up the night before to help her mum and it was lovely to see her again too but again, so little time to chat.
In the morning the rain became torrential. I knew this because a) people were coming in shaking themselves like wet dogs b) the rain became a lot louder on the skylights above us and c) because the roof just above where I was standing started to leak. Every now and then I’d get hit on the head or ear by a drip but I was lucky - one of our customers got dripped on her cleavage and from the startled shout she gave as it bullseyed, I think it got her right between her tits which when Blink got the MacKintosh Head Honcho to tell him about the leak seemed to amuse him…. ;0)
Luckily in the evening we had the chance to relax and catch up a bit better as there’s a staff/tutors/stallholders meal and I got more of a chance to meet new people and speak - well no, SHOUT actually, at those I’d met earlier. It was probably the noisiest pub I’ve ever been in but it was a great evening and the meal was delicious and both Blink and the staff at the pub had gone to a lot of trouble to check my meal was GF which I was very touched about. I know it doesn’t sound like much of a big deal but it’s no fun eating something your body doesn’t like and I hate putting people to trouble so to not have to worry about it was truly appreciated. Thank you x
I offered to drive us back to the hotel as Katie had worked so hard all weekend and had given me such a wonderful trip to Glasgow it seemed to be the least I could do. Interesting driving through Glasgow - if you’ve never been, it’s a little bonkers to say the least! - but we didn’t have to get on the M8 and we got back safely after chucking out time and crashed out in the hotel and yet again I had another of my insomniac nights although the champagne girls next door were a tad quieter and didn’t seem to be quite as legless as the night before. It was still quite a short night though… ;0)
When we woke up - the sun was shining!!!! Yup, just as we headed off back to Wales. The view from our window was now like this (bit further round)
and we had a bracing walk into the city centre to buy supplies for lunch and I was able to marvel at more buildings in daylight this time such as the fabulous door on this church…
We had a safe and uneventful journey home - was good to be back home. I have lots of great memories to look back on, not only did I have a great time at GSoY, I also had the honour and pleasure of meeting 2 people who’s work I truly respect. The first of course was Amy Singer - I’ve long loved Knitty.com and although I’ve knit hardly any patterns from there I often browse it and look forward to each new edition and it’s probably cost me a small fortune in the Cool Stuff reviews… ;0)
But I also had the chance to meet Deb Robson, one of the authors of The Fleece and Fibre Sourcebook - possibly the ultimate bible of fibre for spinners and despite me coming over all star struck and probably very silly, she was gracious enough to autograph a label for me to stick into my own copy of FFSB which of course I didn’t have with me. I’m only sorry I was too dim to think of more intelligent things to say and that I didn’t get a chance to talk with her again later - a very gracious lady indeed.
I hope it won’t be too long before I can visit Glasgow again - a beautiful city and the people I met there were so welcoming and friendly. If you get the chance to visit then do. You will be in for a pleasant surprise :0)
Massive thanks to Katharne for letting me borrow her words and pictures, she has her very own Ravelry group, which is well worth checking out.
I'm pleased to say the car got us home safely, and has since transported me to the Midlands and back again, anyone who has invited me along to workshops and demos will know that the poor thing gets rather abused, and is usually stuffed to the roof with fibre, and all sorted of other things.
Jill and I had a wonderful time demonstrating, and did a repeat performance this weekend at Stitch Solihull (their blogpost about the weekend can be found here). It was another small scale event, not dis-similar to Glasgow. One of the nice things about shows on this scale is the friendliness, you get time to chat to the ther stall holders, and the tutors and the customers. At the big shows like Woolfest and Wonderwool it's all far too busy, we turn up, chuck stuff out of the vans and cars, set up, spend all day being rushed off our feet, collapse in a heap, get up and do it again before packing up to go home. At both Solihull and Glasgow I had chance to really connect with people, and chance to pass on some skills, as well as learning new things.
I honestly think the UK festival calendar is full, we're not that big a country, and there aren't that many people who work with fibre either as consumers or producers. What I do think there's space for is more of the small events, a little pop-up shop or marketplace, with some classes taught by the great teachers we have here in the UK, connected to an existing community, maybe a shop, or a knitting group/guild. These events work precisely because they're different to the big shows, there isn't the shopping choice, but there's chance to sit down with a cup of tea, a piece of cake and to connect to people. I'd love to see more of them happening.
Firstly, I'll just say I love my customers, partly because they do things like this....
Southdown is meant to be a great wool to use for socks, all the down breeds resist felting, so in theory that also means you can machine wash your socks. Handy, if like me you do minimal laundry and tend to want to put everything in together.
You can buy machine washable wool, it's superwash treated, either by being chemically stripped of the scales that stick together during felting, or by being resin coated. Both require the use of chemicals, and the resin treatment in particular doesn't seem to last forever. I have, eventually, felted socks that were meant to be superwash wool. That's not to say I'm anti superwash, I'm not particularly anti-chemicals in modern life, I particularly love the intense shades I can dye on superwash, the stuff sucks up dye like nothing else. However, a natural alternative that's also machine washable is a pretty cool tool to have at our disposal.
Now like I said, Southdown is machine washable in theory, but I'd never personally put it to the test. Projects to do outweigh available time unfortunately.
Now I won't need to, as sockrat has done it for me.
She knitted 2 swatches in some of my hand dyed Southdown. The colourway was autumn hedges from last year's BoB club. Look closely and you'll notice that one has a little strand of red yarn knitted in to it, this was so she could tell the difference between the two swatches.
Both swatches originally measured 5 inches wide by 3.75 inches tall.
The one with the red yarn was treated delicately, just a cold machine wash. The other one got some abuse, same cold machine wash, but then put straight in a hot dryer.
They had 4 washes/drys, and both swatches did change shape slightly.
Here's the delicate treated one (cold machine wash only)
It's filled out slightly, developed a bit of a halo, but barely altered. It ended up measuring 5 inches wide, and 3.6 inches tall.
Here's the one that was put in a hot dryer while still wet.
It's definitely fuzzier, but it's not exactly a square of felt, it definitely still has identifiable stitches. Finished measurements were 4.5 inches high, and 3.5 inches wide, so slightly more shrinkage than the other swatch, but not by a great deal.
I have to say, we don't really tumble dry anything, it either goes on the washing line outside, or is hung on the airer above the woodburner overnight. Sometimes it takes a combination of the 2, but our tumble dryer hasn't been switched on in a very long time. Having seen this I feel perfectly safe putting my Southdown socks in with all the rest of my washing on a low temperature setting. It seems to work just as well as superwash treated wool. If you do choose to use a tumble dryer I'd be inclined to avoid drying your Southdown socks in it, but if you do accidentally put a pair in with the rest of the washing it's not going to be the end of the world.
Of course, from a dyers perspective hand washing does make the colours last longer, they stay brighter for longer, but if you know you won't handwash your socks then Southdown is a really useful fibre to have in your spinning tool box.
As for how to spin it, Sarah Anderson did another experiment in her Spinners Book of Yarn Design. She spun up several different types of yarns and made them in to pairs of socks, and carried out wear tests. The book itself is well worth buying, Christmas is coming, why not put it on your list...
Traditionally the gold standard for socks is a 3-ply yarn. She compared chain or navajo plying to a regular 3-ply and debunked the myth that navajo plying makes a weaker yarn. So go ahead and navajo ply if you want.
She also experimented with opposing plys, which were better still than 3-ply, and cabled yarns which were also better, for that technique you need to be able to produce fine enough singles to make the right thickness of yarn with 4-plys though...
The chicks are no longer really chicks. The other day as a I let them out I realised that they really are now mini adults. There's still a bit of filling out to do, but they're now in proportion, and have a full set of feathers.
They now sleep with the big chickens in the main house, though usually have to be persuaded to go in each night. Cav in particular is less keen on going in, she's much flightier than the other birds, not helped by the fact that I have no idea how she see's anything. We think she's a she, slightly harder to judge than with the other two as there's no redder comb, but the puff of feathers on her head seems the right shape for a female.
I've not been able to find Cav for most of the day, normally the 3 younger chickens go around together in a group, but all day I've only seen the 2 pekins. Then this afternoon I came across her having a whale of a time.
This is one of our raised vegetable beds.... that pile of soil was formerly on the raised bed.
I don't think Mum will be best pleased when she sees that the path is now buried under a pile of soil! It also gives you a nice sense of how big Cav is, she's much taller than the other chickens, but still a bantam, so pretty tiny in comparison to full size chickens.
Do you see what I mean about the eyes.... they're in there somewhere!
Meanwhile the other 2 were having an afternoon siesta, I actually woke Wiggo up taking this photo! I don't think she was too impressed. I love how she now looks like a walking feather duster!
Wiggo's definitely a girl as well, look how much redder Froome's comb is, Boyo will have some competition next spring for his harem of ladies.
I'm quite looking forward to the results of a Pekin/Polish cross that hairdo, and those feathery legs could be a winning combination in the ridiculous stakes.
Crikey, that was a whirlwind of a weekend.
The UK fibre community is something of a buzz about Yarndale. There's been lots written, some of it in anger and haste, but most people had a wonderful time.
Yes the parking situation wasn't great on Saturday, some of the traffic problems were beyond the control of the organisers, others are things that they need to work on, and I'm confident they will fix them for next year. Mostly because they'd already solved many of the issues by the Sunday.
As a stall holder I'm delighted they had a successful show, my decision about which shows I attend has to be made carefully. HilltopCloud is my full time job, and pays all my bills, I can't afford to be sentimental and go along to each and every show. You might only see me for 2 days at the festival, but in reality at least 4 days either side of the festival is taken up in preparation, and that's before I've made the stock to sell. So in reality the show has to generate a week of income, and if it can't do that then I've not had a good weekend.
It was wonderful to be back in Yorkshire, I spent 10 years living in Sheffield, and returning to that part of the world made my heart ache a little bit. The accent, the hills, the people, it all makes me feel very at home.
After setting up on Friday the campervan was parked at the back of the auction mart carpark, with this view, rather wonderful isn't it?
The show itself is in the auction mart and uses the pens just like Woolfest, in fact the stall dimensions are nearly identical. The auction mart staff had done a great job of cleaning up the pens before we arrived, and the food was of typical auction mart quality, much appreciated by those of us who like a proper cup of tea!
Saturday passed in something of a blur, there were as many people there as I normally see at Woolfest. If you don't like crowds then it would have felt a bit uncomfortable. Sunday was much much quieter, which is the usual pattern for these events. If you like a quieter shopping experience then the second day is the one to plump for, and most stall holders usually have more than enough stock to still give you plenty of choice.
Yarndale marked the start of a busy few weeks for me. On Saturday I'll be at the All Wales Guilds meet up, then the weekend after I'm running a workshop for North Shropshire Guild, then comes Glasgow School of Yarn. Glasgow marks the end of my shows for the year, and it's a lovely smaller scale event to finish off with. They've also got a lovely selection of tutors running some great classes, a few are full, and most are approaching full but there are a few spaces left.
There will be spaces in the Best of British club on offer later this week. I'll be announcing it on the mailing list only. If you're not a member then you can sign up at the bottom of this page.