Blanket forts come in all shapes and sizes

And this weekend, mine came in the form of approximately 9 hours (out of 36) driving a car, 5 hrs at a wool festival and 36 hours in the company of some really wonderful women.

My weekend compatriots

We've all had times when we've felt like running away, as fast and as far as our little feet will carry us (in my case, not very fast and, two weeks post-marathon, not very far, but you get the idea). Over the last few weeks I've found myself envisioning just saying fuck it and packing up my kids and my husband and my dog and running off to live in the woods. And come Saturday afternoon when Wonderful Woman #1 and Wonderful Woman #2 showed up at my house to pack into the car and head west to Malvern, Wonderful Woman #3 and Wonderwool Wales*, my sigh of relief was probably heard in Bangkok. I needed to head out, not think about Real Life (TM) and have some down time, preferably with wool and one or two adult beverages of various stripes.

Still life with Lager and SweetGeorgia Superwash DK

Saturday night was spent in an extended SnB, complete with Thai food, prosecco and chocolate with sea salt. There was discussion of knitting and spinning and designing, about various and sundry life things, about whether or not it is possible in an intellectually honest way to be atheist**, about boys and kids and grandkids and the future. All those wonderful wide ranging topics that get covered when you are together with some opinionated, smart people who are willing to discuss and listen.

Which one is Gaga?

Sunday morning we rousted ourselves, managed to produce reasonable coffee with a tea pot and tea strainer, and headed off to Builth Wells for what I think (with apologies to Unravel) is my favorite festival yet. Wonderwool Wales this year was bigger and better then ever, and (by virtue of going on Sunday) relatively uncrowded. I had a wonderful time wandering around, actually buying things on the spur of the moment (8 skeins of Blacker Yarns Jacob DK, I'm looking at you) (and fantasizing about the fantabulous sweater you are going to become), chatting with folks, salivating over fleece and drum carders and all manner of other things. It was blissful. And then we got in the car and headed back to London, talking about designing adn dyeing and collaborations and What The Industry Should Do. I suddenly realised that I was feeling the same way I feel after scientific conferences: inspired and excited and full of ideas and plans and things that must be started immediately! It's a wonderful feeling, one that I've been missing, and it was such a joy to sit there, speeding down the M4, knowing that the three people knitting around me were in the same place.

The haul: ChiaoGoo Twist complete set (because I am weak, weak, weak...), two skeins of BFL/alpaca laceweight from Eden Cottage Yarns, a boat shuttle/pirns from The Threshing Barn, one skein of self-stripin Ullcentrum 2-ply from Midwinter Yarns (who I believe started trading on Saturday. Way to jump in to the deep end guys!), and 8 (!) skeins of DK weight, woolen spun Jacob from Blacker Yarns, slated to become the most glorious cozy warm sweater ever.

So for that, I'd like to thank Allison, Catherine and Dani for listening to me, encouraging me, and inspiring me with all that they do. It was an absolutely phenomenal 36 hours, and I can't wait to do it again.

*There's a lot of wonder in this sentence. My apologies.
** We finally agreed on "Intellectual agnostic, emotional atheist". And giggled. Repeatedly. (That might have been the wine, except we were still giggling the next day).


Today is World Book Day and, as an avid reader, I heartily approve of anything that encourages kids to read and be excited by books. However, in my household, there is very little encouragement needed, as my eldest child would read every single waking minute if she could, and the younger one was up late enough last night reading Tintin comics that I had to collect her early from school because she was so tired.

Last week, Devil got invited to go to a special Book Day event on the Southbank, and she got to choose the character she wanted to portray. Coincidentally enough, she is in the midst of a full on Rick Riordan love fest, that has recently seen her conning her grandfather into buying her a 550 page "early birthday present" by said author which she then finished in less then 24 hours. So naturally, Annabeth Chase was her costume of choice.

Cue clueless Mum: "What does Annabeth wear?"
(insert long suffering eye roll of doom): "Mum...she wears skinny jeans, trainers and a Camp Half Blood t shirt."

long pause

"She also carries a dagger."

I decided (wisely) to leave the dagger part of the costume to those in the family with greater facility with wood and metal (i.e. Dad), and bent my efforts to a Camp Half Blood t shirt.

Step 1: find orange t shirt. No problem - thank you H&M boys section.

Step 2: get Camp Half Blood logo onto shirt.

Now, here's where things get a bit tricky. My drawing skills are pretty minimal, as a number of magazine editors who have reviewed my design proposals will testify. And the logo required is pretty specific. So off to the Great Google I went. Thankfully, with out too much trouble, I was able to discover a lovely Youtube video (complete with link to a print out for the logo) that showed how to make your own Camp Half Blood t shirt in a few easy steps.

Fairly straightforward, right? Get freezer paper, make stencil from print out, iron on to shirt, color in with Sharpie, peel off freezer paper and off you go. Except there's one little problem...Reynolds Freezer Paper is not widely available in the UK. At least not in the time frame we were talking about. So...

I found a couple of websites that insisted you could use plastic carrier bags to replace the waxy layer on the paper, but had no luck whatsoever with that tactic. Things were starting to degenerate into panic (on my part) until I remembered the rolls of contact paper that I'd gotten at the beginning of the school year for covering books. Bingo!
print out, contact paper and greaseproof paper

I covered the logo with the contact paper, and stuck it to the greaseproof paper to keep it all together. Out came the X-acto knife.

Many minutes later, there was a stencil and a t shirt ready to go.

Then I peeled the contact paper/stencil off of the greaseproof paper and stuck it to the shirt. The greaseproof bit went inside the shirt to keep the ink from soaking through.

let the coloring commence!

Devil wanted to help, but eventually lost interest.

We could have cut out the inserts for all the letters, but it was easier to just leave the centers un-inked.

And finally, we were done!

Behold, the fearless and super-tough Annabeth Chase:

She was totally thrilled, I was totally thrilled at how it came out, and she wore it for three days straight (including to the event on Monday). This might be my most popular costume yet. And all it took was a marker...

My weekend unraveled

So, I spent this past weekend ensconced in the sweetgeorgia booth at Unravel at Farnham Maltings. This is my second experience with this particular show, and I enjoyed it just as much this year as last year, although in a very different way.

I've never worked a show booth before, and as someone much more comfortable talking to people via characters on a screen then in real life, I was a little bit apprehensive. But armed with much caffeine (thank you Woking train station),
I ventured forth to vend. Once again, there was strategic and appropriate yarn bombing of the streets of Farnham,
and when I reached the Maltings, there was Alli, in a gorgeously set up and ridiculously colorful sweetgeorgia booth.
There was yarn, there was (absolutely luscious) fiber, there were kits and samples and gorgeous colors everywhere.
This was how the booth looked first thing Saturday morning, including Alli's gorgeous (and just finished!) version of Bear's Rainbow Blanket, done in all 53 semisolid colorways of sweetgeorgia yarn.
Here we are right before the doors opened, ready for customers!
Saturday was madness - nonstop people, nonstop yarn and absolutely fantastic conversations. Despite my concerns about (gasp) having to talk to strangers ZOMGWTFBBQ!!!!, everyone we chatted with was lovely and friendly and enthusiastic and just having such a good time. It was fabulous.

Sunday started off very busy too, and I was a bit worried about how long our stock was going to last.  But after an initial rush, it calmed down a bit, which was good because that meant that I got to finish my Unravel sweater. Finally...
Here it is in all its unblocked glory (although the ends are woven in). Seconds after this photo was taken (at about 2:30 on Sunday afternoon), I headed over to the Textile Garden booth and came away with buttons for (ehem) four sweaters. Including two sets that might work for this one. Stay tuned for a final post-op as soon as I get some ribbon and sew the damn buttons on.

The other exciting thing that we had were the UK exclusive Soakboxes, including a pattern by Boo Knits - the Mimosa Shawl. Which means that now I can share photos of the sample I knitted for the booth.
Mimosa shawl
Mimosa shawl
This is a lovely, fast, fun and straightforward pattern which works up very quickly in SG Merino Silk Fine, a heavy fingering/sportweight yarn. I did mine in Melon, which is a new color for spring, and it's just glorious.
Mimosa shawl
Mimosa shawl
Mimosa shawl
There are a limited number of these Soakboxes available, so keep an eye out at Unwind Brighton this summer if you'd like to snag one. They may also be available at the Purlescence open house coming up in a couple of weeks on 8th March.

Did I get anything at Unravel? Well, I lusted after the SG fiber, but managed to restrain myself. However, we were next to Rachel Coopey's booth and she had a crate full of baa ram ewe Titus on her booth. I finally broke down after the umpteenth time I saw someone pick up the last skein of the Bramley Baths colorway and had a mini-panic attack, thinking to myself "How dare she touch my yarn???!!!" And of course, it needed a friend..
I think these two are going to become Catkin at some point before next winter. But in the immediate future, my two color knitting time is going to be consumed by the Porpoise Fur two color Shawl SAL/KAL - if you're feeling bereft that the Ravellenic Games are over, you should come join us!

Rocking Kitchen Retreat: a stash-enhancement photo essay

So this past weekend, I headed up to West Yorkshire to spend some quality time with fellow knitwear designers at the first ever Rocking Kitchen Retreat, run by Joeli of Joeli's Kitchen, and Ruth of rock+purl. It was a great opportunity to meet a bunch of other UK designers, and swap ideas and tips and stories in a vast house for two days.

Ruth has been teasing us all on Twitter with 140 character hints about what was going to be in the goody bags, and the most recent vast box of yarn that had arrived at her studio. On Friday, we finally got to see the goods, as it were.
All of this yarn was crammed into a not-very-large bag. Along with the shade cards,
(that's not all of them), and a couple of books, and some needles and notions and OMG it was totally wicked!!!!

That was only the beginning. On Saturday, our hostesses pulled out a vast box of other yarn for people to dive into, plus some totally glorious taster skeins that were available for swatching. So, I swatched:

Yarns from Cascade, Lorna's Laces, Blacker Yarns and The Island Wool Company.

This is the final haul I brought home, after all was said and done. I'd like to be able to give you an actual yardage count, but I haven't yet found time to sit down and figure it out - it's gonna be a big number though! It was a fantastic weekend with a great group of people, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for some fellow designers! You can sign up for the Rocking Kitchen newsletter here, and that will keep you in the loop on any future goings on.

Without any further ado, here is the great and grand list of sponsors for the weekend - many thanks to all of them for their generosity and excitement about working with independent designers!
Terri Shea ( 
West Yorkshire Spinners
Kettle Yarn Co
Cashmered UK
Cascade Yarns
Dirty Water Dye Works
Malabrigo Yarn
Artesano Yarns
Wooly Knit
Hiya Hiya
Island Wool Company
Lorna's Laces
Little Giddings Farm
Blacker Yarns
Designer Yarns
TB Ramsden

No more secrets

If you follow me or Allison on Twitter, you might have noticed a very special retweet that popped up on Saturday.

We can now finally reveal The Sooper Sekrit Project we've been alluding to off and on for the past few months. Presenting:

There is some debate about who should take the credit and/or blame for our embarking on organizing this event. Allison swears it was my idea, but that is certainly not how I remember be fair, I don't exactly remember the conversation that took place too specifically (I think it was on the train on the way back from Wales last autumn - I can only claim exhaustion/wool-fume-and-cider-hangover). In any event, six plus months and a lot of research and work onward, and here we are.

On Saturday, the 21st of September, 2013, six intrepid teams will take to the streets (and buses and trains and Tube) of London on a quest to visit four yarn shops over the course of the day (thereby dramatically enhancing their stashes). We are in the process of finalizing the details of the shops and the routes, so stay tuned for more info. You can either check the website, our Facebook page, our Ravelry group or follow us on Twitter as @GLYC. If you are in London, or can get to London, and want to come hang out with a gang of like-minded yarn fanatics for the day, keep your web-ears tuned for further announcements and updates over the next few weeks. We hope to see you in September!