Sunday, October 16, 2016

Iceland Is Cool!

So Iceland is pretty cold, but it's also really cool. Took a group of 20 students for a four-day tour of the country several weeks ago and learned a few things on from our guides that impressed me. By the way, did you see the politician giving a speech before Parliament while breastfeeding? We stood in front of and behind that parliament building where there was zero security as it's not needed. Although there are protests, they are peaceful... except for the racket. They bang on pots and pans. Our guide carries a wooden spoon around in his backpack in case he happens upon a protest and wants to join in. We also learned about Össur Kristinsson whose company Össur produces prosthetics... you know, those blades that the Paralympians wear? Almost all from that company. Very progressive country when it comes to the rights of women and workers and there's an extremely low unemployment rate (thanks in large part to tourism).

Besides the natural beauty, there was some wonderful wool as well. With 20 kids in tow, didn't really have much time to do wool shopping
. Some that I did see was a bit scratchy, but to be fair, I only handled a couple of skeins in one shop. 

One of my favorite finds was a mitten that keeps your hand from getting cold when drinking a cold beverage outside. I so wanted this pattern, but couldn't find it for sale anywhere. Found the mittens, but didn't want to buy them already finished, so checked out Ravelry where I found a free download... might need to give it a try.

It wasn't until the airport that I finally had a minute to pick up a skein. Hespa seemed like the yarn of choice at Keflavík International. Not sure I can find a website to show the product as Icelandic businesses often seem to rely on Facebook as their official form of communication. Possibly this is the company website, but not entirely sure. If I ever go back to visit without students, I would love to visit where they make this plant-dyed yarn. The colors are absolutely beautiful. Would love to see more selection as well. Here on the right is the one lonely ball of yarn that I purchased in Iceland. Not sure what it will become, but loved the vibrant color.

If you're planning a trip, I highly recommend Iceland. We went when the weather was amazing, but have heard that it can be windy, wet and bitterly cold, so make sure to pack the wooly sweaters you've made and some knitting needles in case your need to whip up another hat or scarf to keep you warm.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

London's Stitching & Knitting Show

My in-laws visited London recently and it just so happened that the Stitching and Knitting Show coincided with their visit. My mother-in-law is an avid quilter, knitter and cross-stitcher, so I figured she'd enjoy the show. I hadn't been in several years because it seems I can't resist temptation. In previous years I'd go thinking, "I'll just look," but I always came home with bags of yarn that I loved but had no immediate plans for (and we all know what that means... it sits in a bag in the closet for years, untouched). I have spent the last five years avoiding Ally Pally, trying to work through my stash instead of adding to it. As Grandma DeeDee is rarely in town, I decided to take her and I braced myself for the spending spree to come. 

Held once again at Alexander Palace, the show was an old familiar friend. Not much has changed since I last attended. There were still row upon row of vendors selling everything imaginable from quilting squares, notions and buttons, to knitting needles, patterns and sewing machines worth more than a small car. There were still the three-foot-high piles of bagged wool on the floor at the massive Black Sheep Wools stall. Women (and a few men to be fair) waded and pawed through to find deals on the yarns they love: Rowan, Debbie Bliss, Sublime, Louisa Harding, Noro (which I bought) and more. Then there were the galleries with the really amazing "artsy" museum pieces (a few pix below). And finally, the workshops, fashion shows, etc. All very familiar.


I love the color at this show. The whole thing is a bit sensory overload. Found these pieces in the Gallery area and took photos just to remember the color combinations, which I loved.

Also love looking through the quilting squares (Liberty fabric or colorful batik prints are my favorites), often organized by color scheme or ROYGBIV. Then there were the balls of yarn spilling out of half-price bins or bagged up in stunning combinations of color and coupled with a fair isle pattern. Funny what the eye is drawn to and how different it can be from one person to the next. I love the combinations above, but sometimes found myself questioning others. Funny how we can be drawn to such different things.


Took photos of the needlework on these two cuties... the shading, which my horrible, rushed photos don't show well, was absolutely incredible. It was like the shading you do on an oil painting but done with thread. 

I suppose like anything, there's a huge difference between the average Joe who does some knitting and needlework, and the artists who did these. Part of me would love to be snarky about some of the tacky, kitschy stuff that people make or sell, especially after seeing what real "art" looks like, but I suppose the point of handwork isn't always the artistry of the end product, but the simple act of creation. Sometimes the function of a piece is more important than how unique or special it is. Sometimes the point is in the doing and the learning, not in the beauty of the finished piece. 

Just yesterday I was trying to explain that to a friend who was given some lovely yarn years ago that she doesn't know what to do with because she doesn't really knit. She brought the wool and a foot of a scarf on needles into work to show me. She hadn't touched the scarf for many years. It was riddled with holes from dropped stitches toward its start, but the knitting smoothed as the piece neared the needle. She doesn't have a burning desire to knit. It just doesn't seem interesting to her, but I encouraged her to give it another try, to continue for a while longer on the scarf and once she remembered what to do and the stitches once again smoothed, we could frog this mess and start again. I remember back to my first end products. So proud of them, even though they were a mess. And I WORE them! I didn't care what they looked like; I was proud that I had created something. 

These shows remind me that we're all in different places in our knitting or quilting or crafting lives. The final product doesn't have to hang in a glassed frame on the wall to make it worth doing. It was incredible to see so many people finding joy from the act of creation (or at least from the act of buying the materials to create). 

Hoping my mother-in-law enjoyed her visit to Ally Pally. We both left with a couple of bags. Tried to leave only with yarn I had a plan for... wish me luck getting through these new projects. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Making Progress on a Hectic Rainy London Day

Crazy thing about London... rain is what it's known for, but even then, I can't say that constant downpours all day long is the norm. London rain tends to strike and then blue sky peaks out or the sun makes the clouds that remain look spectacular. Don't get me wrong, it can definitely happen. Cloudy days week after week aren't uncommon. But we don't often have downpours all day long. But today, a day I had many errands to run because we're heading to the States for summer break, was just one of those days where the sky dumped over and over again. Had a paper bag from UNIQLO that turned into mush, and while walking under an umbrella! Okay, there were driving winds and rain in sheets, but still! Luckily I noticed before I'd lost my purchase on Oxford Street.

These crazy rainy days are good for knitting. No reason to do much else (unless you need to be out), so once errands were done, I headed home and got the knitting out. Loving this pattern, loving the Rowan Cocoon, and loving getting back into knitting.

Will take the chance that I can get my knitting needles on the plane. It's always hit or miss. Don't know if I ever wrote about the time my needles were confiscated in Switzerland... after my initial outrage, I was sort of resigned to the fact that they threw my needles away, although they were terribly expensive (what was I thinking?). Just cooling down, waiting to board, I looked over and another passenger had her needles out (very similar to those that I'd just lost), and was happily knitting. So wanted to go say something, but couldn't do that to a fellow knitter. Hopefully that Karma has helped me keep my needles since.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Grays Have It!

School's out for summer and I finally found the time to get down to John Lewis to look at their grays or greys (depending on from where you hail). OMG... gray is almost as bad as blues when it comes to finding just the right shade. You know those navy shoes that don't match that navy dress which doesn't match the navy purse although all under the name "navy." That was part of the problem on my little quest for grays yesterday. The other problem--the weight. Found a couple very good shades, but the weight didn't work.

Went with the Rowan Cocoon in Scree, Shale & Mountain. Would have preferred using the darker two shades along with black, but Cocoon doesn't come in black. My impatience got the better of me so I just went ahead. Hopefully won't be disappointed.

Off to get a start.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What's Up, Doc?!

Just got back from my shoulder scan and I'm healing! Such great news. Told me to get back on the anti-inflammatories as there's still some swelling, but he said the ligament is at least starting to look like a ligament, which makes me very happy. He still reiterated that my shoulder was VERY bad (the third worst he's ever operated on), so I shouldn't be too impatient. But of course, I'm impatient.

Didn't order wool online. Just can't make a decision on grays without looking at them. Will be heading to the yarn shop this weekend.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Contemplating Getting Back in the Game

So I've been gone awhile. The shoulder never did get better so after five years of struggle and pain, two shots of cortisone and hours and hours of physio, I finally went under the knife in March. Great doctor here in London and I'm optimistic that I'll be back doing everything (including swimming) soon. Has taken longer than normal because when the doctor got in there, he said it was much worse than he'd expected. "Not the worst I've worked on, but the third worst," were his exact words. He also said the ligament, which is meant to look like leather looked more like cotton wool. "I couldn't have stitched it up if I'd wanted to. You just have to give it time to heal." So I've been giving it time. Go in for another scan this coming week to see if all is well.

I will likely wait to knit until the verdict is in, but I'm itching to knit something I saw the character of Claire Fraser wear in the television show Outlander. It's a simple pattern, so I thought it might be a good starting project. Ravelry has a few free downloadable pattern, so I've chosen one and will likely order wool today.

Claire wears the shawl in different ways, which I really love. In the photo on the right, she seems to cross it over and hook it in the back. Looks cozy and like it might be nice for those evenings at the lake when it cools off once the sun goes down.  I'm going to go with two pretty dark grays and black even though I've noticed many who have knitted this pattern have gone with some color. What I love about this is the subtle differences in the colors, so I don't want to lose that. So many lines of wool seem to have just two grays... dark and light, so the challenge will be to find more variation. Off to do some online research and wool shopping. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Is Knitting Ruining My Shoulder?

Two years of on and off physiotherapy, loads of anti-inflammatories, an MRI and a sonogram, topped off with a painful shot of cortisone, which the doctor doesn't seem to be too optimistic about. Looks like I may be on my way to surgery on my right shoulder. The burning of the bursitis which keeps me up nights always seems worse when I've done a lot of knitting and now I'm beginning to wonder if I need to re-assess the way I knit. I've traditionally been an English knitter and find that my stitches this way are almost machine-like and I'm fairly fast. I know how to knit the Continental style, but I never feel I have the control of the yarn in the same way and my stitches are looser and less uniform. At this point, although it's meant to be faster and should be, I'm still not comfortable enough to make it the faster, better choice. My shoulder, however, may make the switch necessary as that repetitive motion of throwing the yarn around the needle causes me pain.

Currently on the needles: a baby gift for a couple at work who had their first child, a baby girl. I had some leftover pink cotton yarn, so I'm going with the stereotypical color choice here. The pattern is "Demne" by Annie Cholewa. I've never really used the provisional cast-on before so needed to learn that. I'm knitting all these sections and I'm still not clear how it's all fitting together. I'm sure it will all become clear soon.

Thinking about knitting scarves for all my kids' teachers (like 16 of them) for Christmas. I've finished two and have another almost finished. I'm thinking these might be good to practice my Continental stitching on.