Friday, 21 April 2017

Knit New Lanark - bunting, (yarn) bombs and biscuits

If you've visited this blog before, you'll know that New Lanark is one of my favourite places in Scotland.  It has it all - history, gorgeous scenery, a yarn shop, cake...  So when I was asked to be their knitting blogger for World Heritage Day, there's no way I was going to refuse.  There were six sites taking part and celebrations on the day were all planned to fit in with Scotland's themed year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.  This is a great initiative that encourages people to connect to the history of our country and delve a little deeper than a quick glance at a museum exhibit (although you should definitely do that too!)  I already wrote a bit about the Scotland-wide activities that were planned for the day so let's dive right into the good stuff - Knit New Lanark!

My task for the day was to try out all the fun activities on offer and share them with the world on social media, giving everyone a taste of what we were up to at New Lanark.  I arrived bright and (somewhat) early to meet the events team and some lovely ladies that were very eager to start yarnbombing.  Much time was spent admiring the decor already in place outside the visitor centre before we headed inside to start creating, workshopping and eating biscuits.  The stash was mighty impressive...

Our first class of the day was all about spinning.  Bex was our expert instructor and she taught us all about different fibres and how to achieve a variety of thicknesses with the wool.  Then I found myself behind the wheel.  Guys, spinning is hard!  For the first few minutes.  Then suddenly my fingers worked out what they were supposed to be doing and I was gleefully turning fibre into woollen strands.  I'm not sure I'm ready to take up spinning quite yet, but it was a surprisingly therapeutic way to pass the time.

After my brain had exhausted itself with all the learning, I decided to have a quick wander up to my favourite New Lanark spot - the spinning room.  I love that it's possible to see yarn being made right there on site in glorious technicolour., which was the colour they were spinning on Tuesday.  Somehow I resisted a woolly purchase (I can only assume that the six skeins I bought a few weeks ago have briefly curbed my appetite for more) and made my way to the cafe for lunch, where I stuffed myself with delicious veggie pizza and a biscuit-y, coconut-y cake.  Then it was time for our next workshop.

Ann Ross was our teacher this time as we learned how to dye fibres naturally, using plants, berries and rusty nails.  Yup, rust!  The most beautiful colours came from the most unlikely looking sources - a dusky pink was produced from lichen, a rich yellow from eucalyptus leaves - and I was left wanting to conduct some leafy experiments for myself.  Afterwards, there was just time for a final shot of yarn bombing before I had to dash for my train home (I say dash - I strolled across the car park and the free shuttle bus appeared, so my plans to walk to the station were usurped by this guy's timing and my laziness).  Once again, I've been trying my hand at vlogging so there's a video of all my adventures below - apologies in advance for the often shaky camera work, one day I'll learn that my hands are not as steady as I think they are!  Check out the other #ScotlandinSix bloggers to see if they had more fun than us...

If you missed out on all the World Heritage Day fun this time around, never fear!  Dig It! 2017 have launched a Bucket List so you can visit the sites at your own pace and tick them off one by one.  Has anyone been to all of them yet?  My current total is 5 out of 6!  If only boats to St Kilda weren't quite so difficult to come by...  If that wasn't enough excitement, there's another stage to Scotland's Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology launching soon, the tantalisingly titled 'Hidden Gems'...  Keep an eye on the Facebook page for more info and catch up with all things Scottish in the Visit Scotland online community!
post written in collaboration with Dig It! 2017

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

FO - Bobble Shawl

When I started reading knitting blogs, it seemed that every knitter in the world was always making either a shawl or a pair of socks.  In fact, it still seems like that sometimes - my Instagram feed is awash with pictures of beautiful speckled sock yarn and fine lace shawls draped artfully over shoulders.  Obviously, my childish impulse to never do what everyone else is doing kicked in and it took me until fairly recently to cast on my first pair of socks, and I only did that because Tam requested a handmade pair the Christmas before last.  Although I didn't care for the stop-start motion of using double pointed needles, I surprised myself by returning to sock knitting again.  I'm still not convinced that I need a drawer full of Elise-made socks (although Tam might have a different opinion on that) but I like the portable-ness of the projects.

Shawls, though.  I love big, chunky, squishy, cosy scarves, not delicate, lacy works of art on my person.  I was committed to this way of thinking until Helene posted a picture of her latest design on Instagram - a gorgeous, clean looking pattern speckled with bobbles.  Perfection.  I half-jokingly commented that I'd test it if not for the requirement of 4 ply yarn since anything less than DK weight takes me an absolute age to work through.  Helene was happy for me to use any yarn I liked as an experiment, so that's how I ended up with my first shawl knit in chunky yarn.

Pattern - Let's Get Crackin' by Helene Zechner

Yarn - New Lanark Chunky in Slate (375g)

Needles - 6mm

Notes - My mum picked me up a 1000g pack of this yarn at a craft fair for a ridiculously low price and since it's no longer available online, I'm guessing the colourway has been discontinued.   I'd already reserved a certain amount for a future colourwork cardigan so I only had 4 balls to play with for the shawl.  The testing was pretty straightforward - the only changes I made were to skip the I-cord bind off and the last pattern section.

I was a bit worried about whether I'd end up with a big enough shawl when I was in the process of knitting it, but luckily it blocked out splendidly, the only slight flaw being my method of slipping the first stitch of every row.  It's the way I was taught to knit and something I don't think twice about doing, but it didn't occur to me that it would make the neck edge tight when it came to blocking.  At least I know for next time!  And there will be a next time - I already have yarn purchased for a second shawl...

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Buyer's Archive - First Quarter

Back in early 2015, I started a series of posts that I called The Buyer's Archive to document what I was spending on wearable items every month.  I also looked back to the previous year to see how my purchases compared to then, and detailed what had survived and was still being worn, and which pieces had found their way to the charity shop.  I'm not usually much of a list maker but this is an area of life that I find endlessly fascinating - what drives people's shopping habits?  why do they wear what they do?  how do they decide what 'enough' looks like in terms of their wardrobe? - and although I can only document my own purchases, I love that others have joined in with the series in my absence (search for #buyersarchive on social media!)

Since we've suddenly found ourselves in April (I KNOW - this year has seriously ran away with me) I've packaged up my post to include all my purchases from the year so far.  Settle in, because February broke my bank just a bit...  But first, here's what I'm still wearing from last January - March.

The blue and white stripe t-shirt gets pulled out for work around once a week and the white canvas shoes were my absolute favourite thing last summer.  They got worn so much that they're about to have a whirl in the washing machine to see if I can get them back to their original clean selves - cross your fingers for me!

The purple dress didn't get worn to my brother's wedding (it's a long story involving a mysterious stain and a helpful but useless dry cleaner) but I did wear it to two other weddings, one in which the bridesmaids were wearing a near identical style, so that was somewhat embarrassing.

The only items I don't have any more are the navy t-shirt and the vintage floral skirt - both were worn so rarely that it made more sense to set them free on eBay/the charity shop bag.  Me and skirts are having some unintentional time apart right now.

Now on to what I've been shopping for this year...

M&S jersey jumper dress - £7
There's an M&S outlet shop just outside Newcastle.  This is very dangerous knowledge I hold in my hands, since all my underthings, most of my (non Converse) shoes and various other bits of my wardrobe come straight from their aisles.  Luckily, I've mostly convinced myself that it doesn't exist but when my mum came to visit around the new year, I had to take her for a dig around the sales.  This dress was the only purchase made and for good reason - it might be the comfiest thing I own besides pjs.

M&S sports bra - £14
Usual story - bought gym clothes, recurring injury immediately reared its ugly head again, said clothes don't get worn for months.  Sigh.

Ah, February.  The month where all my most worn/favourite items of clothing broke.  Hi-tops?  Acquired one hole too many.  Navy Converse?  Insole wore away too much to fix (like, how?!)  Best black jeans in the whole wide world?  Hole in the most awkward spot ever (Back of the knee.  Again, how?  Also, super awkward place to patch, but I may still try.)  That top I layer with everything?  Hole, plus super faded.  The only two light coloured tees I own?  Mysterious stains.  Most worn pj bottoms?  Ripped for the third and final time.  Luckily, the t-shirts met with some in-wash dye and look great now and the pj fabric can be recycled into something else, but really, how could that many items of clothing fall apart at the same time?  Not all of them needed to be replaced but with work requiring the most casual of attire, all my t-shirts and jeans are in constant rotation.  It was a costly month...

Long Tall Sally long sleeve tops - green £7.50 / grey stripe £9 / white stripe £6
To add to the awkwardness of the wardrobe massacre, being long of limb means I can't just pop to any high street shop and buy replacements that actually fit.  Luckily, I caught the end of LTS's winter sale and bagged myself some pretty tops to layer up with my dresses and short sleeved tees.

Blue stripe scarf via charity shop - £1
I found this on a rail with a bunch of fabric and since there's no label, I'm not even sure it is a scarf, but it's the right shape and style to replace my favourite summer scarf that died last year.  I swear I don't subject my clothes to undue torture, they just keep falling apart on me!

Long Tall Sally legging jeans - £30
These jeans are utter perfection.  High of waist so I'm not constantly pulling them up (seriously, these are the only pair I own that don't slip down as soon as I move, which is not so handy for all the crawling about the floor I do at work.  Disclaimer - I'm not a mad creep, I just have a pretty physical job!) and made in fabric with just the right amount of stretch, I want five more pairs.  I did actually order another pair in black but had to send them back as the fabric was different and did not allow much space for breathing.  Weird.

Vintage denim/check dress via Beyond Retro - £10
I do like a rake around all the vintage stalls whenever I end up in London and this time I found a giant store full of goodies when we were at Brick Lane market.  I was very well behaved and only made one purchase, a 90s-tastic pinafore dress.  Or is it more smock like?  I can't decide, but I like it so much I'm thinking about using it as a template for sewing up another one.

Zegerman sheep t-shirt - £10
Another London market purchase.  As if I was going to leave behind a t-shirt with sheep printed on it.

Converse black hi-tops via Spartoo - £35
Replacing my wrecked Converse with a new pair was a no brainer.  I spend half my week in these shoes year round and they last for years so I need them in my wardrobe!

Converse burgundy trainers via Spartoo - £36
Since these guys were on sale and I'd fancied a more trainer-like pair of shoes for a while, I took a risk and ordered them.  I'm not entirely convinced I love them yet - they're taking forever to break in (mostly because I need at least two weeks to heal my skinned heels each time!) and the style is pretty different from what I'm used to.  Right now I'm torn between wearing them more to mould them to my feet and just suffering the pain, or sticking them on eBay and making a bit of money back.  Thoughts?

Converse black lo-tops via charity shop - £5.99
I know.  Second hand shoes?  Ick.  But how often does one find a pair of almost new Converse, in the right size, in the style that gets worn to death over here?  Not that often.  Possibly my best find of the year.

Regatta rain jacket via charity shop - £2
I was always casually searching for a waterproof summer jacket that I could roll up and stuff in a bag, preferably from the menswear section due to the aforementioned Tall Person Issues.  A charity shop sale rail delivered just what I was looking for, so now I'm ready for the summer showers to come at me (I'm really not.  Please don't rain all summer, Great Britain.)

Handknit chunky sweater via charity shop - £6
In the same shop as the rain jacket was spotted, I found this awesome sweater.  The rational part of my brain kicked in though, and I convinced myself I didn't need yet another knitted thing in my wardrobe.  It took about two hours for me to realise my mistake, by which time the shop was closed, so I sent Tam's auntie on a mission to pick it up for me when it re-opened after the weekend.  Annoyingly, fabby knits always seem to come into my life off season, but it's all ready to be pulled out again this winter.

M&S floral jersey dress via charity shop - £1
I have a bit of a gift where sale rails are concerned.  If there's a hidden gem hanging there, I will find it (and probably buy it).  This dress was seriously marked down because the wrap fastening is a bit torn, but a few minutes with my sewing machine and it'll be wearable again.

Is anyone still here?  This last section is short, I swear.

M&S longer length navy swimsuit - £25
Another semi-essential purchase.  My existing swimsuit really doesn't fit well after being worn to the gym for the past few years and M&S have finally realised that tall ladies exist, so I went off to try on some styles.  This was the only one they had in store in the longer length and my size (or rather, the size up - that secret slimming fabric is tiiiight!) but it's a very Elise style so I'm happy.  Meaning, it's navy and I needed a swimsuit so I bought it.

M&S black and white embroidered bras - £12
Same visit, spotted the sale section, needed a black bra, was excited to find a set in a bigger cup size with pretty straps, purchased them, skipped off into the sunset.

Phew.  No more shopping for me for a while, right?  My t-shirt drawer is stuffed and my summer wardrobe is back in rotation, meaning I'm set for bottoms and dresses for the foreseeable future.  Well done if you stuck with me until the end and don't forget to share your purchases too!

(I noticed when I was linking to products available online that some of the prices are different than what I paid.  The difference in timing seems to have worked in my favour for the most part because I definitely ain't paying nearly £60 for basic hi-tops!)


Thursday, 13 April 2017

A trip to St Abbs Wool Festival and Eyemouth

gunsgreen house eyemouth manor mansion scotland grand harbour boats by the sea seagull

Unusually for us, Tam and I had an actual plan to do actual specific things on Saturday.  The winter was full of good intentions and little execution but spring is when we really commit to following through on plans.  This weekend, it was a trip to the wool festival at St. Abbs which, confusingly, now takes place in Eyemouth.  I guess it outgrew its tiny original location?  Now, if you scroll any further, it'll become clear that I managed to take no pictures of the wool festival itself - I know, very bad blogging skillz - but I did put together a video for you all to enjoy!  I did a bit of editing at my last job and I really miss it, so I wanted to try my hand at filming and (digitally) splicing some clips together just to see what happened.  And guess what?  I rather enjoyed myself.  I've popped the final edit in at the end of this post so feel free to give me some feedback in the comments.

eyemouth statues black friday fishing skyline seaside scotland

eyemouth scotland beach seaside tideline cliffs

st abbs scotland eyemouth cliffs hills shore seaside rocks house on the hill

st abbs harbour from above scottish seaside coastal town boats skyline by the sea

st abbs national trust nature reserve jake rough collie dog scotland day trip sea cliffs

fishing boats harbour eyemouth scotland sea sunny hunting hall wool small business st abbs wool festival 2017

The wool festival turned out to be great fun - there were a few local yarn businesses that I hadn't heard of before and I picked up some gorgeous wool from Hunting Hall.  They had a small but beautiful selection of colours in each weight and I deliberated for ages over a rich mustard shade before defaulting to my usual combination of grey-with-something-slightly-darker.  Honestly, the gorgeous design on the labels had me pulling out my purse before I'd even made my choice - sheep and rabbit buddies!

Afterwards, it was down to the sea front for a walk and a chippy lunch in the sunshine (I can't even describe how much I miss deep fried pizza in England!) then we drove along to St. Abbs to check out the National Trust nature reserve and ogle the pretty harbour.   Jake was loving all the walking, although stopping for chips and watching seabirds were definitely not on his agenda, but I think he had fun being out in the sunshine anyway.  

The wool festival happens twice yearly and entry is a mere £2.  I think it's safe to say we'll be heading back!  Here's hoping the weather treats us just as nicely in November...

Friday, 7 April 2017

Knit New Lanark with #ScotlandinSix

Want to know a guaranteed way to gain my undivided attention?  Start a conversation about something relating to local history or knitting and I'll be hooked.  Simple.  This week, I'm particularly obsessed with outdoor swimming pools of the past and knitting bobbles into everything, but if you'd rather discuss which heritage sites you're visiting on your Easter holidays, I'm all ears.  Actually, I have a suggestion...

Come hang out with me at New Lanark on World Heritage Day!  I'm going to be their official knitting blogger for the day and I'll be joining in with all the fun (and free!) activities they have planned, including yarnbombing and learning about all things dyeing and spinning.  I'm a bit fascinated by the idea that nature can give us a plant and we can use it to make wool change colour.  And then make it into something wearable.  Suddenly it feels like I'm missing a few key skills as a knitter...  There's more info on the events page where you can also register for tickets - please do, because spaces are limited and it's proving pretty popular!  I already wrote about why New Lanark is the perfect place for a visit in case you need any further persuasion - it's one of my favourite places for a day out and I'm so excited to be heading back there.

If you can't make it to lovely New Lanark on the day, there's some other cool stuff going on around the country.  A steampunk festival at the Forth Bridge, a Battle of the Bands in Edinburgh and
a Great Roman Bake Off at the Antonine Wall in Falkirk, to name a few.  I know, that other one has cake, but we have squishy yarn and biscuits!  These fun events are planned by Dig It! 2017 as part of Scotland's themed year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, which aims to share ways that everyone can get involved in digging into our country's history.  Apparently, archaeology is about more than unearthing arrowheads and inspecting fossils using a tiny brush.  Who knew?

In the meantime, come and join the Visit Scotland community, where the chatter is all Scotland, all the time, or head on over to social media and search for the #ScotlandinSix hashtag to join in the conversation and share your favourite heritage sites.  There'll be a blogger at each site on World Heritage Day so keep an eye on the hashtag to see everything as it happens - hope to catch you there!

                                                             post written in collaboration with Dig It! 2017
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