Wednesday, 9 July 2014

UNWIND BRIGHTON . . . here we come!

This week I am eagerly anticipating my upcoming trip to Unwind Brighton, I have classes booked with Bristol Ivy, Ann Kingstone and Amy Singer and I can't wait! These are just a few of the incredibly talented designers who are all converging on Brighton for what promises to be a stupendous adventure in yarn and knitting! If you're going along to Unwind and you see me stalking all the beautiful yarn in the marketplace or at the Seaside Shindig hosted by the lovely girls from Pom Pom Magazine, do come and say Hi - I'm always thrilled to meet fellow knitters. And while I'm talking about the marketplace (link here to see the full list of amazing vendors) . . it looks fantabulous. I'm going to find it very hard not to come home with a boot full of new yarn . . .

Thinking about Unwind has reminded me about the other knitty trips I have planned this year with The Knitting Hut which is starting to look like a bit of a grand tour:
We start with The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace (19th - 21st September)

swiftly followed by a trip up the M1 to Yarndale in Skipton (27 & 28th September)

a few days respite and then a mega five days at The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace (8th - 12th October)

I may be flagging slightly by then so if you are coming please bring chocolate! Having said that I'm really excited  just to have the opportunity to exhibit at two new shows this year, and I will be bringing along some brand new kits - but more about that very soon!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Festival Fever

It is hard to imagine that this time last week I was in that other world more commonly known as Glastonbury. It was the first time I had been to a festival and I had no idea what to expect. I had A LOT of preconceived ideas about festival life and a fairly comprehensive list of things I was worried about . . .

How would I cope with:
1) the toilets (not well it turned out)
2) dirty hair (absolutely fine with dry shampoo)
3) the weather (awful)
4) the crowds (not a problem)
5) food (fantastic)
6) getting in and out of the site (also not a problem)

I have to say as well as all my concerns I was SO excited from the moment we knew we had tickets and my excitement was off the scale as we walked through Glastonbury to reach our camp. I couldn't believe how huge the site is (seven miles across) and just how much is crammed in.

With a site as huge as Glastonbury has now become, there is almost too much to see and do. I learned fairly early on that you simply can't go to Glastonbury Festival and see everything - it just isn't possible, even though I tried!

The vast Glastonbury site that tested my endurance

Of course, the music was amazing. Glastonbury has become so much more than just a music festival, but with so many huge acts performing there every year now, you can't fail to be overwhelmed by the variety and quality of the music. I must have seen over twenty acts including Kaiser Chiefs, Kodaline, Ellie Goulding, London Grammar, Dolly Parton, Ed Sheeran . . . and the list goes on.

Ellie Goulding

All around 'The Other Stage' there were rows of beautiful flags which I couldn't stop looking at and photographing. The colours were amazing and I'm now thinking about how I can use them in a design. I understand that after Glastonbury the flags will be travelling around to other festivals, so if you're going to a festival this Summer keep your eyes open for them (and watch this space for something special inspired by them in the coming months!)

So many memorable images, but the flags will stay with me for a very long time

Despite the horrendous weather and at some points trying not to cry because I was just so miserable I wouldn't have missed Glastonbury for the world. Unbelievably I came home wanting to go again next year! It was an incredible experience and one I that shared with my eighteen year old son which made it even more memorable and special. Glastonbury 2014 is certainly one huge life experience I will never forget.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Deramores love

A few months ago the lovely folk over at Deramores asked me if I would like to become one of their featured designers and list my patterns on the website. I, of course, jumped at the chance and I was super excited to see them go live on their website this week! Although I sell my patterns independently on my own website, Ravelry and in the shop I knew that being able to sell through Deramores would introduce me to a very much wider audience (plus the Deramores team are all so nice I couldn't resist!)

So I began to get these patterns up to scratch a couple of weeks ago - working on a layout that I was happy with and redesigning the logo. It's actually quite tricky to work out the best way to layout a pattern - as a knitter myself I am really fussy about how the pattern looks and reads. I spent lots of time looking at how other patterns that I like are laid out, and talking to knitters about their expectations and requirements.

The one thing that we all agreed on is that all of the information relating to the pattern should be included on the front page. So as well as yarn and tool requirements, any techniques needed to complete the project will also feature. This ensures that any knitter selecting a pattern from me will have some idea of what it involves and be able to decide whether it's for them or not. I'm sure we've all made the mistake of buying a pattern based on how the finished item looks, only to find out that every row has nupps or bobbles or somesuch thing that you absolutely HATE to knit!

I'm also really keen to add value to these pattern in the form of video tutorials. I am a big fan of Youtube as it's such an amazing resource for us knitters. If I want to learn how to do a Channel Island Cast on, a Latvian Braid, Shadow Wraps or just teach myself a simple technique with the ease of watching somebody else do it - Youtube is always my first stop.

Just 2 of the patterns that are now available to purchase in digital form from Deramores

Luckily for me, my teenage son is studying Film Making and Media and has agreed to help me to film some tutorials. I am working out which techniques are relevant to my patterns and fingers crossed, will find some time to work on these over the summer. As soon as they're available they will appear on Youtube - so watch this space!!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Woolly Moo Day

Our annual Woolly Moo Day got off to a great start on Saturday, with Florence leading the way up the High Street from the shop to the Memorial Hall. She stood just inside the door ready to welcome all the crafters with a smile and a quick chat about classes and cake!

I am so pleased to say that this years event was a great success with the 3 classes all better attended than last year, and most importantly lots of lovely positive feedback from all who came along. There really is nothing so nice as learning a new skill and crafting along with people who all have the same interests - we knitters and crocheters just seem to love the fellowship that this sort of event brings.

We started the day with coffee and homemade cakes (yes, I was VERY busy the day before baking lots of lovely treats!) and then settled into a morning of crafting. Each of the classes brought something different - with Bekky teaching Continental (or 'Funny') Knitting, Phyl teaching crochet and me showing my ladies how to embellish their knitting. I know that my group went away with some new skills and as I looked around the room, there seemed to be a lot of bowed heads and concentrated faces so I'm sure that everyone learned something to add to their crafters toolkit.

Phyl with her class who all look very happy!

My class studiously learning how to embroider onto their knitting

Bekky helping Liz and Jill with their 'funny knitting' and Daimen looks on as the crochet class is in full swing

After the classes we indulged in a delicious lunch (I definitely had something to do with this too!), and then many people carried on with their projects from the morning while we listened to some really informative talks. The Alpaca Boys were incredibly entertaining as usual, telling us all about their alpaca farming and yarn business, Bekky unravelled the mysteries of Ravelry, and Babs gave a very comprehensive talk on the history of knitting.

Daimen loves to talk! He was happy to answer all sorts of questions and help some of the ladies make their purchases

Beautiful yarn from The Alpaca Boys, Du Prem Alpacas

As the afternoon wore on it was time to say a final farewell to the Knitting Hut Chickens, who were raffled off to raise money for Willen Hospice. The flew the coop one by one, well actually two went to a very good home, and we raised a splendid £72.50 for this amazing charity. Thanks to all who purchased tickets and a special thanks to those who now find themselves with chickens to look after . . .

The Knitting Hut Chickens were excited to be flying off to new coops

Our day finished later than expected, and after a quick tidy up of the hall, we wound our way back down the High Street to the shop. Heather had done a marvellous job of womanning the shop while we were enjoying ourselves at the hall and was then greeted by a hoard of knitters eager to indulge in some retail therapy before the day was done. Most of my lovely customers bought my latest book, Knitted Dogs and Puppies and as I signed the last one, I finally sat down - exhausted but super happy that the day had been such a woolly success!

Friday, 6 June 2014

An exciting early delivery!

It is always exciting when one of my books arrives in stock but even more exciting when it's early! Knitted Dogs and Puppies wasn't due in until at least the middle of June but to my immense surprise and enjoyment -  it turned up at the beginning of this week!

It's fabulous to see it in print and I forget all about the many hours spent agonising over designs and editing that go into producing a book. It's also quite a long drawn out process - from my finishing the designs and all the knitting, to actually seeing it in print, is quite a long time and so when I first get my hands on a copy of the book, I get rather excited all over again!

All the dogs and puppies are dotted around the shop and look fabulous sat next to a pile of books. The pre-orders have all been sent out and now I am facing the challenge of getting all the yarns in stock to go with the book, and then beginning to make kits of some of the dogs to go with the book.

As well as my unexpected delivery this week, I've also been working on getting all my patterns sorted out on Ravelry. Some of them needed updating, some needed new photographs and some had never made it onto Ravelry in the first place! Now they are all there, looking great and I have also added a few new free patterns, Summer Bunting, Summer Bunting Egg Cosies and Little Hutty Duck.


It took a whole day just to put on all the projects from the new book, listing yarns and adding pictures but it is so lovely to see them all there and I know it will be useful to anyone buying the book. Also, from my point of view it's really interesting to see which projects have been 'favourited' the most. Cuddle Pup looks like a clear winner so far with 24 favourites. Why don't you have a look and let me know which is your favourite. The top five will be the first yarn kits I put together to accompany the book!

Don't forget you can buy a signed copy of Knitted Dogs and Puppies from my website, RRP £9.99 but £8.99 directly from me!

Friday, 30 May 2014

How the Woolly got it's 'Moo'

How it all started . . .

A few years ago (four when I checked!) I signed up with some friends, to take part in a charity walk to help raise funds for one of our local good causes, Willen HospiceThe Midnight Moo, as this walk is called, is a ten mile walk through Milton Keynes starting at midnight and running through the night - great fun with a group of friends and vital for raising funds for this amazing charity.

Instead of asking for sponsorship I decided to find another way to raise money for the Hospice, and so I started with a knitted cow - of course . . .

Bergere de France very kindly donated black and white wool so that our customers could create knitted and crocheted ‘patches’ to cover the creation of packing tubes, boxes and cardboard I had put together in vague resemblance of a cow. Everyone donated £1 per patch and Florence was born. After a couple of get togethers in the shop to assemble her we made a platform with wheels so that Flo could join us on the walk. She even had a coin slot in the top of her head so that donations could fall into a bucket underneath her udders - unfortunately some missed the bucket and she still has a bit of loose change rattling around inside!

As you can see, Florence rolled along on the walk with us and had a fabulous time. She managed five miles and was then taken to the finish line by a marshal. When I arrived (some time later) she looked mighty pleased with herself and was resplendent in her medal.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the Midnight Moo, but I wanted to do more to raise money for the Hospice and so I also decided to hold a day of mini workshops (including lunch, cake and afternoon tea of course). The Woolly Moo (as it is now fondly called) was such a success that we did it again the following year.

This year again sees us celebrating our Woolly Moo on Saturday June 14th and although I no longer walk the walk we still raise funds for Willen Hospice. Florence enjoys her day out, even though she is getting on a bit and is rather wobbly on her legs - maybe we'll try and give her a bit of tlc and a mini makeover before her big day . . .

If you're free on the 14th June, Flo would love to see you! You can find out all about the workshops, talks, and the first ever Chicken Raffle on the website but do remember that the workshops need to be booked in advance so please call the shop on 01908 586244. Come along and join us for what promises to be a fantastic woolly day!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Love Your Yarn Shop (and Cute Knitted Dogs) Day

Last Saturday saw the very first Love Your Yarn Shop Day - an initiative to encourage knitters to support and patronise their local yarn shops organised by Let's Knit Magazine. As the owner of a small knitting shop I was eager to take part in this national event, and with my latest book Knitted Dogs and Puppies almost ready to hit the shelves (due in June!), I thought I'd combine a sort of Love Your Yarn Shop and Cute Knitted Dogs Day . . .
To help us celebrate I designed a pattern for a Scottie Dog brooch which went down very well. As you can see from the pictures, there were quite a few by the end of the day! Tiny Scottie Dog measures approximately 6cm from nose to tail and is knit using double knitting yarn and as the pattern requires so little yarn it's an excellent stash buster. The collar can be made from any yarn - just find yourself out a little scrap of something brightly coloured and attach a tiny tinkly bell if you have one. He's knit in one piece from the tip of the tail to nose - his legs, head and ‘ears’ are just worked using increases and decreases. I used two 4mm black beads for his eyes but you could embroider the eyes instead. I also embroidered a nose using some of the black yarn.
Jo made hers into a bag charm which looks fab and added a small button as a bell on his collar. You could have lots of fun making these little Scotties into cute individual little characters and then add a safety pin to make it into a brooch as I did or make a whole pack and sit them amongst your stash!
While I was at the shop I dug out some fab black and brown eyelash yarn and made a cairn terrier to match our real dog Hector. When I had finished knitting him he just looked like a blob so I gave him a serious trim and he soon started to look more like a dog - so cute!
Tiny Scottie Dog is now up on Ravelry and is a FREE pattern. I'd love to see how your mini doggies turn out so please post pics of your finished pooches in the Group thread.