Archive for July, 2009

I ws recently in London over a couple of weeks and had three days off to go yarn hunting.  I managed one yarn shop a day, visiting I Knit, Loop and Prick Your Finger.

I Knit in Waterloo is set in a busy little Street just around the corner from the station.  It’s packed with beautiful and rare yarns, many from these isles and others from further afield.  They cater for serious, knowledgeable knitters, truly a knitters’ paradise, and I stayed for rather a long time.   They stock lots and lots of independent UK dyers like Natural Dye Studio to Habu, Manos del Uruguay, Malabrigo and other more exotic names.  Shop samples abound (beautiful!) and the feeling of the place is busy but not cluttered, lots of natural light and masses of inspiration.  The assistants were helpful and very friendly, dealing twice whilst I was there with people wanting sewing related items and directing them further along the road, without a hint of  ‘here we go again’ irritation.  They obviously knew both their stock and the kind of things that independent knitters look for, not at all phased by odd questions about drape or wpi.  They were also happy to suggest yarn substitutions from their vast stock which might seem overwhelming to a new knitter.  I bought some very green Malabrigo lace yarn and left on a blissful cloud of yarny high.

Out in Bethnal Green (10 minutes walk max from the tube station) is Prick Your Finger.  I have to say I was really disappointed here.

The display was made up of crocheted and knitted lizzards, too clunky for much detail, and very grubby, i.e. plain dirty.  In one corner was a toilet either covered with once white/cream, and now filfthy, knitted … well… covers… or the whole thing was a knitted stuffed toilet.  Complete with toilet roll cover.  I didn’t investigate further.  Very few yarns on a few shallow shelves.  So shallow that the one yarn I picked up – the only one on its own shelf – wouldn’t go back on the shelf and I had to reshape the skein substantially to get it to stay on.

They claim to stock UK independent dyers and spinners but had amazingly little stock: no Natural Dye Studio, no Old Maiden Aunt, none of the more obvious UK small producers.  And Yarn Yard?  HipKnits? Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop?  Nude Ewe?  Nope.  A few balls of BFL and Wensleydale, some Jamieson’s, no sign of enough yarn to make a larger project, although that may have been stored out in the back where they had more of a selection of coned carpet yarns.  It wasn’t clear if these were for sale or not.  One had to ask for some of the yarn prices as they were not necessarily marked.  There were a few skeins of very thick yarn, hand-dyed, very little fingering weight.  In fact, the woman in there said I was the FIRST person ever to have asked for 4ply or fingering weight in the shop… What?????

There was some intriguing nettle yarn, 2 balls, and I asked about that (wanting a yarn trophy from my visit, of course!)  Then came the weirdest thing… the shops assistant said she didn’t know the yardage – what??????? and couldn’t ever know the yardage of any of the other yarns because these were spun by small, independent spinners who didn’t have metres on their equipment.  Huh?????  I explained that it’s really useful to know yardage when one is designing, rather a crucial bit of information, in fact.  She got defensive and said she’d been designing for years and always designed by weight not yardage.  Wha…????? Oh, never mind.  I left after a very short time – there was very little to keep me there, and try as I might, there were no trophies either.  Soooooo sad!

On my last day of yarn hunting I went to Loop in Islington, in Camden Passage off Upper Street.  I’ve been there before and left them ’til last, as my experience with them has always been fantastic.   The premises are light and airy, and CLEAN!!!   After my experience with the previous very grubby shop, the cleanliness of Loop and I Knit are particularly welcome.  Their stock is wonderful and eclectic and they will wind from skeins for you while you wait.  The chap who was working there is an amazing sock knitter and spinner and very friendly.  He’s a mine of information about knitting and spinning and totally enthusiastic.  I spent a l-0-n-g time there again, coming away equally inspired and content with some more beautiful Malabrigo lace weight and other little bits and pieces.  Loop now stock Quince yarns and Wollmeise – only for purchase in person, not online. Their online shop is good too, and keeps me well stocked with all the yarn I can’t possibly need 🙂

It’ll be Loop or I Knit when I next have yarn hunting days in London.

Books to inspire shopping in London:

"Time Out" London’s Best Shops (Shops & Services)

Independent London Store Guide

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Ulmus and hand-dyed yarns

I’ve been thinking about using hand-dyed yarns in shawls, the kind of yarns that have big colour changes, not semi-solids.  The latter look beautiful, always, the former can look garish and clunky, jarring from one colour to another.  This pattern, Ulmus, is one that can take advantage of big colour changes and show off these yarns to their best, by combining them with one solid which holds the whole thing together.  Some of the examples in the gallery are just amazing.  I think I prefer the ones in which the edging is in the darker yarn, whether that’s the multicoloured yarn or the more solid one.

I want to knit one in green.  Green green green.  Several greens.

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I have been reading, just not updating.  and I am so behind on the goal of 52 books this year, I’m not even thinking about it 🙂  I tend to have several books on the go at the same time… a bit like knitting projects.  I also read small amounts of books, technical tomes, so I’ve been in and out of several anatomy books, as I teach from them, and research papers, but they won’t count for the golden 52.  I have read some books from start to finish though, and here they are.

Latest book is Norman Doidge’s ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’, subtitled ‘Stories of personal triumph from the fontiers of brain science’.  This is a collection of clinical experiences and research, which puts paid once and for all to the ideas that used to prevail about brain functioning.  These are 1. that the brain has different areas that perform different functions, and that if an area is damaged that is the end of that function,  and 2. that brain cells cannot be ‘regrown’ or new ones formed, i.e. that neurons in the brain cannot be formed like in other parts of the body.  Both these ‘principles’ – upon which modern western medicine still relies to a greater extent – have actually long been discredited.  Let’s hope modern western medicine catches up soon!

Before that I read ‘Head Trip – A Fantastic Romp Through 24 Hours in the Life of Your Brain’ – an overview of the different states of awareness, conscious or not, throughout the day and night, from different sleep states, lucid dreaming, day dreaming, to zen states and more.  Polularised science and very entertaining.

‘The 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear’ is a delightful novel by Walter Moers, reads like a rather dour German children’s book but very funny on several levels from social commentary to psychoanalysis.  Borrow it rather than buy it – some people hate it, others love it.  There are not many inbetween.

Heinrich Boell’s ‘Irishes Tagebuch’ (Irish Journal) is set in the 60s and evokes so much of the rainy, poorly educated, claustrophobic feeling of some of Ireland, particularly in the West, that it was extremely easy to imagine myself back there.  We holidayed there last summer for a few days and he could have been describing our experiences, although we were 40 years on.  A very weird feeling.  Beautiful language and occasionally hilarious, as in his rant about the stupidity of opening (or rather closing) hours for pubs and how they do nothing but encourage binge drinking. 

Before that another German novel, borrowed from the Edinburgh library… totally forgotten author and title, obviously not that gripping!  Set in Hamburg in the 17th Century, about a phytotherapist / apothecary and collector …  I have, however, started a Terry Pratchett in German, also a weird experience.  I’ll let you know 🙂

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I am, that is… something wheezy in my throat and chest, so have had to cancel clients for today and tomorrow, they wouldn’t appreciate me spluttering over them.  Hopefully I’ll have bounced back to enthousiastic self by Monday. 

The new commuter knitting is based on Anne Hanson’s Cluaranach, a beautiful stole in 4ply.  I’m doing it in a very weird chinese yarn (ebay!!) which appears to be 100% something and 10% something else… (help!), feels and smells like wool.  It’s space dyed in short lengths of autumn reds, greens, gold, and is lovely and clean to knit with.  I’m just doing the Thistle Flower Border for the whole stole/wrap/shawl/very wide scarf, in one piece, as I really don’t want to be grafting and the pattern is good to work.  Interesting AND memorable.  It was ok on the way down to London on Sunday, but on the way back I was already fighting off the lurgy and had to frog two rows.  Hmmm.  Picis when I can be bothered to get out of my comfy chair.

I’m also into Vinyasa by Susan Pandorf, another of my favourite lace designers, Pandosu on Ravelry, (have I already blogged this? Head full of cotton wool) in wonderful Malabrigo lace yarn in dusty pink.  That would be my commuter knitting but I prefer working it on metal lace addis, and I can only get plastic blunt, bendy needles through Gatwick security.   Susan has a real eye for detail and clarity in her designs, and in this one her use of twisted stitches with dropped ladders is very good fun.

Must find honey and lemon…

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