St Abbs Wool Festival

I headed over to the lovely fishing village of St. Abbs for a regular Wool Festival event, which I’ve never managed to get to. St. Abbs is on the North East coast of Scotland just North of Berwick-upon-Tweed, so not too far for me to travel for Lauder. I was looking forward to it, and the sun was shining, and it was beginning to feel a bit like Spring! I’ve just got a new car, with a Sat Nav, after being without a car for a year, and it was quite a novelty to be able to just go somewhere without excessive planning for bus times etc. However, I’ve only been to St. Abbs once before, so this time I was trying out driving to the Sat Nav directions. They were very good, but after encountering some scary bends, and an unexpected single track road, and just not knowing exactly where I was, I felt a little frazzled when I got to St Abbs:

St Abbs Harbour

I was eager to see yarn though, so I dived in and perused the stalls, stopping briefly to say Hello to Janice from Flight Weaving and Laura Brittain, a fantastic felter, I know them both from the Tweed Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, and Lindsay Roberts, The Border Tart, who I’ve mentioned before in this post:

Lindsay Roberts stall

She’s been dyeing yarn with indigo. I haven’t seen anyone doing a just indigo range before, I think she’s been inspired by her trips to India.

Bordertart Indigo yarn

The St Abbs Wool Festival was spread between two close venues, the Ebba Centre and the St Abbs Visitor Centre and it was really busy where I was, and I was still feeling a bit frazzled, so I headed to the other venue. I stopped to take a look at the view of St. Abbs Head, which is looked after by the National Trust for Scotland, and is a popular place for walkers.

St Abbs Head

There was a striking sculpture at the entrance to the Visitors Centre:

St Abbs Bronze1

It marks a fishing disaster in 1881:

bronze label

The distressed women and children are still looking out to sea for the men who will not return – I found it quite moving:

St Abbs Bronze2

There were demonstrations, rather than yarn sales in the Visitors Centre, and more people I knew – Eve Studd from Cornhill Crafts (more about Eve from this post) was showing examples of natural dyes and was making a rug on a peg loom, and Rod from Innerleithen Spinning Wheels was busy getting people to try out spinning on his fabulous wheels. In fact they were so busy, I didn’t get a chance to chat to them.

Some quite detailed wet felting was going on from Anna Turnbull as part of the Woolscape project:

felting a fish

The Visitors Centre were encouraging people to sign up to the project newsletter and April workshops, and knit/crochet/felt fishes and other sea life, like this:

crocheted rockpool

crochet coral and whale

I don’t often get involved in this type of project, but I liked that they were making specific sea life, and had books you could look at for ideas. As I work in a Museum Library, which has lots of natural sciences books, I thought I could get some inspiration there, use up some of my yarn stash odds and ends, and create some undersea flora and fauna. I’ll let you know how I get on, and any more news I hear about the project.

I was feeling in need of a cuppa, and a bit of a respite from the busy festival, but the café in the Ebba Centre was full, so I went and sat in the car and had a snack and a little rest. I wasn’t ready to go back into the hustle and bustle, and I remembered that Louise from Woolfish was having an open house, and had yarn for sale, so I drove back up the hill and felt welcome, and had a lovely time rummaging through the yarn, and was offered a cuppa, and a cheese scone, and I was soon relaxing with a bit of knitting in the comfy conservatory, and chatting to like-minded people. I bought some practical yarn for knitting man’s garments.

Louise used to have a shop on the road into St Abbs, but she is now focusing on her knitting retreats, which sound great; have a look at one of her itineraries. I was chatting to Louise about knitting styles, which I have written a post about, and she showed me her way of knitting Continental style, which she linked to how you hold your yarn to crochet. It made it seem a more feasible prospect the way she showed me, so I reckon her retreats must be very helpful, and would move on your knitting skills quite considerably, while having a relaxing time.

Feeling more relaxed and rejuvenated – the power of tea and knitting! I returned to the Ebba Centre and said Hello to the Wensleydale sheep outside:

Wensleydale Sheep

Sheep sign

The fleece from these sheep is made into lustrous Whistlebare yarn:

Whistlebare yarn

Whistlebare stall

I am making a cardigan from Wensleydale sheep yarn at the moment and it’s a lovely wool to knit with, and gives good stitch definition, with a slight halo and shine.

I was very impressed with the yarn from Yarn Garden, and their innovative garden-themed display.

Yarn Garden

I wish I had taken a close up photo of their yarn. They are a new company from Newcastle; go and check out their scrumptious yarn on their website. They said they were going to be introducing some new base yarns, but they haven’t made it to their website as I write, so keep an eye on it or “like” them on Facebook to get status updates.

I ended off my day buying some Pumpkin colourway yarn from the Border Tart, she is great with colours and blends different colours of fleece before she hand spins it:

Bordertart pumpkin yarn

I remembered there was a great gallery just outside St Abbs, so I thought I’d have a look around before I went home. I liked the view of St Abbs Church from the gallery:

View from Number 4 Gallery

I got tempted in the gallery and bought a beautiful small bowl – it makes me think of shallow rippling waves on the beach.

Pottery bowl

More photos of the St Abbs Wool Festival on the St Abbs Visitor Centre website.


Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2013

This may be a very “gushy” blog post, with multiple instances of “lovely” and “fabulous”; please forgive me, I was overwhelmed by attending the first Edinburgh Yarn Festival on Saturday.

You know how we all sit about and say ” wouldn’t it be lovely if…?” Three women, Jo, Mica and Linda, from my knitting group – Tea Tree Tea Knitters in Edinburgh, finished and fulfilled the wish, “Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a Yarn Festival in Edinburgh, and invite some of the best fibre/knitting people in Scotland and beyond to come along?” It really happened, and I was there.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2013, Drill Hall

It was very busy, right from the start, I heard they’d had 1500 people come through the door. As this was the first festival, we had no idea just how much interest there would be, and it was quite a risk for the organisers.

Maybe it was a little too busy? Look at the queue for the café:

Café Queue

For anyone who is interested in knitting/crochet spinning etc., a Yarn Festival is a pretty exciting event; but for me it was more exciting than usual as I knew the organisers, the volunteers, many of the stall holders, and other knitting friends  were there too. I felt like I was included in a huge family party, and there was yarn there too!

I guess I should introduce you to the family:

Mica from Yarnpony

Mica (Ravelry: lillebrit)  one of the festival organisers, who recently started her own hand dyed yarn business YarnPony. Her lovely yarn:


A very busy stall indeed. Poor Fiona (Ravelry: AuntieFona), Verena (Ravelry: nangijala) and Nicola (Ravelry: nightswimmer),  were quite worn out after selling yarn all day (pictured left to right):

Fiona, Nicola and, helping out on the YarnPony stall

I found Cathy (Ravelry: FunkyOrange), creator of Stitchmastery, and festival sponsor, volunteering on the festival merchandise stand:

Cathy - Stitchmastery

Wearing her newly finished Levenwick cardigan.

Mementos of Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2013

Jane (Ravelry: caleydocious) was selling her Caleydocious patterns, stitchmarkers, and gorgeous teddy bear patterns and kits:

Jane and Bears

Opposite Jane’s stall was Lindsay Roberts (Ravelry: bordertart), who lives in the Borders like me. She trades as the Border Tart, and has recently returned from an artist’s residency in India:

Lindsay Roberts - The Border Tart

Like me, she likes her bright colours, and I always find her goodies hard to resist. Here are her handspun yarns and embellishment kits:

Border Tart handspun yarn    Border Tart Embellishment kits

I was surprised to find Catriona (Ravelry: cat2832) had a stall, and ran her own business – Spin Pretty:

Catriona - Be Inspired Fibres     Spin Pretty

Natalie (Ravelry: theyarnyard) from the Yard Yard in West Lothian was there with her hand dyed yarns and embroidery silks:

Natalie - Yarn Yard

Linda (Ravelry: craftyally), another one of the organisers, was selling her hand made vintage inspired knitting bags.

Linda from Craftyally     Craftyally bags

Mei (Ravelry: magimix) was so busy every time I went to her Be Inspired Fibres stall, I didn’t get a chance to chat to her:

Mei, Be Inspired Fibres

I managed to catch Ysolda (Ravelry: ysolda) later in the afternoon, having a bit of a knit with Becca (Ravelry: bleideag); Sarah (Ravelry: saz), who works with them must have disappeared when she saw me coming with my camera.

Ysolda and Becca

It’s great to see knitted up samples of knitting designers patterns in “real-life”. Ysolda is wearing her Blank Canvas jumper, and here is her bunny and elephant Sophie and Elijah:

Ysolda's Sophie and Elijah

And her hats (left to right), Rose Red, Oxidize, Hendreary and the robot Trinket:

Ysoldas Hat's

Some of the other friends I had chats and cuppas with were Jackie (Ravelry: beshabar), who was on the yarn winding service table, and wearing a lovely soft colourway of the Betty Mouat Cowl, a shorter version of the one I made:

Jackie - Ball Winding

Jo from local crafting group Craft Reactor (she also works with me at the National Museum of Scotland) who was helping turn a cow into a sheep with donated pompoms, knitting and crochet:

Jo and Craft Reactor Sheep

Lovely Liz (Ravelry: Tiffin) and colourful Jenni (Ravelry: Wangaratta1961):

Liz    Jenni

It’s also a good opportunity to get chatting to new people. Amanda (Ravelry: OwlPrintPanda) from OwlPrintPanda, and her friend, Sarah (Ravelry: porcini) of Porcini & Button were very friendly:

Amanda and friend from OwlPrintPanda

and look at their cute fox and badger purses:

Foxy and Badger

Susan Crawford and her husband were lovely, shame the photo I took of them didn’t come out; but here is their stall.

Susan Crawford Vintage

Susan specialises in re-writing vintage knitting patterns for modern knitters. I think she is the best designer doing this, and I really want that book on the right – A Stitch in Time, Vol 2. She has also brought out her own line of vintage inspired yarn, Excelana, which I enjoyed “squidging”. Great to meet a bit of a knitting hero of mine.

Other inspiring stalls were Old Maiden Aunt yarns:

Old Maiden Aunt yarns

Beautiful jewel-like colours, it was a real struggle to elbow my way into that stall.

I never really managed to get a good look at the Skein Queen stall, you can see how busy they are re-stocking here:

Skein Queen

Afterwards, I remembered seeing a cute fox toy behind the stall, it caught my eye as I was struggling to get though a bottle-neck between two stalls. It was the Not-So-Intrepid fox, from the Intrepid Fox pattern; Debbie from Skein Queen said, “he has many adventures throughout the country, so is indeed intrepid after all!”

The other stall caught in the bottleneck was the button stall, Textile Garden, which I think is the best online button shop.

Textile Garden    Textile Garden Buttons

I eventually managed to get my hands on some buttons.

It was  good day for people watching too. I loved this lady in her stripy hat being shown a Scottie Dog cushion on the Strathern Fleece and Fibre stall:

Strathearn Fleece & Fibre

It was interesting to see what knitting patterns you recognised people wearing. There’s Ysolda’s Chickadee on the right, and can anyone recognise that striped shawl in the middle? – (Shawl has been identified by the owner, see comments below, Daybreak by Stephen West)

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2013, Café and Drill Hall

I did partake in a bit of retail therapy – it was impossible to resist:

My Stash from Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2013

Gorgeous glowing green 50% merino/silk 4 ply from Old Maiden Aunt, so soft and squidgy. Sophie project bag from Ysolda. An Inspired by India goodie bag of Indian fabrics and trimmings from the Border Tart:

Indian Inspiration

Snake buttons from Textile Garden, and skull stitch marker from Spin Pretty:

Snake Buttons

Golden yellow yarn from YarnPony to combine with violet yarn, previously bought from the Yarn Yard, to make some colourwork socks, based on this Spilly Jane mittens pattern – Mystery and Manners.

Yarn Pony Yellow and Yarn Yarn Violet

There were many other people I enjoyed spending time with on the day, including – Laura, Alison, Kersti, Emma, Naomi, Rachel, Janet, Margaret, Laura, Louisa, Imogene, Kristen, Michele, Muriel. How lucky I am to be surrounded by such a creative and supportive community. It was a very inspiring and joyous day.


November has been renamed Wovember by friends, Kate Davies (Needled blog) and Felicity Ford (The Domestic Soundscape), to highlight and promote the use of wool. Kate was incensed when trying to buy wool clothing that manufacturers were labelling garments as wool, when they have less than 50% actual wool content, and in some cases no wool at all! Obviously this labelling is very misleading to consumers; but also it is a misuse of the kudos of wool, to use its woolly, natural and warm properties to sell their non-wool products. They have set up a website, and a petition to protest against this mislabelling, and throughout November have been promoting this issue, and have named and shamed some major retailers. There are lots of informative and interesting articles on the site: about Rare sheep breeds, farming sheep, and wool yarn production. I particularly enjoyed the interview with vintage knitwear expert, Susan Crawford (A Stitch in Time) about the development of her wool yarn Excellana.

I was chatting to my little felty friend Neeva about this, and she was quite affronted that retailers were misrepresenting wool with synthetic fibres, and she wanted to add her support to the campaign. So I met up with the Felty Folk by some sheep so I could photograph them showing their support for the Wovember campaign for the Wovember Gallery:

The Felty Folk are 100% wool

The Felty Folk are 100% wool with just a bit of magic thrown on top.

While I was taking the photo I kept hearing a scrunching noise, and thought I was hearing someone walking along a gravel path. Until this sheep came into the shot:

The Felty Folk are 100% wool

and I realised it was the noise of the sheep munching the stalks left from the vegetable crop:

Sheep and veg stalks

It must be crunchy like celery!

I have an added difficulty with sheep and wool, because I’m vegetarian. I love animals, and love seeing them in our countryside, but ultimately I know they are going to be someone’s dinner, so I feel a little sad. I know that most of the wool from sheep on our farms is thrown away or burned, which seems an awful waste, and I think if you are going to make use of animals for food, you shouldn’t be wasteful with the life taken. Even with sheep especially bred and farmed for wool, I expect at some point they will be past their usefulness and slaughtered; this is something I should know more about. Having lived in rural communities for quite a while I am also aware of the extremely low price the farmers get for a sheep, and that fleece is destroyed because there is no market for it, and that the farming of animals shapes the way our countryside looks. In my ideal world, we would keep sheep, we would enjoy them and use their sustainable fibre – wool to clothe us, then when they die of natural causes we could eat them; but I probably wouldn’t want to eat them, even then, so I would be wasteful. It’s a tricky one.


Glasgow School of Yarn

I’ve had such a busy week it has delayed my blog post. This was mainly due to my usual M.E. post-activity crash, but I’m feeling a bit better now, and thought I’d tell you what I’ve been up to.

Back in August, the lovely yarn shop, The Yarn Cake, announced an yarn-based event with a market-place, workshops and a design competition to be held in the Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed church at Queens Cross, Glasgow. I was excited about the event, and even more excited about the competition which was to design and knit or crochet something inspired by the life or work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I’m quite a fan of the “Mackintosh style” and immediately had a couple of ideas. I thought of a chunky kimono style jacket in black with coloured square inserts; this was inspired by the hall doors I have seen in The Hill House, Helensburgh. The other idea I had, which I settled on in the end, was to re-work a design I had created for a garden sculpture I carved in stone, based on a Mackintosh textile design, called Stylised Tulips:

Stylised Tulips

I had adapted this design to fit a column shape for the carving, and thought the shape I created would work well as long wristwarmers. This was my design for the stone carving:

My Tulip design

and this was the completed carving in situ:

Mackintosh stone

I realised it would be impossible to recreate the various layers in the carving in knitting, but I could still use different stitches patterns to create a textural effect and delineate the shapes.

I wanted the tulip bud shape to sit on the knuckles towards the thumb, and realised that the design would not stretch around to the palm and underarm, and decided to extend the design so the sinuous asymmetric shapes wrapped all the way around the wristwarmers. I did a basic outline drawing of the design, scanned it, and made it a layer under a grid I created to the size I required in Adobe Illustrator. I coloured in the grid, using the drawing as a guide, to help me see the different shapes clearly, and how they worked reduced down to grid squares, and to help differentiate the stitch patterns. I then worked from the coloured grid to create the knitting charts in Microsoft Excel using a knitting symbol font, as I test knitted sections of the wristwarmers. It took a good few test swatches to get the tulip bud section to work, and the rest of the wristwarmers developed from there; I also wrote out the pattern instructions as I knitted. I finally had one wristwarmer completed, and as it was getting close to the competition deadline, I took photos of it (thanks to my model Amanda):

Tulips for Margaret wristwarmers

Tulips for Margaret wristwarmers

I had to create separate charts for the left and right hand, as they were mirror images of each other. I managed to flip the charts over in Photoshop, but some of the knitting symbols had to be changed to make the pattern work, which was a bit fiddly. Knitting the left wristwarmer gave me the opportunity to test knit the pattern, but also meant I noticed any mistakes in the charts, and had to tweak the charts as I went along. This was a pain, but I wanted other people to be able to recreate the knitting as I had intended, so it was essential to get it right. It all got very stressful when I found a major discrepancy in the final chart on the day before the deadline; and I decided to cut the top off the right hand I had already knitted and photographed, so I could reknit it.  I then knitted both sides in tandem to ensure the pattern and resulting garment matched.

Tulips for Margaret wristwarmers

I got them all finished in time, with a big sigh of relief. I’ve attempted to write patterns before, but due to my brain fogging moments of M.E. they have not been completed. Actually getting to the end of a pattern design feels like a major achievement. It also gives me a greater appreciation of the level of skills, focus, determination, and time it takes to write a knitting pattern.

The yarn I chose was Crannog from local dyer Natalie – The Yarn Yard, I had used this for a shawl before, and knew it would be very soft and stretchy and ideal for this pattern. She had created a beautiful colourway called Adore, which reminded me of the hand made stained glass I had seen in Mackintosh’s Hill House. I called the design Tulips for Margaret, as if the wristwarmers were to be worn by Mackintosh’s wife and fellow designer, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. The Tulips for Margaret  pattern is now for sale via Ravelry.

I visited Glasgow School of Yarn on the first day, and was delighted to see my wristwarmers displayed on a Mackintosh style chair and in the surroundings of the Mackintosh church:

Glasgow School of Yarn competition entries - Tulips for Margaret

Along with the other entries in the competition:

Glasgow School of Yarn competition entries

It was exciting, but a little daunting. My favorite was the black handbag with the stained glass effect rose design.

I was pleased to find a knitting friend from Edinburgh had arrived, so I had good company to stroll around the marketplace and ooh and aah over the fabulous hand dyed yarns from local independent dyers:

Abstract Cat Crafts (www.abstractcat.co.uk)

Colorimetry (www.etsy.com/shop/colorimetry)

Old Maiden Aunt (www.oldmaidenaunt.com)

Ripples Crafts (www.ripplescrafts.com)

Skein Queen (www.skeinqueen.co.uk)

The Yarn Yard (www.theyarnyard.co.uk)

I needed a rest after the retail therapy, and it was lovely to sit in the pews of the church with a cuppa and some homemade cake, taking in the Mackintosh features:

Mackintosh window

Mackintosh door light

In the afternoon, I had a workshop with Amy Singer, editor of the online knitting magazine – knitty.com, about getting patterns published in her magazine. It was full of useful tips and common-sense, and we also had the opportunity for Amy to peruse and critique our knitting designs. She was very gentle and encouraging, and I came away feeling positive about successfully completing  the knitting designs I had on the back burner, and submitting some to her magazine.

Two more friends had arrived in the afternoon, and some of them stayed on for the evening party when they were announcing the competition winners. They moved the competition entries to the main stage of the church:

Glasgow School of Yarn competition announcement of winners

This is the prizes table along with some of the entries, mine there too – exciting!

Glasgow School of Yarn competition prizes

However, so near and so far, my design was specially commended, along with a sock design, and I was delighted with that, but no prizes for me.

3rd prize was a “The Mack” a felted knitting needle case with a striking graphic Mackintosh design on the back by JustKnit Designs. Here is the prize presented by Antje from The Yarn Cake:

Glasgow School of Yarn competition 3rd prizewinner

It was very dark and I did not get photos of the other winners.

2nd prize was the Glasgow Rose shawl by Lucy.

and 1st prize was two entries by the same designer, the Beloved Rose beret and matching felted Beloved Rose bag by Amanda.

It was a really fun day, and thanks to The Yarn Cake for putting on a stimulating competition and inspiring workshops, and giving us the opportunity to get together in praise of yarn.

Here are some more pictures of the event on Spritlyknitter’s blog, and Amanda’s blog.