I have finally managed to catch a few moments to tell you about the weekend. As you know, I went to help my friend Sue Stratford on her stand over the weekend at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show. I normally go to the one at Alexandra Palace as a punter, but I am going through my work experience phase of trying to get some understanding of what it takes to make the shows successful, just in case I get a bit braver and contemplate doing a show myself.
Sue is brilliant on all sorts of levels. She is a super talented pattern designer, mostly known for her books on novelty knits. She is very modest and down-to-earth, really approachable, and has a wonderful relationship with the people who buy her books and kits. And just on a personal level it is a pleasure to spend time in her company.
The show was great. I love Harrogate because I am a massive fan of Betty’s tearooms (well, I am a massive fan of tea and cake…), and so it wasn’t too hard to volunteer to help Sue out when she realised she was going to be on her own over the weekend. The days started gently but soon got busier, and it was really interesting to see what things people were drawn to and what questions they asked. Sue was selling her new book (A Bird in the Hand) and the yarn kits to make the patterns, along with some of her other books and kits. We got a lot of positive comments about how fantastic the stall looked, and we did well. I was treated to a fish and chip supper in front of the telly on Saturday night, where we knitted and watched daft telly until it was time for bed. Sue was knitting Christmas presents and I was working on a pair of socks which will be a present for someone when I get them done. The next morning we got up and had a decadent breakfast at Betty’s before getting stuck into a busy Sunday.
On the drive home we talked about Sue’s blog, and she gave me lots of good advice and ideas about how to develop what I do. It has made me rethink my plans for knackeredpsycho. I think I had just planned to keep on doing patterns on Ravelry, and to maybe do a book or something in future, and perhaps look at workshops at some point. But I saw all of that as a long way off in the future. Sue’s advice has given me more ideas and a bit more confidence to be bolder sooner. This has come at a good time because the shieldmaiden shawl pattern has proved to be really popular, and there has been a lot of activity on my Rav page as a result. I am starting to think that maybe I could be a bit bolder. I just need to set some goals for myself, and work towards them instead of bumbling my way through this thing. So am I thinking about doing a one day show next year, putting some of Sue’s advice into practice. So over Christmas I will go into planning mode for this. There is a lot of work to do between now and the show I have in mind, but I think I might just be able to do it.
One of the best things about becoming a yarn-head is the community (or cult) you become part of. Yarn connects us all, but as I have connected with more people it is their biographies that are so interesting. So many yarn folk are managing stressful personal situations or chronic illness. All of them have big hearts and keep an eye on others more than themselves. They are crazy. Many (if not most) are tattooed and / or pierced. Every one has an eccentric side. Every one is incredibly vulnerable.
This is probably true of everyone, but I don’t make this level of connection with other people. Other people are more guarded or care more about maintaining a particular impression. Yarn folk aren’t scared to be judged, it seems. They open up, and they wrap others in love. In my other world or work people are bruised, insecure and defensive. They don’t let others in easily. They are judgmental, and often a tiny bit paranoid.
You all know I get wound up by work. We all do in different ways but I don’t always manage stress in the ways that proper people who do my job are supposed to – I swear in my office, get sad, beat myself up over trivia and convince myself I shouldn’t be doing what I do. I always assumed I was good at concealing this from others though. Last week, however, a random yarn friend, someone who only knows me from my Facebook posts about yarn, messaged me out of the blue. It was just a single line email to tell me something positive about how they saw me. That was it. Apparently I needed to know, and she wasn’t wrong. But how she knew that in that moment I needed that little injection of happy, I just don’t know.
Today, I opened the first packages in two different advent yarn boxes I received in the post. One I expected, the other I had no memory of ordering. I was confused but assumed that in a moment of tiredness and weakness I must have ordered it and forgotten about it. I hadn’t, it was an unsolicited gift from another yarn friend.
People with the highest mountains to climb and the broadest shoulders have the biggest hearts. Thank you both.
So, those of you following my exploits know that I have fallen in love with brioche knitting. On Wednesday night I sat up late and worked away on my I-cord bind off and finally finished my briochexplosion wrap. I loved making it, and as ever I popped a photo up on my instagram feed. I then collapsed into bed and slept the sleep of the smug knitter who has finished a much loved WIP.
In the morning I woke up and looked at my phone. I have never had so many likes for one of my projects as I have had for this wrap. It has really taken me back. The yarns I used were by Lollipop Guild Yarns and Dye Candy, and they really complemented each other. I wanted to go with a denim colour as my neutral tone because I wear jeans so much, and because to my eye denim goes with everything really. Apparently other folk liked it too. A lot.
Anyway, I got to wear it to work on Thursday, like a comfort blanket. And like a comfort blanket it did help me through a particularly stressful day when I had to be a proper grown up and try to do things that I really didn’t want to do. But armed with my cloak of awesomeness I found that I could do anything. It must never leave my side!
You have probably already seen this on my Instagram feed, but my latest shawl has been up on Ravelry for a couple of weeks now and it is called the Shieldmaiden. This is mainly because the shape of the shawl reminded me of a shield and then Sam dyed up two amazing colourways – one in icy white and blues and another in different shades of rust and copper. They both work well, but the yarn shown here is some Three Violet Buttons high twist sock yarn, which I used for the prototype. Because the shawl is textured, it works well in a plain yarn, but because of the lace elements it also looks really striking in stronger coloured, variegated yarns.
The feedback on the pattern so far has been great – apparently the instructions are pretty easy to follow and it looks to be a firm favourite for Christmas makes already. I am so pleased with all this. I love this shawl and I am so pleased so many other people love it too!
So on Saturday I went to Festiwool for the first time, and I was giving Sam a hand on the Unbelievawool stand. I really enjoyed being on the other side of a yarn stall, and there was really fantastic atmosphere in the room, and it was a great day even though it rained or drizzled all day outside. I met up with Sam the night before, and while I was waiting for her to arrive at the hotel I decided to sit and knit with a cup of tea to pass the time. The waiting staff clearly thought I was some sort of mad, yarn-based bag lady, so I tried to keep my head down and tuck myself away. Then Verity from Truly Hooked came over to admire my brioche wrap that I was working on. A little bit of my brain exploded with excitement, because at the end of the day I am still a yarnie who is more than a little bit awestruck by the yarn goddesses. Except for Sam of course. She is normal, although I am scared of her for other reasons 😉
Anyway, I really enjoyed chatting to everyone and talking about projects etc with the people who came by. One of my Thank You shawls was snaffled to feature in the fashion show, so that was just brilliant and I felt very honoured. I was also massively honoured to meet one of the yarn clubbers, who was also exhibiting as she creates amazing things with felt and was on the stand next to ours. She was such a lovely lady, and I was really touched to have her as one of our gang of shawl makers. In fact she had some of my shawls on her stand for sale so that was really exciting to see – somehow it made all this feel a bit more real and less like a dream. Jackie, I know you read this blog – thank you for your support, I am raising my tea mug to you as I type! I also got to buy some yarn from a new dyer – the skein at the top of the page is a Little French Meadow colourway that looks like it will be perfect for socks. I couldn’t resist it.
I learned so much about exhibiting from that bit of work experience, and I have some more coming up as I am going to help Sue Stratford out with her stall at Harrogate’s Knitting and Stitching Show in a week or so. That is going to be completely different – much busier and more intense, but it is a pleasure to help out a friend who is also going through a career transition. Sue, as you may know, is known for her books of novelty knits but she also runs the Knitting Hut in Woburn Sands. Sadly for us she has taken the decision to close her little shop to focus on her design work, which is the right thing to do but the hut has been such a wonderful welcoming place for us over the years. I live a long way away, but I am a regular (if infrequent) visitor and my daughter has been visiting since before she was born. She usually comes in and a big tray is set on the floor for her to tip all the button jars onto so that she can sort them out and generally play with them. She has even sat in the shop window in the past. So I am very sad to see the shop go and I am glad to spend time with Sue when she needs a hand, to say thank you for all of her support over the years.
In other exciting developments, my village has just started a social group for knitters and crafters. The first session is tonight and I am a bit nervous about going, but I can’t resist the chance to spend a bit of time knitting in a pub. I mean, how special is that?
Last night a work colleague passed away. She was young. She worked way too hard. She tried to accommodate many unreasonable requests for her time. She dealt with rudeness and impatience with grace.
Last week she had a stroke. Last night she passed away.
Life is too short to spend it doing things you think you should instead of the things you wanted to.
Take action. Prioritize what you love. Don’t let others tell you what your focus should be. In your heart you know what it is. Do that.
Life is too precious to play compromise with it.