Louisa

July was a big month, as it turns out. I got the weekend holiday I needed so much, I worked more hours in the shop than usual, I caught and defeated a Death Cold, and I met one of the brightest stars in the knitting sky, Louisa Harding. If you’re a knitter, you may know her from yarn labels. You might have seen her books or compilations. You may have opinions about her distributor, or on her yarns, or the distinctly (possibly stereotypically) feminine slant of her designs. It’s tricky gauging someone by a yarn label, though, and I was extremely lucky to get the opportunity to meet and hang out with her when she came to the shop to give a workshop.

Sari Ribbon

When we approached Louisa about the possibility of doing a workshop, she had things all figured out already. It would be a full day workshop, the fees would include yarn (always a plus!), and the project would allow people to explore creativity in wool and sample a bunch of yarns all at the same time. She arranged for sample garments to be sent to us ahead of time, so the students could try things on and see what the designs look like in person rather than having to guess from photos in the books. We also got a preview of the new books and yarns for autumn/winter, inspiring several of us in the shop to get started on new cardigans and tops.

I didn’t get to participate in the workshop, but the few bits I got to see were well planned and carefully thought out. She started by encouraging students to look at the sample garments, then followed that with yarn selection for the bag project. This required the students to wind some of the yarns into balls from the hanks they’re usually sold as, giving everyone the opportunity to chat and interact with each other. By the time everyone settled down to knit, people had gotten the jitters out and were ready to focus.

The workshop project is a simple bag using five different yarns. Louisa encouraged students to choose colour and gauge combinations outside of their comfort zones, resulting in beautiful little works of art.

Louisa Harding bag

I selected my yarns after everyone else, picking over the leftovers during lulls in the shop downstairs, so I didn’t get as adventurous as some. I did end up working with the new colours of Sari Ribbon and Willow Tweed, as well as a bit of the new autumn/winter yarn Rosetti that I ordinarily would have avoided. (I’m not really a fan of chunky yarns.) The bag was simple to knit and enjoyable as it gave me plenty of opportunity to sample the yarns and see how they worked up.

Also, I love the bag. Desperately.

Bag closeup

I think the workshop encouraged students to think more ambitiously about colour and texture, and to experiment more boldly. It also gave us the opportunity to make something relatively impractical, simply for the joy of playing with colour and texture. Lots of us focus on practical projects which might be well crafted and beautiful, but not as recklessly fun as this little bag.

After the workshop, Louisa hosted a meet & greet and talk that was free to everyone. Lots of regulars in the shop and local S&B groups showed up, and despite the blistering heat people managed to enjoy themselves. Louisa talked about starting her own yarn line, how the process works, and the elements she highlights in her designs and yarn choices. She describes herself as “a woman designing for women,” and how this plays out in her choice of colour, yarn, shape, and size. For example, many of her designs feature 3/4 length sleeves. Why? Women wear bracelets and watches, and it’s nice to show them off. Simple as that.

The day made me think about the yarn industry, what moves and shakes it, and how the people involved make the choices they do. It inspired me to give certain yarns a chance where I previously would have dismissed them. And it gave me the opportunity, through an awesome sneak peek at some of Louisa’s new and currently unreleased books, to cast on for a new cardigan.

Willow Tweed

Using Willow Tweed.

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A long, hot summer?

I’m still cold most of the time…

My Loopy Ewe May sock club package came last week, and it was so good the stuff got pressed into service before I got a chance to take decent pictures of it. This is the yarn, in all its summery glory:

May TLE Sock club yarn

It is soft and wonderful and while the shawlette pattern this month didn’t immediately excite me the sock pattern May Flowers looks intriguing. Just like last month, I’ve set it aside as enticement to finish one of the many other projects going on at the moment. Even though the colours aren’t so much my thing (yellow? maybe not), the whole thing wrapped up together looks cheerful and summery. The good kind of summer, like an Irish summer, with rain and cool breezes and sun. Not like LA summer with furnace-like heat and fires, or DC summer that’s so humid that drying off after a shower is an exercise in futility. The kind of summer people write songs about.

As I write, there’s a stack of knits and yarn next to me that needs photographing. I’ll be off to do that now, hoping for some of that summer sun to help out.

Extreme yarn acquisition

I had a slight falling down in the past couple weeks. In the wake of a very bad month financially (in which Revenue panicked and kept all my money thinking I was suddenly very rich since I briefly had two employers), I went a little bananas. A friend went “home” to the US to visit and offered to buy stuff, which ended up being the last straw. I spent some quality time on the Loopy Ewe website and solved my sock yarn problem.

This is one of the things I bought. I have a problem with the colour green. I can’t wear most shades of it without looking washed out, but I love it desperately. So I buy green sock yarn and I take pictures of it.

Fiber optic Blackbird, close up

That’s Fiber Optic Foot Notes in “Blackbird,” a shade of green that makes me weak in the knees.

The shop got in its latest order of Malabrigo, still (to my knowledge) the only LYS in Ireland where you can get Malagbrigo at all. The stuff flies off the shelves. Last time, I bought two skeins of the lace. This time it was two skeins of sock.

Malabrigo Abril, close up

That’s Abril. It is a fairly normal colourway for me — dark. Blues. Purples (controversial, but I have a history of showing interest in purple when it’s teamed up with blue or green). No real surprises there. The second one came out of left field though:

Archangel, close up

How would you describe that colour? Pink? Orange? Pinks and oranges with a little purple thrown in? No words can explain this colourway such that it would sound appealing to me. If you described it to me, I would not get excited about it. I would choose the other option, if it was down to this skein and something else and I was basing the decision on a description. Yet I find it compelling. Archangel is a weird colourway.

Weirder still is the fact that these two skeins of Malabrigo sock are not ever going to become socks due to my strict rule regarding nylon content. (100% wool wears out too fast. I won’t knit socks with it anymore, at least not socks I plan to wear.) So these skeins might go straight into my sock yarn blanket. Which is supposed to be made of leftovers…

The cure for early spring blues

So I was freezing in my living room, trying to think of something to blog about that wasn’t either a rehash of what I’ve written in the past week or an unnecessary commentary on recent Irish Knitters drama (which is not so dramatic, just gives us something to tweet and goss about). I nearly gave up, resigning myself to being an infrequent blogger, then all of a sudden the Wanderer wandered in with a package from the post office.

“Ho hum,” I thought, “probably that eyeshadow I ordered so long ago I’ve forgotten which colours I asked for.” Yet the package was larger than expected, and the Wanderer noted it was yarn-ish in nature. You can imagine my surprise and delight when I looked at the return address and saw it was in fact my Loopy Ewe Sock Club package! It shipped on Thursday and arrived at the post office yesterday, possibly the fastest anything has ever gotten to me from the US. I had wondered at why the shipping cost so frightfully much, and now I know why. Well, it’s one of two things. Either the money went towards bribing customs officials and couriers, or they paid the faeries to fly it over the ocean.

Some explanation may be in order. I discovered the Loopy Ewe a while ago, as its popularity was on the upswing and I think not everyone had heard of it. It was summer 2007, and I went a little bananas with the ordering of the luxury sock yarn. I have not splurged like that over such a long period of time since, and my stash is still recovering from the experience. Much of what I bought has been knitted and gifted since then, but there are still jars of sock yarn waiting for attention. I learned a lot from what I bought that summer, and to this day TLE holds a special place in my heart. The serotonin rush from opening a package is really incredible, made all the more so now for its rarity.

The Sock Club existed before I knew about TLE, but I have tried for a spot in their lottery-style signups (which they started for the 2008 sock club) for the past two years. I didn’t get into 2008 or 2009 but I did buy the “consolation prize” kits. (Sheri is a fantastic businesswoman. She can’t sell us all sock club subscriptions, but she will sell something to everyone. I am constantly in awe, in a good way.) This year I signed up again, and to my great shock made it in. This is my first TLE package in about 9 months, and I am beside myself with excitement.

I’ll hide the pictures under the fold, on the slim chance that 1. anyone randomly Googling happens upon the main page rather than the individual entry page, AND 2. that anyone is trying to avoid spoilers for some reason.

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Knitting Tour: Waterford

Marketing is a fast world. Plans can shift at the last minute based on real-life conditions. The people on the ground (that’s us) make adjustments based on the venue, foot traffic, space available, and the attitudes of passersby. Contracting for a marketing firm is not a job for the faint of heart, or for people who use a pen to write in their diaries. I wasn’t sure about the travel plans for Waterford until the afternoon before; I might have needed to have my bag packed so I could be picked up from work, or I might have been able to take the train down for the day. Lucky for me, the train option came up and I was able to have a quiet evening at home before setting out early the next morning.

The Waterford train was, like the Cork train, slick, new, modern, and comfortable. Unlike the Cork train the previous week, it was warm and nearly empty. Armed with the beginnings of a sleeve and my new iPod Touch, I passed the two and a half hour journey quietly and happily. I finished the sleeve and cast on for the second one, which is all I’d ever hoped for out of the train journey.

This isn’t the sleeve, but it is a picture of the project:

I hadn’t been to Waterford in a very long time, but recognized the place as soon as we pulled into the train station. Waterford IT is next door to the Waterford Crystal factory, which happens to be the only place in Waterford I could trust myself to find. (The only times I’d been in Waterford before were to accompany visitors who wanted to see the crystal.) We arrived, despaired of ever finding parking, then talked our way into an all-day parking spot right next to the building where we’d be setting up. Things looked good.

Our spot was smack in the middle of the business building, just outside a set of lecture halls that appeared to be named after other towns in the county. This set the dynamic for the day: every hour we’d get a rush of people, then it would trail off, and things would be very quiet until lectures let out again. We only for 16 knitters, but considering people were mostly on their way to or from something, that wasn’t such a bad total. I also met a couple people involved in things I like that aren’t knitting-related: Caitriona, a woman who organizes outreaches to local schools to get kids interested in science, and Richie, a guy working on his PhD in chemistry. I also got to meet the usual lot of great people, teach a few people to knit, and remind a lot more of the knitting skills they’d gotten a long time ago but thought they’d forgotten.

I didn’t have a sock to work on, so I made fingerless gloves instead:

They are the easiest fingerless gloves you can possibly imagine.

Using aran/worsted yarn and 5.0 mm needles:
CO 30 sts
Knit all rows for about 6.5 inches. Cast off.
Sew the cast-on edge to the cast-off edge, leaving a hole for your thumb.
Weave in ends.

I started these shortly after we sat down around 11 when I realized 1. I had nothing to knit, and 2. if I knitted our example yarn, we would run out, and 3. no one ever wants to knit with the dark colours. So I picked up a couple little yarn cakes of the Lamb’s Pride Worsted in (I think) Turkish Olive, borrowed a pair of mini Peace Fleece needles from the Vodafone stash, and started kitting. They were done about 10 minutes before we packed up around 3:15.

Not bad for an afternoon’s work.

Major life events

1. The last Confess.

2. The Black Robed One’s wedding, coupled with my first ever visit to Wales.

3. My “I can’t believe it’s not a job” is continuously interesting and conflicting.

I address these in order.

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