Friday, 6 May 2016

What happened to April?

Sorry, it's been so, so long - like a short, late winter/early spring hibernation, but here we are again with some new plans and up to date info...

Firstly, we can't go back to the Piece Hall - there are currently brief notes on the situation on three posters in our Old Bank shop window. We've been well and truly stitched up, but we don't want to dwell on that anymore. Onward and upward!

Our lease at The Old Bank is coming to an end, so we've closed the bricks and mortar shop. Serendipity and Maria's Stamps are still operating from the building, but our section at the back was so cold and so devoid of adequate wool-shop-type light, that we decided to call it a day. When we moved in we were imagining it as a place to just keep the business ticking over till our return to the Piece Hall and, with that boat having sailed, we decided to go in a different direction.

Tomorrow, 7th May, we're having a big sale in the foyer - there's only so much wool I can stuff into our spare bedroom - the Debbie Bliss Riva, Paloma, Rialtos and Cashmerino Aran will be in there amongst lots of other great yarns. We sorted out most of it today and had to draw a halt as we were running out of containers. Do come along if you can - I promise it'll be worth your while. Oh, and there's a Prize Draw for a full 500g pack of beautiful pale blue Sierra Andina 100% alpaca - £1.00 a go and the prize is worth over £60. Prize draw proceeds will go to The Mayfield Trust.

And this is the thing: we'll be having a table in the foyer of the Old Bank the first Saturday of each month for the foreseeable future. If there's something you'd especially like me to bring down one Saturday just let me know and I'll do my best. And every month we'll try to have an especially good bargain or two just for that day.

And, we'll be keeping the website going and re-vamping the stock, getting in some new lines, getting rid of some yarns that have gone stale on us and adding some extra bargains to the clearance section.

I did float the idea on facebook of selling wool by party plan locally without too much response, so I'm going to wait and re-suggest that nearer peak wool-buying time when it gets colder again and see if anyone fancies it - I think it could be fun. Not that I'm good with fun, you understand.

So, that's about it for now. Just need to work out now if I've forgotten anything for tomorrow...

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Everybody's Knitting

Every so often someone will bring into the shop a lovely, old book on knitting, usually something A4 and wonderful featuring intricate shawls and fair isle patterns and assorted ganseys. Proper, serious knitting. It's probably symbolic of something or other that whenever these lovely books turn up, my thoughts turn to this little Penguin Handbook from 1977  which makes knitting seem like the most carefree, fun thing in the world. I'm not saying there's a lot in there that I'd want to make, and probably nothing at all that I'd atually wear, but just looking at the pictures gladdens the heart.

From my point of view, apart from the brightly coloured tank tops and swimming costumes - it's very much of its time - it endorses the idea of the backstitch as a good way to make a seam, (which alone would make me love it) and it has instructions like: 'If you know how, double crochet an edge round the neck and armholes, but it's not really necessary.' That so works with my 'it'll do' grain. It's a joyous little book filled with smiling faces and floppy hats and a knitting-makes-you-happy kind of vibe.

If you think knitting should be fun and that there's room in the world for very many drop-shouldered, patterned jumpers with multiple motifs and very little shaping, see if you can get hold of a copy. Amazon has secondhand copies from 43pence (or, if you're very particular and/or very rich, new ones from £999.10).

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

I've been indulging in a little upcycling, using a double duvet set from Oxfam. It would've been more impressive, of course, if I'd searched our cupboards and drawers for a threadbare sheet of our own to re-purpose, but searching the airing cupboard requires the stepladder and a casual attitude towards the idea of spiders scampering across your hands. Besides, Oxfam was just across the road.
Anyway, this is the result:
I'm not sure I'll use it a lot, but I wanted to try out the technique. And it's kind of rustic, which I like.
As a fabric knitting virgin I was thinking that 10mm needles and old strips of material had to result in a quick knit, right? Well, not really, because cutting up the material into strips takes forever.

Do you want to have a go? Brief instructions below - I winged it, so adjust as you choose...

Starting at one end, cut strips about an inch wide almost to the other end of the fabric, right the way along that side, until you have something that would look like a giant grass skirt if it was green and you held it round your waist.
Now start at the other end and cut down the middle of all those strips, again stopping just short of the far end of the piece of material. When you've finishing all your cutting, you should have a continuous length of fabric yarn. There'll be double width sections at the ends of the strips but don't worry about those - when it comes to knitting them you can either fold them down to minimise the effect of them or you can, like me, just regard them as part of the finished product's charm.
With 10mm needles cast on 25 stitches loosely and knit a garter stitch rectangle that would be bag size if you folded it in two, then knit just the middle seven stitches for a few rows to make a strip for the buttonhole to go in. Make your buttonhole, work another two or three rows and cast off loosely.
Fold your bag in half and sew up the side edges. I used a double thickness of double knitting wool and an over stitch with the wrong sides together - very rough and ready, but it works fine for this.
I added a shoulder strap by casting on 4 stitches from each side and then, when they were sufficiently long to make a decent strap, I casted off both sets of live stitches together. I thought it might be difficult to do a three needle cast off with this size of stitch so I just rearranged the eight stitches from the two needles alternately on one needle and cast them off in turn.
Add a toggle and c'est complet!

A few pointers if you're thinking of having a go...
There'll be a lot of shedding from the frayed edges of your cut material - just be aware. I did a lot of sweeping up.
Cast on and off loosely. In fact, knit loosely too.
If you choose a duvet cover or a sheet with a striped or checked pattern, you'll find it much easier to cut your strips.
I think I used approximately  450g yarn altogether.
You need to choose thin material - don't go for good quality upholstery fabric or the like - you'll regret it.

So, good luck. I'd love to see/hear how you got on.

Friday, 22 January 2016

So, I've finally finished these socks, in lovely Sausalito, that I've been knitting for over a year. Finishing them off didn't actually take too long, despite the fact that I took a good thirteen months over the first half of the first sock; I think sometimes I build them up into being such a big job on such tiny needles with such fine wool that I end up over-faced. Anyway, I finally got a grip and, though every pair of socks I've ever knitted has been scrappy, scrappy, scrappy, they're no worse than my usual standard! I really enjoyed using the tiny circular needle in the end and can see me using that for all my sock knitting in future.

And just to make sure I don't get over-faced next time too, I immediately casted on new stitches for another pair, this time using lovely Debbie Bliss Rialto sock yarn, which I'm trying out on your behalf before I decide whether to stock it in the shop. One of those tough jobs that someone's got to do. Gorgeous colours, huh?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Think I might be in need of a break...

This is what I did last night: typed up a poster listing the Christmas and New Year opening hours of all four shops in the Old Bank; stuck a post-it note to it indicating what needed doing to finish it off; stuck it in my going home bag; laminated it at home WITH THE POST-IT NOTE STILL ATTACHED. Don't tell me that isn't the sign of someone who should be closely supervised for their own safety.

Anyway, in case you have a knittery need or emergency (bread sauce on your sock yarn - that kind of thing...) over the holiday period, we'll be open 10-4.30 on the 29th and 30th Dec, and then 10-3.30 on the 31st. Open normal hours from the 2nd Jan which is, in any case, our regular monthly Saturday.

Hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year and that we'll see you, flaunting many lovely new knitteds, after the break.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Getting things in some sort of order...

I love baskets, but I gave up on putting my many WIPs into baskets because they take up too much space. And then I started piling old carriers, filled with more and more woolly projects, on top of the whole shebang and it really wasn't pretty. Well, to be honest, it was unsightly. Unsightly, I tell you.

So, we took home the coat stand that we used to have in the shop and we filled its hooks with a variety of bags, each containing a separate WIP. Sorted. And not visually offensive. I think I love a solution to a messy storage problem more than almost anything.

And these are what I have in progress just at the moment. Of course, these are just the ones at home; there are several more at work. Maybe I should get another coat stand for those.

The red at the side is a cushion cover I'm making in mohair boucle. I'm finding it a bit tricky to knit with on this scale, but very forgiving of mistakes and a lovely colour. On top of it lies part of an attempted vintage bootee - I'd like to decipher the rest of the very old and brief (cursory even) pattern sometime before I retire. (I'm guessing I now have to pick up stitches all around and work up towards the toe end, but nothing in the pattern suggests that's the case. Confused of Halifax needs help.) Then comes the cream 4 ply One Row Lace Scarf - nice, little, free pattern on ravelry; the socks in Sausalito that I've been knitting for more than twelve months and which I'd like to wear on Christmas Day; a pair of 4ply wristwarmers which were going to be a shop sample but I took too long finishing them so now - oh dear! - I'll have to keep them myself; a chunky green cowl in Cygnet Seriously Chunky and one of many squares for a charity blanket.

So, seven items at home and probably the same number at the shop. Seems reasonable to me. Certainly explains why I struggle to get on the same wavelength as those customers who can't plan another project before they've finished the last one...


Monday, 2 November 2015


This is part umpteen of my occasional, slightly self-indulgent, look-at-these-prices series:

We're concentrating on an internet giant with the initials WW today, as Big D's seems to have fallen out of favour with many. Here goes:

Debbie Bliss Paloma: WW £6.29/TBF £5.95

Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply: WW £4.99/TBF £4.50

Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran: WW £4.99/TBF £4.50

Patons 100% Cotton 4 ply: WW £4.99/TBF £4.50

Patons 100% Cotton DK: WW £4.99/TBF £4.50

There are a couple of other yarns where the difference is negligible, and there's one yarn where this particular big boy site is maybe 25pence a ball cheaper. But overall, it's worth looking into your local wool shop - whether that's Three Bags Full or a different little shop - or shopping with the smaller sites, not just for good prices but also for fab, friendly, speedy service.

Okay, I won't mention pricing - or rather, people's perceptions about pricing - again for...oh, at least a day or so.