Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Handmade Fair

So as well as my yarn travels in London, I also went to 'The Handmade Fair'at Hampton Court, something I'd been looking forward to for a while.

It was a day packed full of all things craft!!! We went on the Sunday which was the last day of it, but it was still all good! The theme for this first years Handmade Fair was 'World Pomination' an attempt to break a record with pompoms for charity, here's just a few of them that I found near the entrance.

There were two huge tents chock full of stalls, so plenty to browse and buy. It catered to all sorts of crafts so there was a huge mix of stalls and sellers. One in particular that I thought was amazing was 'chachoulie'. They are a company that make jewellery using traditional fabrics and embroidery from Palestine. Their work was gorgeous and the lady at the stall was very knowledgeable and interesting to talk to.

Of course there was a fair few stalls selling wool and yarns, so I bought a few things to add to the stash. As well as the shopping aspect of the fair, you also got to participate in workshops. I went to one on macrame lampshade making (run by a guy from out of the dark), which was very interesting and something that I might have to try again. The lovely wife went to a 'no sew cushion' workshop run by Stuart Hillard (or Great British Sewing Bee fame), which she thoroughly enjoyed.

There was also various talks from craft celebs to attend - this was my main reason for wanting to go! The talk we attended was by one of my idols - I've raved about him before, the one and only Kaffe Fassett!!!

The talk was fantastic, Kaffe is a really inspiring man and he talked to the crowd with ease. It was really interesting hearing him talk about his processes and about details of creating his fabrics. I even got to ask him a question (I asked if he ever has ideas that don't quite work when he actually starts making them, for example with colour combinations). 

Kaffe was undoubtedly a highlight of the day, but overall the event was fantastic. I was a bit restrained with my purchases but here's what I got. I some bargain wool from one stall and a nice ball of Pixie DIY wool as well, some patterned washi tape, some neon yellow ribbon, a wooden cat necklace for the lovely wife (I bought it secretly and gave it to her at the end of the day), and a wooden Ron Swanson brooch for myself.

But I can't end this post without talking about some of the people I met. I had the chance to talk to the lovely Lara and Charlie from the Mollie Makes team, both of whom were super nice. I also accosted the fine gentleman known as Mr X Stitch and introduced myself. We went and had a nice long chat and he was really encouraging and offered me a lot of great advice. That's all for now folks, I'll leave you with a pic of me and the man himself.

yarn travels: London

Hi all. Hope you're ready for a super-long blog post, cos I've been off to London! Here's what I found on my travels.

The first stop was 'Loop' yarn store. I'd heard a lot about this shop so it was the first stop on our list. In a very trendy area (Camden Passage), Loop is an interesting shop. The shop has two floors, and they have a very large selection of nice yarns and big names.

They also have a couple of cabinets on the downstairs floor selling all sorts of retro knit and crochet trinkets, and a fair amount of pattern books. Overall a very nice shop, but possibly a little bit on the pricey side in my opinion - but that's sometimes what you get with nice yarn. Either way it's very nice, worth the visit. Anyway, onto the next stop.

Up near the Finsbury Park area, you can find 'The Handweavers Studio'. What I'd read about this place had got me intrigued, and I wasn't disappointed. Although more targeted at weavers than knitters/crocheters, this shop is a goldmine!!!

When you first enter, you'll see endless shelves of cones of yarn and threads, as well as a massive book selection (and really interesting books too - I bought one on traditional Peruvian weaving). As you walk through to the back of the shop you encounter loads of looms, and on the day we visited there were people working on them which is always good to see. They had a few sale baskets too, so I also bought some multi-coloured thread which was a bit of a bargain. Right, next one -

Over in the Stoke Newington area you can find 'Knit with Attitude'. As we were walking around the area we spotted quite a few fabric and haberdashery shops, so it seems a good place for us crafty folk.

Knit with Attitude is an awesome little shop. It has a great range of wool and a good range of brands. It stocks lots of hooks/needles/accessories and generally has a little bit of everything.

As well as all the wool and crafty things, it has a lot of cards, prints and handmade jewellery too, which makes this shop great to just browse around.

I also had a bit of a chat with the ladies who were working there and they were really nice, so this place gets a big thumbs up from me. I also got some bargain wool while I was there so left very happy. So, lets carry on our journey shall we?

Tucked away near Bethnal Green tube is 'Prick Your Finger'. It's a shop that pretty much exclusively stocks eco/natural yarns and I think they dye a lot of it themselves - so not many of your big brand names here.

I would say this is an interesting shop. The owner is really nice and friendly, and they have a lot of different types of yarn (as well as a fair amount of old pattern books). I would say it's the sort of place I would go if I had a big project in mind, as it had a big range of solid colours. In the end I bought some very fine Angora wool. Again, I'd highly recommend stopping by this place as it's certainly different from your usual stores.

Next was another store I'd heard a lot about, 'I Knit London'. I was particularly interested when I found out they also have a license to sell alcohol! I would have liked to have stopped and had a beer but I was pretty tired by this point and there was a knitting group in there, so I gave the drink a miss. But the store itself was very good. They stock a wide range of well known yarns, lots of books, lots of hooks etc, pretty much everything you could want.

I found some super fluorescent wool that I just had to buy here, and the guy at the counter was very friendly as well (a recurring theme - I like how wool shop folk are usually friendly!). It's just around the corner from Waterloo station so very easy to get too. The next and final stop on our wool tour was.....

...'Liberty' of course. The lovely wife really wanted to go here and I was very interested in their haberdashers section. Of course, they only really stock Rowan wool, but it's a good selection.

I bought some nice pink skeins and some lovely fabric, and we had a good look around everything else too (although I don't recommend going with a large backpack, I was very paranoid that I was going to knock and break something!). So, those were my yarn travels in London....but now I'm going to show you somewhere else I went to. It's not wool related, but maybe somewhere that isn't your usual tourist hotspot.

Yep, you saw that right, 'Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium'. Ohhhh, it's a shop selling cat themed items I bet you're thinking.....

....well you'd be wrong. It's a cafe.....with cats!!!! Lots of cats!!! You need to book ahead as they only let a certain amount of people in (so as not to scare the cats). You can have some coffee/cake while the cats are hanging out, and if you're lucky they might come and let you give them a stroke. It's an interesting concept and they clearly look after and care for the cats, but you're not guaranteed that a cat will want to curl up on your lap....they kind of just do their own thing while you watch! Either way, you can still be perked up by a 'Cattucino'.

So there you go, that was my London experience (although not entirely, another separate blog post with what else I did coming up next). I guess you want to see my haul....well I bought a fair bit, as well as a 'My Neighbour Totorro' t-shirt I got from Spitalfields market. Hope you've enjoyed!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

onemancrochet @ The Makery

Well as I said, it was a busy weekend. After the Bristol Wool Fair on the Saturday, it was off to Bath on the Sunday to 'The Makery'

The lovely Kate at the Makery had asked me to come along to one of their open days and give a talk about blogging and being a crochet artist. I've written about The Makery before as part of my Bath yarn travels, but this time I got a chance to see the whole building rather than just the shop.

There's a surprising amount of space where they host various workshops, and the place was bustling all day. The whole place is beautifully decorated and the shop has a brilliant range of craft supplies. But what makes The Makery truly amazing, is Kate and the staff - you couldn't ask for a nicer and friendlier group of ladies, and they made me feel relaxed and welcome from the moment I got there.

So about the talk. I brought a load of my crochet creations for people to see, and this also gave people some content to ask questions about. I was very nervous about the talk beforehand, but everyone that was there was really encouraging. By the time I got to talking about crochet art I was feeling a lot more relaxed and I think the group could tell, so people started engaging more and asking more questions - I even managed to get a few laughs.

Overall it was a great day, and well worth doing. I met some amazing people that were really positive about my work, and as nervous as I was about public speaking, I left feeling accomplished and proud of myself.

That's all for now, I've got a busy couple of weeks coming up (not long till the handmade fair), but I'm sure I can find time for crochet!!!

Monday, September 8, 2014

yarn travels: bristol wool fair

Its been a busy weekend. I hopped just over the water (well, got the train) to the first 'Bristol Wool Fair'

It was a nice day out for us wool fans. There were four main marquees full of all things woolly, loads to see and of course....loads to buy.

The first thing I came across was 'Gertie the Sheep', a project in which visitors could contribute crochet and knitted flowers. The lovely Vicky Harrison from the paper village craft shop in Bristol was busy assembling it, but made time to have a good ol' chat with me (if you ever get a chance to go to their shop, you should go - its awesome!).

As well as all the wool stalls, there was also a good amount of things to see - this badger being one of my favourites, I love a good badger!! Unfortunately I forgot to grab a card of who made this. They were selling kits which were tempting, but I didn't get on too well with felting last time I tried - a bit too stabby!

This bird (don't ask me what it is - I'm no ornithologist) was some work by textile artist Ruth Packham that was on display, She had quite a lot of work and various birds on show.

Of course a wool fair isn't a wool fair without.....well, wool obviously. There was loads of stalls with loads of different types available. Of course, me being me, I was attracted by all the colourful stuff.

One of the things I love most about these sort of events, is the fact that as you walk around you can see people doing all sorts of crafts. There was loads of looming, felting, spinning, knitting and crocheting going on, and people are always happy to talk to you about their craft if you are interested in learning more.

This stall grabbed my attention, it had loads of wool bowls by ceramic artist Emily Cross. I've seen a lot of wool bowls before but the glazes and finishes to these were particularly gorgeous. If you're unfamiliar with wool bowls, its basically something you can put your ball of wool in, and you put the yarn through the break in the bowl - this means the the ball spins in the bowl and comes out smoothly and doesn't roll about your floor. Of course, by the fact that I'm rambling on about this, you've probably guessed that I bought one.

I really liked this one for the fact that it had had some lace pressed into the glaze, and was (in my opinion) a reasonable price. I couldn't go to a wool fair without buying wool though - more for the ever expanding stash!

So, those were the highlights of my day out at the wool fair. There were a few other things worth mentioning...there was a beer tent serving Butcombe, which is one of my favourite ales (I just had the one, it was only 2 in the afternoon after all). There was also sheep shearing and sheepdog displays, and plenty of workshops going on. I also got recognised and had a lovely conversation with knitting and crochet designer Sara Huntington. All in all a brilliant day out, and lets hope the Bristol Wool Fair continues.

I'll leave you with a picture of some ducks (part of the sheepdog display).....I love ducks too!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

is he ready?...we wonder to ourselves....

....perhaps he's ready? Well another reason I've been quiet recently (well online anyway, I've been shouting my mouth off at my usual rate in real life), is because I'm a very busy boy at the moment. Things kinda went a little bit crazy over the last month and I've got a lot organised, So I figured maybe it was time to let you all know, as you may be interested in attending some of these things.

Firstly, Next weekends all booked up already. On the 5th, 6th and 7th of September I'll be hopping over the water to go to the first Bristol Wool Fair. I'll be there on the Saturday to check it all out and of course I'll write a yarn travels post about it on my return. If you Brizzle people see me there feel free to come and say hello and experience my social awkwardness.

On Sunday 7th, its back on the train, just down the road to the lovely city of Bath. I'm going there because those lovely ladies at The Makery asked me to come and do a talk and Q&A session on blogging and being a crochet artist. I must confess I'm a little bit nervous about doing some public speaking as it's been a while, but I'm sure it'll be ok. At the time of writing this there's only 4 places left to be booked here, so I figured I'd post about it just in case I have any Bath based followers. Again, I'll do a write-up about it and put some pics up.

Well this post is a bit text heavy isn't it, I'll break it up by showing you a photo of one of my current projects, another t-shirt but this time in super crazy coloured yarn. Keep on reading though, there's more to come.

So, Septembers already busy, given that I'll also be going to the The Handmade Fair in the big city of London later in the month, and of course I'll be checking out the wool shops while I'm there too.

But then what about after that? Well here's the big news. I've been shortlisted and am a finalist in the UKHKA Open Category 2014 Knitted Textile Awards. This means I'll be showing my work at The Knitting and Stitching Shows in London & Harrogate. The London show is at Alexandra Palace and runs from the 8th-12th October, and the Harrogate show is at the HIC and runs from the 20th-23rd November.

So yeah, busy busy busy, and there's more (but that will have to wait - can't really talk about that at the moment). Hope this post proves interesting for some of you, and who knows, maybe our paths will cross shortly in the future. That's all for now - I've got some crochet to do!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

we are the sea

Hello blog-fans. I've been a bit quiet recently haven't I? Well, it's that time of year again, time for the annual Shambala festival. 'Oh dear, what kind of strange costume has he gone and made now?', I hear you mumble to yourselves with baited breath.........well here you go!

'What in the world is that supposed to be?' - I imagine you saying. Well the theme this year (I know, we normally don't take any notice of themes) was 'the Seas of Shambala'. So I decided to make not one but two costumes that were kind of abstract interpretations of the sea.

So here's the explanation. The sequined robes represent a wave, and shimmered when we danced (which we did a lot). The balls on top represent the foam on the break of a wave (all crocheted of course). And the veils over our faces - well that's just to tie the two in together, that and to keep us anonymous while we were wandering around talking drunken nonsense.

I designed the costumes so that we could see out, but it was quite hard for people to see our eyes as the balls and veils kind of covered them - that and a lot of blue glittery makeup. It was such fun wearing the costumes, and needless to say we freaked out a fair share of people.

When it started getting darker and when we were in the music tents, it appeared that we became even more anonymous. We danced around people mimicking the oceans, making swooshing noises and generally going a little bit insane....I'll blame that on the fact that we drank far far far too much rum (and don't follow my example - we've had decades of practice).

The reception we got from the general public was mixed as always, from the 'wow that's amazing', to the 'what the hell are you guys supposed to be?'. Shambala is a very family friendly festival so there's a lot of kids about during the day, generally they were pretty terrified of us....which I suppose is fair enough.

I did learn a few things from making this costume. Firstly, two costumes will take double the time as one costume - don't know why I didn't think of that before. Secondly, I should stay away from sewing machines. I made the robes myself, the fabric was a nightmare to sew with, and I also managed to break not one but two sewing machines in the process. But, we had fun, so I think it was worth it.

Those of you that read my column in 'Simply Crochet' magazine about festivals might be thinking of the annual gift that I give out to a random stranger. This year it was this little fishy (and another blue one so my mate could take part and give one out too). I gave mine out to a random lady whilst we were dancing in one of the music tents. She didn't seem to quite understand at first and even came back to find me and to say thank you again.

Anyway, we had a brilliant festival and had so much fun. I'll end this post with a picture of me and my drinking buddy getting our costumes ready and when we were still half-way sober. Hope you've enjoyed.