Monday, 27 April 2015

Still Buzzing

Welcome to the second stop on The Great Gwlana Blog Tour.  

Hint - This is how it all begins, but you need to listen to THE PODCAST to get the full story

If you have not come over here on The Tour you may be wondering what Gwlana is all about. Well, I'll tell you, it is a wonderful knitting retreat. Yes a retreat, in a cosy hotel (Beggars Reach) deep in the Welsh countryside where a bunch of knitters and a couple of knitting experts will be holed up for a whole 3 days,  just knitting.  In just two weeks' time 15 - 18 May 2015. Bliss, or what?? 

We will knit in the wonderful hotel orangerie looking out on this view

And I shall be there, how lucky am I?? You can be there too, but hurry and get your tickets, I well remember the first time I went on one of these retreats the tickets sold out before you could say lickerty split and people were queuing up to join the waiting list.

So much beautiful knitting (Brenda listening to us taking the Today's Sweater class)

Gwlana is Welsh for Wool Gathering, it has a very specific and special meaning but I'll leave Brenda to explain this, she does it so well in this podcast in conversation with Felix. 

Brenda Dayne, of the famous podcast Cast-On, recently renamed Provisional Cast-On, is the woman behind the Gwlana retreats and Felix (Felicity Ford of Knitsonik) is joining her in May as the second knitting expert. When you listen to the podcast you will not only learn the meaning of Gwlana but also hear more about the retreat's classes (beautiful colour work from Felix and sweater design from Brenda) and get a taste of how Brenda and Felix work together.

Felix's colour work, Brenda's knitting - a perfect combination

I have been to two Gwlana retreats before. Not quite 3 as Brenda says, but as many of us keep in touch, have lots of little London and yarn festival meet-ups I can see how easily I have given that impression.  I have illustrated today's blog with some my best photos from previous retreats but you can also read about them here and here

The Brenda and Felix podcast will tell you all you need to know about the up-comming retreat but I thought I would tell you here what, for me, is so good about Gwlana 

  • I have made lasting friendships that cross the generations, including Kathleen who as Knit-like-you-mean-it will be joining the blog tour later this week

We're gathering for a group photo on the hotel lawn, that's Kathleen, in the middle, holding her
daughter Little Miss Feisty (it was LMF's first knitting retreat)

  • A whole new appreciation of yarn from independent producers. When my friend Vandy suggested we went on the first retreat together 'to meet other knitters who don't just want to knit with acrylic' I had no idea how big and wonderful the indy yarn business was

You can learn by buying, right? This was my little stash addition from the mini-market, iincluding the two wound skeins which were in my goody bag

  • I learned some basic techniques of design,  from how to incorporate a stitch pattern to a specific shape to designing a whole sweater to specific measurements

I have to admit this is still a WIP, but one day it will be a shawl, it will...

  • Courage to begin something new -  I met Rachel at Gwlana who encouraged me to learn to spin

Very special, yes I spun it but also the fibre was dyed by Rachel, AKA porpoise

There's much more, this is just a start, as you will see if you join us on The Blog Tour and at the retreat (I hope you do)

The next stop on the Gwlana Blog Tour is The Yarn in the City Blog (Did you know that Alli and Rachel, the clever women behind the YITC partnership also met at a Gwlana retreat, so much creativity)



PS, more things going on on Facebook and Twitter

A retreat needs to be in a quiet peaceful place - right?  Well there are neighbours but they are very nice

Friday, 24 April 2015

The knitting's back

I love reading the comments on here, I love that people who read my blog also take time to say something.  It is even more lovely when an old friend pops up and comments, perhaps someone who has been reading and commenting ever since I began blogging several years ago.  But it occurred to me this week that a casual visitor to my blog over the last few weeks might have wondered if this is not a knitting blog at all but something about clothes, or even travel.

So I thought it was high time I put the blog back on its tracks.  This is specially important as I have been asked to join in a special blog crawl next week (do come back next Monday to see what that is all about) which has a wonderful wooly theme. The blog crawl has sheep, spinning and knitting in it with a dash of history thrown in - my all time favourite combination, But meanwhile I thought I would share a few of my projects to get us all back in the knitting frame of mind

Firstly, there is a very special event coming up in our family DD2 expects her first baby next week!! You will not be surprised to see I have made a few things

I last posted a photograph of the Vivid baby blanket (pattern by Tin Can Knits) when it was just a pile of squares

This little pink and cream cardigan has buttons from Kath Kidston

Still a work in progress this cream cardigan has a grey lace trim around the sleeves and all around the body

I am making much slower progress with things for me

I have just got as far as swatching for the vintage cardi in Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock
I don't know what to do with this little sweater, I have picked it up an put it down so often
What do you do with a WIP that is getting to be a white elephant?  The Yarn of this little cream sweater is Angelus by Natural Dye studio.  The yarn is AMAZING and even more precious as NDS is no more. But it has been kicking around in a bag so long (and picked up and put down) that the fabric is badly uneven, I'm not even sure what size needles I was using (robbed off the cable long ago for another project)  I really think it has to be frogged, skeined, washed, wound and begun again.  But it's knitted in the round up to the armholes and the back done - that A LOT of knitting.  What would you do?

Just the toes done on these socks

I've been spinning too

200m of Wensleydale in Evil Beanwater colour-way by Porpoise fur

And some merino from Sweet Georgia Yarns nearly half done

I think that's all I have in progress at the moment.  See you on Monday with news of something rather exciting



Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Out of the blue (and positively the last post about my Lent clothes fast)

It came as a total surprise, I had no idea, I really didn't.  I suppose because I came upon the idea of the Six Items Challenge very late in the day, just a couple of days before Ash Wednesday in fact.  So I was too busy deciding what would be my six items and trying to get the message out to notice anything else. 

But there was a prize offered by People Tree ( a clothing company with a strong ethical philosophy) to the participant in The Challenge with the most interesting and original blog and - do you know what?? I won.

The prize was a dress of my choice from the  The People Tree.  This is what I chose (the Olivia dress)

Isn't it fab?

Now if you have been reading my blog for any length of time you will know I don't have sponsors.  I only carry the tiny adsense ad in the right hand column here.  And just occasionally I am sent a crafty book (knitting or sewing usually) and asked to review, which I do if I like it, I send it back if I don't.  But that is all.  That's not to say I would refuse to advertise something crafty or reject a gift of some luscious yarn to knit up and review (indy dyers please take note !!) nor that I won't tell you about some lovely new project that a friend is up to, but this is not a commercial blog.

This is my blog about my likes and loves and I love my dress from The People Tree!  I had quite some difficulty choosing what to have.  I'm very tall (5'11") and a generous size 16UK.  That's not to say I'm not aiming to be a less generous size 16 but after three weeks of French food that is what I am.  I consider I'm OK proportion wise but my size does make me gravitate toward more muted shades and at first I was looking at the clothes in greys and navy, pretty much like my choice of clothes for The Challenge.  But I made a decision to look for more colour when I chose my dress

What do you think?

It is made of a beautiful organic cotton with just a smidgen of lycra so despite it's figure clinging style (I love that) it does not ride up and cut off the blood supply to my lower legs as I sit down (I'm a knitter, I do a lot of sitting)

The colour is very green, one of m favourite colours but  just slightly muted so it not too shouty

I'm so happy in it!  Thank you The People Tree

And Thank you to everyone who donated.  The fabulous final total was £558.11  for my efforts and a grand total of £1,994.57.  Actually donations are open for a few more days so perhaps we might get to over £2,000 wouldn't that be great?



Saturday, 4 April 2015

Six weeks and what have I learned?

Did you think when I began this clothes fast you might sponsor me?  If you have, thank you so very much, the total has reached £393.99 a fab amount. But it would be so wonderful to reach my target of £500. So if you thought you might sponsor but have just not got around to it yet IT"S NOT TOO LATE, just click on this link and it will take you to my donations page. I have promised to add another £10 for each £100 raised so only £4.01 to go and I will donate again.

Well, it's been a while. A while since I blogged and a while since I was somewhere on our travels around France (plus a little jaunt into Spain) with enough oomph in the so called free wifi to blog. 

I hope I'm forgiven and that if you were watching my progress on the Six Items Challenge you have been checking over on Instagram from time to time.  If you have been looking you will know that I have linked my photos to our travels. Today we woke up in V├ęzelay, a tiny hill town an hour or so's drive south of Paris where pilgrims in the 13th century gathered before setting off for Santiago de Compostello.

Day #44 I imagine the pilgrims began their journey in the stupendous basilica at the centre of the village on top of the hill

There were so many wonderful buildings but I could not resist (because this IS a knitting blog)  including this shop window full of hand-knitted mohair sweaters

So... It's day #45 and the last day of the challenge, I'm up and dressed in my black jeans and grey tee and I made it!!! But to be honest even if I had not many sponsors who had donated nearly £500 towards Labour Behind the Label I would have completed the whole six weeks. I've enjoyed it, in a reflective, Lentish sort of way. Not of giving up the thing you like entirely but living with less. 

On Thursday JTH took my photograph for the challenge outside a medieval building in the butchers' quarter of old Limoges (now a second hand book shop). 

Day #43

But later we visited the hauntingly sad village of Oradour where 642 men women and children were murdered on 10 June 1944 in one of the worst war crimes the people of France experienced during WW2. The village has remained untouched since the day after the murders when the SS troops set fire to all the houses. In the ruins of many houses there were twisted remains of metal items that survived the fires.  Bed frames, pram chassis, weighing scales and Singer sewing machines, a poignant reminder of all the women who sewed their own clothes. I lost count of the sewing machines, there were so many

Buy less, use less and waste less.  It's practically the mantra of the 21st century as we all consider ways in which the earth's resources can still be there for our descendants.  And then there's fairness, which of us, if we stopped to think would want other people, anywhere in the world to be exploited just so that we in the west can choose to consume so much? 

I have learned that I can more than survive with far fewer clothes, although I would need more than six items to cope with the seasons.  One concern I did have travelling was the changes in the weather.  Most of the time the weather has been cool and my winter clothes, including the thick cardigan were fine.  And then on the beach in Barcelona the silk shirt came into its own

Day #41 It was still quite windy

But the skies over the Sagrada Famiglia in Barcelona really were that blue on Tuesday

I'm not going to repeat the things I said about Labour Behind the Label in a much earlier post and in any case they explain their campaign much better themselves. So if you would like to know more you just have to visit their website by clicking one of the many links here and read about how they campaign for better worker safety and for a living wage for garment workers.  But I thought I would just highlight a couple of campaigns here to illustrate their work and the work of their associates around the world

Do you remember my reference to the Bangladeshi garment workers killed or injured when the factory where they were working in collapsed in April 2013?  Labour behind the Label is part of a coordinated campaign to raise $30m USD from the companies who had clothing made at Rana Plaza to compensate the victims, to date the fund is $9m short. The shortfall is mainly due to one or two companies who despite making all the right noises have not paid any money into the fund. Labour Behind the Label is planning a special day of action on 24 April.

Other campaigning organisations around the world are joining the fight. A brilliant campaign originated in Canada with the Fair-trade Network producing posters of clothing with labels that tell the true story behind a cheap sweater (or indeed pair of jeans)

I have also heard that people have actually sewn similar labels onto clothes on the rails in shops, although I can't find a link to this activity, it sounds like a great idea.

So what am I going to do in future?  Well I'm not going to stop buying clothes all together but I am going to make my clothes last longer. I will not salve my conscience by lobbing large bags of unwanted clothes in the direction of charity shops. Charities often have to sell on the clothes donated  they are bought by dealers who sell them back to third world countries which in turn depresses the internal clothing business and puts local workers out of a job.  I am going to wear out the clothes in my wardrobe and, perhaps more importantly for me, make clothes with the burgeoning stash I already have of both knitting yarn and dress fabric.  SO please keep on checking my blog to keep me in line - see if the things I am making (or making over) really live up to these principles I have learned over the last six weeks



PS - here are the rest of my daily photos

Day #42
Day  #40
Day #39 
Day #38
Day #37
Day #36
Day #35
Day #34
Day #33
Day #32

Saturday, 21 March 2015

More Catching up (including on the laundry)

It was when I came to get out of the car on our first day in the true south of France and it was raining that I realised I had forgotten to pack any sort of coat. I suppose this six items only thing had made me think packing would be too easy.  Just throw the six things in the case plus a sponge bag and done... NOT.  The other mistake I discovered en route.  I had packed a smaller case just for the over night stops. On day one I began to dress in our hotel room in Riems and realised all my socks were in the big bag in the car.  All except the pair I had on the needles, my travelling knitting.  There was nothing else for it but to sit on the bed, knit up the ribbing and cast off before I could get dressed.

casting off

But back to my need for a coat.  It was clear as we looked out of the window the first morning we woke up in our Gite in Viens (in the hills a little north and west of Arles) that borrowing a coat from JTH was not going to work, a coat each was required.

from the sitting room window

So we drove to Avignon for some shopping, where of course the sun shone

THE Bridge
But the Trench coat I bought has been very handy and I feel just a tiny bit French Chic in it

Beside the Med in March

But back to the other point in my title.  It occurred to me that if you have been following the six item challenge you may be wondering about the laundry side of things.  There is the guilt inducing issue of  putting on the washing machine too often with too small a load, the bother of it all and the possibility that so much washing is going to wear out the clothes before the challenge is up.  Well the skirt has not been washed yet, I don't wear it a much for one thing but before I made it I did wash the fabric in Soak so I know it would wash if need be.  The jeans are sturdy enough to go through many washes but the rest, the silk shirt, the jersey dress from Episode and the grey tee from Jigsaw?  Well this is where Soak is absolutely fabulous.  

Not a publicity shot - my bottle after FOUR washes

All is needed is to add a tiny amount to a bowl of warm water, immerse the clothes for 10 mins and spin and hang out to dry - done!  And it is far kinder to the clothes than a washing machine and conventional detergent (even so called special stuff for delicates) I use it at home for all my hand knits (including socks) and for soaking before blocking.  I sound like an advert but I am a real fan of this stuff and it smells lovely too.

I am off now, back to my books and knitting as we have nearly two more weeks of lazy holiday days to enjoy. But in case you are checking the blog for pics of my daily clothing 'choices' the catch up photgraphs are below my signature here (and every day on Instagram, just press the button in the right hand column)

My latest project Lumpy Space pattern design by Stephen West knitted in vintage style Excelana



Day #26

Day #27

Day #28 (standing on our windowsill)

Day #29 (in the valley immediately below the gite, special pose for Blipfoto solidarity)

Day #30

Day #31 (on the promenade)

Day #32 (today is a stay at home day, blogging and reading)