Tag Archives: Slaithwaite

Stylecraft Blogstars Meetup, aka Not Too Shabby A Weekend

It’s much easier to write blog posts when things are going wrong, or when nothing much has happened. Comic anecdotes come more readily when you’ve mistakenly put your husband out for collection with the recycling, or when you’ve spent an insomniac half-night pondering a mysterious chicken-shaped splodge on the bedroom ceiling.

stylecraft mill Slaithwaite Spectrum Yarns Yorkshire

Here’s a clue about where this blog post is going.

Unfortunately,* things have gone catastrophically well this weekend… which was immensely fun to experience, but isn’t very funny to describe. I have lovely yarn/knitting/crochet-related things to show and tell you about, but it’s not going to be very funny. Aware of this problem and feeling desperate, I resorted to going for an extra-long run today, because my biggest idiocy generally happens knee-deep in mud and four miles from home, but even that went uncharacteristically well. I give up!

Warning: this blog post may contain scenery.

Anyway, to the point.

On Friday, I zoomed up to West Yorkshire at the wheel of the Blunderbus (replacement for the Stinkwagon) to join in with the second meet-up of the Stylecraft Blogstars at and around the Stylecraft mill in Slaithwaite.

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The Stylecraft mill is the one behind the chimney in the distance on the right.

Shall we do the introductions first? It’s a cliché to say so (and I write that as someone who likes to take clichés out the back and beat them mercilessly) but these folk really don’t need a whole load of introduction. Let’s introduce them anyway.

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From the left: Jane Crowfoot, me, Sarah at Annaboo’s House, Heather at The Patchwork Heart, Julia at Hand Knitted Things, Lucy at Attic24, Helen at The Woolly Adventures Of A Knitting Kitty, Emma Varnam, Sandra at Cherry Heart, Lucia at Lucia’s Fig Tree, and Kathryn at Crafternoon Treats. (Sadly, Sue Pinner wasn’t there this time.)

Living on the opposite side of the planet was NOT considered an adequate excuse for non-attendance. It’s tough being a Blogstar: you have to do stuff way past midnight.

And joining us via Skype at heaven-knows-what time of the night or day, was Angela at Get Knotted Yarn Craft (pictured on the laptop above), and Zelna at Zooty Owl. Phew, what a line-up!

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So we met, and we shared ideas, news, over-enthusiasm, wine, a hotel, gossip, yarn, workshops, food, and a trip out to the Knitting And Crochet Guild historical archive. (More on the Knitting And Crochet Guild in a separate post, because it was fascinating.)

Naturally, we insisted on a hotel with its own helipad. One has standards, y’know.

This was a gathering where nobody batted an eyelid if you pulled out your knitting during dinner or crocheted throughout a meeting, or if you talked about yarn for an hour without even pausing for breath, or if you were observed arriving at the hotel with luggage comprising only one toothbrush and 85 knits/hooks-in-progress. Obviously, we knitted/hooked throughout pre-dinner drinks:-

Someone kindly took a photo before the yarn came out at dinner:-

These are my kinda people, and they’re probably yours, too.

It would be fair to say that we were treated rather well.

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What? For ME? Oh I couldn’t possibly! … Actually, maybe I could, if you really insisted…

We began with an update on what’s coming soon from Stylecraft. I’m sorry, but this really is a if-I-tell-you,-I’ll-have-to-kill-you situation, until the new batches of yarns are officially released. More news to come very, very, soon.

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Saturday was a day filled with marvellous things at the mill, including a workshop on Tunisian crochet:-

Busy. Concentrating.

It’s quite fun, once you get the hang of the strange knit-cum-crochet rhythm:-

At least they gave me exactly the right mug for my green tea:-

We admired each other’s work. Look at ThePatchworkHeart’s blankets!

And Lucia’s Fig Tree’s blanket!

(Maybe I should have brought my chair.)

It was all wonderful, inspiring, invigorating, and exciting, and I’m probably not alone in having come away with a whole hairy heap of ideas.

View from the window.

My only gripe was that it was all over far, far too soon.

Still, there was still a little time before sunset to run around the town getting shots of the magnificent viaduct that cuts across the town:-

And see?

And see?

And as the sun threatened with some sincerity (I REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME!) to sink below the horizon, I grabbed a last few images of the countryside around Slaithwaite:-

All in all, a pretty good weekend.

 

*OK, I’m not really ungrateful.

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Giveaway? Giveaway!

Shall we have a giveaway? Wa-hey, let’s have a giveaway! Start sharpening those typing fingers in order to enter, because details are coming later in this post.

This is the third and final part of my triptych* of posts about the exciting Yorkshire/Stylecraft/Blogstars shenanigans. (Previous parts: the mill tour, and the first evening.) But it’s very hard to produce an even mildly amusing post when absolutely nothing about the experience was catastrophically disastrous or weird. The closest I came to problems was when they interviewed each of us on camera (yikes! …with a side order of yikes!!) and I stupidly sprinted down and then up several flights of stairs at the mill immediately beforehand (mills are tall), thus ensuring that 103% of my attention (I have a lot of attention) was on trying to look as though I wasn’t hyperventilating, leaving a mere -3% of my attention for the questions that were being asked. Please forgive the number of sub-clauses in that sentence. And don’t expect to see me anchoring the six o’clock news any day soon after that bumbling on-screen performance.

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Anyway. Yes. Right. T’was was the morning after the night before, and those of us from the previous day plus a few more assembled again at the mill, although the weather was no longer as shiny as in this picture:-

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In addition to the nine of us I showed in my last post, I should tell you about the other three Blogstars who seem to think that things like living-on-the-opposite-side-of-the-planet-whilst-just-this-very-second-having-given-birth constitute an adequate excuse for non-attendance. 😉 Allow me to introduce Angela of Get Knotted Yarn Craft, as well as Emma Varnam, and Jane Crowfoot. They were there in spirit, at least. Here again are the rest of us (excluding me, because, well, camera).

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Fine fibrous folk, L-R: Julia (Hand Knitted Things), Lucy (Attic24), Kathryn (Crafernoon Treats), Sarah (Annaboo’s House), Sandra (Cherry Heart), Juliet (Stylecraft via Blue Bear), Sue Pinner, Heather (The Patchwork Heart), Helen (The Knitting Exploits Of Josie Kitten).

So, those of us there in person got to attend the most delightfully colourful meeting ever (and I say that as someone who’s attended a lot of meetings in the past two decades). Imagine a meeting where you walk into the room and there are bowls of yarn laid out for you to squidge and squoosh, and you’re positively encouraged to knit/hook throughout. Oh well, if you insist:-

Needles: lovely Karbonz. Yarn: Batik.

Needles: lovely Karbonz. Yarn: Batik.

Annabelle and Juliet told us all about forthcoming developments in yarnery** in general and at Stylecraft in particular. (Sock yarn! I want to tell you about the sock yarn!)

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Annabelle (sales director at Spectrum Yarns), Juliet (Blue Bear, working with Spectrum and Knit Pro, amongst other brands).

See those shelves full of yarn in the background? That’s Yarn Stories, the gorgeous 100% merino and merino-alpaca blend range that I’ve written about before. It’s made here at the mill. Shall we take a closer look?

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Anyway, back to the meeting. Concentrate, Twisted, concentrate. Colour trends are identified a year or more in advance. Want to know what we’ll all be knitting soon? Well autumn/winter 16/17 in yarn is all about the “World Marauder”. Here’s a mood board:-

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See those luscious, rich colours? Get your needles and hooks ready to maraud, folks.

And coming soon after, a cluster of colours and loose, unstructured shapes termed “The Humble Labourer”:-

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I lurves these soft, natural shades.

There are professionals whose sole reason for crawling out from under the duvet of a Monday morning is to go and forecast the colours, shapes, and styles that folk will be buying 18 months or more down the line. Their expertise can be bought by companies designing clothes, homewares, and in this case yarn. I guess these forecasts become self-fulfilling prophecies, but they’re still interesting.

So how does this translate into the bundles of fluff that’ll be available in your local yarn shop? Well, in keeping with World Marauder, Stylecraft has just this moment launched Batik, a DK-weight range of 16 intense shades of 80% acrylic, 20% wool, recommended needle/hook size 4mm. They wanted to develop a yarn that was suitable for crochet as well as knitting, so Batik has quite a high degree of twist, meaning it hooks up rather nicely. Look!

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They gave us a ball of each shade. Mine seem to be settling in quite happily at home:-

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I’m thinking a fairisle scarf, after which I’ll write a proper review. The list price is £2.15 for 50g, in case you’re wondering. Available now.

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And coming next month is A RANGE OF SOCK YARN! Hurrah! 75% wool, 25% polyamide, named ‘Head Over Heels’ as it’s good for shawls as well as socks. I won’t lie – I’m properly excited. Stylecraft make high-quality acrylics but it’s good to see them also going in a more woolly direction, especially with yarn produced in this ol’ Yorkshire mill.

We adjourned to the very top of the building for lunch.

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The day was greyer than its predecessor:-

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View through a rain-spattered window.

And then far, far too soon, it was all over, although the blow was softened somewhat by the generosity of the goody-bag they gave us, with many treats including the whole Batik range and an interchangeable set of my very favourite needles (Knitpro Karbonz). Here’s some – but by no means all – of it:-

gifts

And at the end of all this fun, after the goodbyes? Well before beginning the long drive south towards home, I met up with my friend who lives but a few miles from Slaithwaite. We sat in a wine bar by the river, sipping green tea, knitting, and talking feminism and politics. It was very good to see her. She’s dyed her hair bright red and it looks AWESOME.

So, do you want to know about this little giveaway?

Well, one of the treats in the goody bag was a fat bundle of vouchers for money off Stylecraft yarn, intended for you, dear readers. So let’s get on with giving out the first four. (There’ll be more to come, later.) Each voucher is worth £5 off any Stylecraft product(s) AT BRICKS-AND-MORTAR SHOPS ONLY, NOT ONLINE, and two lucky people will win two each (i.e. £10-worth each). Now – and this is where you need to pay attention – these vouchers are only spendable in the UK and I’m aware that more than half of you live elsewhere and I really don’t want to leave you out, so two lucky readers from outside the UK will each win two Stylecraft bags like the one in the photo above (perfect for projects or for shopping) and one pink Stylecraft keyring.

With me so far? Good.

To enter, leave a comment at the end of this post, stating whether you’re entering the UK competition or the non-UK competition. For an additional entry, ‘like’ the ‘Yarn’s Facebook page and leave a comment (UK or non-UK, AND some way of contacting you if you win, eg Ravelry name) on the Facebook post about this competition.

The competition is open from… ready, steady…. wait for it… NOW, until noon GMT on Sunday 14th August. After this, two UK winners (£10 in vouchers each) and two non-UK winners (two bags and a keyring each) will be randomly selected, and prizes despatched. Good luck, and may the gauge consistency be with you.

 

I know, the panels of a triptych should be attached by hinges. This one is a little more… unhinged.

** I shall not rest until I make the word ‘yarnery’ happen. My friend works on new words at the Oxford English Dictionary – on my to-do list is asking her whether she’s accepting bribes…

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Blogstars

Last weekend I was in West Yorkshire at the invitation of Stylecraft. The occasion was the inaugural meeting of their ‘Blogstars‘ programme, in which a dozen of us yarny bloggers/designers get the chance to work closely with Stylecraft and hear whispers about new yarns that are on their way. (Clue: there are some very interesting and unexpected developments afoot.)

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They kindly asked me to take part. ‘Would you like to come up to the picturesque valleys of West Yorkshire, tour our old woollen mill, stay in a luxurious hotel with fabulous food/wine, talk yarn with fellow designer-bloggers, and attend a meeting that’s all about yarn and at which you’re allowed, nay encouraged to knit throughout, at the end of which we’ll give you a giant sack of Stylecraft and KnitPro freebies?’

“Hmm,” I said, frowning. “I’ll need to take some time to think about that.”

Approximately one fortieth of a nanosecond later, I squealed “YES PLEASE!”

So I set off in the grimy ol’ Stinkwagon, its ancient axels grumbling under the weight of enough knits-in-progress to keep me going if I accidentally got stranded in Yorkshire for three months… even though I was heading for a woollen mill which could reasonably be expected to supply some knitting materials if Armageddon happened and we had a lock-in. The journey was slow. I suspect that knitters and crocheters are the only people who like traffic jams (proper ones where you have to completely stop and you may as well turn off your engine for the next half hour), but sadly there were no traffic jams, so I didn’t get to knit en route.

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Four hours later, I was in Slaithwaite. The first treat was the mill tour that I described in my last post, and then there was a muchly fun evening with some of my fellow Blogstars and a couple of Stylecraft folk at the hotel. When I came down to the bar and saw one of the group knitting, I knew that I’d found my people. See these folk? They’re all thoroughly lovely (except me):-

Left to right: Heather from The Patchwork Heart blog, Helen from The Knitting Exploits Of Josie Kitten, Sarah from Annaboo's House, me, Annabelle (Stylecraft), and - knitting! - Juliet (Blue Bear / Stylecraft).

Left to right: Heather from The Patchwork Heart, Helen from The Knitting Exploits Of Josie Kitten, Sarah from Annaboo’s House, me, Annabelle (Stylecraft), and – knitting! – Juliet (Blue Bear / Stylecraft)

The views from the hotel weren’t too shabby. I took this shot from the hotel’s helipad: fortunately I managed not to get squished by any incoming helicopters.

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The views were charming, especially as the day faded…

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…to near-darkness:-

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Anyway, back to the yarn. The main event was scheduled for the following day, back at the Stylecraft mill in Slaithwaite. This was where we got to meet up not just with folk from the previous night, but also with the rest of the Blogstars (excluding a couple of people who couldn’t make it this time). Here we are:-

Here we are. Image courtesy of Sophie at Stylecraft (a fellow RUNNER-AND-KNITTER! I LIKE this woman. :-) ) Left to right, back row: Sandra (Cherry Heart), Julia Marsh (Hand Knitted Things), Helen (The Knitting Exploits of Josie Kitten), Sarah (Annaboo's House). Front row, left to right: Kathryn (Crafternoon Treats), Heather (The Patchwork Heart), me, Lucy (Attic 24), Sue (Shropshire Scrappers).

Image courtesy of Sophie at Stylecraft (a fellow RUNNER-AND-KNITTER! I LIKE this woman. 🙂 ) Back row, left to right: Sandra (Cherry Heart), Julia (Hand Knitted Things), Helen (The Knitting Exploits of Josie Kitten), Sarah (Annaboo’s House). Front row, left to right: Kathryn (Crafternoon Treats), Heather (The Patchwork Heart), me, Lucy (Attic 24), Sue (Shropshire Scrappers).

I’d met Lucy (Attic 24) before when we co-judged the Stylecraft yarn competition at the mill last year, but I’d never met the other bloggers, so it was fabulous to chat to fellow people who like to do stuff with yarn and then talk about it online. There was frustratingly little time, though, so I hardly got to speak to some of them at all.

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Another shot of the view from the hotel.

So we got down to the heady business of yarn. There really are some very exciting developments coming soon from this ‘ere mill, so I’ll devote a whole post to telling you about them next time. Trust me, you’ll like them. 🙂

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To The Mill!

Evenin’. We all here? Good, good. Do have a seat… NO, NOT THAT ONE! Sorry, didn’t mean to shout, but that’s the chair the twinnage have booby-trapped. What’s that you say? Oh, um, trust me, you don’t want to know, but… you’re not scared of worms, I hope?

Help yourself to some wine. You’ve brought yarn? Ha, silly question: of course you’ve brought yarn.

Speaking of yarn, would you like to see round an old woollen mill? It’s just that a few of us knit/crochet bloggers* were invited to Yorkshire at the weekend by the fine fibrous folk at Stylecraft for the inaugural meeting of the Blogstars programme. (More on that over the next few posts, including a giveaway, and some rather exciting insider gossip about future yarny developments…) So I loaded up the ol’ Stinkwagon with knitting paraphernalia, a toothbrush, and a change of socks, and headed up to Slaithwaite. Look!

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The first thing we did on arrival was tour the mill with Richard Brown, owner of Spectrum Yarns (which produces Stylecraft, Yarn Stories, and some luxury merino clothing treats). Want to see? The mill is oldish – 1907. Spinning skills in this area run deep amongst local families, so it’s no accident that Spectrum’s spinning happens here, whereas its knitting operations are over in Derbyshire. (Their acrylic is made under licence in Turkey, just in case you were wondering.)

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Considerably more than fifty shades of grey.

If you’ve ever knitted with Yarn Stories yarn (as I have), it was spun here.

See this stuff in the picture below? It’s ‘tops’ – undyed, untwisted, sheep fluff. Yes it does feel as nice as it looks.

Mmmmmmmm......

Mmmmmmmm……

The yarns produced here are worsted-spun, i.e. comprising tightly twisted, neatly parallel, same-length fibres, producing a smooth, dense, hard-wearing yarn. (Stop me if you know this already, but the alternative is woollen-spun, in which fibres are all over the place prior to spinning – making a fluffier, wilder, warmer, but less hard-wearing product.) I remember reading all about the two processes in this book, but it was interesting to see worsted spinning in action.

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So yeah. The machines here can combine up to ten feeds of tops, mixing light with dark shades as required. By the way, some of the tops is sent off for dyeing as soon as it arrives, and the rest is dyed as yarn.

Richard Brown explains.

Richard Brown explains.

Next, the spinning frame draws the fibre out to its correct width, and applies twist. So by this stage we’re dealing with something resembling yarn, rather than just a hairy bucket o’fluff. Progress!

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The exact width and quality of the product is monitored electronically. Also, there’s a whole lab dedicated to micro-assessing of the quality of yarn.

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They take their work seriously in the lab:-

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If I had a job there, I’d demand to see a lot of yarn samples:-

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Or I might just sit and drool at the display on their wall:-

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Anyway, back to the shop floor. After spinning, the yarn is twisty – a little too twisty, to be frank. If you hold up a length of yarn, it fights you to ravel itself into a spirally knot. So the next stage of the process is to pop it in a steam oven to persuade it to calm the heck down.

The steam oven.

The steam oven.

The result is a lot calmer and more biddable.

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I could look at this yarn all day.

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On one floor of the mill are boxes (and boxes) of yarn, ready for dispatch. I tried to linger behind the group as they left, hoping to get locked in with more yarn than I could conceivably knit in a lifetime, but unfortunately somebody noticed.

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Oh, and d’you see that lovely wooden floor there? Richard had a tale to tell about that. The six-floor building was originally constructed as a cotton mill. Cotton dust (‘fly’) is a notorious risk for explosion, so in order to prevent any irritating infernos and loss of life, the floors were made of beautiful solid maple, which carried a low risk of sparking.

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Meanwhile workers at the time wore iron-soled clogs, and over the decades, their footsteps wore two deep dips in the sandstone staircase:-

Look, d'you see how those steps have worn?

Look, d’you see how those steps have worn?

So that, my friend, is the basics of the process. More soon on the Blogstars programme, and a giveaway!

 

∗ Lucy from Attic24, Julia from Hand Knitted Things, Sandra from Cherry Heart, Sue at Susan Pinner, Kathryn from Crafternoon Treats, Sarah from Annaboo’s House, Helen from The Woolly Adventures Of A Knitting Kitty, Heather from The Patchwork Heart… and present in spirit if not in person, Jane Crowfoot, Angela from Get Knotted, and Emma Varnam.

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Stylecraft Competition, Yorkshire, Internet Friends, And Champagne.

Oh where to even begin?

I’m back from yarn-filled, sun-drenched (despite any regional stereotypes you’ve encountered) west Yorkshire. I have so much to show you – more, I think, than can realistically be shoe-horned into one blog post, unless you like your blog posts encyclopaedic.

Obviously, to anyone who’s been dabbling ‘Yarnside a-lately, there’s the main event, co-judging the Stylecraft / Let’s Knit competition to find a luscious new shade of yarn. Here’s a teaser photo, but this fabulously colourful event warrants its own post:-

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My fellow judges. Left to right: Annabelle Hill (sales director at Stylecraft), Sarah Neal (editor, Let’s Knit magazine), Lucy (Attic24 blog).

…And having had the fascinating experience of a tour round Spectrum Yarns’ mill (where the judging took place), I’d love to show you the embarrassingly few photos that I took. Another post!

And then the knitted skirt and crocheted bag I designed for the occasion deserve their own post, especially the skirt, completed over breakfast on judging day with hairspray-related advice from the editor of Let’s Knit magazine to complete its details. In fact, the whole wonderful Yorkshire experience deserves its own post, ending with a dash even further north to meet up with Gill from the Greenclogs blog, whom I’ve been gradually getting to know online, and who turns out to be every bit as lovely/creative/clever/kind/interesting as I imagined she’d be in person. (Pity I went all socially anxious and scarcely let the poor woman squeeze a word in edgewise.)

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…And three other little things that I’ll say here, because they’re not big enough for their own blog posts:-

(i) Thing the first.

Today, Colin The Postie delivered many things (let’s gloss over the tedium and financial demands of most of them), including an issue of this coming month’s issue of Simply Knitting magazine (edition 133 – out todayish, I think?) with an interview with, erm, me, inside the back cover. Witness:-

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My column in Simply Knitting begins shortly, though it won’t be every month.

(ii) Thing the second.

I’m drafting this pen-and-paper, as always, this time in the garden whilst loosely managing the Toddler Twinnage, and I’ve just realized that a pair of great tits are breeding in the nest box beside me. Springtime squee! I couldn’t steal a photo of Mater or Pater Great Tit going in, so this blurry iPad snap of the home front will have to suffice.

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(iii) Thing the third.

(No bitterness here… Oh no, none at all…) So I got home from Yorkshire late, late, late last night, all braced for the weeping hordes to intercept me in the driveway, desperate in their need for maternal wisdom and salvage. Know what I found? No weeping whatsoever, but an empty champagne bottle in the sink and tales of unnaturally well-behaved children in my absence. Clearly, things function better round here when I’m not present. Sigh.

So, where shall we begin with this blogfest? the Stylecraft competition, surely? Right, I’ll get drafting…

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