2014,… so far

As a little experiment, I wanted to make 2013 a year where I went without buying any new clothes. I’ve got bags & bags of them hoarded at the bottom of my cupboard, underneath the bed that I haven’t worn in ages,… some of them probably don’t fit any more but I still have fond memories of where & when I wore a certain garment & would be sad to say ‘Goodbye’ to them. I’d also been given some gift vouchers for X’mas, went on a massive splurge & felt I was suitably equipped to last a year now that I had enough new things.

Like any canny shopper, I like bargains but the terrible working conditions in garment factories in less developed countries had me thinking about my relationship with clothes & ‘fashion’. Besides food, it’s the one thing that we are constantly encouraged to indulge in. ‘New Looks’, this season’s ‘must-have’, the latest ‘in vogue’ stuff we see in photos, celebs on red-carpets and ‘What They Wore’. It’s a multi-billion pound industry & it pains me to hear that people (& children no less) are being exploited for this obsession we have – the cheap shirt on my back suddenly feels like a raiment of shame. The call to boycott certain shops to me just means it’ll have an impact on the livelihoods of workers yet Gandhi’s quote; “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness” struck a cord. It’s a thorny issue & it would take co-operation from corporations, local government & workers’ unions to overhaul the industry. In any case, I thought it’d be a fab challenge to see if I could ‘abstain’ in a spirit of mindfulness for a whole year.

The experiment was going well – I was wearing stuff from my extensive wardrobe & I managed to resist popping into shops for a ‘browse’ until one day in June; I cycled to work & found that I’d left my change of clothes at home. Rather than stay in my sweaty clothes, I went & bought a cheap dress from a well-known high street shop…. I felt dreadful that I’d ‘failed’ after such a great start….

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I decided 2014 was the year to give it another go & maybe it’d also create the impetus to make myself more garments. It’s been quite satisfying so far & I’ve had great fun going through my stash & shopping for fabrics.

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After a few disasters, my pattern-reading & sewing skills have also improved. The time it takes & the amount of detail that goes into making something means I cherish my creations 10-fold. (I also found out on Instagram that the Me-Made-May challenge is on which is just what I need for inspiration when I’m half-way though my little experiment)

photo (1)The fabric has flaws & the dress isn’t perfect but I know it’s been made with a lot of care & love,… I can’t think of a better or happier way to swathe myself.

 

Woolly Travels

I was thrilled to be asked to chat with Helen on her new podcast; amongst the things we talked about was the different yarn shops I’d visited when I was touring up & down the country. So I thought I’d show you some of the lovely places I just had to have a browse in despite my best attempts to Cold Sheep!

This is Fibreworks in Chipping Norton (the place itself sounds like a fictional town in a Harry Potter book).

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How could I resist this lovely shop!

The town was beautifully picturesque with little, cobbled lanes running through cute, brownstone cottages. I saw this in the window;

which made me knit this for Helen’s Tea Party!

Tea Cosy

Photo courtesy of Curious Handmade (aka Helen Stewart)

Another job I did in May which brought me to Glasgow led me to seek out The Yarn Cake, organisers of the Glasgow School of Yarn.

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I was too shy to take photos of the cake menu but they looked delicious….

The shop was near the Botanical Gardens & I blessed with some fantastic, sunny spells interspersed with 3 other seasons! The city has a reputation for having very changeable weather, all too true when I had to pack a jumper, umbrella & sunglasses every day.

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Amazing tropical plants,…. a mini-Kew Gardens

Despite this, Glasgow had a vibrant, arty feel mixed with a Caledonian edginess. Our theatre was in the West End of town & my walk to ‘work’ was through an area filled with huge, classy Georgian houses.

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The last leg of my travels brought me back to Manchester & once again I had to pay a visit to Purl City Yarns which I’d heard about from a fellow knitter & actor. I found it last October nestled in the trendy Northern Quarter & made some purchases for gift knitting.

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Trendy Northern Quarter

It was lovely to come back some 12 months later, it felt like I’d come full circle somehow.

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Every one of these shops had lovely staff, ever willing to help & offer advice to this shy & often indecisive knitter!

Here are some other snaps I took on my travels….

20131116-231032.jpg Oxford College

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Beautiful gown lamp shades in a Hong Kong Shopping mall,… can’t remember what it was called, I went to so many!

Taking Stock

In an effort to live a much more orderly life (& partly cos I was sick of wasting time hunting for yarn – “Is it under the bed/in the trunk/wardrobe/kitchen,…… oh my god, it’s run away!”) I thought I’d finally get round to organising my stash by weight and perhaps pruning it. 

This completely innocent & somewhat naive idea became something of an adventure as I confronted my stash face to face.

A complete yarn explosion...

A complete yarn explosion…

This show-down didn’t bring forth any over-whelming feelings of shame or anxiety. Instead, I was quite calm & slightly demused by all my acquisitions… what did I intend to make with that? Why did I feel I needed 8 balls of this? Was I really going to make something in that colour? Oh hello, red & blue sari yarn! I forgot I had you….

All in all, I am deeply grateful to my stash & am happily embracing its limitless potential. My instincts must have told me that we were entering an age of austerity and that I needed to stock up! It’s going to be tough deciding which yarns to use for my UILI exercise. I’ve set aside a whole box of yarn I’m ambivalent about & could quite easily take it down to the charity shop if I really need to off-load it from my life.

But my stash also got me thinking about how I don’t really need any more yarn, that I’ve got an abundance of it already & that learning to be content with one’s lot could be the secret to taming this crazy yarn addicition of mine. There are worse things I could be addicted to but I am running out of space…

So, I’m taking the pledge to complete 10 projects by November & Cold Sheep until then. Sunday the 14th was my final day of buying yarn* – yikes! I’m trying not to make a big thing out of it but I reckon if I make my intention public, it’ll help keep me on the straight & narrow… wish me luck!

* unless it’s an absolutely necessary purchase in order to complete a project.

Campaign for Wool – Somerset House

image (5)I have been really out of the loop with fibre events and special things happening in the capital so it’s thanks to Helen that I found out about  the Campaign for Wool at Somerset House. I am so pleased that I managed to make it! It was beautifully set-up with some amazing displays…

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Look at those lush colours!!

I got a spot on the Fairisle masterclass with Sandra from Jamieson’s & Smith & after showing us the basics, with furrowed brows and concentrated silence, we were off! The 2 hours flew by and it’s ignited my need to tackle a fairisle project this year. I’ll have to put what I’ve learnt into practice soon before the information gets archived in my brain.

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The wonderful history & properties of the classic British wool suit

Another class I managed to make was one with Tom Holland who taught us the art of darning. All those well-loved but holey jumpers of mine will now get a new lease of life. I am so glad that they weren’t thrown out… Hurrah, for resurrection!

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Why hide the holes? Make them pop!

You can check out some more photos of the exhibition over on Helen’s blog.

Hats Galore!

I have been making lots of hats lately.  And why not? They are quick knits providing instant gratification & perfect lastminute pressies – the current tally is 9 & counting. I haven’t managed to take great photos of all of them which is a bit of a shame but I think the recepients were extremely happy especially with the cold, arctic weather front we’ve been getting.

Stuart - our lovely Stage Manager

Stuart – our lovely Stage Manager

I knitted it up with some lovely Misti Alpaca which felt like butter! The hat making binge became the perfect excuse to visit Loop – ooopsy, entering the cave of temptation. The one below is the Graham pattern which I’ve used before for another present.

Graham Hat for me!

Graham Hat for me!

My queue list on Ravelry has grown loads and wow, there are so many new patterns. Admittedly, making hats isn’t going to make a huge dent in my stash unless I make a hat a day!

I’ve started listening to the Stash & Burn podcasts & am tempted to jump onto the ‘Use it or Lose it’ bandwagon, anything that helps me destash can only be a good thing.

Twenty Thirteen

Yangon, Burma

Yangon, Burma

Last year completely whizzed by! Lots of exciting things happened, I got myself a bike which was completely joyful, we had an amazing summer of sports in the capital & I managed to make my first dress , in fact I made a couple & also re-fashioned some tie-dye Thai fishermen trousers (did you like the clever wordplay there?).

I didn’t just visit a new city, I went to a new country – BURMA. It was an amazing trip – so good to just do some travelling, to expose my retina to new sights & hear the babble of foreign tongues.

Didn’t finish the Babette or start quilting but it was pretty ambitious of me to think I could squeeze it all in considering how hectic my work-load became. I’m not going to be too hard on myself though, after-all crafting & hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable & relaxing no?

Although,…. my Babette HAS been languishing at the bottom of my wardrobe & I did start it FIVE years ago so I should really try & finish it this year, even if it means it’s only semi-complete!

Most of the knitting I did last year were gifts for friends – then for X’mas, I was given this awesome present from my lovely flatmate.

Love the cover too!

Love the cover too!

It’s full of great ideas which has elevated my knitting to a whole new level. I’ve been inspired to try out these new tips which has meant a really bad case of startitis. Watch this space!

Struggles

I’ve just completed Section A of the Ishbel but it’s been a bumpy ride! I left my pattern behind at an audition and couldn’t get it back. Luckily, I’d made copies of the chart but then I’d leave that at home. There’s not much you can do without a pattern when it comes to lace knitting. I’m now trawling Rav to see if I should go for the larger lace section & if I’ve got enough yarn for that.

Otherwise, the New Year’s resolutions are going well. I have to make a conscious effort for my weekly veggy day which just highlights what a meat-eater I am. Same with the two alcohol free days, it takes some planning. But, one of my themes for 2012 is to have some semblance of structure and all of this is helping. Similarly with trying to write & blog more regularly, having rituals & forming constructive habits can only be a positive thing.

Speaking of rituals & festivities, Happy Year of the Water Dragon! It’s going to be an exciting year, the combination of the Water element with Dragon is particularly auspicious. Loads of superstitious Chinese couples will be trying to conceive so that they have a Water Dragon child in the family. Having a Dragon baby is in itself considered a blessing.

On Sunday, some friends & I are rocking down to Chinatown to celebrate the New Year with some feasting, it’s going to be mental! There are loads of customs to follow (eat noodles, raw fish, present 2 Mandarins to friends, wear red, avoid arguements, buy a new chopping board, spring clean the house, the list is endless….) but the one that I tend to observe religiously is getting a completely new outfit. It symbolises a fresh start to the new year that everything you wear is brand new. As a child, it was always very exciting to go shopping for New Year’s clothes and to look forward to putting them on for the 1st day of the new year.  

I’ve had a quick peek at my horoscope & it says to ‘…. begin new projects.’ Oh dear, that’s not going to help with reducing my pile of UFO’s!