In the Loop 4 Glasgow 2015

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What a lovely few days in Glasgow. As I travelled north on the bus yesterday, I had time to review and mull over the 3 days of the conference, along with all I’d seen and experienced in Glasgow – a city I really do not know well enough.

While I didn’t get to hear all the speakers, as I also had a stand in the market place which needed attention, those I did hear were interesting and thought provoking.  I can’t pretend I agreed with, or even understood, all of the papers presented, but I cannot deny that it forced me to think about aspects of knitting I’d never considered before.

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It was a full programme, at the heart of which were the core themes of Authenticity, Sustainability and Creativity.  As you can imagine, discussion between delegates spilled out from the conference room into the tea breaks and market place, and it was interesting to hear snippets of conversations taking place.  Something that cropped up again and again in discussions that I heard was the subject of the level of payment made to knitters working for British companies who retailed hand knitted garments or who produced hand knitted garments for fashion houses.  On the subject of authenticity, Linda Newington presented an interesting, albeit inconclusive, paper on authenticity and heritage – based around her recent visit to Fair Isle where she was able to interview and interact with Fair Isle knitters.  The authenticity theme was continued on the second day in Ruth Gilbert’s paper “Whose tradition is it anyway? Authenticity and appropriation in the internet age”.  It was Gilbert who made the point that “Tradition cannot be preserved, only recreated” leaving a question mark in my mind as to where that left us when it came to “copying”, or should that be “recreating” what have become known as traditional designs.  She was also clear that if a certain stitch pattern can be attributed to a particular designer then it cannot be considered as “traditional”.

We were invited to a Civic Reception at Glasgow’s City Chambers – a building filled with stunning tile work in the ceiling arches.

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It was really difficult to photograph the tile work, and I hadn’t taken my long lens to Glasgow, but you can take my word for it – or better still, if you’re in Glasgow, go and have a look!  Just remember to look up.  The hall where we had the reception was a little too ornate for my taste (I don’t think there was much left to cover in gilt), but the windows were extremely eye catching, and I couldn’t help but think the patterns would make a great knitting pattern:

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The staircase was certainly impressive:

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and the Glasgow Coat of Arms laid in tiles at the front door caught my eye, although I had to go and look up the meaning behind the motto and the reason for the fish, tree, bird and bell.

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On the second day one of the highlights for me was the paper presented by Kari Steihaug.  She is an artist and a poet, and it was her work in archiving unfinished knitted items which captured my imagination.  She has produced a book – Archive, the Unfinished Ones – with photographs of  the items, along with the story behind why the item is unfinished.

We had a fabulous conference dinner at Oran Mor where I had the good fortune to be sharing a table with Helen Robertson, Hazel Tindell, Pat Blain, Tania Ashton Jones, aka TJFrog, and Marilyn.  Hazel had stunned me earlier in the day by wearing a beautiful jacket which she’d knitted in my yarn, and of course I forgot to photograph it!  But you can read all about her project and see photographs on her blog here.  Tania has used my yarn in many of her dorset buttons, and they were certainly proving popular in the market place at the conference.  Helen makes stunning jewellery, and my one regret of the conference was I missed her paper which received resounding approval and appreciation from those who heard her.

Pat deserves a paragraph all of her own!    It was Pat who persuaded me to go to the conference, and who organised somewhere for me to stay.  She made sure I got to everywhere I needed to be, and even persuaded me on to the Glasgow Underground – I have the ticket to prove it.   It was delightful to spend time with her, and a special thank you to her daughter, Frances, who put us up for the few nights (or should that be “put up with us”), and fed us the most delicious meal on our final evening in Glasgow.  Thank you Pat.

There were so many highlights, but all things have to end, and the conference closed on Friday afternoon with a fashion show highlighting the designs of various Scottish based designers.  I would point you in the direction of Kate Davies’ blog to see lovely photographs of this particular event.  It would also be remiss of me not to mention the inspirational paper from Tom van Deijnen on the final day – “Old Techniques and New Cardigans : a case study in traditional knit repair techniques”, although by the time Tom’s presentation was due he was rather nervous to use the term “traditional” given all the discussion which had gone before.   I could have listened to Tom for much, much longer.  The phrase from his talk that I will take away with me though was “Wear a beautifully mended garment as a badge of honour” – we need to resist the throw away attitudes to prevalent today.

I know that discussion about some of the points raised will continue for some time to come.  But I was awfully touched when Linda Newington asked if I could be persuaded to attend the next In the Loop 5 conference in Winchester in 2017.  Congratulations to all the organisers and co-ordinators of this event.  You did a fabulous job.

 

A Smashing Day

Friday last week found Stevan and I (and of course, Lexie and Peggy), heading south down the A9 towards Edinburgh with the back of Isobella, our little Fiat Panda, full of wool.

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In a rather roundabout route I was making my way to the little village of Friockheim (pronounced “Freak-Em” in Angus to stay with my friend, Jeni, for the night, but before I could reach her I had to drop Stevan and the dogs off in Edinburgh with our friends Ian and Jacqui.  His mission for the weekend was to collect, and build, my new trailer which will become the main carrier of yarns to the various shows I do around the UK (and now perhaps Europe?).  And of course my reason for being in Angus was visit Fluph wool shop in Dundee on Saturday for a trunk show.  And what a trunk show it was!

After a lovely relaxing evening with Jeni and Archie and, of course, Martha the cat, we headed off to Fluph bright and early on Saturday morning, to be welcomed by the very lovely Leona.   Within a short space of time I’d managed to completely turn her stock displays on their head, and had all the Ripples Crafts yarn on display – just in time for the first arrivals at 11.00am sharp.  Before long the shop was buzzing!  Soon tea and cakes were produced, and out came the knitting:

 

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I didn’t have much chance to sit down and chat – it was all rather busy!  However I was introduced to the fabulous delights of Clark’s 24 hour bakery of Dundee.   Folk had come from far and wide, but probably the furthest travelled was Jules, aka Woollenflower, from Glasgow, although Mary Jane Mucklestone happened to be passing through on her way from Shetland to Edinburgh, so she popped in too – it was lovely to meet them both.  Here are Jules, Mary Jane and Jeni deep in conversation on the rather comfy sofas in the shop.

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All too soon the day was over.  Thank you to EVERYONE who came.  It was just a fabulous day.  There was much laughter!  Oh, you want to see proof?  Let me just say that this photograph sums up my whole visit to Fluph.  Thank you Leona and Jeni for taking such good care of me.  And thank you Archie for taking this wonderful photograph:

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Thanks to Archie Ramsay for this photograph

And the trailer?  Yes, it got built and the next stage of Ripples Crafts World Domination is underway.  Watch this space.

 

 

 

 

We have to do better than this!

Yesterday was the day of the Stoer Beach Clean Up.  From afar, Stoer beach looks pristine – golden sand alongside turquoise and blue sea, nestling inside a crescent of Assynt pebbles:

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The perfect beach.  Safe for swimming and lovely to just sit on and while away the hours.

Sadly, though, if you look closer you’ll find all kinds of human rubbish left at the high tide mark.  Stuff thrown onto the beach by the sea, probably in disgust, and which nestles in amongst the stones and gets buried in the sand.

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So armed with sturdy gloves donated by a local fish farm I grabbed a bag and joined another 35 or so volunteers and the great Stoer beach clean up began.  Only five minutes into the clean up and this was what my bag looked like:

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I could only stay an hour, but as the numbers of volunteers swelled the clean up was well and truly under way.

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Two and a half full bags later, I tipped my collection into the skip.  My bags included one slipper, loads of small plastic bottles and containers, and miles and miles of polypropylene rope – strong and useful, but just never decomposes.  The clear up went on for a few hours after I left, but at my departure this is what the inside of the skip looked like, after just one hour of clearing up:

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A closer look shows just how much plastic and polyprop there is – most of it probably discarded from, or fallen off, ships and fishing boats as they pass through the Minch, but so much of it a real danger to the sea life around this island of ours:

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All this from only one beach in the NW Scottish Highlands, collected in just one hour.  We have to do better than this, surely?

What can I say?

 

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I’m sorry to have been neglecting my blog for so long.  What can I say other than I’ve been busy!   Next weekend finds me in Dundee visiting Fluph wool shop for a trunk show.  If you are within striking distance of Fluph please come along.  I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there, and visiting Dundee which, as I mentioned in a previous post, is where my Mum used to live.

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A very formal photograph!

Mum still has vivid memories of the city.  My great grandmother lived just off Perth road, and Mum remembers walking up Blackness Road, where Fluph is located, to visit her.  I hope to get a chance to take some photographs to send Mum during my visit.  I’m sure there will have been big changes since she was there, but some things may still look familiar.

Here is Mum walking 2 of her own children at Broughty Ferry – it looks FREEZING!  Here’s hoping Dundee is a little warmer next weekend:

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And here’s a taste of some of the yarn which will be going along with me to Fluph

 

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I look forward to seeing many of you next weekend.

 

 

A Bit of Shop News

I am very pleased to tell you that I am planning another Trunk Show.  It is a while since I did one, but when Leona of Fluph said she’d be willing to host me I said “YES PLEASE!”.  So on Saturday, 8th August, you will find me here:

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Fluph is in Dundee, which is another reason I’m looking forward to going as my Mum grew up in Dundee, and I have no clear memories of the place at all.  It is a city which is experiencing exciting creative developments too, such as the new V&A Museum of Design.

For those of you unfamiliar with Trunk Shows, what it means is I turn up at Fluph with quite a few boxes of my yarn, and those of you who want to see it come along and have fun looking at the yarn, and hopefully buying some.  Leona has promised there will be cake!  I have heard reports of her legendary cake, so believe me when I say this is a real incentive.

I hope to see many of you at Fluph on the 8th.  You can find the address on Leona’s website.

And perhaps to entice you to Fluph, I am also pleased to tell you that by then I hope to have a new base in stock.  I have, for some time, been wanting to offer my Reliable Sock Yarn base as a Double Knitting weight.  And it looks very likely that this will now be happening.  I hope to have a small stock arriving next week, and once it is dyed I will let you know.  Stevan suggested the name Doubly Reliable Sock Yarn, which I think may well be appropriate.  This will be ideal for a quick project, or for boot/welly socks.  The yarn will come in 150g hanks and each hank will have approximately 420m.

In the meantime, I have added a few hanks of  Assynt Storms to the Reliable Sock Yarn shelf.

Finally, I think I have forgotten to mention on the blog that the Yarn Notes from Assynt yarn club is now available on the beautiful Suilven base.  If you are a current member and wish to swap to this base, please get in touch and we can sort that out.  If you wish to join the club then you will find all the details here.  Members have really been enjoying their membership, and I can hardly believe we only have 5 more months of the club to run.

 

Glorious Weather

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I really try very hard not to complain about the weather – after all you don’t live this far north for the weather.  But I would be the first to admit that our spring and summer this year has not been the best.  Wet, cold and windy just about covers it.

But something you learn to do when you live here is to make the most of the days that are good.  And Friday was glorious.  So I downed tools and off we went for a walk.  It was partly work (we were doing a bit of research for the Yarn Notes from Assynt Yarn Club), but mostly it was purely for pleasure.  And what a pleasure.

We set off along the cliffs above Stoer Bay, remonstrating with ourselves for not doing this walk more often as not only is it a lovely walk, but the views are spectacular.  Initially the climb is gentle, and with the tide out you can see how Stoer beach is a mix of white sand and pebbles:

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The orchids are at their best at the moment, although there were none of my favourite deep purple ones.  I had to settle for the pink orchids

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We kept climbing, stopping only to look back towards Clachtoll and, with a very long lens, capture home in its beautiful setting.  It can be quite hard to spot at first, as the house  blends in so well with the rocks behind it:

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Eventually we climbed to the top of Stac Fada.  And from here it is where you get the best view of Stoer, Clachtoll, and the iconic hills of Assynt beyond – Canisp, Suilven, Cul Mor, Cul Beag and Stac Pollaidh.

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We’ve promised ourselves we’ll not leave it so long before we head up onto the cliffs again.

For those of you who use Twitter, I’ll be tweeting with 2 accounts this week.  My usual account, @RipplesCrafts, but also for an account called @HI_Voices, a twitter account which has different people from the Highlands and Islands tweeting each week about about their life in the Highlands and Islands.

 

 

 

My Workspace

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It is a long time since I showed you “The Shed” aka “The Workshop” aka “The Studio” (when I’m feeling posh!).  It is such a lovely sunny day today, and the shed is looking particularly neat and tidy, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to show you where all the yarn dyeing is done.

Normally, all the yarn is stored in plastic boxes as you can see to the left of this photograph, but I’ve been stock taking this week so it is all on display, waiting to be counted and then packed away again.

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All the dyeing takes place in this workspace.  And I mean ALL of it.  Visitors are often amazed that I can turn out the quantities I do in this small space, but if you work systematically and methodically it all works well.

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As many of you know we live off the mains electricity grid, and so all the dyeing is done using propane gas.  Microwaves don’t feature in my method of dyeing – ever!   Everything is steamed or, more frequently, immersion dyed (aka kettle dyed).   I’m often asked if I’ll offer lessons in the shed, but as you can see space is at a premium and not ideal for classes.  As to power for my shed (I do a lot of laptop work while I’m in the shed), I have 2 solar panels offering to charge up the battery which keeps me powered up

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I use a range of producers for my dyes as some companies offer slightly different shades which means I get a wider choice of shades to use when dyeing.  The smaller pots on the left are colours which I am either testing, or rarely use, whereas the bigger pots are for colours which I use frequently.

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And, of course, the face mask is never far away – an essential piece of equipment when mixing dye powders.

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It is the one piece of equipment with which I have a love/hate relationship.  It makes me feel terribly claustrophobic, but the alternative of breathing in fine powders doesn’t bear thinking about.  Fortunately I only wear it when mixing the dry powders – once in liquid form the dyes are safer to use, although some would recommend wearing a mask all the time when dyeing.

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My recipes are all stored in notebooks (Mr RC keeps trying to persuade me to transfer them all to digital format but there is something satisfying about writing them down as you test, and being able to scratch out, and rewrite)

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and the whiteboard is perfect for quickly scribbling ideas or recipes, later to be transcribed into the “official” recipe book.

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And while pots are bubbling away the view from the shed can act as a lovely distraction:

RC-135351-03072015From my doorway I see all of life pass by.  Buzzards being worried by Hoodies, lambs in the spring, walkers making their way for a bit of fishing at Lexie’s Loch, field mice looking for titbits to eat, stoats hiding in amongst the rocks waiting for an opportunity to steal one of the hen’s eggs, and sometimes (not often) a yorkie happy to sit in the sun while boss is working:

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I consider myself pretty fortunate to have this as my office.

Woolfest 2015

I can hardly believe that Woolfest is over for another year. Wednesday last week found Stevan, myself, and the two dogs, driving south to the small village of Brigham just outside Cockermouth, to our small home for a few days.  It couldn’t have been more handy for the Mart where Woolfest is held – just a couple of miles up the road.

Thursday morning was free time, so we headed over to Bassenthwaite Lake to do a bit of walking.  It was overcast and grey, but the woodland walk which runs alongside the lake is very pretty.

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After lunch and fruit shopping in Keswick, it was on to the Mart at Cockermouth for the great unpacking and setting up.  I am always amazed at how long it takes me to set up the stand.  It takes about 4 hours, and even after that there is usually some frou frouing to do the following day before the doors open.

Here is the “oh good grief where did I put XYZ” stage:

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And here is the “I’m too tired to decide how to display the samples” stage:

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And here is the “I’ve had enough! Get me home and get me fed now!” stage:

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And as usual, I forgot to take a photograph once the stand was more or less just how I wanted it.  With venues such as Woolfest, you always have to be prepared to compromise on the final “look” of your stand.  It can be frustrating, but you really do have to do your best with what you have and then let it go.

Thank you to one and all who came to say hello and to buy yarn.  And thank you to my glamorous assistants, Dorothy and Lizzi for their help and support.  And a very big thank you to Stevan for ferrying me about, doing all the driving, and for putting up with all my pre-show nerves and post-show tiredness.  It is hard to believe that this was my 7th Woolfest.   Where has the time gone?  I had a quick look back through my blog entries to my first Woolfest stand in 2009.  Quite a lot less yarn than I took this year – it is good to see how the business has grown.

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Once I’ve had a chance to unpack from Woolfest I’ll update the shop.  But in the mean time, I wanted to tell you that I have decided to discontinue the Na Dannsairean 4ply base.  The remaining stock will be put up at a reduced price, and this will be your last chance to buy it.

I have some exciting news about events in August, but more of that later this week.  For the next few days I intend to take it a bit easy.

Sunday Walks – Sea Thrift

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At this time of year the sea thrift is stunning – dotted along the cliffs you’ll find little patches of pink dancing in the light breezes.  To say that the summer, thus far, has been abysmal would be putting a gloss on how the weather has been over the past few weeks, but today it was beautifully sunny, so we grabbed advantage of it and headed off to the cliffs between Stoer and Clachtoll beaches.  And the sea thrift did not disappoint.

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It can be found in the crevices of rocks in small groups, or more abundantly, clinging to the side of the cliffs.  They can be tricky to photograph, but Stevan ventured down onto the cliffs (while I wasn’t looking!) to take the picture above.

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But they’re at their best viewed with the sea behind them in the distance.  Such a pretty plant.

The machair was looking stunning today too:

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We also passed Bob and Ann’s Bororay sheep – handsome fellow! He is posing alongside what is possibly a neolithic cairn.

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And closer to home we saw this gorgeous Bororay lamb, with its tiny horns, although I’m sure they’ll be every bit as impressive as the old men’s once he’s a bit older:

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As I’ve already mentioned, I’m off to Woolfest this week, and so the shop is now pretty empty of yarn.  Yarn Club memberships are still available, so if you are wanting to join, or renew, your membership in time to receive a parcel in July, please join soon.

 

In the Loop 4 – Glasgow 2015 (and other things)

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My only visit to Shetland was back in 2010 when I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the In the Loop Conference held in Lerwick.   As I said right at the beginning of this blog post I’d waited for many a year to hold a plane ticket which would mean I was flying to Shetland.   The Conference was excellent, and resulted in my published article about the event in the Knitter magazine.  And I loved Shetland as much as I suspected I would.

I missed the next one held in Winchester a couple of years back, but I am very excited to be going to the next one which is to be held at Glasgow Uni in August this year.  Not only do I get to go to the conference, but the organisers have very kindly invited me to take my yarns with me and to set up a stand so that during the breaks in the conference attendees can browse and buy yarns from me.  I won’t be alone – The Border Tart will be there too along with all her gorgeous indigo dyed yarns and “bits of fluff” (as I call them – others more correctly call them carded batts of fibre for spinning!).   And I’m sure there will be other independent yarnies but I have not yet seen a list of who will be there.

You can find some information about the event here, and you can download the provisional programme and also find the links to how to book for the conference.  I’m pleased to see that Annemor Sundbø will once again be presenting, along with the likes of Karie Westermann, a designer/teacher in Glasgow whose work I admire.

August is looking like it will be a busy month, and there will be more news about another happening in August, but until details are finalised I’ll have to keep you in suspense.  So watch this space!

I’m away off to Woolfest next week, so the shop will be a little empty.  So if you had your eye on anything in particular, best order it soon.  Perhaps some “Glencanisp in the Autumn”?

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I am thoroughly enjoying knitting with the Suilven base.  I am making Stay the Same by Veera Välimäki and I am using the combination of  That will be the Coal Then and Victoria Plum.

RC-115808-18062015Before I began knitting I wasn’t sure how neat the change in colour would be, as this top is knitted in the round, but it is a very clever construction resulting in relatively neat colour changes.  If I were more careful it could probably be even neater!

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Sadly I won’t have time to finish this in time for Woolfest, but I’ll have it on the stand as a “work in progress” so if you’re coming you can have a look at the fabric produced by this yarn.  Will I see you there?