Wednesday, April 25, 2018

It’s the Edinburgh Yarn Festival!

Yes, that is snow in the photo!
Serendipitously, Cathy learned that the world-famous Edinburgh Yarn Festival happened to be taking place the following weekend, March 16-18. She regularly “googles” for knitting groups for me wherever we are traveling and this time the Yarn Festival popped up on the screen. Oh WOW! Oh WOW!

Berwick was only a 40-minute train ride from Edinburgh, so we kept our room in the very special youth hostel there and “commuted” by train both days that we attended the festival. Cathy loves trains and will choose a train over a bus almost any chance she gets. Maybe one reason is because it is easier to knit 
on a train—you don’t have all that wobbling around.

On Saturday, we got to the Festival site about a half hour early joined the throng waiting in the snow. Yes, snow! The organizers took pity on us and opened the doors 10 minutes early. Inside, it was not long before we were warm—the sheer volume of people kept it warm.

There were stalls upon stalls of yarn merchants and in two other large rooms were tables upon tables of knitters and crocheters.

Cathy spent a couple hours visiting vendors and deciding what to buy and then sat down to meet knitters and hand me around. Boy was I a hit!! I grew 8 inches during those two days.

On Sunday of the Festival, there was a special event: Meet the Shepherd/Shepherdess. There were only about ten hand-picked farmers exhibiting their own lines of yarn. It was a less-crowded affair and gave folks a chance to meet these dedicated and hard-working people.

Cathy spent some time with Dan and Rosemary Champion of Rosedean Ryelands located near Dundee, Scotland. They have recently begun to market custom-milled yarn from their Ryeland sheep and it is truly beautiful. Dan was the knitter and Rosemary, the farmer. Dan had just recently learned to knit and was already turning out socks! Cathy was amazed…his stitches were so even—not at all like a beginner’s. (I think he may have been pulling her leg!)

He was particularly taken with me and enjoyed knitting some rows using some of their luscious yarn.

Dan gave Cathy a couple skeins of their 4-ply Ryeland wool which they designed as sock yarn. Cathy promised to make a pair of socks with it and test it for durability. Before we left, Dan invited us to come visit their farm. Unfortunately, we never made it there—yet another reason to return to Scotland!

Cathy barely got back to the hostel before she began working on those socks!

Cathy also visited with Suzie of Lammermuir Wool. She creates a limited edition of Shetland wool yarn from her farm east of Edinburgh. She showed Cathy some samples of the one-ply laceweight yarn knitted up. There is quite a bit of lanolin left in the yarn, making it feel a little stiff in the skein. But, one of the samples had been washed, resulting in a soft, comfortable fabric. Cathy purchased a skein to try. Suzie was very busy with visitors at her stall, but she was able to knit a few rows for me.

For the rest of the afternoon, we relaxed in the huge marqee (tent) and Cathy passed me around to more knitters. Yay!

Here is Cathy’s “loot” from the festival. I think she made some great choices, even while sticking with her plan. She even came in under budget at £86! 

That unspun fiber is a blend of Bluefaced Leicester wool and silk. Cathy reports that is spins up on her Turkish spindle like a dream.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Maybe if I am good, Cathy will bring me back next year!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The End of a Very Knitty Week! Knit, Crochet, and Eat Cake!

As related in the previous post, while I was being passed around in front of the Scottish Parliament, Cathy was finding out about more knitters, spinners, and crocheters in Edinburgh. Frieda told her about a spinning group at the Gorgie Farm and Joan said that she definitely should not miss the knitting and crochet group that meets on Saturdays at the Akva café.

So, on Friday, we attended the Gorgie Farm Spinning Group. This is a demonstration and working farm right in the middle of the city and there are lots of animals and great gardens here. The spinners use one of the community buildings to share their skills.

Check this out! The women used their own handspun for the rows they added to me—oh too very special!
(1) Handspun camel and silk; (2)Moorit handspun by Joan; (3) Gotland handspun from the fleece; (4) Handspun black Shetland from Smaise the sheep who lives on the Gorgie Farm.
And they were FAST knitters. In that one session I grew by five inches! Isn’t that luscious? I am so lucky! 
The Gorgie Handspinners: Kim, Frida, Joan, and Denise 
The next day Cathy braved the cold, windy, rainy streets to make our way to the Akva Swedish café to meet up with the lively Knit, Crochet, and Eat Cake! group that meets there on Saturday mornings. What a GREAT name for a fiber group, don’t you think?

Sarah and Steph used some of their own yarns. Sarah’s was called “Head-over-heels-variegated” and Steph added some burnt-orange acrylic. 

She had been using that chunky yarn to turn out these cute fox wrist warmers. 

While Sarah’s needles whistled along, Lucy crocheted a “front post treble” stitch on the other end. Whoo—hoo!

The ladies sent us off with a hearty goodbye and Cathy stepped out into the pouring rain. Nice that she packed me up all snuggly and warm in her pack. 

After drying off and warming up in her hostel room that evening, she encountered a roommate from Brazil, Jurema, who loves to crochet, so she added some more crochet stitches as well. She wrote in my journal: “Thank you for the opportunity to restart crochet after so long a time.”

There just seems to be no end to the fiber people in this country—both locals and visitors! 

On Sunday, March 11, the next day, we boarded a train to the small town of Berwick-on-Tweed in the far northeast of England—right across the border. Cathy just had to get out of the city—she really does not like cities much. We would end up staying in Berwick for a full TWO weeks!

The very next day, upon visiting a yarn store in Berwick, Cathy learned of a weekly knitting group that meets in the local library every Monday afternoon. Of course we went! It was a lively group of knitters who laugh as much as they knit and crochet. Anne added some “pink sparkles” to dress me up a bit, and Maureen contrasted that with a lovely gold. Oooh-la-la! 

Anne adds some rows to me while the other ladies laugh and knit. 

Later that week, Cathy met Fiona, another traveler at the Berwick Hostel who knew how to knit. She added some rows of garter stitch using some of the Aran yarn Cathy had purchased in Ireland.

It is almost time to return to Edinburgh for the YARN FESTIVAL…I am so excited!

Contributors so far in Scotland: 

And we need to catch up on the crocheters! So that we don’t have to change the set-up between knitters and crocheters, we ask crocheters to add stitches to the beginning end. We have quite a variety of wide and narrow stripes, resulting in some gathers here:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Scotland: Old Friends and New…and Many More Knitters and Spinners!

You may recall that last July 4, Cathy and I met and spent time with the fiber magicians of the Haddington (Scotland) Spinners and Weavers at the Poldrate Mill Arts and Crafts Center. (You can read about that visit here.)

Debbie adds a few rows to me while
Marie works at her loom in the back
Well…we returned to Haddington in early March! On Tuesday, the 6th we spent the day in their studio, and a few people, including Debbie Zawinski, author of In the Footsteps of Sheep, added to me. Master weaver Marie Lindqvist was teaching a weaving class in the afternoon and we got a chance to see the looms in action!

Debbie had a friend take a photo of me being held up by these incredible women! So much fun to be with them again! 

Left to Right: Catherine, Debbie, Marie, and Cathy

The next day, back in Edinburgh, we visited the Ginger Twist Studio yarn shop and Jess, the shop owner who was so busy getting ready for exhibiting at next week’s Edinburgh Yarn Festival, was able to break away for a minute to knit a few rows for me! Thanks Jess! Cannot wait to see you at the Festival! 

Cathy has been suffering from some kind of malady that comes on when she has not had some ridiculously complex lace project on her needles. She has been on the lookout for a special yarn to knit a pattern called the Scottish Thistle Shawl, which I guess is pretty appropriate, since we are here.  She spied the perfect almost-cobweb-weight yarn in Jesss shop and refused to leave without it. It was organically grown in the Falkland Islands, spun in Yorkshire, and dyed by Jess. Special, indeed! We barely made it back to the hostel before Cathy had one hank balled up and cast on!

And then, a very special event… One of the reasons we returned to the Edinburgh area at this time was that the Haddington group was going to be demonstrating their crafts on March 8. So, I was taken to the International Women’s Day Weave, Knit, and Spin-in in front of the Scottish Parliament! While Cathy visited with knitters, several sat down to contribute—I am growing so FAST here in Scotland!!!

A large contingent of University professors and employees were protesting changes in pension rules that day, and the group kind of swallowed us up. But the Haddington group supported the strike/protest and stayed put—glad to be a part of it. As a result, we had lots of people interested in the fiber artists and several Traveling Scarf contributors. Among them were Jess who did some yellow and white stranded colorwork, Joan who added a fisherman’s knit diamond design, Joe, a professor and avid knitter who created some garter-stitch rows, and Frieda who used some of her Massum handspun. Massum sheep are a cross between longwool and mountain breeds. They are bred for meat and a tendency for multiple births. A bi-product is a soft, multi-colored fiber with barely any lanolin.

Left to Right, Frieda, Joe, and Jess

Marie brought along a small backstrap loom, attached one end to the building’s post, and stood weaving the entire time. 

We had great weather for the event. Only a week before, almost the entire UK had been ground to a standstill by a brutal winter storm. But we were still a bit cold by end of the day, so afterwards, we went across the street to the Holyrood Palace Café to warm up. Holyrood is the place where the Queen stays when she comes to Scotland!

While visiting with fiber folks in front of Parliament, Cathy learned from Frieda that the Gorgie Farm Spinning Group meets on Fridays. And Joan told her that she absolutely could not miss the knitting and crochet group that meets at Edinburgh’s Akva Swedish café on Saturdays. 

This was to be a very “knitty” week, indeed!