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getting out

It’s been 10 weeks since we arrived here and I can’t believe it! As always, it seems like forever and yet hardly any time since we left home… We are slowly making a life for ourselves here and I’ve had some lovely moments with lovely people and finding things that feel important to get involved in (more on those soon)! The last weeks have mostly been spent finding things that we need (the most simple things like broadband, Rooibos, enough blankets to keep us warm and tofu!) and want (good bread, a nice teapot and secondhand books on local history, flora and British cooking!) and our flat is starting to feel quite cosy! For me personally, my main focus has been finding sources for things that I need to make stock for my shop and lots of things are getting scratched off on that list too.

One thing I’m still working on getting enough of is space… Or, more particularly, green space. Glasgow has a really open feel about it, in the sense that streets are wide and the city not too built up, but, moving from a city of over four million people to one with less that a quarter of that, I expected to have a greater sense of space. But, of course, I was forgetting how much much more densely populated Europe is and Glasgow, while definitely easier to get around than Melbourne and blessed with some fantastic parks and gardens, is the most densely populated city in Scotland. But, for me, it’s not really the streetscape but our living spaces that I’m struggling with. Don’t get me wrong- we have a beautiful flat with plenty of light and space. It’s more that living on the fourth floor is a big change and I really miss the signs of life that I was so used to… looking out the windows and seeing the trees move in the wind, having cats around to smooch with (I can’t tell you how much I miss that!) and being able to take a bowl of food out onto the back deck and eat under the sky.

So we’re finding new ways to bring that into the day. House plants are now on the list of things we need. So is a bird feeder to put on the window sill. We’ve cut through the silicon seals on some of our windows so that we can feel the breeze moving through the house… The Glasgow parks are an absolute gift and seem to be appreciated and used by many and we’re lucky enough to be a ten-minute walk from the Glasgow botanic gardens- as you can imagine, I end up there at some point most days! And it turns out that it’s only 20 minutes on our local train to the beginning of the West Highland Way, a 150km walk that starts in Milngavie and takes walkers through some beautiful land all the way to Fort William. So easy and quick to get out of town! That’s certainly a benefit of a smaller city. We headed out this morning and did the first 8km of the walk and then turned around- it was just enough walking to feel like we’d got moving and was an absolute delight for our nervous systems too! The sound of birds, wind and trees, the glow of green leaves, the movement of sun and clouds above us and the dark, cool shadows under the trees…

Big sky

Big sky

Fishing

Fishing

Reeds

Reeds

Beech

Branches

Birches

Birches

Larch

Larch

Larch bundles

Larch bundles

The gorse was in bloom everywhere so I was able to harvest some beautiful flowers (along with birch bark) to use for dyeing. Scotto and I were blown away by how like Reef Oil their perfume is! Incongruous! (I’ve been so missing my dye pots but that’s set to change! Dye classes are also in the planning so do keep an eye out if you’re interested in learning.)

Gorse

Gorse

Gorse

Gorse

Gorse

Fuzzy gorse (or furze as it’s known here)

And, with the help of my macro lens, we explored the colours and textures of some wonderful and tiny fungi…

Trametes versicolor

Trametes versicolor

Trametes versicolor

Trametes versicolor

Lovely colours on these Trametes versicolor

Lovely colours on these Trametes versicolor

Trametes sp... suavolens?

Trametes sp… suavolens?

Mushroom

Birch bracket fungus

And there were plenty of other flowers about.

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)

Can anyone tell me what this beauty is? It's got to be in the Rosaceae family but I've got no idea, beyond that!

Rubus spectabilis or Salmonberry, an escapee from North America with fruit similar to raspberries.

Anemone

Anemone nemorosa

I even saw the beginnings of the bluebell season- one, as-yet-unopened specimen! But I’ll hold out on posting until they’re in their full glory- I can’t wait to experience that…

It’s been such a lovely reminder of how easy it is to get into the green places and we plan to make this a regular walk. I’d love to hear about any other spots around Glasgow that are easy to get to or worth a trip… do please let me know if you know somewhere or are heading out yourself- I’m always up for new walking buddies!

casting on and off

I’ve been looking forward to teaching my first knitting classes in Scotland since our very first week here, when I went over to Edinburgh to meet Jess of Ginger Twist Studio (and lovely Clare who facilitated the meeting and who, interestingly, is moving to Australia later this year!) and she asked me to teach some classes at this sweetest of yarn shops. And I’m so happy that the day is finally getting close!

The first class of the day on April 19th, Knitting Tips and Tricks, sold out really quickly because, well, it’s obvious what the class is all about. It’s always an easy class to sell. I want my classes to be practical and for participants to leave knowing that they can go straight out and apply what we’ve covered, to feel like they’ve got something new in their kit that they can’t imagine being without. But the afternoon’s class, Cast-ons and Cast-offs… I’m always a little toey about running this class, not because of what it covers but because it’s not an easy class to sell- the content isn’t as immediately engaging as, say, colourwork or seamless knitting… but I actually think it’s way more life-changing and practical than most of my other classes! That’s because the edges of our knitting are so much more important than we may realise. They’re the bits that one usually sees first, the beginning and ending. If they don’t fit with the fabric in-between, because they pull in or are sloppy, the piece just doesn’t look right. It doesn’t have integrity… whereas a beautiful edge is magic.

Tubular cast-on on the Frankie Hat

A beautiful tubular cast-on on the Frankie Hat

Many people learn to cast on and off from their mum, auntie or grandpa and never learn another method; their way suits them just fine. And I love and respect that. But, at the same time, I think that the many methods we now have available to us all work particularly well in certain situations. So why limit ourselves to one method? For example, if you’re casting off a beautiful lace shawl and you stick to the trusty chain cast-off, you’ll probably find that the edge of your shawl won’t be able to stretch as far as you’d like to really open out the lace. There is a method for every situation and every method has its strengths- it’s just a matter of knowing how to work them and how to match method to project…

So, in this class, we’ll cover my default cast-on, the wonderful long-tail (or Continental) cast-on and a few variations on it (as well as how to calculate how much yarn you’ll need so you don’t run out!), my favourite version of the tubular cast-on (as seen above on the Frankie Hat), a provisional cast-on that allows you to come back and undo your edge and work in the opposite direction and other methods for getting your knitting started.

And we’ll look at a series of cast-offs that produce different finishes- lightweight, sturdy, stretchy and firm- including the sewn and i-cord cast-offs, the three-needle cast-off that allows you to cast off and seam two pieces together at the same time and working a knitted-on edging that avoids casting off entirely.

And, finally, we’ll look at pairing cast-on and cast-off so that the edges of a knitted fabric look similar- this is so crucial in something like a scarf but is very rarely considered!

IMGP7116_medium2

Echo Flower with a sturdy Russian cast-off

Hansel with knitted-on edging

Hansel with knitted-on edging

Bailey Cardigan with i-cord cast-off

Bailey Cardigan with i-cord

There are two places left in this class on April 19th so, if you feel like you’d benefit from a little up-skilling in this area, do jump in and book. I’m always intrigued to see who books in for this class- for some reason, it’s always an interesting group!

classes at ginger twist

I’m in knitting heaven- Jess of Ginger Twist Studio has very kindly invited me to teach some knit classes in her lovely little space in Edinburgh! I’m so looking forward to meeting some Scottish knitters and exchanging some tricks- this is such a hub of traditional knitting and I’m keen to expand my knowledge too…

You can find all the details on Jess’s class list, as well as on my classes page. I’m especially excited about the class on cast-ons and cast-offs- this one might sound a bit dry but having the tools to achieve a particular edge totally expands your knitting capacity! Each time I’ve taught it, I can see the light going on- especially with that tubular cast on…

Perhaps I’ll see you there? !

 

 

the craft sessions v2.0

If you’re at all into craft and interact with any social media out there, you’ve probably seen and heard the recent buzz surrounding this years Craft Sessions retreat– I’m so happy that it’s happening again (how could it not after such a wonderful response last year!) and am feeling incredibly lucky to be asked back to teach again, alongside so many talented, lovely craftspeople… In anticipation of tomorrow’s opening of registration, I just wanted to remind you that, if you are thinking of coming (and really, there are classes to accommodate pretty much any skill level in such diverse crafts that you’ll definitely find classes that will work for you!), you need to get in soon. There are limited places available and last years success means that this years event is guaranteed to fill quickly…

There are so many classes that I would love to participate in- in fact, I’d love to sit in on them all… but especially Georgie’s grading for knitwear design, Belinda’s weaving, Leslie’s tote bag and Melissa’s embroidery from the natural world. At the end of last year’s weekend (especially after arriving back from Iran a few days beforehand!), I promised myself that I’d allow myself time to do a workshop but, when it came time to put forward ideas for my classes, I had too many ideas to allow space for that ; )

This time around, I’m teaching two half-day sessions, one on stranded colourwork for beginners (based around a new hat that I’m designing especially for the class) and the other on steeking (cutting- yes, cutting!- your knitting to make knitting garments in colourwork and other complex stitch patterns easier), which will work really well together or as stand-alone classes.

Stranded colourwork

Stranded colourwork

Steeked colourwork cardigan

Steeked colourwork cardigan

And then I’ll be out with the dyepots, running a whole-day class on dyeing with natural materials… we’ll be working from a single dyepot (made from one of the exotic, ancient dyestuffs) and learning how to use the mordanting and modifiying processes to extract 25 shades of colour from that one dyeport. Exciting!

25 colours from one dyepot

25 colours from one dyepot

I’m super excited about everyone’s classes and also by the extra space that Felicia has created over the weekend to absorb what’s been shared or go for a walk or spend time with mates… and I hope that those who take part in the weekend will gain some really practical skills and feel invigorated by being surrounded by such a great, creative community…  I hope you’re inspired by what you see over at CS headquarters!