I Knit London

I Knit London, club, shop and sanctuary.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Alright, so?

We've been away. Last week we took a short break to Ireland and it was, officially, the first time we'd been away that had nothing whatsoever to do with I Knit London since records began. It was lovely.
We were staying with a friend, Lorraine, in Mallow, a town just north of Cork. Lorraine helped us out at I Knit Day and Gerard met her at Dartington college in Devon back in his student days. Lorraine is one of G's longest-serving friends and I have no idea why we haven't visited her before. It's shameful really. She is brilliant. Gerard lived in Cork for a short time, but I've never been to Ireland before, but it lived up to what I expected, although we didn't see a single leprechaun and fiddle-dee-dee music was in short supply.

We'd originally intended to spent two weeks in Ireland, driving over, taking the ferry and then touring the country ending up in Belfast, hopping back on the ferry and over the Liverpool for Friday illumination festival. In actual fact, we have been invited to go to Baltimore next week for Stitches East so we had to curtail the trip and use Ryanair instead. Gerard was very clear that it would be raining, so when we arrived to glorious sunshine it was a good start (it didn't last, but by the time the gale force winds and rain came we were ensconced in Lorraine's house with the coal fire and the woolly socks).

I liked it. Lots. Ireland is almost like the adverts (we didn't see horses running around council estates, but we did see auld fellows drinking Guinness and Murphy's, live fiddle playing in the pub and more statues of the Virgin Mary than I've had hot dinners). Mallow is now what you'd call a commuter-town, but it has a bit of charm about it, including someone who has styled their back garden into 'a representation of the life and death of Jesus Christ' (no, really). We seemed to spend most of our nights at the Albert Lynch pub, but Gerard made a couple of trips at breakfast to the Hibernian Hotel to avail himself of their wi-fi. Now, this may come as a shocker - Lorraine doesn't have internet access. Yes, there are still places in the world where you can't check your Facebook! You know what, it was bloody lovely. I almost went a whole week without it and I think I preferred it (this is partly the reason why we haven't blogged).

So, what else did we do? Friday night in Cork (and one night is all we seem to be able to cope with these days); Gerard's mobile phone was left in a taxi and sent him into surprisingly apoplexy; Blarney Woollen Mills (not much wool); Kinsale; Garretstown beach; Cork gin; Limerick...

Limerick was our last little day trip. Above is Mary Smith's Aran Handknits shop which has seen baetter days. We spent quite a bit of time at the Hunt Museum, which is a personal collection of all sorts of nick-nacks. If you're interested in the evolution of handicraft and the art of superb workmanship you should definitely visit - everything from Egyptian glass bottles and da Vinci sculptures, to Picasso sketches and gold-plated pisspots. It's all here! They have my permission to take that and use it in their publicity. Honestly, though, I am a bit of buff when it comes to museums (good ones) and this was fascinating. I think the idea that this was a collection of artefacts put together because the Hunt's liked them, rather than trying to amass any kind of chronology or 'complete set' makes it much more interesting. We followed this with a visit to King John's castle which was less impressive - some waxwork re-enactments and a bit of amdram. I think we were too old and not their target audience.

Gerard took this photo of me on the bus at Victoria Station, happy to be back in London. If you're interested in seeing lots of photos of us, drunk, we've put them onto our Flickr pages. I could've written so much more but time marches on...

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

So, why do you knit? It's rubbish!

Here at IKL HQ we get requests for all sorts of things. Do we want to be interviewed on such-and-such a TV programme? Radio? Internet? Would we be intersted in advertising in a certain magazine, or writing a short article about knitting....? Then there's the whole, "can you knit this?" for us, in a day or two for 20 quid? Usually if it's for the telly we'll have a go, but we've turned down Fonejacker, BBC's Oliver Twist, and BSkyB in the past year...the request to knit a hat for each of the Premiership's football managers, in team colours, with the face of each manager intarsiaed into the design of each hat, and with a deadline of 'a few days', still ranks as our favourite "one that got away"!

Anyway, this week we had two requests. One for an interview on the radio and one for advertising. To me it summed up the way that knitting has started to cross the usual boundaries and how it now appeals to people across a huge spectrum. On Wednesday Gerard was interviewed for Kerrang! radio...about knitting? I think they'll probably use the interview to take the piss (the very first question was, "So, why do you knit? It's rubbish", which almost made G hang up straight away), but I suppose it's the man thing. Even if Jonathan Ross calls it the new rock 'n' roll (yawn) and Johnny Borrell namechecks Stitch 'n' Bitch, I still don't think Kerrang listeners are quite ready for an interview about knitting, but it's all good. G took great pains to mention IKL, oh, about every sentence!


The second request was for an ad in a magazine that has completely passed me by. Best of British describes itself as "Britain's favourite nostalgia magazine" (how many are there?) and is amazing. It nestles snugly between The People's Friend and The Lady as one of those purely British enigmas enjoyed by those who live in places with names like Much Mickle-on-the Moor and have no contact with the known universe after 1950. It's just full of cosy nostalgia from the time of steam trains, coal fires, wartime spirit, rock 'n' roll and the like, before the hoodies, iPods, immigrants and Labour government ruined the world (according to BOB). But, I couldn't help but love it. It has, apparently, over 100,000 readers, mostly over the age of 55, and it takes you back to a time when we all loved each other and even murder was cosy (Miss Marple). I realised on Friday that I was officially old when I started to reminisce about things that do not exist anymore; rag and bone men, coalmen, Hillman Hunters. Ahh, those were the days.

We thoroughly embrace all the steroetypes and we actively encourage the breaking of them in the same moment. What's unusual (to me) is that the so-called 'new' knitters (ie those under 40) are the ones who want to use natural fibres, wool, alpaca etc, which I would consider the more 'traditional' choice and most of the old ladies (who are, apparently, the 'traditional' knitters) are only ever after a bit of manmade acrylic.

Craig

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quizzy rascals

Here at IKl we very rarely need an excuse or much encouragement to come up with an idea or two to get knitters together. This week is UK National Knitting Week so we decided to put together a few extra events during the week to persuade lapsed knitters, wannabe knitters and non-knitters to come along and join in. Sunday's knitting group was the first event, and last night was NKW Part 2 - the quiz night. We may be a knitting shop, but we're not just a knitting shop.
It's no secret that I'm a quiz geek, so I was just looking for any excuse to do one. It's actually quite difficult thinking of questions though. very tricky - you'll always get someone compaining that it's too hard or too easy, and since you know the answers (because you're writing the thing in the first place) it's quite hard to judge. Anyway, we had a picture round (below, if you want to play along), a music round (film and TV themes), a Monopoly streets section and a general knowledge 20 questions.


I think a good time was had by all. We all learned something (particularly that Gerard's first crush was Lee Majors in The Fall Guy !?), we all had a few drinks and made some new friends, and everyone got something, from calendars and DVDs to theatre tickets and a complete set of Barbara Walker's Treasury books. In the process we had a minimum £1 entry and raised £43 for Bliss - we'll match that and round up to £100, so all-in-all a very good result. I think a monthly charity quiz might be in the offing so we will have a think about it and put it in our newsletter.
Thanks to Tom for giving me the title for this blog post!
Craig

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Sunday Knit Roast

What a mad weekend. Busy, busy, busy. All the knitters in town for Ally Pally seemed to descend on the shop in the last few days too, checking us out. I hope we lived up to expectations. We have been sorting through stuff for our National Knitting Week sale which starts today and, blimey, we haven't had a proper de-clutter for ages!

Yesterday we had the first of our new knitting group meetings on a Sunday. We used to meet in pubs every week, then every fortnight and recently we hung up our pub night shoes and now host our own knitting group on a Wednesday and Thursday night in our shop. But we missed the pub knitting vibe so we decided to try a Sunday get-together. We'll be doing it monthly and we'll be choosing pubs with a good selection of beer, but also a good roast dinner (for carnivores and veggies alike). So, to start us off we were in The Phoenix for Sunday afternoon. It was a bit dark but we had a good turnout which resulted in the roast dinners selling out! It was lovely to meet so many new people too and we hope you can make it along next time. Eleanor solved the mystery of the 'cast on and purl 5' instruction for a pair of big chunky mittens, and Catherine brought Peter along making him, officially, the youngest ever member of the knitting group at 16 weeks. Sadly, he was forced to sit outside as the pub were concerned that the crazy drinking knitters would corrupt his innocence! He was cosy enough though in his gorgeous ickle hat and blanket.
We do want to send an apology to those who were still around when we left. We simply HAD to get up to Ally Pally before it closed to collect some yarn - and, best laid plans and all that....we just didn't have time to get back to the pub. I'm particularly cross with ourselves as a lovely bunch of ladies from Norway had just arrived with the most gorgeous Scandanavian mittens...and we had to leave. One day we will have minions to do chores like that for us! Sorry folks, I hope you still had a good day. We were there for four hours so plenty of time for knitting, drinking, Yorkshire puds and more!

Our next Sunday Roast will be Sunday 16th November from 12pm....we'll be researching pubs between now and then and will let you know where we'll be. Any recommendations happily received. Pubs should be spacious enough and light enough for all the knitters to see what they are doing, fairly central (or close to a Tube station), and have a good Sunday lunch (with veggie options for me and G!)

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Friday, October 10, 2008

The Knitting and Stitching Show...

It was our day for the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally yesterday. Our main reason for going was to collect our certificate for winning the Editor's Choice Award in the inaugural Let's Knit magazine awards. Here we are collecting our award and looking well cheesy. We'll have it framed and it will sit alongside our Blankety-Blank chequebook and pen and our Alan Titchmarsh Show National Treasure 2007 Award!

We also did the rounds, dodging most of the non-knitting stalls and making a beeline for our favourites. There seemed to be less yarn than last year, or maybe it was just more spread around the three rooms? Still, we met up with a few friends and we ate some chocolate...

Knitting for the Wallace and Gromit Foundation's attempt at the World's Biggest Tea Cosy...

Elaine Jamieson and Mary MacGregor from the Shetland Islands. Mary's new book of Fair Isle knitting charts is due out in January...

Wyesue shows off the gorgeous Orenburg shawl at the Knitwitches stand. Just noticed how G gets himself hovering in the background of most photos!Big budget yarn mountain. (I was going to write 'wool mountain' but that might be stretching it a bit!)

Cheryl at Cherry Tree Hill displays her wares....

Hyperbolic Crochet in the main foyer...

...and some new bits being added.
We spent the best part of the day at the show, and our feet were killing us by the time we finished. It's so big that we didn't get to see everyone and fighting through the crowds can be just a little wearisome after a while. We got to say hello to some friends along the way and we stocked up on Cherry Tree Hill and Habu, otherwise our purchases were very modest. See above...three hanks of Knitwitches Baby Camel which Gerard bought to make a shawl for someone special, plus some rejuvenation cream, which is really what we need, not more yarn! And, of course, four bags of Linden Lady chocolates.

Here's the shuttle bus back to the station. Can you spot the odd one out?

Craig

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Unfailing energy and enthusiasm...

It's been an eventful week for winning stuff: on Tuesday night Gerard and I went for our usual visit to the Retro Bar pop quiz and WON! yes, our knowledge of the lyrics to The Nolans' I'm in the Mood for Dancing helped us take a commanding lead. It leads quite nicely into our quiz which we're holding this coming Monday as part of our National Knitting Week celebrations. I'm a quiz show queen, no denying it, after winning The Weakest Link in 2001 and appearances on Blankety Blank, Eggheads and Only Connect (although I've never repeated my initial success!). What I really want to do is be the host - so, gold lamé suit ahoy, I'll be quizmaster for our NKW quiz. If you can make it along on Monday night at 7, come and join in....

Tonight it was Thursday knitting group and once again the shop was packed with new learners and familiar faces. If you didn't know it is Chocolate Week (as if we need an excuse), so we had plenty to get stuck into at the group tonight. As The Knitting and Stitching Show is in town at Ally Pally we also had the pleasure of the company of Jenna, Erica, Terri and Marnie (pictured below from left to right). Jenna is also known as The Indie Dyer, whose yarn we started stocking about a month ago and it went down a storm. She comes from good yarn producing stock, daughter of Cheryl from Cherry Tree Hill. It's in the genes! Marnie has come all the way from New Zealand where she presides over the beautiful Touch Yarns...if you're going to the show go see 'em! Yesterday we had a visit from Takako from Habu in New York too; we hope to return the visits sometime soon....
We will both be at Ally Pally tomorrow to pick up a special award from Let's Knit magazine. They have been running their first awards this year and have decided that we deserve the Editor's Choice Award for "services to knitting, in recognition of our unfailing energy and enthusiasm". I'm not going to be blasé or take the piss here (for a change). This genuinely means loads to us. I'm not sure about the 'unfailing energy' bit, as sometimes I feel like we have no more energy left to give, but, to be recognised for the hard work we put in day in and day out is a real honour. This isn't about the shop, it's about the seemingly random ideas we put into motion; the dreams of giant wooden sheep; knitting tents in fields in Dorset; thousands of knitters (and Yarn Harlot) at I Knit Day; the promotion of knitting beyond the four walls of the IKL shop in London. But everything we do is always inspired by the people we meet, and the basis for everything we do, the inspiration and the ideas is still our knitting group and all those who come. So, thank you for being part of it and long may it continue..we have so many plans that we're only just beginning!
Oh, we were also voted the 3rd Best Local Yarn Store in the UK. Cheers!
Craig
xx

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Monday, October 06, 2008

striped hat

This is the second thing I made this weekend from Erika Knight's new book Men's Knits. It was very easy and looks really good, especially on Craig. It done on 4.5mm with artesano alpaca/wool aran.
Striped Hat

Striped Hat

Striped Hat
gorgeous.

The next two pictures, of Craig and myself, are taken with us wearing the gifts from Erika. Craig is in a huge Blue Sky Alpaca jumper and as you can see he is excited and looking forward to winter! I love my cardigan, it's hemp and it fits so well I think Erika made it especially for me! Thanks again, Erika, we love them both.
Even more gorgeous!
I don't think it's the cardigan that makes me camp, unfortunately. I am booking in to de-camp school.

Thanks to Jane for the pictures.

Gxx

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Cable Guy


Only a few hours after Erika left us, Gerard had cast-on his first project from her Men's Knits book - the chunky Cable Scarf. This is what happens when you have a bit of inspiration. He cast-on to Strictly Come Dancing, and he cast off this morning at about 9 o'clock. There was a post in the Men Who Knit Ravelry group recently about whether cables are 'girly' - I don't think there's anything more stereotypically 'manly' than this scarf! The massive winding cable wends it's way along the entire length of this 2 metre long creation. The superchunky yarn is Lang's baby alpaca Andina, which is supersoft, but the colour and the cable are both megabutch! Gerard's chosen the dark charcoal colour which looks supersexy at the point where it meets his white beard.


I think this book is going to be a whole new project in itself - G has already started to cast-on his second project from it so expect us both, finally, to be wearing some of our own knitwear this winter!


Craig
x

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

I Knit...with Erika Knight

We were privileged today to have Erika Knight visit the shop to talk about her design career, her inspiration and her ideas, alongside signing copies of her new book, Men's Knits. Gerard and I have been enamoured with Erika for years - before all of this knitting took over our lives Erika's New Knits book was already on our bookshelf (we've both made the retro poodle wine bottle cosy from it!), so we were really pleased when we discovered that Erika's newest collection was just for men.


The book is beautiful. It's simplicity; it's timeless; it's one of the very few books where we want to knit pretty much everything in it, and all the 'models' are real men like us. In fact, I was gutted when Erika said she wanted us to be in the book but we just didn't have time. Part 2 for sure. I know some of you reading this might not have much use for a men's cardi - but, honestly, you must have a man or two in your life to knit for? One of the constant bugbears we have as men who knit is the lack of choice - not just for handknit patterns but also in the high street too. With one fell swoop Erika has created a selection of genuinely wearable garments for men of all ages, and G and I will be wearing a couple this winter too - Erika, you are generous and lovely and we hope we'll see you at the knitting group soon.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A day out in the Park

A day off! They don't come around too often but both Gerard and I had a day off together today. As I work full-time at the National Theatre and G is full-time in the shop we don't often manage to get a whole day...even on Sundays we tend to be buried in work. So, we left the shop in the hands of our Friday girl, Celia, and we headed off...to Thorpe Park! I know, we're probably far too old for it but it's nice to just let your hair down now and then (even if you haven't got any).








I'd never been and at the end of the day you do wonder how hideous it must be in the height of the summer, but we had a laugh. We probably spent about 30 minutes in total actually on rides and the rest of it queueing but while we were on the rides it was worth it. The last one, Stealth, was genuinely frightening. I don't think I've screamed so much in my life (and it only lasted about 10 seconds!). I got bored of taking my camera out and having to out it away again each time but I did get a few pics. G took along his new Lang sock yarn which made the queueing less boring for him (even if he did get his nylon in a twist...)

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

thursday is for socks

We had another delivery today. Lots more sock. This time it's Lang, a fab German yarn that's come in so many colours and different blends that I was exhausted just looking at the shade card.
There is also lots of shades of self patterning which are fab, and they are all machine washable.
I managed to so a little of one of them, tiny, tiny, tiny sock!

Then all of these people turned up and now I'm in the corner while they are having a fab time knitting and chatting over a bottle of cider or a glass of wine. Thanks to karen for the gorgeous sample of organic spanish red. I had something called vino terrano (home brew) on new years eve while staying with craig's day in Spain. It was powerful stuff and I had heartburn for 3 weeks afterwards. This wine is not like that, it's lovely.

There was over 35 people in the shop tonight. It's marvelous. There is even someone granting wishes! It's a funny looking wand, though, so I'm not holding my breath!
This is Christine with another Victorian Lace Today product. Although you can't tell from the angle of this picture, Christine is just as happy with her shawl as the baby is!

I love Christine - she has become very interested in artesano alpaca. btw, I also love Denise, who is friends with Christine, thanks for the biscuits, Denise, you're a star!
Gxx

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