I Knit London

I Knit London, club, shop and sanctuary.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Knit a river, a small update

I was typing away at the laptop this morning (the classes and presentations for the show in September is going to be great!) when a lady shopper asked me if I was the man who did knit a river. Craig was there so I said we both were. I forgot my face was on the flyer so that's why she recognised me.
She said that a portion of the river was delivered to her husband at The department for International Development. I could hardly believe. I'm not writing his name, but I did, recognise it and I was thrilled.I asked if he still had the section of river, she said, 'Oh, yes! He has it! It's still there!'She gestured with her arm to indicate it was up on a wall!

Love it! well done knitters!!!!!


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Thursday, March 06, 2008

London's newest knitting shop...

Sort of.

It's been just over two years since Gerard and I started I Knit London. Back then we were a regular knitting group, organising weekly meetings for knitters in London pubs. Every Wednesday we'd choose a pub, send out a newsletter and wait for people to arrive. So far, so easy. It's only ever worked because people came, what we did was really nothing at all. So we'd teach people how to do stuff, and sometimes they'd teach us and we all had a few drinks and got on like a house on fire, made new friends and made stuff. But there was more to do, there was a Sunday market stall at Spitalfields, a decision based on the fact Gerard couldn't buy any recylced sari silk in London, so thought he'd do it himself. Those very early Sunday mornings were very hard work and even if we didn't make back any of the stall rent, we met more knitters and we invited them along to our weekly pub meetings too. Our circle of friends got bigger and our plans did too. but, the last thing we wanted was a shop - why would we need another full-time job on top of the two we already had?

One of our local hang-outs was the Bonnington café, where I'd meet Gerard for lunch when it was my day off from the National Theatre, and he was working around the corner for WaterAid. I don't remember when it was that I first suggested asking about the corner shop, at that time looking pretty grim with the metal shutters down and a blight on the square to be honest. Gerard was working from 8am til 4pm so we thought we could run a shop for people after work, open from 4 to 9 and still give ourselves a little time to have a life. We'd close on Wednesdays so we could still go to the pubs and knit and all would be well. We knocked on a few doors, found the owner and decided to give it a go....and it's been an unexpected journey.

Shortly afterwards Gerard was promoted and had to stay on til 5pm. It's only an hour difference but somehow 5 to 9 each night didn't seem proper, so we got someone to sit there for afternoon, usually on their own, pretending to run a shop, only with no customers. This is when we decided to get our licence to sell alcohol and decided that we'd alternate our weekly knitting group between shop and pub, giving everyone a chance to come and discover IKL and to live up to the 'sanctuary' part of the name which we'd been adamant about from the start. And so it went on....

Recently I've been hearing that because we're a 'business' we're different to other knitting groups; somehow this makes us less worthy of praise, as if our 2 years of work is somehow reaping financial rewards. I only wish! True, Gerard did, finally give up his full-time job at the end of 2007, meaning he can now spend his time and energies on his first love, but it's also true that it means from two incomes we're down to only one! I'm glad the 14 hour working days are over, I'm ecstatic that we won't have to give up our flat and live in the shop again (well, not as far as we plan it anyway) but with only two of us running the shop and the knitting group, not to mention organising SnB Day last year and this year's I Knit Day, it's still a long way from time to relax and put our feet up.

So, the last thing we need right now is more stress and more sleepless nights - but we genuine love IKL so much that we're going to do that anyway...and we're moving. Bonnington Square has been good to us, it's been a beautiful place to rest our knitty heads and it will always be part of our IKL story...but there's always time to move on. Next week London has it's newest knitting shop, at 106 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, SE1. Open late, licenced bar, gorgeous yarns and still a place for knitters to drop-in, put their feet up and have a natter. We wouldn't miss it for the world and we hope knitters from London and those visiting the city think so too.

From a weekly pub knitting group to what we consider to be a very good local yarn store, it has been a long hard slog. We won't be retiring anytime soon and we'll continue to do our best to offer London's knitters what we think they want and need. To all those who think it's easy you are welcome to have a go, and for those who think we're in it for the money - well, I can only laugh! The one thing I will say is that I am never a do-er, I'm always a wannabe! Thanks to Gerard this has been the most interesting (most stressful, most exciting, most unpredictable, most fulfilling...) 2 years of my life. If you want to do something just do it...we are no businessmen, and I still feel like I'm making it up as I go along. The clever part is making it look, apparently, so easy.

I Knit London will open at Waterloo on Saturday 15th March....until then, there's lots of painting, scrubbing and shelf-building to get done!

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lavender, blue, Ally Pally...

After a very long week for Gerard we met up in Vauxhall with Elly and blogless Lynsey (as in de Paul) after their looong day at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. I'd been in the shop all day, with Sue and our one-day beginner's knitting session. To mark National Knitting Week we're having our big sale so I spent most of the day sorting through everything, pricing up the half price stuff and getting the buckets filled up. It was a grand day - hopefully everyone learning enjoyed the day, and with the big show in town it was nice to meet lots of visiting knitters who'd travelled south of the river (only just) to find out what I Knit London was all about!

So, Saturday night in Pico's, our local Portuguese restaurant, always packed and always super. Then to The Lavender - we couldn't avoid the rugby but the conversation was more about yarn, family, names, the Arctic musk ox and knitting. A couple of bottled of Chilean sauvignon blanc later and I think we were all pretty relaxed! And I am grateful for the discovery of Qiviut for online Scrabble!
But we were up very early on Sunday. Gerard has had his WaterAid cap on this week at the Ally Pally show, working there since Thursday, and today was the last day, and my first. So, up at 7am and off to north London. I've never been and the view of Alexandra Palace as we crested the brow of the hill, smothered in fog was quite spectacular. But what of the show? I loved it! It was so great to meet some of our knitty friends who I've only ever spoken to by email and phone - I spent most of the day flitting around from stall to stall...and met some new pals too - not least Amanda from The Natural Dye Studio (left) - you won't believe the amount of gorgeous alpaca and Blue-faced Leicester that will be gracing the IKL shelves from tomorrow! We also grabbed our first batch of Cherry Tree Hill's Sockittome and met Cheryl for the first time. It was funny being there from a business point-of-view, and although I was surprised just how much more non-knitting there was included, there was plenty to get your teeth into - we're certainly adding some new stock to the IKL shelves between now and Christmas, including some stuff we've never seen before - it's ironic that this all comes in the same week that a yarn we've wanted to stock for ages has become 'unavailable' to us (for reasons which I shan't dwell on here!). It's like the balance has been put right. But I was thrilled to meet up with Ann and Ruth from the Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop (below) with whom I've had so many phone conversations - and we couldn't go away without grabbing some more stock too. And, Elaine and Nicola from Jamieson's of Shetland were another long-distance realtionaship where I could finally put names to faces! There were a bit camera shy, so no pics!

Ann & Ruth from the Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop

Darlene from Handjive at the fabulous Habu stand

Laura and Loretta from the new knitting mag Let's Knit! - get a copy, it's brill and we're in it! Plus you get a free DVD too, how nice of them.

Gerard sits on the river, after four days, waiting for the taxi home - note, four bags and two boxes...wonder what's in there?

Of course the main reason we were involved in the Knitting and Stitching show this year was to show off our knitted river. I say 'our', really it belongs to all those who took part, knitting, crocheting and sewing up. There's always a message behind displays such as this and this time we were asking people to take the next step in the process, filling in cards to send to the Japanese Prime Minister. He's the pne who will be setting the agenda for next year's G8 summit and the more names we can muster the louder our voice will be to convince him that water and sanitation issues should be on the agenda and high up too. It's always difficult to engage some people with ideas like this, and this is why, not just because of the phenomenal response of 100,000 squares, I think the river works so successfully. It's an amazing thing that stops you in your tracks and gives us, the WaterAid volunteers, a chance to get our message across much more easily than if I were just to stand there with a poster and a pen. There was a genuinely great response over the four days, and it was also very special meeting some of the people who made some of the squares. We've met very few of the thousands who took part so it was an opportunity to say thanks in person and to show knitters that this type of action can make a difference. There are some pictures from the day now added to our photo gallery, which we continue to update regularly, so check there and you might spot your square!

Of coursem there's more to be done - if you want to add your voice to the campaign you can do so here .

To end on a happy note....Gerard heard yesterday (for the second time in a year) that he's an uncle again! Baby #2 is due next summer and G's knitting fingers are twitching already!



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Saturday, October 13, 2007

A scally at Ally Pally

Here's the knitted river stand at Ally Pally. Gerard has had his WaterAid cap on this weekend, setting up the stand and helping out over there, whilst hobnobbing with the knitters and meeting friends new and old. I expect I'll be going along on Sunday to pick my way through the wreckage of four days of knit-crazed shoppers. This is Esther in the pic, who volunteered to help out on Thursday, surrounded by the huge blanket of blue - it's funny, I hadn't seen the stand anfd asked someone who'd been along to Ally Pally yesterday whether they saw it or not - they said "You couldn't miss it!". I see what they mean. Looks fab. If you are planning a trip please go along and say hello to the WaterAid guys and gals, sign the postcard (they're not after your money!) - it really can make a difference, and just ogle at the immensity of all that blue knitting.

Our other current charity 'do' is the Knit a Tit afternoon on 27th October which has turned into a little party, not just a workshop. We'd like everyone to come along and bring something pink - gin, champagne, grapefruit(?), prawns(?)....there's a workshop to learn how to knit your own, or just come for the fun of it. Here's one Sue made earlier, complete with 'ball of wool' piercing!

As we're still puting together the UK Stitch 'n Bitch Day, as well as the shops selling their wares we're also looking for charity projects who'd like to take part - yesterday we confirmed the Children's Society Big Stitch. So if you know of any, tell them to get in touch. G spoke with Debbie yesterday, too, who is really excited about it all and is putting together her own small workshop from the new book. We're excited!

Our big National Knitting Week sale starts today! There's so much to do, and our printer broke yesterday so looks like I'll be writing everything by hand. I hate technology. Anyway, I know where most knitters will be but some have alreayd fit I Knit London into their knitting schedule...yesterday I had the pleasure of the whirlwind that was Badger, Spanner....erm, forgotten the other two, sorry! but all from the Donkey! Monkey! forum. It was like they were still intoxicated from the knitting show! All loaded up with lovely yarn. Ee bah gum.


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Simply Shetland 4 at Tomales Bay

This book is gorgeous! Well worth the wait, we had an exciting package delivered today - in it, more Spindrift rom Jamieson's of Shetland and the new book Simply Shetland 4. Love it!

It's one of those books that really inspire you to knit something - I know I am the laziest knitter ever, but I look at the stuff in here and just think 'I'm going to make that'....mmm, we'll see. There's 21 patterns for men, women and childen, including my favourites...the Autumn Rose pullover by Eunny Jang, the amazing Tomales Bay skirt and the not-quite-decided-yet Passive polka dots by Carol Lapin. It's such a pleasure to see a great British yarn used by some great designers and shown of to great effect. G and I are having a well-earned break over Christmas and I think I've just seen where I want to go - Tomales Bay, California.

Yesterday we also got the new copy of Knitting magazine. I know there's a lot of consternation about the range of magazines for UK knitters, but this one, for me, is always the best. It's published by the Guild of Master Craftsmen (who have a great portfolio of craft books, and sponsor/organise National Knitting Week) and I find it so much more readable than the alternatives. It looks good, it's well laid out and the patterns are versatile and wearable. We're still a way from having a UK 'Knit.1' but Knitting is the best of the bunch in my view, but seems to be overlooked when anyone discusses the state of the UK knitting mags. We'll have to wait and see if the new Let's Knit, due out this week isa departure from the 'safe' route that most Uk mags go down. I'm not just saying this because the latest issue has an interview with Debbie in it, honest!

Last night, another IKL knitting club here at the shop. Great night, as always, I hope everyone enjoyed themselves. We have new stock in the fridge too - the delightful Kopparberg pear cider (4.5% - I think the strength of your alcohol is just as important as your neede size when you are knitting) which tastes like pear drops with an extra kick. Yummy. G is over at Ally Pally for the next few days setting up the WaterAid stand and laying out the knitted river. Go and say hello to him - and sign the cards to End Water Poverty... I stil haven't ever been, so might make it on Sunday...


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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Hanging out on the SouthBank...

Today we hung the knitted river form the roof of the National Theatre in London. It looked amazing, and WaterAid's volunteers were on hand to talk about WA and the river to the hundreds of people walking by on the SouthBank. It certainly grabbed folks' attention which is what it's all about - every time we do something like this I always feel quite humbled by it - we started the whole thing over a year ago and knitters around the world took the idea and ran with it...thanks, as always, to everyone who contributed. If you still want to help WA you might like to offer your services longterm - they hold hundreds of events all year round and are totally dependant on the time and efforts of their campaigners. Volunteering can be a really rewarding experience in more ways than one! Check their website here for how to get involved in the UK, USA or Australia.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

What's in your stash...?

Ooh, Gerard is a naughty boy, letting the cat out of the bag in the previous post...but, honestly, we are thrilled to be part of what will surely become a regular fixture on the knitting events calendar...watch this space!

Meanwhile, back in the world of IKL...our Friday night men who knit gathering was an interesting one last week, not least due to the new 'member' who turned up, unexpectedly. Since we opened the shop and sanctuary for knitters we've had a number of bags of old yarn, patterns, books, needles and other knitty stuff brought in by folk, from friends who can no longer knit or who have sadly passed away (we have a growing collection of dead ladies' knitting, one of which is a slightly eery half-knit jumper, still on the needle, which I like to think was the last thing she saw as she drifted off to sleep, clicking needles in hand). We use much of this for classes and events but for about a month we've had a huge sack of yarn stashed away in the back that was donated by someone (we honestly can't remember exactly who dropped it in) and which we have still to sort through. On Friday, Sue decided to delve deep into the sack to see if there was anything worth filching and out popped:

the gap below is for a reason!

Much hilarity ensued. Perhaps this was the last thing...actually, hold that thought!

Now that smokers have been banished to beyond the cosy environs of bars, we seem to have another problem to contend with on our knitting adventures - not the demon drink, but the gloom. We had a really good night at the new bar at the BFI Southbank for our regular weekly knitting group, and they even sell our newly discovered favourite tipple, Weston's Organic Cider. Only problem is the lights went down after a couple of hours and stayed down - they called it 'ambiance', we call it 'annoyance'. We asked nicely for a bit more light but to no avail...we didn't push the point, so we settled down with conversation and good company for the rest of the evening (and the waiter was cute so we really didn't want to upset him!)

Gearing up for hanging the knitted river from the roof of the National Theatre this weekend. We're hoping to see lots of WaterAid supporters down there from 2pm to 5.30pm on Saturday, and fingers-crossed for a sunny day.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

I have to deal with...Spamalot.

It's gone 2am and I've just got home from the Mid-Knight Matinee of Spamalot - I felt I had to post because I had such a briliant night! The performance was in aid of The Theatrical Guild, a charity for those who work in any area of the theatre, and it started at 11.30, so the crowd were all (possibly) merry, and certainly up for it. What a great show, though. I doubt a regular audience are so enthusiastic but it was the funniest thing I've seen in ages, and you have to love SRB! Spotted in the audience tonight: Paul McGann, Phyllida Lloyd, Nina Myskow, Nickolas Grace, some woman from EastEnders and Nichola McAuliffe (that roll-call for the benefit of Young Tom, who likes that kind of thing!).

Th evening's entertainment came at the end of a long day in the IKL shop - mostly spent sorting out my html in preparation for our sparkling new newsletter next week. Hopefully it'll be more concise, less dense and easier to get the info you need...plus a special surprise each week, or maybe fortnight! Jon dd most of the work on that actually, whilst I whinged about technology about Facebook and generally all things 'modern'! And here's me writing a blog, how ironic. Some people still can't believe I exist without a mobile phone, but it was possible for the first 30 years of my lie so I don't see why I shouldn't be able to cope?

Spoke with G today who has been two days in a field in Somerset - rained today but he had the honour of speaking to the assembled hordes at his frst press conference. He'll be blogging about his whole experience either from Glastonbury, if he can, or a full report when he gets back next week. I'll save te stories for him to tell. He's working at the festival for WaterAid (of course) and will be in the backstage area, which, apparently, sounds much more glamourous than it sounds. So far, so he was told, the closest he's come to a sleb is when 'someone from Ash' walked past.

Tonight we watched Pleasantville at the IKL Thursday film night. I remember seeing it years ago and it's a lovely film - which makes it sound awful! But it wasn't awful, and we all liked it. The film nights, and sometimes lunch breks at the NT, are now the most likley times I actualy get to sit down and knit so tonight I finished the left front of the baby cardy that I've been on recently. It's really the best way to learn new stuff - just pick something and do it...I'm doing stuff I've never done before (very basic) but I'm learning, if my impatience doesn't get the better of me! The film nights are a real treat, and although we rarely get a big group I look forward to them more and more - plus, Esther is always reliable with the M&S chcolate cokies, flapjacks or assorted nibbles!


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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Good Friday

As the National Theatre and WaterAid (our other jobs) were both closed yesterday we took the opportunity to spend the day in the shop together, and get stuff done that we'd usually leave to Sundays. We discovered our local Bookers first thing in the day which is one of those warehouse cash-and-carries loaded with boxes of stuff for shops, restaurants etc. We are stocking up on beer, wine and cider for the IKL meetings - it was fairly mouth-watering to see it all stacked high and cheap!

It was a gorgeous day in the square yesterday. Sun shining and quiet. Gerard was getting on with his Colinette Jitterbug socks - they are for his dad, but on finishing the first one he discovered that his feet might be a bit too chunky for them. Luckily we've got our own feet to display them on now. Amy popped in with gorgeous hot cross buns and we spent the afternoon nattering away - topic of conversation at one point was our first gig. I eventually decided it was Jason Donovan at Whitley Bay Ice Rink, Gerard went for a Beatles tribute band (!), and Amy trumped us both with The Ramones in New York when she was about 15. OK, so we could be cooler I suppose. She has the benefit of being born in New Jersey (it's near NYC!) and having an crazy, cool uncle though. I was listening to Shakin' Stevens records in Carlisle while the rest of my classmates were into The Smiths and Jesus and Mary Chain. I've always been a proud geek.

Amy's off to Malaysia for a couple of weeks to write for The Times, and Tom, who's birthday it is on Tuesday, flies off to Sri Lanka. Nice. Meanwhile we'll stick to London, hoping that the weather stays balmy. Tom's riding high at the moment after been discovered by chance at Vauxhall station last month by a TV director. He's landed a part in an up-coming TV series based around a set of football supporters, which will hopefully make it onto the BBC later this year. Shows you that hanging around Vauxhall of an evening can be an exciting experience! Happy 71st Tom T. We expect you back from Sri Lanka with your Giotto scarf compete and raring to get onto the next project....three scarves down, how's about a change? I know you like this pic!

Tom arrived at about 5.30 last night and after starting him off on his new project we went off to our new local - The Vauxhall Griffin. This used to be a dodgy local called Wyvil's, tucked out of the way down a nondescript side street. But it's taken on a new lease of life. It's a bit like the Retro Bar, only it's 2 minutes away from our flat. I can see we'll be in there quite a bit!
It's a quiet day here at the National today (just as well, too much beer last night). Gerard is manning the shop and hopefully enjoying a few glasses of red with fellow knitters. Meanwhile I'll console myself with a sneaky peek of Daniel Craig who's coming tonight to see one of our plays tonight.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Knitting karma and Glastonbury stress...

I don't know about you but knitting seems to just be generally good for your karma. I take my needles everywhere with me and try to get a bit of stitching in when I can, and it just seems to make people want to talk to you (in a nice way). I was sewing up bits for the river in the canteen at the National Theatre the other day and I was soon chatting away to folk who just found the whole thing fascinating...then there was the unexpected celeb moment on the Tube on the way home from Dolly (see previous post)...and then tonight I was at the Donmar watching a dark and brooding Ibsen play (John Gabriel Borkman, which, incidentally, opens with Deborah Findlay crocheting a fetching shawl) so got my knitting out in the interval. Had a lovely lady sitting next to me who said it was so nice to see someone knitting. It makes me feel all warm inside, it surely does! Usually people won't talk to anyone in this city - so get your knitting out wherever you are and get busy making small talk, it's good for you!

Speaking of which, I wanted to mention the Stitchlinks questionnaire - get on their website and fill it out and show your support for those who have come through hard times, or beaten poor health with magic needles. They are hoping to present their anecdotal evidence for the therapeutic effects of knitting and raise awareness of just how good it can be for those in emotional or physical stress.

Talking of stress...the tank-top is coming along, slowly. I did hope to finish it in time for my birthday but as that was 2 weks ago and I've just finished the back I think maybe Christmas is more likely. Still, I ain't giving up and will start on the front (and do the neck, and then do the armholes)...soon. I've got my next project lined up and it's my first socks, using the gorgeous hand-dyed yarn from Jon...

I'm still emotionally distressed from the 3 hour ordeal of trying to get Glastonbury tickets on Sunday morning too! No luck...but all is not lost. I will see Dame Shirley if it's the last thing I do! Gerard is already there, backstage, working with WaterAid, so he may have to wheel me in in a suitcase...

Craig IKL

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Gerard in the Lords and the death of morality.

Gerard called me earlier today from the House of Lords. He was standing in a room of that imposing building looking out across the Thames towards Guy's Hospital and said it was a strange feeling, gazing at a view that many of us will rarely see, despite our paying for it. He is visiting the Lords on behalf of WaterAid (his 'proper' job when not running a crazy knitting shop), but I'm sure he'll go into detail if he makes a new post later. This is quite a funny story though to go with his visit: last year Keira Knightley did some work for WaterAid and an email was sent asking if Keira would be coming along to the meeting today - an email from WA top brass said, "No, unfortunately Keira Knightley will not be coming....I will be coming along with Gerard Allt". How his star is rising. I suppose it's reassuring that they allow groups like WA an audience in the closetted House of Lords, and having a democracy is something to cherish. We are lucky, even if it does mean that having a democracy allows freedom of speech to those who in some respects we'd rather didn't have it - yesterday there was a demonstration outside parliament lamenting new laws to allow the gays more equal rights - a horse drawn hearse displayed the words 'a good day to bury morality'. I suppose their morality is different to mine, but I thought homophobia was a criminal offence these days?

Last night's knitting/birthday party petered out into a drunken karaoke mess, but those who stayed the course were treated to Jon's rendition of some random Shania Twain song I've never heard of before and my celebrated "Maniac" from Flashdance. I got some gorgeous hand-dyed sock yarn for my first pair of socks which will begin after the tank-top is finished. Pictures are coming soon....
Top pic is what was left at the end of the night...second pic is myself having a go at 'Scandalous' by Mis-Teeq. Oh dear.

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