Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

My builders have been brilliant and I now have a secure false shop front and tomorrow the old front comes down - I am willing to bet large sums of money that the 1960's glass isn't going to come out in one piece, which they are confident it will - we shall see. Bizarrely, we didn't shut at all today as customers were happy to make their way past fit builders in singlets, step ladders and drills to get their wool fix (it appears that nothing comes between a woman and her knitting but, on the other hand, perhaps fit builders in singlets should become a permanent feature or I could teach them to knit and we could have fit builders sitting on step ladders knitting - oooh, that's something to dream about tonight, girls).

But I digress - you can linger on the previous bit if you want - the bit about the Outer Hebrides will wait for you ..........

We flew to Benbecula via Glasgow and the weather deteriorated the further north we got. The Outer Hebrides are, basically, that long line of islands which run down the very far north-west of Scotland. Benbecula is squished between North Uist and South Uist in the southern bunch of islands and, regrettably, it isn't architecturally beautiful. It was an RAF station (hence tarmac runway) but the buildings reflect that and, as our host - Mary - said, it's not a great welcome to the Uists. Mary is an extraordinary lady from New York (who has lost none of her accent) who somehow ended up in the Outer Hebrides and has done an amazing amount of work there restoring (and recording) some of the old traditions.

We were staying on Grimsay which is a little island sort of squished between North Uist and Benbecula on the east side. For this we were grateful - apparently the weather on the west is always far worst than the east.

This is where we were staying:

and this is the view from the house:

We stayed here with Louise Butler who has the seriously unenviable task of putting together the feasibility study for the mill on Grimsay. It's a fantastic project but there are so many angles that it's turning into a major task. Louise was a superb housemate and, dare I mention, late night drinking companion - we all had a bit of a hoot.

Mary actually lives about a mile down the road and we stayed in the croft she bought for visitors and where she has restored the old boat shed. One of the reasons for the weekend was the ceremonial opening of the old Stewart boatshed where generations of the family built the steady little Hebridean craft. The tradition was in real danger of dying out until Mary got funding for a new boatshed and the last remaining boatman taught his craft to a new generation. Thankfully, the work goes on and boats are continuing to be repaired and built on Grimsay. The old (restored) boatshed now looks like this:

The islanders were incredibly hospitable and amazed how far we'd travelled - until a couple from Seattle arrived and we were well and truly put in our place. We went out on Friday night and ate the excellent local Salar Smoked Salmon (which you can buy on-line and is highly recommended - one of Rick Stein's Food Heroes), the local sea trout followed by the slightly bizarre carrigeen pudding, which is made from local seaweed (left in the rain to wash the salt out) and then boiled up with milk. The seaweed turns the milk into a jelly. On its own it's a little yucky (in my opinion) but with a side serving of local ice cream and fruit compote it was really pretty OK. As you'll gather, hospitality in the Hebrides came with plenty of food and I can only pray that my Weight Watchers leader isn't reading this.

Saturday morning saw the best of the weather so FB and I set off for a little walk. We were here:

How that first line of letters is pronounced "Kallin" is beyond me but then Gaelic (Gallic) is all foreign to me. All the locals speak Gaelic and switch from that to English with gay abandon. We found a local ram (and being a knitting trip, we photographed him):

Not sure what he makes of it all but I guess a new spinning mill up here might increase his chances of survival. He didn't offer an opinion. We walked to Kallin harbour:

This was en route

and this is the harbour itself. We had an interesting chat with a scallop fisherman here - practically all their catch goes to Spain - he reckons it's easier to find Hebridean scallops in Spain than in the Hebrides and - true enough, on Saturday night the huge lorries trundled in to collect their loads bound for the Spanish markets on Monday morning.

But, of course, we were there to talk about knitting. There is a great tradition of spinning, knitting and weaving in the Hebrides but it's all but died out. Mary (and others) would like to build a mill and revive the industry so she'd put on a display in the croft of Hebridean knitwear and tweed. Interestingly, there was a jumper knitted for Marks & Spencer at the Bayhead Factory (in the good old days when M&S proudly boasted that all its products were made in the UK). The wool was pretty rough by today's standards - M&S customers were obviously tougher then!

There were also some amazing examples of children's first knitting projects - this was a Primary 6 school project (a 10-11 year old):

I wonder how many 10 year olds could knit those now! Or, indeed, this top from 2nd year (13-14 year old?):

There was also this glorious fairisle and I hope to God the knitter of this was older than 14 because, if not, I'm putting away my needles right now and giving up for ever:

At the bottom you can also see a peek of a rather beautiful cushion.

FB gave out talk, which was graciously received and I hope enthused the islanders of the fantastic opportunity they have. It would be wonderful to see a mill back in the Outer Hebrides and we would love to be a part of its birth. Of course, they also have the wonderful heritage of tweed and this bolt was left casually draped over the (cold) Rayburn - absolutely beautiful:

I had an amazing conversation with an old lobster fisherman in his 80's who was telling me that his Mother had a loom when he was a boy. She wove blankets by commission and wove Harris tweed. The weavers weren't paid until the clothes their cloth was turned into were sold. An early example of exploitation in the clothing business, perhaps - and a reason why some older people aren't interested in having a mill on the islands as it brings back unhappy memories.

At the end of Saturday we had a feast of local food (more food, yes, I know ..) - traditional scotch broth, lamb stovie (a delicious "stew" where the potatoes literally disintegrate and thicken the broth) and a choice of Seaweed Carrigeen (again) or Cloutie dumpling - yes, I chose the dumpling - which was absolutely delicious and put an uncomfortable strain on my trouser top button. Then we had a wonderful Scottish folklore expert and story teller called Margaret Bennett telling us about the Celtic Calendar and this amazing special cake called Struan and, guess what, someone had cooked one and, obviously, we all had to taste it - I was seriously concerned by trousers wouldn't take the strain:

That's Danna (which, being Gaelic is probably spelt Fhgoerna for all I know) with the Struan which, as you can see, comes out like a sandwich. It was served warm and spread with butter - oh, bliss! I forgot to mention by the way that Danna (Fhgoerna) and her amazing team cooked the whole of our dinner (for 32 of us) on 2 gas rings by the light of 4 gas lamps - we ate in the new shed/community building - they are an impressively resourceful bunch - if it was up to me, you'd have had baked beans on toast. (We also have special reason to thank Danna [Fhgoerna] who lent us [virtual strangers] her car for an emergency dash to the nearest shop [12 miles] for alcoholic necessities - this lady is a true star.)

We were all very fortunate to have supper on Sunday night with Margaret Bennett and her assistant and Margaret was telling us about the traditions of Michaelmass (pronounced as 2 words - Michael Mass), which is celebrated on September 29th (yesterday). Girls would traditionally knit garters for their sweethearts and give them carrots - apparently carrots grow very long and straight in the Uists due to the sandy soil so you can image the connotations!

There is far more to tell (including the potato dish competition I previously mentioned [FB's particular highlight], the burning cockleshells [yes you did read that right] and an extraordinary arrival late on Sunday night) but it's getting late and this blog is getting way, way too long and you're all probably losing the will to live now so I'll continue with the rest tomorrow - some of it is worth waiting for - honest - you'll never guess who arrived on Sunday night in the middle of a power cut - you really won't - you couldn't make it up. I'm going to keep you guessing ..............

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

Just a brief note to let you know that we returned safe and well from the very far north-west and as I predicted - it was cold, wet and windy. Apparently - as we were told on occasions too numerous to remember - when the sun is out it's a completely different place. This weekend it was cold and wet and windy and then, just as we thought the sun was coming out, it turned really nasty. I was very glad for my winter woollies and even wore socks in bed.

Tomorrow there will be detail and photos and gossip but tonight I have to strip my shop window bare as tomorrow (8.15am) the builders arrive to demolish my shop front. I am a little excited and very nervous and the shop will have to be shut all day tomorrow - online orders will continue as ever but I have heard they are being hampered by the postal strikes. Longest delay so far is 13 days to Peterborough. The builders are building a false wooden shop front and then business as usual from Thursday in the shop which will then, presumably, closely resemble a cave.

Note to self: remember milk (for tea and coffee) and sticky buns in the morning - I've heard that builders work better when these are in constant supply.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

7.25am. I don't normally blog at this ungodly hour of the morning but today we're flying to the Outer Hebrides for a long weekend! It's a long way from here so we're off shortly - flying from Exeter to Glasgow and then on to Benbecula - what a great name that is.

We've been invited to a bit of an Open Day to open their new boatshed and talk about Cornish Organic Wool and how we set up the business and market west country wool. The islanders are thinking of doing something similar so they're having a woolly weekend and we've been invited - which is a real thrill.

I have the programme in front of me and it includes the Opening of the Boatshed, display of the Community Quilt (which you just know is going to be stunning), a Lime Mortar Demonstration, Talks (including FB and me), food (yippee) and film. There is also a sock knitting demonstration so I wondered if I should get a sock on the needles but I'm taking the Beaded Gorgeousness instead and and a competition for the Best Dish with Potato (which might well be FB's high point).

We've never been this far north before so I've packed my woolies and I'm really excited. They say the weather is going to be good but, come on, we live in the very far south-west (relatively warm) and we're going to the very far north-west so it's going to be colder isn't it?

By a stupid quirk of fate (why these things surprise me any more, I don't know), Marie - who never, ever, ever takes holidays - wanted this weekend off as well so Tracey is womanfully manning the fort and will tender to your needs and cares.

Next week (I think) my builders start on my new shop front - wondrous timing - so that's bound to be fraught and exhausting - can't wait! More details on Tuesday.

In the meantime - Scotland - here we come!

Oh yes, forgot to say, FB has an attack of gout - timing, timing.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

Crazy, crazy day today! I had an order for - wait for it - 340 balls of Stylecraft Life. Yes, you read that correctly - 34 kilos of one colour. What's more, the customer wanted it delivered by Wednesday. Did I organise it? Wash your mouths out - of course I organised it! It took a few phone calls back and forth but 'til done and the customer is happy. You can tell I was a PA in a former life, can't you?

Tomorrow I'm away in meetings all day so Tracey and Marie will tend to your every whim. I still have loads of patterns to input so I can feel some late nights coming on.

Tonight I'm going home to omlette as the chickens are back laying again (after their baby production stage) so we have a glut of eggs - lovely juicy fresh eggs with deep, deep orange yolks - yum! Then I have accounts to tackle as my parents were down this weekend so it seemed a bit rude to disappear into the office. Visitors are lovely but, sadly, whilst I'm out having fun there aren't any fairies doing all the work for me. I could do with some accountancy mice like the sewing ones in Beatrix Potter's "The Tailor of Gloucester" - wouldn't that be bliss? - so long as Deidre didn't eat them, of course.

Fishing Update

Knitwits Yarns

Quick update - T wanted me to let you know that they caught 110 fish this weekend - 77 on Saturday and 33 yesterday. 105 mackerel and 5 pollock. Our house smells like a fish factory and the cats are going beserk. FB has gone shopping this morning for ingreds for soused mackerel (roll mops) as we now need to try different recipes. The weather was glorious, the sea was flat calm. They are very happy chappies.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Saturday Knitting

Knitwits Yarns

Saturday mornings are very relaxed in the Hopson household. We've never been the sort of family that dashes out of bed to take children to swimming or riding or anything frightfully enthusiastic. Saturdays are for lie-ins, gentle breakfasts and knitting.

Now the boys are teenagers, of course, it's bliss. No-one moves until at least 9am. Perhaps I should point out at this moment that Marie does the Saturday morning shift in the shop - otherwise, obviously, the shop would be shut.

In the pre-migraine days when I drank coffee, FB would quite often bring coffee into bed and we would sit and listen to Radio 4 and I would knit. When FB meets knitters he quite often extols the virtue of bamboo needles with the words, "they don't annoy me as much when she's knitting in bed". Some people may find this confusing but, really, it makes perfect sense - clicking needles clearly detracts from Radio 4.

Now I don't drink coffee (or tea), I'll often sit and knit when FB's in the shower and pottering around downstairs making breakfast, feeding cats, shouting at the boys etc, etc.

Last night when getting into bed I remember saying to FB, "damn, I've left my knitting downstairs" but was too tired to go and get it. I'd packed it all up but then had a bit of a fracas with Deidre when trying to put him out. The cats get locked into our back passage at night otherwise every Tom cat between our house and Penzance comes into the house and, charmingly, leaves his mark. Cat fights in the kitchen under your bed at 3am are not something you want to wake up to, trust me. Last night Deidre was out but he made a dash for freedom when we put Tabatha out so I then had to chase him upstairs (keep up please, Deidre is, obviously, a boy) and haul him back down, getting scratched for my pains. It was at this point that I left my knitting downstairs.

So, this morning - interesting bits and pieces on the radio, FB en route to the shower and I said, "I left my knitting downstairs last night". He put on his dressing gown and went and got if for me.

Is this the definition of love?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

Not much inputting today - just a couple of patterns from Katia in their Astrakan. There are more to come which I'm hoping to manage tomorrow. It's been a bit busy (which is good!).

Some of my emails seem to be appearing in people's SPAM folders so, if you're expecting a reply from me and haven't had one, please check your Spam folder or Deleted Items Folder. Don't ask me why this happens - as you all know, I'm not Mrs Technical - it just does!

However, I do have some pretty pics for you. When my hunter gatherers went out on Sunday I went to see a friend in hospital and then had a phone call to say there were no fish. Drove back to collect the men and, as soon as I parked up, had a phone call to say they'd just motored through a shoal and would be another 15 minutes. An hour and a half later they got to the beach. In the meantime, I went for a bit of a wander (had forgotten my knitting which is pretty unusual and typical, all at the same time). As some of you may know, we live in a beautiful part of the world. This was the beach on Sunday afternoon:

Flat calm sea and St Michael's Mount in all its glory.

This was the catch:

You don't get fresher than that!

And this is one very happy hunter gatherer (T):

Happy days!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

Classic comment on the day:

Husband (slightly gormless): "Well, there's loads of wool in 'ere".

Wife (choosing buttons): "Yeah, well, it's a wool shop innit".

You couldn't make it up.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

I've spent the last two afternoons uploading Katia Azteca patterns. They are all totally gorgeous and can be found here. The meterage is also surprisingly good so you don't need too many balls!

There are ladies' patterns:

I LOVE this coat!

Men's patterns:

I quite like him!

Children's patterns:

And accessories:

Go check them all out - they're worth a good look - honest!

Tomorrow I will get cracking on Surprise and Astrakan.

Tonight (as I had the audacity to take a day off on Sunday) I have to tackle the paperwork - oh, joy.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

33 mackerel tonight!!!!!
Knitwits Yarns

I've just done the evening stock check and realised that I'm a complete idiot. The stock levels for Stylecraft Signature were all 10 balls out - we had 30 of each colour in, not 20. So for all of you looking at the lovely Signature patterns and thinking "well, she hasn't got enough balls for this" - I apologise - please check out the stock levels again.

There is actually a system in the ordering, believe it or not. If, for example, most patterns in an average size take 15 balls then we'll order 30 so we should get at least 2 garments out of each colour. If the average is 6 or 7 (like Life) then we'll order 20. For Signature we ordered 30 but I only entered 20 - doh!

I'm going to go home now and lie down with a Gin & Tonic.
Knitwits Yarns

As promised - another day of pattern inputting (and customer serving - yes, tinebeest - those pesky customers [without whom I wouldn't be here so I'm only joking, OK?!]).

Some nice new patterns from Stylecraft in Life DK - here (patterns down the left hand side, as always). Including a rather nice man's waistcoat:

One new pattern in Stylecraft Pure Merino, which includes that Peruvian style hat everyone's been asking for for the past 12 months - here. It also gives you a chance to practice that Fair Isle that you've been swearing you'll have a go at for the past 5 years:

I've also put in a load of back copies of Yarn Forward magazine and Inside Crochet. I've divided the magazines into Knitting and Crochet to make it a bit simpler and put the latest copies first. I really like both these magazines - they're run by the same company (KAL media) and they're always full of interesting articles and loads of new patterns. Kerry Allman, who started it all, is one of those people who you wonder how on earth she manges to do so much and stay sane and stay married (to her fantastically supportive husband) and look after 3 children (with number 4 on the way). We were fortunate to have adjacent stands at Ally Pally last year and are lucky enough to keep bumping into each other at the various shows we do. If you haven't read any of their magazines, I strongly recommend you give them a go. Knitting mags are here. Crochet mags are here.

Finally, I've managed a start on the Katia patterns. I adore their patterns and their yarns but the inputting can be a bit slow as Spanish patterns are written slightly differently to English ones. I've started with Azteca patterns. Azteca is aran weight and knits into bands of colour - completely gorgeous. Patterns are here (down the left hand side - click on the pattern you want for details). I particularly love this one:

but, as we all know, I don't have time to knit (and I'm remaining faithful to the Beaded Gorgeousness) so I'll leave you to have first dibbs on the wool.

It's a gorgeous day down here so the hunter-gatherers have gone fishing again - not strictly true, actually, G has gone to play a rugby match. 19 was a lot of mackerel, yes, so we gutted them all, ate some and froze the rest - and we did have the MinL for supper too as she's just flown in from a week in Crete. Tonight she's cooking a chicken in her kettle barbecue so I know it'll be fantastic - it always is.

How much are you willing to bet that FB hasn't put any sun tan cream on and will come back bright red?

Fishing Update

Knitwits Yarns

My hunter-gatherers came home with 19 mackerel last night. The chicken was abandoned - to be eaten another day. They were delicious!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

I've been having a bit of a "Stylecraftfest" for you this afternoon so there are now patterns for the gorgeous "Signature" yarn - here. Patterns are down the left hand side of the screen, yarns in the middle, click on a pattern for details. Sample pattern here:

I've also inserted another new Stylecraft yarn - Brushstrokes. Only came in the shop on Wednesday so pretty hot off the press! It's a lovely brushed chunky with 10% mohair and has been flying out today - partly I think because it's got a good yardage so not too many balls required and a really good price. I had a lady who bought enough yarn to do 2 of this:

It was such a good price (£18) and she couldn't decide on a colour so she took 2! Yarn pics and patterns are here.

I've got a few more new Life DK patterns for tomorrow and some more magazines (which I've been very lax on inserting) and then lots of lovely Katia - which I may, or may not, get round to depending on what time I get in. I know - you all want me in at 8.30 to get everything inserted but, hey, it's nearly 7pm now and I would like to see my family at some point this weekend.

FB, G & T have gone fishing. FB phoned me before they left to give me instructions to put the chicken in the Aga when I get home - clearly, he's not over-confident about catching anything.

Do you really want to know what FB stands for or shall we let it run .......... and run .............?

PS Had a Debbie Bliss delivery today - new yarn - oh, yeah!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

This week is "Pattern Week" so I've been scanning loads in and FB has almost finished formatting them. On top of which we have new yarn as well so it's all quite busy!

Today I've uploaded all the Adriafil patterns. These are all, also, downloadable from Adriafil's site in Italy but I've tried to make your lives easier so I've downloaded them here, printed them off and now uploaded them on to the site. I tell you - it's astonishing how long it all takes - especially when you have customers to serve as well, a window display to change, orders to fulfil, etc, etc.

There are 3 patterns in Baba - here. Here's a sample:

Two in Duo Plus - here. Here's a sample:

8 in Kid Mohair - here. Here's a sample:

3 in Knit Col - here. One of my favourites:

and, finally, one in New Zealand prints - here.

Tomorrow I have new patterns from Stylecraft (Signature and their new yarn, Brushstrokes) and loads from Katia. FB is cursing me but, let's face it, it keeps him out of mischief.

As predicted, now that the children have gone back to school the weather has turned glorious (after several horrible dank and drizzly days when, frankly, it could have been November). FB, G&T are planning to go fishing after school tomorrow - think I'll get the sausages out of the freezer tomorrow morning.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

Have been beavering away on the site today so lots of lovely goodies for you to check out:

For all you sock knitters - new colours in Zig Zag - this is the zingiest of the 2:

Find it here.

Before we went to Fibrefest (and due to popular request), FB toiled in the dye house for long days and nights and dyed up some Cornish Organic Chunky:

Some are the traditional C.O.W. colours but there are a couple taken from the Wool Britannia range - so, for example, you can have C.O.W. chunky in the incredibly popular Lime Green. Find them here.

We had a huge delivery from Stylecraft on Thursday so the Life DK quantities are all topped up plus 5 new colours - find them all here. Plus we had some more bits in Kon Tiki, the big 400g balls of Aran (although we've had a bit of a run on those in the shop today so they're going fast - must be the autumnal weather) and Life 4ply.

Stylecraft have also brought out a really lush new yarn called Signature. 50% wool, single twist with a really lovely mixture of colours in each ball - and it's only £2.95 per ball - fantastic! Here's one:

It's a standard chunky and has its own patterns which should be on the site next week.

Find all the colours here.

Next week I'm concentrating on patterns - they do take a bit of effort uploading and I'm conscious I haven't done the wonderful Katia ones yet but, hopefully, next week should be slightly less manic (boys back at school now - yay!) so I can get some hours in inputting. Watch this space.

In answer to Anonymous's comment - your guesses for "FB" are pretty close. Anyone else think we should run a competition on this one? Comments/suggestions gratefully received so long as they are publishable!

Comment overheard in the street today - "Ooh look - an old fashioned wool shop". Had to bite my lip from shouting out "it is a wool shop, madam, but it most certainly isn't old fashioned"!

I'm hoping to do some knitting tomorrow but, you know me, don't hold your breath.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

I've Been Having An Affair

Knitwits Yarns

I have to confess to you all that I've been unfaithful to the Beaded Gorgeousness.

A couple of weeks ago I might have mentioned that the Adriafil Kid Mohair:

and the Katia Paillettes:

had been calling to me (and to each other) across the shop.

Well, in the end, the yelling and hollering from them both had got so embarrassing that it was beginning to upset the customers so I thought - well, if I put a ball of each in my bag with a set of needles they might shut up.

Did they?

Did they heck as like.

I got them home (in a bag) and the kefuffle was a nightmare - it was upsetting the boys. So I thought - well, if I just cast on and knit a few rows that might shut them up.

Did it?


It got worse.

So I knitted and knitted and knitted and as I did the perfect union of these two perfect yarns was begun and gradually they got quieter and quieter until their perfect match - a match made in heaven I think you'll agree - was done and all was peaceful and quiet.

And I give you - the perfect scarf:

One ball of Mohair, 2 balls of Paillettes, 4.5mm needles, 25 stitches, garter stitch. Knit until you run out of mohair and there's plenty of Paillettes left for tassles.

The Paillettes sparkles slightly (some colours have more sparkle than others). FB did his best to photograph the sparkles and you can just see one or two.

The scarf is perfect - it's in my window and is getting much admiration - order now to avoid disappointment but, be warned, the noise from those little blighters is deafening so you'll need to knit them together the moment you open your parcel.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Knitwits Yarns

I had a lovely day off - met up with friends for lunch and then did some gentle garter stitch in front of the telly. All being well - photos tomorrow.

Monday I had a migraine (there's a surprise) so managed some gentle paperwork before admitting defeat mid-afternoon.

Today we've had a King Cole delivery so a few more updated lines here.

Also two good new colours in Zig Zag sock wool - hopefully on here tomorrow - watch this space.

It has rained all day here - children go back to school tomorrow so, presumably, the sun will come out.