I Knit London Tweets

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Camp Bestival and In The Loop

We've been quite for a while, not because we disappeared and took it easy but because we've been travelling along the south coat - more specifically to the In The Loop conference in Winchester, followed by Camp Bestival, where we hosted the UK's first festival knitting tent. More of that later....

Our first port of call was Winchester for a really special three-day knitting conference. Speakers ranged from r Martin Polley discussing Sportsmen and their sweaters: Using knitting patterns as historical reference (a favourite with the crowd due to the use of a certain undies ad featuring Freddie Ljundberg), to Sabrina Gschwandtner, Jennie Atkinson, Jane Waller and Rachel Beth Egenhofer's knitting/technology work. We were treated to a splendid array of subjects, plus got to meet the speakers, recent graduate artists and other delegates. There were many familiar faces to Gerard and myself, and hopefully we made some new ones too. Some of the talks and presentations meant more to us than others, and we were disappointed with the preponderence of machine-knitting and mass market knitwear presentations, but on the whole it was a brillaint three days. Some work by a couple of recent graduates will be shown at our I Knit Day in September and we hope to be giving our own presentation next year! If you can make it to Winchester it is well worth stopping by to visit the knitting refernece library, and, in Southampton the Montse Stanley collection which partly inspired the conference in the first place. One of the highlights for me was when I skipped out at lunchtime and did my now traditional charity shop crawl - came away with a few choice books, including Patricia Roberts Knitting Book 2. Best of all though was a market stall with a huge box full of patterns - they weren't cheap but I got them anyway and have quite a few nice 1930s and 1940s ones mixed in amongst the other stuff. They can be seen at the shop, where we are still deciding exactly what to do with all of our old patterns. After a terrible night's camping (nice campsite, shame it was next to a dual carriageway!) we opted for the posh option and stayed in a hotel for the rest of the stay!
That wasn't an option for rest of the weekend though, as we drove along to Lulworth castle to set up our Camp Bestival knitting tent. When Rob called way back when to ask if we'd like to do it we jumped at the chance. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! But not everything we do is a success, and there were thoughts that perhaps this could be one of those forgettable times! I'm ever the pessimist! Gerard, on the other hand, just believes everything is brilliant (he's right, of course) so all he needs to look to the heavens for is more beer (pictured). Who wants to knit at a festival anyway? Well, by the looks of it, quite a few people. The knitting tent was packed all weekend and we pretty much covered our fabulous Great British Sheep in glorious knitting. This was a genuinely family-friendly festival and the kids got so into it that the sheep now has an amazing finger-knitted necklace. But it was incredibly reassuring to see so many young people, including some very tiny ones, who could already knit, and especially the number of boys who didn't shirk from getting involved. it's interesting that they haven't (yet) received any of the stereotypes or hang-ups that quite a few men seem to encounter when they come near a ball of yarn and some needles - that said, we must pay respect to all the blokes who got down and knitted with us too. We had a brilliant team of volunteers who worked their bloody socks of all weekend and we thank them.
This was a really different festival -such a great atmosphere all weekend, mainly helped by the number of young 'uns running around. As Wayne Coyne (Flmaing Lips) said during his Saturday night headline slot, "I can't believe how many kids are here! All you people under 10 years old I want you to remember this moment and when you're older, turn to your parents and thank them for being so fucking COOL for bringing you to a festival like this!" How right you are Mr Coyle. It was loveliness all the way, and we even met up with some friends from The Shellac Sisters and regulars at the shop and knitting group too.
One of our main reasons for creating The Great British Sheep and taking parts in events like Camp Bestival are to get people knitting. We don't care how 'cool' it is, how old the knitters are, how crap you are at it, just as long as you're making stuff it doesn't really matter. It was great to see so many people getting involved and we must've taught well over a hundred people their first casting on and off. We just hope they take something away from the knitting tent and keep it up. It was certainly a resounding success and we're looking forward to doing it all over again next year.
And, if you really must say knitting's cool, then....we did have Kate Nash (pictured) along for the afternoon on Sunday and she gave the knitting tent a mention on the main stage during her set too. OK, so knitting is cool after all.
We could write so much more about the weekend, but at our age our memories don't hold much info. instead, take a look at our pictures for more...

Friday, July 11, 2008

where's all the knitting gone?

I had a great birthday on Wednesday. I love being in the shop and so many people who came down came wished me a happy birthday and it was so nice - thank you all.

I got great presents! Lots of cake, obviously and lots of booze - perhaps most obviously. I love my spinning wheel. Craig is brilliant and it's the perfect gift. I was awake at 6.30am , although I was quite squiffy when I went to bed - and was spinning away for ages. Perhaps not spinning properly but I have some time available at Camp Bestival where the rather marvelous Alix will hopefully give me some tuition.

I wish that I could post more about knitting here but the only knitting I've done recently has been for this. So I can't show you any! I'm very excited about it, though.

I have other very special news. Last Saturday I was elected as Vice Chair of The Knitting and Crochet Guild. I am very excited about this new string to my bow and I can't wait to get to work! But before that you must all become members straight away.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Happy birthday to Gerard

Yesterday it was Gerard's birthday. It's not the done thing to give a ladies age away so I won't (and he's younger than me so I don't want to give that game away either!). Here he is playing with his new spinning wheel which I bought from the Handweaver's Studio near Blackhorse Road. G almost bought on at Woolfest before I talked him out of it. By all accounts he had a good day, despite being 'at work' in the shop - when I arrived just before 6 I think a few quaffs of champers had already gone down,

and a few cakes to boot. As it was Wednesday it was also knitting group night and we had cake, cake and more cake. Thanks everyone!

Gerard got a very special pressie at the start of the week too...but I'm not allowed to tell! I'm sure you'll be hearing all about it very soon....

We're gearing up for Elefest on Saturday where we are helping out the ladies from the In-Spire craft group with a brilliant new project called Knit the Aylesbury. The infamous Aylesbury estate in south London has stood for over 40 years but is now due for demolition - local residents and the community craft group have decided to knit a scale model of the whole estate - all 2500 homes as a lasting reminder. It's a unique project and they need your help to make it happen. There are a number of workshops throughout the summer where you can get involved, the first is this Saturday, 12th July as the Elefest festival - in St Mary's Churchyard, newington Butts, there'll be free open air screenings of archive films plus a chance to get started on those 10,000 odd windows and numerous trees! It's this kind of social knitting project that we really crave and admire. Despite our status as a shop (which some people see as an automatic bar to being involved in any type of charity/social/community projects!) we spend much of our time promoting knitting in many other ways than just selling yarn. This, Knit a River, The Great British Sheep et al. are some of the things I'm most proud of when I think of I Knit London.

See our Knit the Aylesbury page for full details.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Great British Sheep (and the great British summer)

Today we were on the South Bank, outside the National Theatre, to take part in their annual Watch This Space festival. It was the Alternative Village Fete and it was wonderful. Things didn't bode well, I must say, when I woke up and carried a huge sackful of wool around to the NT at 9.30 this a.m. when it was pouring with rain and I got soaked through. But the unpredictable British summer saw us through and it turned out to be a lovely day, perfect for knitting with wool!

Today we launched our latest project, The Great British Sheep, which we like to call a "celebration of British wool, knitting and sheep". With over 60 native breeds, more than any other country, you'd think we'd have British wool coming out of ears...but, really, can you go to your local yarn store and pick up a few balls of it? I'm often dismayed by the cravings for foreign brand yarns which don't come close to the quality and gorgeousness of their British counterparts, but which are snapped up by knitters who think it must be good because it's number one on Ravelry and everyone's knitting with it in the States. Sure, there are some very special yarns from all over the world, but why do we have such disdain for our own homegrown stuff? Honestly, whilst collecting yarn for this project I've been amazed by the range and quality (and the price) of some our British wool, most of which you wouldn't find unless you visited the farm from whence it came. It's this that made us want to start the project in the first place, and one of the reasons we are still very proud to be the only yarn shop in the capital with a regular stock of pure British wool, from Shetland, Wales and Wensleydale to name a few.
Rant over. What a brilliant day! The sun shone, the spinners spun, the knitters certainly did knit...a lot. We thought we'd see regular faces and knitting group folk, but, in fact, most of our friends stayed away and we met hundreds of people who have been hiding somewhere, all keen and excited to get their hands on the wool. Free wool! We thought we'd have every knitting group in the city down there getting some stitches in! As it was, during the course of the afternoon hundreds of knitters joined us and took part, and to them we say "thanks". Accompanied by entertainment of the distinctly weird and wonderful kind, surrounded by vegetable sculpture, cake decorating and WI stare-out challenges, as well as guinea pigs, rabbits and ducks from Vauxhall City Farm, we covered our sheep statue in loopy stitch and more.
But, it's not over yet....in two weeks we head for Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle in Dorset where we hope to finish our sheep's 'knitted fleece'...and we need more wool! You can see a list of the breeds we still need, plus links to all our generous suppliers so far on the Great British Sheep page - but, if you have ANY 100% British wool in your stash, please send it in to us at the shop address, whether we have that breed or not. We'll be teaching more people to knit and getting more folk involved and we need more yarn!
Our first batch of photos are now online here, and if you were there you can add your own to our I Knit photo group.
As a final note for now, we both want to personally thank Yvonne, who has so brilliantly captured our idea and designed and built our fabulous sheep. Thanks Yvonne.

Friday, July 04, 2008

"Are you the London Knitting Society...?"

...so said a fellow at The George Inn on Wednesday night when we convened for our weekly London knitting group! What's funny is that a few weeks ago he was accosted in the street by a knitter carrying a balloon and asking him if he could say "I Knit" in a foreign language. Oh yes, it's a small world indeed, and on 14th June he'd inadvertantly taken part in our Worldwide Knit in Public Day Treasure Hunt, where he'd helpfully told one of the teams how to say the phrase in Iranian. We told him that it was clearly fate and he should take it up - I used the fact that I was surrounded by a group of lovely ladies as a prime example of why men should knit more, but he turned us down and told us he was engaged. Not generally a bar to knitting, but there you are.

The George was a good place to meet, if a little busy. Whilst we didn't manage to grab any outside tables,after a bit of moving about we did settle into the far room with plenty of space, nachos and cider. We had a finished project too and it's always nice when that last stitch is completed at a knit night. If anything, is an excuse for another drink. Do we sound like alcoholics? Honest, it's not true, although we did have a comment from the lady on the next table who noted that, "There seems to be more drinking than knitting going on here. My knitting circle is never as lively as this!" We took it as a compliment.

In other news, I've been particularly enjoying being distracted by the new AussieBum adverts appearing at a bus stop near you anytime soon. Summer is definitely here and those pesky admen will do their level best to sell you the most unattainable stuff you'll never need. Believe me, these ads serve up the most unattainable stuff in so many ways! I suppose I could spend all summer in the gym...but then there'd be no need for fancy swimming trunks by the time winter comes around.

We're gearing up for our launch of The Great British Sheep tomorrow at the South Bank. I think we need a name for him/her though? Any ideas? It looks stunning I must say and I want to give credit to Yvonne who rose to the challenge and created a work of art. I've asked her to design our KNIFTA award now too!