Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Spitalfields Sheep & Wool Fayre

Sunday saw the return of the annual Spitalfields Sheep and Wool Fayre. Held at Spitalfields City Farm, a little bit of rural life was brought into central London. I love Spitalfields City Farm, I spent the summer after graduation working as a volunteer there, and as such it holds a special place as one of the few places in London that really seems to "get" community.

And they have a wool fayre. With a Y.

There was a heap of cool stuff to see, from their "Pop-up Museum"....

To a fun little folk band....

To kids....

To sheep shearing (this was awesome)!

I also got a great chance to chat to Lyn from the London Guild of Weavers Spinner's & Dyers, who showed me how to use one of their tabletop looms (and Ashford, not sure which one). What was really interesting was looking at how they follow their patterns, using charts familiar to knitters. The whole process was much easier than I'd expected, and, while I'm sure that setting up the loom is pretty skilled, I'm much less intimidated by weaving than I once was!

The fayre will be on again next year, if you're in town, be sure not to miss out!

Monday, 16 May 2011

UCA Rochester Graduate Fashion Shows

This Wednesday saw Andrew and I make our way out of London, south into Kent. We were to go and watch the final degree shows of Fashion students at the University of the Creative Arts, who are based at the university's campus in Rochester. These shows are open to the public, but as Andrew has been teaching these students on and off for the last 3 years, we were incentivised to go. And it was a very good day!

The student's final collections, all of 6 pieces, were split into 3 shows. I'm afraid I don't have any photos of the first show, as our seats weren't great, but we had much more luck with the other two shows. There were garments I would wear myself, garments that will help me as design inspiration (really, the whole 3 shows were great inspiration), and the odd bit of knitwear used in some really interesting ways.

From the second show I liked this jersey dress by Lauren Christensen, inspired by Elizabeth the First's dual roles as powerful queen, and vulnerable woman. I wear a lot of jersey dresses, often because Andrew likes to make them for me, and always like a bit of asymmetry, so this is right up my street!

This collection by Letisha Gayle was great fun, inspired by the early sixties. This look doesn't actually use any braces on the trousers, the black stripes are a t-shirt detail, but it's certainly reminded me to hassle Andrew to make me some summer dungarees!

These two looks are from Egle Meciute's collection, inspired by several authors and ideas regarding "life existence questions". The top picture shows one of the mohair knit skirts used in the collection, and the lower one a really fun felt top, with 3D flowers attached. While the hat may not be terribly practical, it is very good fun!

The third show held some other treats as well!

 This collection by Chelsea Antwi, inspired by traditional religious artwork, was lovely. She used some realy cool shapes (love the jacket on the left here), and the colour was great.

One of the few collections to use true knitwear was this mens collection by Lauren Lynn. I love the big shoulders in the cardigan above, but I'm not completely convinced by the bobbles on the back.

One of the more modern looking collections came from Samantha Sutton, in a collection titled, "Electro Metropolis"

My favourite collection of the day came from Becky Whitbourn's exploration of the Sussex coast. I'd wear a lot of things from this collection, and, while I probably wouldn't wear a latex t-shirt, this garment (top photo, forgive the blurriness!) is fantastic. Using a knitted mesh under sand coloured latex this awesome texture is revealed. I love the sleeves on this too!

Last but not least, I couldn't resist putting in a picture of Jennifer Allen's collection, inspired by none other than Prince Harry! I particularly like the look on the far left of this picture.

All in all I got a lot of cool ideas over the day, and we had a great time chatting with the judges for Graduate Fashion Week. Congratulations to all of the UCA graduates, and good luck for the future!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Paris Part 2

This post continues my report of our trip to Paris yarn shops. For part 1, see here.

After our trip to La Drogerie, we stopped off for a quick drink and a sit down. I had a small glass of dry Reisling (very nice), for the sole reasoning that it was cheaper than water (just let that sink in!). Alice and Yuvee were a bit more adventurous!


We then sauntered over the the third yarn shop of the day, Le Bon Marché. Unlike the other shops on our tour, Le Bon Marché is a department store, and a rather posh one at that (their window display had Rick Owens, 3.1 Philip Lim & Hussein Chalayan), but up on the 4th floor is a large yarn and haberdashery department.

The store is otherwise fairly modern, but this department is all wood panelling & old fashioned service (yes, another queue-request-wait-pay scenario). I picked up this skein of wonder-fun.

Combed merino plied with a fine thread. It is very very lightweight, but so huge. Here it is with 100g of sock yarn for comparison:

The brand is Bouton D'Or and the yarn is Mistral.

After Le Bon Marché we made our way to our final stop, L'Oisive Thé. Recently this shop has begun stocking Alice's Sokkusu range of yarn, and we wanted to check it out!

(Love the monkey by the door!)

We quickly found Alice's yarn in this fab little yarn & tea shop.

I wish we had a shop like this in London, being able to sit with tea and browse the yarn was lovely, as was taking the time to really consider my purchases!

The store owner, Amy, joined us for tea and chat, and we got a good look at her yarn.

She mainly stocks US brands, with a couple of Canadian lines. With the Sokkusu range she's branching into UK yarns, and it seems as though it's been a great success! I ended up going home with 3 skeins I simply can't get in London yarn shops.

This Sweet Georgia Silk Crush Sock in Tumbled Stone is just dying to become a shawl.

I have mitten plans for this Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport in Seaside

And I'm not totally decided yet on this Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Patina (which, if you check out Alice's blog, you'll notice is exactly the same colour as the jumper I was wearing on the day!)

After tea and shopping we settled down to the L'Oisive Thé Knit Night. We met some awesome people looking forward to visiting London for Knit Nation, and I was surprised and impressed by how happy people were to speak English with me (I have completely forgotton my AS level French, much to my embarrassment!)

 It was great to see the range of people's project, and Alice was very excited to see her yarn being knit up by eager knitters!

After Knit Night it was time to rush back to the station, grab some ice cream and head back to London. We had a quick and easy journey, then I had a brief tube trip home, where I fell pretty much straight into bed!

What a day! I can't wait to do it all again!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Paris Part 1

On Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to spend the day in Paris with my friends Alice (aka Socktopus) and  Yuvee. Taking advantage of speedy and affordable Eurostar tickets we were able to go there and back in a day, which was fantastic (and a great way to save on hotel costs!)

That being said, in order to make the most of the day, we arrived at St. Pancras at the ungodly hour of 5.50am in time for our train at 6.50am. But by the time we were on the train, and full of caffeine, we were in good spirits!

Upon arrival we swiftly made our way down to the metro (and I mean swiftly - the Eurostar is SO much easier than flying!), and off towards the Bastille. We stopped off for a Parisien Breakfast of toast, croissants, OJ & coffee:

I wasn't hungry and opted for a simple apple juice instead. What arrived was this monster, which I was very grateful for, until I realised it was going to cost me 7.50 Euros! (£6.55/$10.70!) But what could I do? No holiday is complete without some tourist mishaps!
After breakfast we walked a short distance to the first yarn shop on our tour, Entree des Fournisseurs.

This lovely little place is situated just off a fairly busy street in an idyllic ivy covered courtyard. It sells a wide range of buttons, ribbons and some lovely quilting fabrics, as well as a small range of yarn from well known French brands (and Debbie Bliss). As I was quick to learn, yarn shopping in France is a different experience than in the UK. Yarn is kept behind the counter and you must queue to request it from one of the sales assistants. Similarly, buttons are displayed on sheets around the store, and you must queue to get an assistant to help you. The process is slow and inefficient, but must dramatically reduce shoplifting losses, and is rather quaint! 

We wandered for a while longer, spotting a number of engravings like this one;

"Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood", the French motto and, I believe, reasoning behind the colours of the French flag.

Alice lived in Paris as a teenager, and had visited regularly since, so she took us to the Jewish quarter for falafel for lunch. This was my falafel:

It was probably twice as large as it looks in this picture. And it was absolutely delicious. Don't believe me? Look at the queue!

After falafel, we made our way over to La Drogerie, probably the most well known of Paris' yarn shops. With stores throughout France and several in Japan, the store has an unusual business model. Rather than selling yarn from wholesalers, they have their own line that you can purchase in unlabelled 50g cakes (so remember what you buy!) Like Entree des Fournisseurs there is a complex queue-request-wait-pay system, but you do get to fondle samples of all the yarns before choosing what you want. 

It's a pretty shop;

And I picked up 50g of a lovely Merino/Silk blend I'll keep for a mini-project or swatching. I was surprised to find I had absolutely no red yarn in my stash, and am happy to have rectified this!

After La Drogerie our tour continued, but I'll leave that until tomorrow!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Natural History Museum at Tring

Note: This post contains photos of taxidermied animals. They're cute and amusing, but I feel I should warn you just in case.

For those of you that know me in real life, the thought that I was excited by a visit to the Natural History Museum's Tring Museum will come as no surprise - the main event in London being one of my favourite places in the world. Indeed, such a fan of the NHM am I, that I must have been 20 times since moving to London 2 years ago, including on my birthday. I was even lucky enough to do my main Masters research in association with the museum (and London Zoo, because I am a lucky girl!)

The Tring Museum houses the collections of Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, one of the greatest collectors in British History. Throughout the latter part of the 19th Century Lord Rothschild collected (figures from the NHM's website here) :

  • 2000 Mounted Mammals
  • 2000 Mounted Birds
  • 2 million butterflies and moths
  • 300,000 bird skins
  • 200,000 birds eggs
  • 144 giant tortoises
As you do.

I had never been to Tring before, but the zoologist in me was very keen, and when Andrew's Mam suggested we made an Easter weekend trip I couldn't wait! The museum is very easy to get to from London, only 30 minutes on the train and then a short bus or taxi ride away.

Upon arrival, the first main gallery houses the taxidermified birds, cats, bears and primates, including a polar bear and at least a dozen great apes, in a variety of poses. All of the exhibits in the museum are original specimens from Lord Rothschild's collection, and as such are at least 100 years old. Therefore, these specimens provide a unique snapshot of a time when hunting such magnificent creatures for sport was not an uncommon activity for the wealthy.

I was very inspired by some of the beautiful patterning on many of the birds, and I can't help but feel there's some knitwear dying to leap out in response to these beautiful shapes and colours:

This is an Ocelated Turkey from Central America, those greens and golds are just wonderful (definitely a silk knit!)

This is a Lady Amhearst's Pheasant from Southwest China - such a fantastic collar!

I can't remember what these guys are, but aren't they lovely! I must remember that not everyone loves brown as much as I do, but still, look!

There were a few other excitements, most notably (and I was massively massively excited about this), the posession and display of the museum of a Thylacine, or Tasmanian Wolf, an animal that has been extinct since 1932. And in the most wonderful condition;

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the museum also contained it's fair share of hilarious taxidermy, with which I leave you. I hope if I'm ever preserved for history I get to amuse as many people as these guys.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Sweet Clement Vest

I feel I probably owe some sort of explanation as to my terrible blogging since the show back in March (blimey, so long ago!) - I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, but have been busy with a few things that don't make interesting blogging (or that I can't be blogging about at all!)

I spent a couple of weeks knitting a couple of pair of socks to be used as the samples in a new book by Socktopus out later this year. This gave me a good chance to get to grips with her new range of yarns, Sokkusu. I was able to use the original blend, Sokkusu-O, a merino nylon loveliness, with high twish plies and lots of stretch and squishiness, and the rather posh Sokkusu-X, containing cashmere for the other pair (this stuff is simply awesome!). I've also been finishing up the pattern for the "cardicape" last seen at the show, which is currently being tech edited and test knitted (thanks Mam!). We did a wonderful photoshoot of the whole collection, which I will be sharing with you in dribs and drabs as the 6 patterns are released.

But I have also been knitting away at a new design I'm doing with Sweet Clement Yarns, in preparation for exclusive release at this summer's Knit Nation. I'm so excited about Knit Nation I am now dreaming about it!

Sweet Clement are one of my new favourite yarn brands, run by Pippa, they are a gorgeous range of semi-solid yarns in bright, powerful colours. I used her Smitten yarn in the Leaf Litter collection, making what turned out to be my favourite pair of socks, women's size Brick by Brick (another pattern in progress) in Mahogany. For this new garment design I am using Beloved, a 100% superwash BFL 3 ply in the cobalt colourway. It's not complete just yet, needing an edging on the armholes, seaming, a touch of grafting and the addition of some rock and roll zips, but here's a sneak peak!

As you can see, our dress form has more than passed it's best. According to Andrew, the brand is very good and expensive and we are lucky to have it. It is vintage (can't you tell), but this also means the measurements are vintage, and really it's a couple of sizes too big for this garment (as you can see from the very stretched ribbing and the rather exposed chest in the top picture!) All of this aside, you can really see the colour of Pippa's yarn, and the subtle mottled effect of it's semi-solid nature.

I was very inspired by a recent trip Pippa, myself and Rock & Purl's Ruth took to the Yohji Yamamoto exhibit currently at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. Looking at the unusual shapes of his woven garments was very cool, and at least two of those looks have inspired features of this garment. The first was a huge black winter coat, with unusual fastenings on the hip and shoulder at the back of the garment, and considering my great love of back details, I couldn't pass up this opportunity. As such, the garment fastenings, at the waist/hip and a pseudo fastening at the shoulder are on the back.

I was also intrigued by a garment that posessed multiple layers of fabric (a trademark of Japanese fashion), framing an armhole. These delicate layers of crepe have been replaced in this garment by a yet to be attached rib section, adding stabillity to the narrow shoulder straps.

The garment is made in one piece, another common feature amongst minimalist designers, knit flat from the bottom up. As such it has a rather scary cast on count, but decreases rapidly to more managable numbers.

The waist-hip region consists of twisted rib intersected by mini-cables made without a cable needle.

This feature (shown here at stretch) was inspired by the nature of the yarn, which just was crying out for a simple texture pattern to make it "ping".

The rib carries up the fronts of the wrap vest, and forms pseudo-side seams, splitting at the base of the armhole to form a frame.

The garment will be released exclusively at Knit Nation, and then will be published online around 1 week later. I am hoping to do a photoshoot sometime this week once the sample is complete, and will be publishing those pics here in advance of the sale.