Photo pick: Feb 2015

Grayson HouseLast weekend I drove a few miles north to take a look at an unusual art project that’s currently under construction. Called A House For Essex, this chapel-like building was designed by artist Grayson Perry in collaboration with architecture practice FAT. As regular visitors to this blog will know, I’m a fan of the inimitable Grayson, and even named some gloves I designed in his honour! I would love to see inside the finished house when, as planned, it’s filled with the artist’s tapestries and pots, plus decorative timberwork and mosaic floors, along with curious features like a bath that offers ‘an unusual location from which to observe visitors in the hallway.’ It will eventually open to the public, but as a holiday let.

It’s situated at the end of a lane overlooking the River Stour, on the outskirts of a tiny village called Wrabness in North Essex. Wrabness on a grey February day is about as cheerful as it sounds, but I’m sure when there are leaves on the trees and the sun shines on that water it’s all very different.

Essex provides not just the location for the house but also the artistic concept. All the artworks both inside and out are inspired by ‘the history and psyche of Essex’,  expressed through the life of a fictional character called Julie, the supposed previous occupant. Clues about Julie’s life and times are spread throughout the house, allowing visitors to deduce details of her life story. Here are a few more photos of the outside:

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DSC_0183 DSC_0179I think there’s something charming and niave (in the best artistic sense) about this piece of contemporary architecture, and I also like the way it uses the colours of the surrounding landscape to tone in whilst at the same time presenting something striking that stops you in your tracks. The tiles do slightly remind me of a Victorian toilet (!), but that aside I think the house is a whimsical gem and can’t wait to see photos of the inside.

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Win Your Own Yarn!

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Just wanted to let you know about an exciting competition with which I’m involved. Have you ever dreamed of knitting something in a very particular shade – the rich purple of a Quality Street wrapper, the vivid orange of the chicken tikka masala at your local tandoori, the pastel blue of Aunt Mabel’s Hillman Imp – but just not been able to find a yarn to match it? Well, those generous folks at Stylecraft Yarns are offering you the chance to create your very own shade of Stylecraft Special DK. Simply send in your suggestion by post or by email, providing an example of the colour, and your shade could be on the production line in time for launch at the Knitting & Stitching Show this autumn!

This seems like a great idea, and what’s particularly exciting for me is that, along with eminent bloggers Lucy from Attic 24 and Phil from The Twisted Yarn, I’ve been asked to be one of the judges! The three of us will be perusing all the entries and working with the Stylecraft team to choose a shortlist of ten, which will then be put to the public vote. Once the winner is chosen, Stylecraft will be able to replicate the exact shade using a state-of-the-art gadget called a Capsure – I’m not quite sure what it is, but in a knitter’s version of alchemy it seems it can take any ordinary object and reproduce its colour, which can then become a brand new shade of yarn – wow!

As well as creating their own unique shade, the winner will receive 100 balls of yarn, plus VIP entry to the Knitting & Stitching Show. The runners up will each get a fabulous goody bag. Details for where to send your entries can all be found here. I can’t wait to see what fabulous suggestions you come up with!

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Progress!

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I’ve caught up! My first eight #lksecretgarden knitalong squares are complete. In their different ways they’ve all been interesting to knit, particularly the knotted cable square (top left and bottom right) which involved using two cable needles at the same time. The twisted pyramid square (the other purple one) also presented some challenges with lots of twisted stitches. The next two squares, which went on sale yesterday, look comparatively easy, so I’m hoping progress will be quicker from now on.

 

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Talking Shop

I spent a few days this last week working at the Craft, Hobby & Stitch trade show at the Birmingham NEC. Every February the great and the good from the crafting world gather together at this show to exhibit their wares and talk business, although in a far less businessy way than in many other walks of life! It’s a friendly, inspiring show. The two hours-plus in the van on the way up afforded some enjoyable knitting time.

IMG_1257-1 Just as well, because once we arrived it was all hands on deck. A jumble of tables and bubble wrap needed to be transformed into something approaching a stand.

IMG_1258-0Much ripping of plastic and careful placement of Velcro ensued, and within three hours we had this! IMG_1276-0Everyone works really hard at these shows, and there were some amazing stands. I didn’t take many photos as I was busy talking to retailers about Yarn Shop Day, but to give you a flavour this is the wonderful sheep, courtesy of British yarn brand Woolyknit, who greeted visitors at the entrance.IMG_1282-1

And here’s her sister on the Woolyknit stand, surrounded by much UK produced loveliness.IMG_1288-1From the other side of the pond came yarns from Creative World of Crafts, including Lily Sugar n’ Cream, Bernat and Caron, drawing the crowds with their amazing Medieval display, all 100% knitted (sorry for the dodgy pic).

tent There were also lovely stands from the likes of Erika Knight, Intercontinental Yarns, The Fibre Company and West Yorkshire Spinners, all of whom were new to the show. It was great to see their wares, but my main reason for being there was to talk to visiting retailers about Yarn Shop Day. Our annual celebration of bricks-and-mortar stores takes place on 2nd May this year, and we have over 100 shops on board already. There’s still plenty of time to sign up, so if you’re in the UK and you’re visiting a local yarn shop any time soon why not ask them if they’re taking part? And if they’d like some more information, just direct them our way!

Yarn Shop Day 2015

 

 

 

 

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Photo pick: January 2015

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It’s a weasel! This normally elusive little creature was darting around on our patio last Sunday, and was photographed here just a couple of metres from our kitchen window. A close proximity to wildlife is one of the things I love about living in this semi-rural part of Essex. If you’ve visited my blog before you may recall a previous post about owls and partridges, (and I was delighted to count ten partridges in our garden this morning), and I heard today that otters were spotted in a river not far from here!

I must admit I’m never the one who notices these things first! Spotting wildlife takes a certain intuitive knack; you need to be always on the lookout, and to train your eye to spot the smallest movement. It’s no good goggling around wildly – you need to know the right place to look, and have the patience to scrutinise carefully, until finally you spot something promising. Unfortunately I don’t seem to possess any of these abilities! Which explains why I’ve never seen the sparrowhawk that hunts across our back garden, or the kingfisher that flits around our local river (this is a source of great annoyance!). But luckily for me James is a wildlife spotter par excellence. If there’s something to be seen then invariably he sees it, (he noticed the weasel), so at least I can alway rely on having things pointed out to me! But it makes me realise how much interesting wildlife is around us all the time, and how easy it is to miss it. It’s there; it’s just a matter of learning how to spot it. I plan to hone my skills…

 

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Knitalong

So, I needed to find a way to rediscover my knitting mojo, which seemed to have gone AWOL at the start of this year. You may have seen the KAL we’ve been running on Let’s Knit, the fabulous #lksecretgarden blanket.

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It began on Christmas Eve, and every month we publish two more squares – the second pair came out last Friday. For a full-sized blanket you need to knit two of each square (one of each for a smaller blanket). The original sample has been sitting on a desk opposite me since the KAL began, and it’s a splendid thing, exquisitely knitted in toning shades of merino aran, and featuring a fabulous array of intricate stitch patterns. Just the thing to inspire me to pick up the needles again! So last week I finally shook off my malaise and joined the KAL.

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I may have started late but I’m catching up, having almost finished my initial set of four squares. I’m mainly using yarn from my stash, as I found I had whopping amounts of aran in colourways that, although not the same as the original, I think could be workable substitutes. Pink can be replaced with red, and cerise with purple, and so on. I like the fact that these yarns are a mixture of brands, hues and fibres – mostly wool but with a smattering of silk, cashmere, and camel – and I’m looking forward to seeing how they mingle together in what I hope will be a pleasingly homespun-looking way.

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Being generous in size (20cm x 20cm), and taking up well over half of a 50g ball of yarn, the squares aren’t particularly quick to knit, but the rhythmic nature of the patterns is very relaxing. Just what’s needed for a stressful January!

If you’d like to join the KAL but you’ve missed part one don’t worry as all the individual instalments will be available to buy online from www.letsknit.co.uk at the end of the project.

 

 

 

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Photo pick: December 2014

P1010608OK, a bit late, but better than not having one at all…

One of many things that amazed me about Mexico was the sheer size of the fauna. Commonly seen in the hotel grounds were squirrel-like creatures the size of cats (agouti) and large, lemur-like mammals called coatis that allegedly are fond of stealing bikinis from resident’s balconies. And then there were the lizards. Now, I’m used to seeing lizards scurrying around in hot countries, but I must admit I wasn’t prepared for full-sized iguanas lolling around by the pool! They seemed very placid and quite happy to be observed, although we didn’t attempt to get any nearer…

 

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