I’ve just been working on the Fyberspates stand at the Knitting and Stitching Show – the UK’s largest knitting show. Obviously there was time for a little personal stash-up too. Alexandra Palace is biiiiiiig, there was a lot of yaaaaaaarn, this post is loooooong.
I’d already agreed with Jeni (Ms Fyberspates herself) that I was going to sprint past the Shilasdair stand on my way in to the show. Last year Shilasdair had some ends of dye-lots at bargain prices, and I was hoping for more. The fact that I haven’t knitted last year’s haul is no excuse; apparently I’m stockpiling the stuff.
Shilasdair has to be one of my main reasons for going to Ally Pally (as Alexandra Palace is affectionately known). Shilasdair is based on a distant corner of the Isle of Skye, making them approximately a day’s travel away by whatever method you choose. When I think that going to Ally Pally is a bit of an effort, I remind myself that going to Skye would be a pilgrimage.
I love their colours: natural dyed, sophisticated, muted but not pale. And I love their yarn bases: natural fibres, but nothing scratchy. As I walked briskly (I tried not to actually run) to their stand, I was met with a wall of perfect colour. They always hang their most luxurious yarn in untied hanks, just to make sure it’s impossible to miss. This time it was handspun baby camel. I have had this beauty before and it is luscious.
I really want to show some of my patterns in handspun, so I knew I had to have some. Initially I thought I’d have some really pretty, crowd-pleasing denim blues, but then a strong golden yellow and deep aubergine caught my eye. I loved the idea of some truly Autumnal colours, and I think the aubergine will make the gold wearable for me; I love yellow but it doesn’t love me back in quite the same way. I’m hoping the purple will help.
It was really hard to leave those sweet blues, and a gorgeous antique rose, behind…to the point that I’m considering asking a friend who’s there today to do a bit of personal shopping for me! Usually I can forget about the yarns I leave behind, but, worryingly, not this time.
Yes, of course I dug into Shilasdair’s ends-of-lots again. This time they were in 200g bundles. I have ideas of making a sweater in these soft greens, so it’ll be a personal project where I can play with the colours. If I bail on the sweater idea, it’ll make an incredible blanket!
Sadly (?) one of the green bundles I loved was 4ply, so it wasn’t going to be part of the sweater idea, but it had to come home with me because I loved the lime green. It’ll make a great shawl, or I’ll add it to the pile of mini-skeins I’m going to play with in the Spring. I’m also dreaming about a bundle of pinky purples I left behind and am now regretting, despite the fortune in yarn that I’d already picked out.
Lastly from Shilasdair was a fiery red, which I adore and for which I have absolutely no plan. Who cares when it looks like this? My mother-in-law refers to this as simply “wanting to posess the colour”. Oh yes. I have coveted this red of theirs for about 18 months.
My funds now seriously depleted (read: spent) in 15 minutes flat, it was time to help Jeni. Working on the fabulous Fyberspates stand, was, obviously, going to be dangerous waters. I did joke to Jeni that I was worried I was going to end up trying to buy the entire stand. I feared we’d just find all her yarn stashed under the table by the end of the day, ready for me to take home. Not a problem for her I imagine; just me.
I admit the first customer of the day had me worried that my prediction wasn’t going to turn out to be merely a joke. The first knitter I helped was choosing deep purples. I love purple, and deep purples especially. The customer worked her way along the stand, picking out the best (IMHO) purples. At the phenomenal Twizzle Silk section (which I hadn’t even had a chance to look at), spotted a deep purple there too. She took the second-last-skein. I can’t tell you how much I was selfishly hoping she wasn’t going to take both! As soon as she had paid I liberated the last skein in a small purple frenzy (left in photo below – how could I let that go? In fact, I don’t know how Jeni lets any of this go).
Luckily I did manage to get a grip after that and actually let customers buy the yarn, instead of me. Knitters are so nice! It was great fun talking to people about the yarns and designs (some of which were mine). I love enabling, and it’s easy when the yarn is so special. It was lovely to meet so many enthusiastic people from the knitting world. I also met Rosee Woodland from The Knitter, which was great. The Knitter is such a good UK magazine – well, it’s the only one I’m subscribing to right now!
My lunchtime sandwich-break included a sprint to Jamieson’s to look for colours for fairisle. Jamieson’s were my other Ally Pally mission this year since Shetland is even farther to go for yarn than Skye! I wanted a really focused palette of golds, blues and greys. I particularly love the deep teal blues with flecks of gold. It makes the colours sit together really well.
Back on the Fyberspates stand, it was still packed (“stacked out” was the best description I heard) with happy knitters. When things got quiet late afternoon, I sneaked off for a little chat with Max and Katarina of MillaMia. It was good to see their new Limited Edition colours knitted up. I admit I’d been slightly scared by the lime in the ball, but it’s much quieter knitted up and mixed with grey. The lime and cobalt were flying off their shelves, and I can see why. I’m mulling over ideas for all the new colours. More things for the spring I think. Fresh colours.
Max also introduced me to Sue Stratford and her adorable toy kits. I bought a kit for two cheeky angora mice, peeking out of Christmas stockings. My kids will love these. Ally Pally is full of fun from places such as Sue’s The Knitting Hut, not just deeply serious yarn shopping. Yes, some of the stands aren’t so much cute as kitsch, and yes, some of the Christmas jumper kits were truly terrifying. I confess that in amongst the delicious treats, there are stands that are the stuff of nightmares, but let’s not think about those right now.
Back with the good things, I had a quick run round Oliver Twists, which would be great for those who like more saturated colour, but I dearly wished their slubby cotton felt softer. I have a bit of a love/hate thing with knitting cotton. Coolree was interesting, but I was feeling too overwhelmed with colour by now to really take it in.
As the show drew to a close, back on the Fyberspates stand I picked some yarn for designing, and some yarn for personal projects. (Read: “designing later”. Since when did I ever manage to knit someone else’s pattern without modifying it out of all recognition?) Somehow my yarn choices were primarily Twizzle Silk. Totally gorgeous – handpainted rainbow, burnt orange, flecky grey and, em, that deep purple I’d put aside hours earlier! Oh, and a plum in the regular 100% merino Twizzle. I can safely say I’ve stashed-up with Twizzle. I’ve already wound two and started swatching! It’s irresistible.
I chose a very special skein of hand-painted Faery Wings so that I can make a Knit Night sample too – Jeni’s sample is the most beautiful thing. My favourite colour of Scrumptious 4ply is the Dandelion & Burdock, which I loved using in Foolproof, but I’m still dreaming of making something in this with silver beads, so I took a “replacement”! Is restash a word, as in “I restashed the Dandelion”?
Lastly, I restashed a skein of Vivacious 4ply Tweed Imps, because every self-respecting stash needs a skein of this, doesn’t it? I’ve knit the three (ahem) that I had in stash into a warm-but-elegant Stay Awhile. What will the new skein be? Something to go with the shawl? A hat? Mitts? Who cares; it’s gorgeous.