Friday, October 13, 2006

Knit & Stitch Success - Alpaca Crisis! Send Money!

Back from The Knit & Stitch Show at Alexandra Palace (affectionately known as Ally Pally) and somewhat the worse for wear but clutching my loot firmly. Remind me not to visit London again for a long long time. Unless I go by ferry, that is. Flying has lost any charm it once had in the present tight security.

Oh did I make a faux pas on the Underground in London! Leapt happily on to the Tube for Ally Pally and what did I spot but two women sitting halfway down the carriage, and one of them knitting! Of course I rushed straight down, planked myself next to them, hauled out the Glitz sock (only one travelled on this trip, the other had things to do at home), and said brightly, 'Isn't it marvellous, you're the first woman I've seen knitting on the Tube, this is my Work in Progress, what are you working on?'

Well! It was a stuffy day in London and the Tube is always several degrees hotter but within a nanosecond the atmosphere in that carriage was colder than Glacier Bay. A stony face regarded me for a moment, and then a stiffly upright back was turned away.

I'd forgotten, hadn't I? In the first place you never, ever, speak to someone on the Tube in London. Not even if you think you know them. And in the second place, you absolutely must never sit down next to someone unless there is no other spare seat, no other option, no alternative.

Me I blame it on Ireland, on Canada, on Thailand, on France, on Spain, on Poland - on most of Europe in fact - and certainly on the good old US of A. I'd got used to relaxed friendly strangers who were delighted to show off their skills and enquire after mine. I should have remembered that when one is in Rome one does as Romans do...

I half felt I should apologise, get up and move to the next carriage. But then I got bloody-minded and decided to stay where I was. So I got going on the Glitz, and had done a few rounds on the foot when the second lady woke up from whatever daydream she had been enjoying, looked across at me and said loudly to Freezer Bag, 'Do you see what she's doing dear? She's knitting a sock.' All this in clarion tones but clearly not meant for my ears. Freezer Bag glanced my way - it obviously pained her to do it - and said frostily, 'So I observe. For a child, I take it.'

Of course I jumped in again enthusiastically and explained how no, they were for me actually, and how I'd got to the age where I felt it was time to embrace wild colour schemes and abandoned living, and that sort of thing. She waited until I'd run out of words and then said briefly, 'I imagine you will be seen anyway.' And that was the end of that. I got out of the carriage a lot quicker than they did at our stop and was on the shuttle bus before they'd emerged from the station - doubtless nodding their heads over the peasant crudities of the Irish.

Now not everyone is like that in England. I lived there for 25 years and remember most of them with affection. But there still are a few old colonials and I guess I picked the wrong carriage!

Ally Pally was magnificent, huge, standing nobly on its hill above North London, with women of all ages and sizes thronging towards the show from a fleet of shuttle buses.

And inside it was actually a lot of fun. In the foyer there were ladies knitting and spinning accompanied by a full operatic recital.

A focal point of the foyer was a knitted Ferrari.

Yep, a tour de force in knit and purl by one Lauren Porter. Wonder how much yarn it took?

The great hall was a bit of a marathon - huge, high-ceilinged, packed with people, noise, heat and stalls. But you forgot the crowding and the heat with the excitement of seeing so many products, so many skills and crafts, all under one roof. Colinette was there, and it was wonderful to be able to really look at, feel, get the sense of those stunning yarns.

I thought you might like to know what these yarns cost - they were the same at the show as they are on Colinette's website ( Most were £6 or £6.50 - the latter would equate to around US$12 or Can$14 . Don't know what you're paying where you live, but judging by the prices I saw in BC, you might be better off buying direct from Wales, even with the postage.

I was delighted to see Jamiesons of Shetland, but after discussing their website for a while, found that I'd confused them with Jamieson & SMITH of Shetland. How could I get that wrong? Two companies called Jamieson, both selling Shetland yarn online, can't imagine how I made the mistake.

Anyway they were very sweet about it, so I think you ought to go check their website anyway (the sweetheart on the left built it himself. They're at

So many things to see from amazing student knit and sewn designs:

to amazing hand dyed yarns...

And then I saw a familiar logo! Was it? It couldn't be. Yes it was - Cherry Tree Hill was here!

And who was there beaming all over her face, but Gill of Woollyworks . Angie, I wish you could have been there with me. You'd have hated the crowds, but it was so much fun to meet the woman who has been at least partially responsible for reducing my credit balance at the bank to an all-time low. And better was to come - she introduced me to none other than Cheryl Potter herself of Cherry Tree Hill Yarns, who had flown over from Vermont especially for the show.

It's OK, I told her for all of you how much we hated her for inventing all those dangerously seductive colourways and fibres. I told her that if CTH closed down overnight we'd all be a lot better off. And then I bought some yarn. Quite a lot of her yarn actually. Well... it only seemed polite.

There were so many temptations on all sides - soft alpaca fleece,

felting kits, handpainted velvet scarves, the dearest little South American red rucksack, just perfect for a small knit project...

- oh and a very nice cone of butter-soft charcoal alpaca - OUCH ALL RIGHT, DON'T PULL MY HAIR. Miss, can you stop Lynn and Ms Knitingale bullying me, please? All right, so I gave in to a final temptation. Am I, you ask, a no-morals trollop who will drop a perfectly respectable lambswool gentleman for the soft whispers of a passing alpaca? Darn right I am. I am in fact in danger of getting an incurable alpaca addiction. I have to confess that I paid full whack for this - £30 for a little over 500 gr - that's about €44 (Can$63 or US$56). But it will make a glorious Norah Gaughan. That soft feeling...

A thought. It is possible that I am also be turning into a charcoal yarn fiend. I now in fact possess no fewer than four types in reasonably large amounts, to wit as follows: First, St. Alpaca; second, gentlemanly lambswool; third, adorable mousse; and fourth, romantic Polish homespun (remember the dogbite and those little babushkas back last December?) I really will have to skein up some of the lambswool and the mousse at least for eBay. Nobody is getting any of my charcoal alpaca though, you hear? NOBODY. It's mine, all mine.

There were no dyes to be seen, though and probably just as well given the level of security at the airport on the return trip. An hour and a half to get through security just wasn't funny at that hour of the evening. (But I got my stash safely through - tell you about that tomorrow.) I am therefore open to all offers for dye trades. By which token, I just got a LOVELY big bundle of Koolaid from Wanda, bless your handknitted socks. And the most exquisite handcarved crochet hook made by Ed Jenkins, the other half of Fiberjoy. I can't wait to try Koolaid-ing yarn - it sounds like a lot of fun.

Yay, I did it, I did it, I DID IT! Managed at long last to get a button on my sidebar! Oh the pride of the woman. I'm strutting round the study like a ruler of mankind. No matter that the rest of you worked it out long ago - it was a barrier for me and I just couldn't get it. Then the Red Sweater Knitalong gave me the sharp shove in the back I needed. I love this idea. Everybody making bright red sweaters or vests or things for the winter. Go on, everybody join up!

But HELP. Now I need really really fine bamboo circulars to make my lovely red Eriskay gansey - Alice Starmore icily (wonder if she knows that woman on the Tube, what do you think?) requests 2 1/4 and 2 3/4 mm (US 1 and 2, can you imagine?). And they'll have to be long cables on the circulars too - but I really don't want to think about the number of stitches right now. So if anyone wanted to trade for a skein of my Killarney loot, think long wooden circulars in US 1 and 2. Don't mind if I get more pairs than one - I'll probably do both sleeves at the same time to engender a feeling of confidence...

Pictures of the loot from London tomorrow. Now (8 pm) I have to dash out to a book launch when I'd much rather stay home by the fire and knit. Tomorrow morning early I lecture to journalism students and then go along with DH for moral support as he does the paparazzi thing at a very fashionable wedding. Don't know if you've heard of Michael Flatley, of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance fame, but he is getting married at his stately home of Castlehyde in East Cork tomorrow and poor DH has to spend the day trying to get past the toughies at the church who are protecting the event for Hello magazine or whoever. Yes, of course I'll bring the knitting. What else would I do at the wedding of the season?


Anonymous said...

Oh.My.Wool.....the tube ride! I've not heard about that 'rule', if ever I find myself there I shall remember, and break it if at all possible, perhaps next to the same woman, heh.
What a thrilling outing you've had, someone would have needed to follow me around with a mop...take care of the drool you know.
I'll have to check out the Colinette web site, sounds like it would certainly be worth it, and it's very high here.
I'm with you on the grey colours, I love them. soft gentle greys.
I am so *thrilled* for you, scoring that alpaca! what a heavenly deal! Trollop? you? alpaca? oh, you bet!
And that Ferarri? jeez louise, amazing.
Glad you had such a grand time of it, do they do this every year?

Ms. Knitingale said...

Bullying, indeed--the very idea! But yes, Love, I'd be happy to send you some circs if you need them. You said wooden....are you wanting bamboo? Personally, I much prefer the Addis Turbos because the cords don't kink....but you tell me what you want. I live right up the hill from a giant craft store with a great knitting section.

Anonymous said...

Last April I was in London for several days and spent a lot of time knitting on buses and in the tube. No one ever said anything to me. I smiled at people when I caught them looking, but they would quickly avert their eyes.

In the late 70s I spent over a year in the UK between London and South Wales, and at the time I actually found this coldness reassuring, as I was painfully shy. Now, after spending 14 years in California, I find it baffling and unnatural. So I guess it's all relative, but now I prefer friendliness.

gwtreece said...

Totally jealous. Glad you had fun. thanks for the link to the sweater kal, I am going to sign up

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Jo - wish I could have been there. What is it lass, you get to meet the designers, even when it has not been planned. I have been in Uptown Yarns more times than I care to count, did I ever meet Judy McLean of Sweatermaker fame - NO - but go in with Jo and who shows up but Judy! The girl has a way about attracting wonderful people. I would not be surprised to see a photo in Hello of Jo and Michael doing a dance at his wedding!
Jo, I have learned that I need to stay away from wool, unless there is other fabric underneath. The Bainin will be fine, as it will be worn over blouses and NON itch cotton t-shirts!

So glad you had a great time and the Ice Flow Queen on the tube missed out knowing a fun lady from Macroom!

Tan said...

Aren't wool shows just the most fun? Despite the travel.

Your tube experience reminded me of Lolly's post on Soctoberfest yesterday:

I have only been to London once, and of course knew nothing of tube ettiquette. A young man was eating a mango and threw the pit on the floor. I told him he ought to pick it up. He looked at me as if I were dirt and got off without picking up his rubbish, but the other passengers cheered me for speaking up.

Fiberjoy said...

Michael Flatley! GASP!

I got to see Riverdance when it came to Portland, though I prefer Lord of the Dance.

I would have been slinking under the seat in the Tube. Give me warm toasties anytime over frosties.

LaurieM said...

Whew! That's a lot to take in. What a great show that must have been. I don't get the knitted car thing really.

I think you handled the bus lady just great. I feel sorry for people like that.

pacalaga said...

My goodness. I suppose rudeness transcends all cultures, yes?
The show sounds lovely. I enjoy looking at Cherry Tree Hill yarns, but haven't tried them yet. (I'm still not sure I can wear wool socks.) And not all of us in the New World have easy access to fiber festivals - the nearest one to me is about 750 miles away!

rho said...

Do we know Michael Flatley of Riverdance fame - woman you forgot how many Irish came to this country and helped settle it - We were at a friends party and met some nice young Irish men who were working here for the summer who were amazed at how it seemed that everyone had Irish heritage here -- LOL

Now if you hadn't been traveling so recently you probably would have been fine on the tube -- you were just with all the friendly people all around too long ;)

Alpaca huh? As far as addictions go that is a good one :D And a knitted Ferrari - can I say too cool....

And you meet all these people we would be dying to meet -- you are a people magnet for sure.

oh and how sad that the woman can't let go and have wild socks at least -- geeze I bet she doesn't wear silk underwear either hehehe

Erica said...

How funny is it that you mention Michael Flatley! The other day the hubby and I were refering to little man by that name as he has taken to tapping his feet Riverdance-style whenever he gets excited. So envious of your wool show - at least I can live vicariously through your posts! I'm sorry about the experience with the uppity snobs. Generally I have had positive experiences when I've knitted in public but every now and then I get "the look" from someone -- Although I have challenged a few with a return look of my own, I generally feel bad for them. I am excited to see how your sweater turns out!

Anonymous said...

That's a perfect description of the tube ! At least after the bombs they seemed to help each other but I hate it at the best of times. That is a great picture of Gill I am so happy to see her cos she is as bad as me for not wanting to be photographed. As for luscious pictures of the Colinette stand I drooled .I didn't log on last night at all due to a whole new boxed set of D.V.Ds..will post about on blog later.I also bought myself "Beads ,Buttons and Lace" knitting book .I really am wondering who the knitter was and was she going to Ally Pally cos I can think of a couple of candidates from a knit list .

Pat said...

I can well believe that about the woman in the tube - Londoners can be really rude! But we're not all like that over here in England. I'm in the West Midlands and I've met some lovely people while knitting in trains, stations, coffee shops etc. I love it when people ask me what I'm knitting when I'm out and about. But I think it might be Midlands thing because I remeber how odd I found it when I moved here from Oxford about 6 years ago - down there no-one ever spoke to you, and here everyone tells you their life story when you've only known them two minutes!!!

Shelley L. MacKenzie said...

It sounds like such a wonderful experience! I've never been to a show before - it would probably be dangerous for me to attend one. I would probably spend all my money and not be able to get back home LOL.

Sounds like you got a lot of fabulous things. Can't wait to see the pictures!

Anonymous said...

I didn't know Royalty had stooped to taking the tube. Maybe Her grace is upset about having to economize.

I recently saw an interview with His Lordship (of the Dance) about his wine cellar. Apparently he simply can't bring a glass of wine to his lips if it costs less than a car payment. If he feels that way about his dinner wine, imagine the wedding he'll throw.

Dez Crawford said...

Michael Flatley! Riverdance! Be still me heart. You must remember, dear girl, that my gret-gran came from County Clare.

Love the way you handled the icy wench on the Tube. Rude people are everywhere. I've sat next to people both of the friendly and corpse-cold variety on American tubes as well.

Don't forget that America and Canada were largely populated by the Irish -- there be fertility drugs in potatoes, I'm tellin' you!

New Orleans has a French name and Irish foundations, roads, canals, brickwork, etc. etc. I point out with pride that it wasn't the old levees, built by potato-famine Irish labor, which failed after Hurricane Katrina. The new levees -- built in more recent times --failed.

If you ever come to New Orleans I will take you on the Irish Tour: the Irish Channel neighborhood, the many places built by the Irish, the accursed Pontchartrain Boulevard (where about 70,000 Irish immigrants died of malaria digging canals), O'Flaherty's Pub (with its resident ghosts), Molly's Irish Pub, Parasol's Tavern, and a whole bunch of other places.

LOVE your name for the Tube Wench -- "Freezer Bag." I know someone to whom that applies quite nicely and I hope you don't mind if I tread on your copyright a bit.

Dez, who is healous of your alpaca, but who will search for wee bamboo needles anway. Most typically American needles come in lengths of 16 inches (sleeves, hats, baby things) and 29 inches (adult garment torsos). Those are the lengths you can find in craft stores at the mall, but yarn shops can acquire longer lengths.

Let me know what you need in bamboo, both in circuolars and in double-points.


Anonymous said...

The Jamiesons of Shetlands is indeed a very lovely site...but they won't sell directly to an individual in US or Canada...wah..

Charity said...

Oh, Jo! You and your faux pas are too funny! I can just hear the "ladies" you spoke with! :0)

It sounds like a wonderful time was had! Ooooh, Alpaca, Cherry Tree Hill, what luxury surrounded you!

Roggey said...

Humph. What a snot that Freezer Bag was to you.

Alpaca is lovely to spin, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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