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 (colinette.com). 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 www.jamiesonsofshetland.co.uk.
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?