Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My Top Tips For Travel Knitting

As its the school holidays here in the UK I thought I'd share my tips for successful travel knitting. As it's summer, I'm thinking mainly about hotter holiday destinations but I thought I'd start with a picture from our holiday to Norway last Christmas. Isn't it beautiful? It's a picture looking out over the Oslo Fjord near where I lived when I went to primary school. The tips in this blog is suitable for all holidays, particularly if you're flying.

If you've read my blog for a while or follow me on social media you're probably already aware that I knit almost everywhere. I knit on public transport, in the car (when I'm not driving), in the cinema, on the beach in Spain in 35+ degrees Celsius and even in church. I couldn't even think about not taking my knitting on holiday with me. 

My favourite beach knitting is socks. Most sock yarns are machine washable so if you get sand in your socks you can wash them or at least rinse them before you wear them, and they're small. No heavy knitting in your lap. I have gotten a few funny looks when knitting on the beach and on several occasions I've had Spanish ladies stop and talk to me in Spanish (which I don't speak). I usually just hand them my knitting. They look at it, talk among themselves, laugh and smile at me and walk on. They probably think I'm crazy knitting woolly socks in the heat of the Spanish summer.

If you're driving on holiday and luggage space isn't an issue, then taking a big sweater to knit on may not be a problem but if you're flying you will be restricted by the amount of luggage you're taking. Many people fly with just their hand-luggage these days and they're worried about whether or not they'll be allowed to  take their knitting on board the plane.

First let's talk about what type of projects are best for holidays and then we'll talk about knitting and planes.
My Creme Brulee socks are perfect for easy knitting.

My favourite projects to take, apart from socks, are small shawls knitted in sock yarn or shawls knitted in lace weight yarn. If you take a shawl knitted out of 100g/800m+ of lace weight yarn, that'll be enough knitting for most people for two weeks (or more). It's also very light and small. You can pop it into a small project bag and it won't add much bulk to your luggage.

If you don't want a big lace shawl why not choose a small one like Iris? Iris is knitted out of 50g/400m lace weight yarn. There's a lot of easy stocking stitch which is perfect for plane/car/train knitting and then some easy lace at the end.

Or if you want something a bit more mindless, choose a garter stitch shawl like Caprice. I've knitted two versions of Caprice, one in two skeins of sock yarn and one in two skeins of heavy lace weight (Schoppel 6 Karat which has 600m per 100g skein).

But what about taking your knitting on the plane? I've flown with my knitting for the last 10 years and have never had a problem. I've been stopped in security and had my bag checked twice when I had two and three sock projects on metal double pointed needles in my hand-luggage and the security officer was hardly interested in them at all. One officer started talking to me about his mother in law teaching the staff in her nursing home to knit.

According to the UK Government website you are now allowed to take knitting needles on board flights flying out of the UK but I have heard of people having them confiscated and a friend recently called one airline, Flybe, and was told she wasn't allowed to take any knitting needles on board. Small scissors are allowed too.

Regardless of what that website says, I think it'll be up to the security officer you encounter on the day. So here's a few tips to reduce the risk of them even spotting your needles. 

1. Don't tell them you're bringing your knitting or ask if it's allowed. Just leave your      knitting in your bag with the rest of your stuff. Take out anything they ask you to, like electronic equipment, toiletries, make up etc.

2. Use wooden or bamboo needles. They are less likely to be viewed as a potential dangerous item. However, I've been travelling with metal circular and double pointed needles for years without any problems.

3. Use interchangeable circular needles. If you're challenged about your needles and you use interchangeable circular needles, you can screw the needle tips off and hand them over, if necessary. Or you can carry a stamped address envelope (with your home address on it) and ask if you can walk back outside to post the needle tips back to yourself. 

4. Put spare needles in the size you need in your hold luggage if you are putting a case in the hold. Or put a spare set of needle tips, if you're using interchangeables, in another part of your bag like a pencil case or a small zipped pocket where you keep your pens. If your spare needle tips (or even double pointed needles) are hidden among pens they're less likely to look like knitting needles on the x-ray machine. So if they confiscate the needle tips attached to your knitting, just keep quiet and when you get through to the departure lounge, find your spare set (if you carry it in your hand-luggage) and screw them on.

5. Be polite and don't argue with security. If they decide your knitting needles aren't allowed to join you on holiday, then there's nothing you can do. Arguing with security will get you nowhere. It will most likely end up with you spending your holiday at home.

I've never had a problem knitting in the departure lounge or while waiting by the gate. I have been asked not to knit during take off and lading but I've never had a problem knitting mid-flight. However, obey the cabin crew, they're in charge once you board the plane.

If you're worried about losing your pattern, consider uploading a pdf to your tablet if you're taking a tablet. Or possibly even your smart phone. I keep all my patterns in Dropbox and have an app on both my tablet and my phone. Unless you're going somewhere off the beaten track, most places have Wi-Fi now.

Take a notebook along. Having a notebook handy is always useful as you may wish to take notes about local things to see and do but it's also useful to keep a notebook with your knitting. Just in case you make any modifications or to make a note of where in the pattern you were when you stopped etc.

Think about how much knitting you really need to take. Do you really need two big lace weight shawls, three small shawls and four pairs of socks to knit on for a long weekend? Okay, that's a bit exaggerated but I frequently take way too much knitting with me on holiday.

In a few weeks we're off to Spain for two weeks. We're travelling with hand-luggage only for the first time. So I can take 10kg in a small case plus my handbag. I'm planning to take one, or maybe two, sock projects, one easy lace/garter stitch shawl and one big lace weight shawl. I haven't found any fantastic yarn shops in Spain yet but I'm sure they're around. I do know of one department store where we're going that does have a small knitting department. So if I get desperate I'm sure I can get something there to knit on. If you know of any good yarn shops in the Allicante/Torrevieja/Murcia area, do let me know.

Also think about how many of your knitting notions you really need to take. Do you need all your stitch markers, several scissors, tapestry needles, row counters etc? I usually take my Tool Tin from The Sexy Knitter. It has all the essentials I need including air plane proof scissors.

Have you got any travel tips to share? Share them in the comments! 

Above is Trebarwith Strand on the Cornish north coast.

Enjoy your holiday x

Monday, July 27, 2015

Why join a yarn club?

I've been running yarn clubs for a few years now and I've also been a member of a variety of clubs over the years. Before I started hand-dyeing my own yarn I was a member of a couple of yarn clubs. I was a member of a fibre club for ages, until I realised I just didn't have time to spin up all the beautiful fibre I was getting each month. At the moment I'm a member of a planner kit club. Planner kit club? What's that you may ask. Well my other hobby is stationery, planners, pens etc. Yes that is a hobby. Search #planner #plannergoodies #planneraddict on Instagram and you'll see what I mean.

Anyway, there are several pros and cons about joining a club and today I thought I'd share some of my views with you. But I also asked on social media what others thought were pros and cons of joining a club.

At the moment I'm running the Easy Lace Club and above is Vanity Fair which was the July pattern. Although the new round which lasts till November 2015 has just started, there's still a couple of spaces left if you want to join us. 

I also run the Beads and Lace Club which starts in August and runs till the end of the year. Below is Rosalie which was the first pattern of the previous round of the club. You can still sign up for the next round of the Beads and Lace Club.

With clubs, you generally don't know what you will get each month until you receive the parcel. My clubs include yarn, a pattern and a little extra knitting related item each month. Clubs may include items that are exclusive to the club or that are exclusive to the club for a period of time. When I used to do hand-dyed yarn, the yarn colours were exclusive to the club. At the moment, the patterns are exclusive to the club while the club is running but available to others after the club has finished. The yarn is not exclusive to the club.

 Above and below is Lansallos, inspired by a traditional Shetland hap shawl. 

So why would you join a club if you don't know what you will get? What if you don't like the yarn?

One of the pros and cons of joining a club is not knowing what you'll receive. Receiving a yarn or a colour you wouldn't normally buy may open your horizons and introduce you to something that you may end up liking. However, if you have strong views about which colours you like or you are allergic to certain fibres then joining a club may not be for you. I like the element of surprise and when I've received a colour I didn't like, quite often I've found something nice in that colour or I've knitted something as a present for someone else.

Another good thing about joining a club is that you get regular yarny treats arriving in your post box. Someone may buy you a club membership as a present or you may treat yourself and then every so often you'll get a 'present' in the post. 

 Above and below is Aria which was the final pattern for the first round of this year's Beads and Lace Club.

However, if your yarn budget is limited then you may wish to choose exactly what to spend it on, rather than end up receiving something you don't like. For most people the main advantage of a club is that it may enable you to try new yarns, new techniques, new patterns and you get a regular yarn parcel. The main con for most people is not knowing in advance what you will get. You may end up with stuff you don't like. Having said that, you may find that if you get something you don't like, you may find someone online who'd like to buy it off you or swap it for something that they have that you like. Groups and forums on Ravelry are good for this kind of thing. 

For some clubs, like mine, you need to pay up front and others will allow you to commit month by month and pay in monthly installments. 

If you're considering joining a club, I can say from personal experience and from the feedback that I have received from my club members over the years that they are a lot of fun. Most people will enjoy receiving something that they may not have chosen for themselves. Often they find they like it, although they thought they wouldn't. But sometimes you will receive a yarn, a colour or a pattern you don't like. It's happened to me!

If you're a stationery addict like me then I thought I'd share the Planner Club I'm a member of. It's run by Happie Scrappie and you can sign up for monthly installments. I receive the Midori/fauxdori version but there are A5 and Personal versions which suit Filofax and similar planners A5 and personal sizes. The July parcel arrived while I was writing this blog post and it's a foxy/woodland animals theme.  Animal themed things aren't necessarily my favourite but I quite like some of the things included here.

So will you join a club? Don't forget you can join the Beads and Lace Club now (and you may be able to get in on the Easy Lace Club if you're quick). I'm currently planning my 2016 clubs and I'm thinking about doing something different so watch this space.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sewing again

You may have noticed there hasn't been very much sewing going on here this year. I want to change that this summer because I have a very, very busy autumn planned. So if I'm going to fit in some sewing it'll have to be over the summer. On Tuesday, a friend came around and we spent the day sewing. We set up our sewing machines on our dining room table.

I wanted to make the Bucket Basket Tote by Very Shannon which is a free pattern but it looked like a slightly more difficult pattern, especially as we wanted to chat while we were sewing so I settled for a simple Kindle pouch instead. I used this free Notebook Pouch tutorial but I made it smaller to fit my Kindle. I used fusible fleece on both the outer and lining fabric to make it nice and cushioned. I mainly use my Kindle when we travel and on the beach on holidays so I wanted something light that wouldn't instantly look like a tech gadget if someone rummaged through my bag on the beach.

The fabric I used for the lining is the same as the outer fabric but the background colour is blue. I also used an invisible magnetic snap instead of velcro. It's not as strong as a proper magnetic snap which I think I'll use if I make this again. I'm happy with the result though and it fits my Kindle perfectly.

Afterwards I decided to make a little bag. I already had material cut out for a Japanese Knot Bag. I made a small one a few months ago and wanted to try a larger one.

I used some Liberty fat quarters for both the outer and lining. I messed up the handles a bit because I mis-read the instructions but otherwise I'm happy. Although I could do with shortening the shorter handle a bit.

Below is the first Japanese Knot bag I made in Liberty fabric earlier this year and the new larger version. The larger one will easily fit a shawl project. The small one I mainly use when teaching to carry my yarn on my wrist when I'm walking around the class demonstrating various things. I used this tutorial for the large bag which was much clearer than the tutorial I used for the first bag I made.

I left my sewing machine and equipment on the dining room table with the intention of cutting out the fabric for the Bucket Basket Tote but I still haven't had time to do it. Hopefully this weekend....

Monday, July 20, 2015

Family Weekend

Two weeks ago Vanessa moved to Cardiff to start her work placement which is part of her Maths degree. She'll be there for a year. Before she left we were away and before that she was away, so we didn't get to spend any time with her before she left. So although she's only been in Cardiff for two weeks, she decided to come home for a weekend and spend some time with us.

On Saturday we were lucky and had a beautiful sunny summer day. We had to go to Plymouth to collect Simon's new glasses and afterwards we headed to the re-developed Royal William Yard. Plymouth is a big Royal Navy city. There are Navy stuff dotted all over the city. The Royal William Yard was no longer in use and had become derelict but contains a lot of historic naval buildings and has a prime water front location and has recently been re-developed. There are apartments, restaurants and a few shops there and they're still working on re-developing parts of the area.

We walked around and looked at the boats in the river. There are beautiful views across the River Tamar to Cornwall and the Mount Edgecumbe estate. You can also see Devonport Dock Yard up river.

And there are views out towards Plymouth Sound and the English Channel.

We headed home via the Torpoint Ferry to take across the River Tamar. Normally we cross at the Tamar Bridge a bit further up river but taking the ferry is fun from time to time.

We had a quiet afternoon at home and went out for a pub meal with friends in the evening.

On Sunday the weather wasn't quite so good but we headed to the nearby seaside town of Fowey. Fowey is a beautiful town with old buildings and a good selection of upmarket shops selling lots of beautiful things. I was tempted by so many bags, stationery and pottery items but I was good and didn't buy anything.

Above is the view from Fowey across the river to Polruan. One of our favourite places in Fowey is the Old Grammar School Gardens. This is a small landscaped garden and it's very peaceful to sit there and enjoy the river views.

In the afternoon I cooked a roast dinner and while dinner was cooking I enjoyed knitting on a new design using Lace Ball and watching Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility while the girls took the dog for a walk.

These two photos were taken by Vanessa when they took Sam for a walk. The girls have arguments like most sisters but most of the time they get on really well and enjoy spending time with each other. I'm so proud of both of them. They've grown up to be beautiful, intelligent, responsible young adults.

How was your weekend?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Reviews of Beaded Lace Knitting 1

It's now about two months since Beaded Lace Knitting was published and there are reviews popping up all over the internet. I'd like to compile these reviews into one location so I can refer to them quickly. If you come across a review, good or bad, let me know.

Carol Feller is an Irish designer and I love her designs. She reviewed my book on her blog recently. One of the things Carol pointed out was: 'Digging into the book the first part that struck me was the clear and very extensive technique section'.

Knitting About is a new to me website but it has lots of interesting articles about knitting related things including book reviews. Here's their review of my book

One of the things they said was: 'The projects are arranged in skill level order, so if you're completely new to beaded lace knitting you can start at the beginning and chose an easier project, while if you have more experience you can flip to the back for larger and more complex projects'

Their conclusion is: 'If you already love beaded lace, you're going to want to pick up this book. It has a nice variety of patterns and uses both beads and lace in different ways, which is fun. If you're new to the idea of adding beads to lace, this book is a great place to start, too, because of the well-organized projects. Start at the beginning and pick something that doesn't have beads all over it, and you'll soon have the confidence to knit some of the bigger projects'.

Peppermint Mocha Mama  is a fab blog which covers knitting and crochet. Here's her review of my book. If you think my book looks a bit daunting, if you think there's no way I can knit beautiful things like this, definitely read her review.  

This is her conclusion: 'By the time I had finished actually reading this book, I was thinking "okay, I think I can do this.  Actually, I know I can do this!"  So if you have been wanting to knit beaded lace  but are like me - a bit too intimidated - I highly recommend this book'. 

KRW Knitwear Studio is Karen Whooley's online home. She's an instructor, designer and author. Here's her review of my book.  

She says: 'The photos are clear and the instructions are written in easy to understand language.  Every abbreviation is listed and explained if needed.  If you prefer charts, she has included those as well.  Even a beginner can  easily follow along and expand their knitting skill set'

You can order a signed copy of Beaded Lace Knitting from me or you an order via Amazon (affiliate link), it's available on Kindle now too, and other online book sellers or ask your local yarn shop to get it for you. 

I'll do more review round ups at a later date. If you see any reviews posted around the web, do let me know.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Featured in The Knitter

Did you listen to my interview on Marly Bird's the Yarn Thing podcast yesterday? If you didn't listen, you can listen to the recording anytime. There is a giveaway too but you'll need to listen to the podcast for the details.

Have you seen the new issue of The Knitter? Issue 86 has a four page feature on me! I've also got a design in this issue.

I was blown away when I read the introduction to the feature: 'Her exquisitely beautiful lace patterns and colour work have made Anniken one of our most popular designers'. I'm blushing just reading that. So if you want to find out more about me: how I got started as a designer, who my design heroes are, what my favourite yarn is, where I find my design inspiration etc, get hold of issue 86. 

Lots of photos of my designs too.

My daughters even appear in a few of the photos. Actually, Emily only had her hands make an appearance.

I've also got a design in this issue. Charis is a wispy, featherlight summer top with a leafy lace pattern up the centre front.

Charis is worked in the round from the bottom up. Front and back are then worked separately from the underarm to the shoulders which are joined by working a three needle cast off. Stitches are picked up around the armhole which are worked in the round from the top down with short row sleeve cap shaping. This means no sewing up. Just weave in your ends. Block. And the sweater is ready to wear!

Charis is worked in Lotus Silky Cashmere Fingering (which will be for sale in my shop once I've re-listed all the left over yarns from Woolfest) which is a luxurious lace weight (despite being called 'fingering weight' it's actually a 2ply lace weight yarn) blend of silk and cashmere. It's not a cheap yarn but you will only need 2-4 skeins depending on the size. The pattern includes sizes 8-10, 12-14, 16-18, 20-22, 24-26.

I love everything about this sweater and I really enjoyed knitting it. I'm hoping to have time to knit one for myself later this year.

The Knitter is in the shops now.