Batteries recharged

I know I often say that things are "all go" around here but it really feels like the last few weeks have been a sprint to the half-term break. There's been loads of client work keeping me busy, shows to visit, and Yarn in the City planning to do.

Speaking of Yarn in the City - you *do* know about our call for submissions for our first book, right? Quick, go here and check out the details. I'll wait!

There's also got a new knitting project on the needles (only 64 more knitting days until Christmas!), which is a good thing as Mr. H has football four times a week and ice hockey too - so it's a good way for mummy's hands to be busy while she's watching from the sidelines. All of this has meant that it seems like school only just started and then we blinked and all of a sudden half term was here!

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to hear about a class in fair isle and colourwork that designer Mary Jane Mucklestone was going to be teaching at L'Oisive Thé et Tricot in Paris. To sweeten the deal, Mary Jane was traveling with good friend Gudrun Johnston, who would have a trunk show at shop in support of her new book, The Shetland Trader.

The mobile C&Q office on the Eurostar: have coffee and laptop, will travel!

The mobile C&Q office on the Eurostar: have coffee and laptop, will travel!

Knowing that this would be the perfect pre-mid-term break for mummy, I quickly sorted out some moderately priced tickets on the Eurostar and found a cute flat through Airbnb a quick 10 minute walk from the shop. (This was a rare treat for me as when I've gone to Paris previously for stitchy-related events, or even around the UK, I'm usually only able to get away for the day. Because the fair isle class was at night, it meant an overnight stay and an opportunity to explore a little more.)

The lovely yarns at L'Oisive Thé et Tricot - this shop is a MUST if you're ever in Paris

The lovely yarns at L'Oisive Thé et Tricot - this shop is a MUST if you're ever in Paris

Having only made the trek to L'Oisive Thé et Tricot once before, it was lovely to be able to sit with owner Aimee over a late lunch and learn more about the shop and see all the changes since last time. The shop is now the European flagship for Quince & Co and there is an abundance of hard-to-find-in-France yarns like Koigu, SweetGeorgia,  Madelinetosh, Biscotte & Cie, Freia... And the UK was well represented with Kettle Yarn Co, John Arbon Knit By Numbers, Baa Ram Ewe, Erika Knight, and more!

My fair isle cuff in progress. Somewhere along the way I lost one of my DPNs - surely a sign of a good class!

My fair isle cuff in progress. Somewhere along the way I lost one of my DPNs - surely a sign of a good class!

When I arrived back at the shop that night for the class, everyone was in full swing, pulling out the colours from their kit packages and immediately getting started working on the class project - a fair isle wrist cuff. We were given six colours and a pattern as a guide but encouraged to use any colours we wanted and just PLAY. 

Clockwise from top left: a spread of snacks to keep us going through the class, comparing cuffs at the end of the evening, Mary Jane talks about colour theory with example swatches from her book, and the inside of the fair isle vest from Mary Jane's Craftsy class - almost as pretty as the outside!

Clockwise from top left: a spread of snacks to keep us going through the class, comparing cuffs at the end of the evening, Mary Jane talks about colour theory with example swatches from her book, and the inside of the fair isle vest from Mary Jane's Craftsy class - almost as pretty as the outside!

Pretty soon there was colour everywhere as knitters got down to business, chatting happily in a mix of English, French and "Franglais". Throughout the evening Mary Jane explained the principles required for stranded colourwork to be considered "true" fair isle, and also provided an excellent explanation of colour theory and how to think about colours when pairing them together. Having learned how to do stranded colourwork before but not the principles behind fair isle, this was a very exciting bit of the class for me!

At the end of the class we all compared cuffs and talked about what we each liked and didn't like about our choices. This was a fantastic way to see how others had combined colours and get feedback from Mary Jane on why some combinations of colours didn't work or worked better than others - putting the colour theory into practice and reinforcing the lesson.

The obligatory group shot of the evening's knitters

The obligatory group shot of the evening's knitters

It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to do a class and there's nothing like learning something new to get the creative juices flowing. I returned to London feeling recharged and energised, happy to get back to my knitting, and eagerly looking forward to when I can take another class to learn something new.

Monkey see monkey do

What is it that attracts us to a particular knitting project? That makes a project trend in the top 20 on Ravelry, or has thousands of favourites and just as many folks who have not only added it to their queue but actually knit the project?

I'm not talking just about adding a project to our favourites because we like it, or think it's cute, or it might be flattering on us. But that feeling that grabs us until it is overwhelming and there's nothing we can do but cast on and work our way through to completion.

Or is that just me? Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying I feel like that with every single project I knit. But there are some projects that definitely push the envelope, challenge me, and mean more to me as a result. 

Like my latest finish. I know you're only here for the photos so let's just get to it, shall we?

Pattern:  Sleepy Monkey Blanket  by Mary Ann Stephens Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Yardage (for the Pre-Process Stashdown 2013): approximately 1,445 yards   Click the photo to go to my Ravelry project notes

Pattern: Sleepy Monkey Blanket by Mary Ann Stephens
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash
Yardage (for the Pre-Process Stashdown 2013): approximately 1,445 yards

Click the photo to go to my Ravelry project notes

Most of these photos were taken around Carnaby Street earlier this week. I love the cobblestones and brightly painted buildings and the quiet expectation in the air as the street was slowly coming to life before the shops were due to open.

See what I mean about the colours of Carnaby Street?

See what I mean about the colours of Carnaby Street?

I first saw the Sleepy Monkey Blanket at a book reading by the Yarn Harlot and was captivated by the monkeys and the colourwork - something I hadn't really done a lot of up until then although I'd learned the basics with a Fiddleheads Mittens class (really must finish those!).

After obsessing over finding the pattern,  stalking projects on Ravelry until I was pretty sure I'd found the knitter of the blanket and her colour combo, and then reading the pattern instructions, I recognised that this was going to be an opportunity to learn a few new skills: stranded colourwork, and steeks. (Which were no big deal, btw. Glenna C does an excellent class at The Purple Purl.).

It's kind of funny, but I've come to realise that the projects where I learn something new, that are crazy and challenging and push me as a knitter are the ones that I enjoy the most. There's so much to learn as a knitter and I constantly feel like I'm just scratching the surface.

Thoughtful details make for a perfect finish.

Thoughtful details make for a perfect finish.

The details on this project are fantastic. Designer Mary Ann Stephens is clearly a genius (with patience bordering on masochism) for the amount of planning and thought that has gone into the construction of this blanket. The front and back panels are worked separately and then joined for the border. Not only is this practical for keeping little fingers and toes from getting tangled in the colourwork floats, but it adds more cushiness and warmth to the blanket. Ditto for the border, although with each side picked up and knit separately before joining both sides again and finishing with the garter ridge outer border, it did become a bit of a marathon knitting at the end.

Couldn't resist using this festive red door as a backdrop for the blankie!

Couldn't resist using this festive red door as a backdrop for the blankie!

Now it's time to pack it up, get it in the mail, and hope it makes it across the pond in time for the baby shower. While I'm doing that I'll be thinking about what new challenges I can take on next. More colourwork? Cables? I'm open to suggestions!