News round-up from Pomfest

One of the best things about attending knitting shows is the chance to be in the same room as so many of my favourite people. Working from home is absolutely brilliant, and exactly what our family needs, but it's also fantastic to get out of Frome and to sit and chat (and knit of course!). It refreshes and recharges my inspiration, and we get the opportunity to find out more about people's plans for the coming months, which is always fun!

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New Ravelry Group

We have finally succumbed to the inevitable, and set up a Ravelry group for all things Arnall-Culliford Knitwear. Do come and join us! Arnall-Culliford Knitwear on Ravelry

We will be chatting about knitting (of course!), our designs, new pattern releases from our clients, techniques and anything else we fancy! I should imagine that there will be knitalongs at some point (since I'm a big fan of this kind of collective endeavour). And with Jim around there is bound to be some witty repartee too.

Keep your eyes peeled for news of my biggest project to date, The Book of Haps, which I'm co-editing with Kate Davies, as well as other exciting projects in the pipeline...

Arnall-Culliford Knitwear on Ravelry

Getting Drawn In

I am a sucker for a good sales pitch. This doesn't mean that our house is full of junk that I've bought that we'll never use, not yet at least. What I mean is that I am fully prepared to be drawn in to an idea if the right person is speaking to me. Call it charisma, sales patter, passion, whatever you want, but if something sparks an interest, I'm in.

Most recently, this happened to me twice in a single day. Ok, so I was at Unravel, so of course I was likely to find someone to convince me that this or that was what my life was lacking. As it turns out though, it wasn't material items that drew me in, but the opening of my eyes to possibilities.

The first of these was during a workshop hosted and taught by Veera Välimäki on shawl design. I was there to brush up on my understanding of shawl constructions in advance of working on the Book of Haps. Trying my hardest to take notes, pay attention and make a start on a shawl, I had to give up part way through the workshop because I thought Veera was straying from what she'd prepared. For maybe ten minutes, I stopped doing anything except to listen as she very eloquently laid out her inspirations for design and her beliefs about what makes a shawl something far more than something to wrap around your neck. Very quickly, I could see that what she said made complete sense: there is a complete freedom in making shawls where gauge isn't an issue, where you can really put something of your personality into an object and where mistakes don't matter as what you end up with is likely to be wearable.

Fired up, I charged off, adding short rows in a contrast colour to the beginnings of a circular shawl. At this point, everything went wrong, since I hadn't really thought ahead and planned what I was doing. I will not finish what I started (at least not in the immediate future), but that really doesn't matter: Veera had planted a seed.

The second thing that drew me in was a bit more of a surprise. I'm not the most devoted knitter in the world, so when Rachel Coopey showed me a book on crochet I was more than a bit Crochet Yeah!, a book of designs by Kat Goldin and Joanne Scrace of The Crochet Project in Rachel's Socks Yeah! yarn. 

Bird Inspiration

Thank you for all the love for Cross-Country Knitting volume 3. Kate and I are so enjoying creating these mini-collections! We talked so much about birds while we were working on these designs, I thought it might be interesting to write a bit more about why I'm so in love with them.

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A puffin we met at Sumburgh Head on our trip to Shetland in 2012.

There’s such a variety of bird life, even in our back garden. Birds seem to me to have different personalities in a way that other animals just don’t. The friendly chaffinch; comedic puffin; wise tawny owl; hungry gannet; violent arctic skua; beautiful blue tit; tiny nuthatch. They are all different! It's a real pleasure to watch them feeding while we have breakfast. We keep the feeders topped up with mixed seed, niger seed, sunflower seeds and fat balls. This seems to encourage a good mix of birds - although we do have a special fondness for the goldfinches. They seem so much more exotic than sparrows or tits. That said, the sparrows have a pleasing sociability when they are chattering away in the hedges. It's a bit like watching some kind of slow-paced birdie soap opera. We often wonder what they are up to!

As my friends and family realised that I liked birds, they did what all good friends and family do, and lavished me with bird-related cards and gifts! Here's a post from when I first started my blog, about some of the birdie birthday presents I received: A flock of birthday birds! 

I particularly love illustrations of birds, and here in Frome, we have a great selection of talented artists and inspiring shops selling beautiful art. I have the difficult task of walking down Catherine Hill on an almost daily basis, and I completely fell in love with Mel Day’s beautiful wire bird sculptures (http://www.melday.co.uk/birds).

Mel Day Blackbird

© Mel Day (http://www.melday.co.uk/node/35)

Jim was kind enough to buy me a little owl sculpture for my birthday, and it sits on my shelves looking pensively at me while I work. Back then, owls were my favourite and my best.

I’ve spoken to Kate many times about my love of Kate Broughton’s illustrations. I came across her work at Seed in Frome (when it was on the Hill - now to be found at the Black Swan art centre). Her drawings have a simplicity which I love as well as cute facial expressions. The barn owl is so quizzical! My brother and sister in law were kind enough to buy me a wonderful poster of British Garden Birds for my birthday this year, and it now hangs in front of my desk in the office. Inspiring stuff!

Kate Broughton birds

© Kate Broughton (http://www.katebroughton.co.uk/shop/british-garden-birds-print/)

I also love the look of her Coastal Birds print (how predictable of me? It includes a Puffin!), and who wouldn't want a poster of British Tits? She really seems to portray the personalities if the birds she draws. And the fact that you can get everything from posters to temporary tattoos is very appealing too - there is a great range of things that would go well as stocking fillers as well as larger presents. Go and check out her work!

My last bit of bird-related enabling was another find at Seed (I think they must share my love of birds!) - the ceramic artist Alice Shields

Alice Shields Fancy Pants birds

© Alice Shields (https://www.designsbyseed.co.uk/Fancy-Pants-Birds-Tea-Towel.html)

She studied Ceramics at Bath Spa University, and now sells her hand-drawn illustrations on both ceramics and these fabulous tea towels. Although this one seems almost too beautiful to use for drying a saucepan! I love how intricate her drawings are - a contrast with Kate Broughton's pared down style. Alice infuses her birds with the same personality I love when I see them in the wild.

So, I hope that my walk through my favourite bird artists hasn't damaged your bank balance too much! I know that I instantly added a swallow print by Dee Beale to my Christmas list after I saw it on Kate's blog post about Cross-Country Knitting...

I'll be back soon with some knitting... I sketched out about 8 blog posts on the way home from town yesterday. Apparently I've got a lot to say at the moment, so watch this space!

Unravel 2015 round up

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We had a day out on Saturday. I took eldest to a yarn show for the first time, and the great news is that it was a big hit! I've been to Unravel three times now, and it's been great every year.

I was pretty restrained in purchasing terms. My main splurge was at the Textile Garden stand. You've already seen the red rockets and the blue buttons I've used on my recent cardigans, but I also picked up a few more sets for the button tin.

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Birds! Octopuses! Elephants! Owls! You can click on the pictures above to get a larger version. And if you're feeling button inspired, then head over to Textile Garden for hours of candy store fun!

I limited myself to one skein of yarn, which was some pretty Skein Queen Blissful Plump in a denim-y shade of blue. This is going to be knitted up pretty quickly, as it's planned for another POP! cardigan, probably teamed with the blue owl buttons above. I also couldn't resist another tin of stitch markers from Fripperies and Bibelots. I think I've bought a tin each year I've been to Unravel. They are my preferred stitch markers, but I have a habit of gradually losing them.

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As ever, I almost completely forgot to take pictures of the show itself. I always get too caught up in enjoying the moment (probably no bad thing)! But I did manage one picture of Rachel and her gorgeous CoopKnits stand, with the new Sock Book (more on that another time...).

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Of course going to a yarn show isn't just about the purchases... It's mostly about catching up with friends! As well as the many lovely stall holders that we chatted to (far too many wonderful friends to list - just check out the vendor list online!!), I was delighted to finally meet Anna Maltz (aka SweaterSpotter) - keep your eyes peeled for her GORGEOUS new collection! And I was also lucky enough to kidnap the wonderful Bristol Ivy and talked the hind legs of a donkey off her over lunch. Then to top it all off, we had dinner with Rachel, Nez, Felix and my publishing comrade Nic! By the end of the day my inspiration levels were sky high, and I was itching to get my needles and my editing pen going again. Luckily we didn't leave too late and eldest slept all the way home. Hurrah! Now to plan the next show... Possibly Ally Pally if we have the stamina!