I have always hankered after a visit to the Unravel yarn festival in Farnham, but to get there and back in a day is just not doable from Norwich. So imagine my delight when I realised that my brother and his wife now live almost within spitting distance of the venue. I hadn't managed to get down there to see them over the Christmas holidays thanks to being struck down with lurgy, so when I spotted that Unravel coincided with half term, it made perfect sense to combine the two!
I was lucky enough to book two workshops; one on Saturday called Beyond Basic Brioche and the second on Sunday called Choose your own Sockventure! Brioche knitting has intrigued me ever since I first saw it being done by the Dutch knitters who came over for the IKnit yarn festival some years back. The tutor for the class was Nancy Marchant, an American who lives in Amsterdam and she is the undisputed Queen of Brioche! The evening before the class found me sat trying to get to grips with basic Brioche, and actually it was ok! My sample looked like the photo on screen - huge cheers and celebrations!
Nancy told us a little about her knitting background before getting us started on two colour Brioche knitting. It creates a lovely squishy fabric which is very cosy. And it's great for using up stash because you need twice as much yarn! Once you get going, it's surprisingly rhythmical and soothing to knit. You do need to concentrate pretty hard to being with until you learn to 'read' your knitting. Another thing that's good to know is that it's a complete nightmare to correct mistakes, so the best thing to do is not make any!! Either that or learn to live with them, because unpicking Brioche knitting, you not only have to deal with the stitches, but also yarn overs too. We started off just working some basic Brioche knit and purl stitches, so you end up with a dark side and a light side.
Then we tried some increases and decreases. I went a bit off-piste here because I accidentally swapped around an increase and decrease, so my swatch isn't symmetrical, although you still get the idea of the movement of the stitches.
Nancy had brought along lots of example of her work. I especially loved a scarf that she'd knit in Kid Silk Haze - it was so light and floaty and not at all like the dense, cushy fabrics of her other knits. I definitely want to do some more of this knitting and might get one of Nancy's books to play some more.
After the class, I started to make my way around The Maltings to see all the vendors. Some old favourites were there like Jon from Easyknits, Debonnaire yarns and Whimzy to name but three. It was also good to discover some new vendors - I especially liked The Little Grey Sheep and West Green Loft Yarns. I also caught up with fellow blogstar Jane Crowfoot, hat designer extraordinaire Woolly Wormhead and managed to meet Rachel from My Life in Knitwear, whose blog I have followed for some years now. Here are a few photos from my day. I didn't take loads because (a) the artificial light wasn't great for photos and (b) I was too busy squishing yarn!!
I also went to a PomPom Podcast interview with Nancy Marchant later in the day which was interesting, having spent time in her class that morning. Here she is with the girls from PomPom magazine.
In the entrance to the festival, there was a knitted aviary. People had made birds which were going to be auctioned off at the end of the weekend. It certainly made a lovely feature as you entered.
The following morning, I was back at Unravel to take a sock class with Rachel Coopey. I love her designs and sock yarn and was excited to see what she had in store for us. It was really good fun - a roll of the dice decided whether you would be knitting striped, lace or texture, a second roll determined the pattern and the third the number of repeats. Such a simple idea and of course, if you didn't like what the dice decided, then you could always roll again! I'd chosen some miniskeins from The Knitting Goddess to play with.
Rachel talked about sock construction as we knitted and gave us choices for heels. I think I will try an afterthought heel on this pair of socks to see how I like it. By the time the class ended, my sock looked like this; the turquoise stripe has since been followed by an orange one! More photos at the weekend, I promise!
And this is Rachel's sock that she inspired us with ... fun, eh?
Although I had no business whatsoever to be buying yarn, it would have been rude to leave empty handed! I bought a few things as presents, and also came away with a few nice things for myself. A gorgeously bright rainbow-striped skein from Easyknits, five skeins from The Little Grey Sheep and a really pretty skein from West Green Loft Yarns.
And do you know what the best bit of my few days away was? My sister-in-law wanted to learn how to knit! Here's her efforts from one evening - pretty flipping good, don't you think?! I am going to be putting together a 'new knitter' parcel to send her this weekend. That will give me a lot of pleasure. xxx