Knitting in California

It’s time I caught up on what I’ve been doing lately, which is mainly being in California for two weeks. Although it’s very warm there a lot of the time I was still able to fit in some knitting activity. However, I have to admit that I did not do a single stitch of knitting, not even on two long haul flights. In fact, I even almost left my knitting bag behind under my seat on the flight home. But luckily I had a dig around the debris of the flight and found it there.

A while ago June Hemmons Hiatt, author of the Principles of Knitting, was in the UK and we planned to meet up, having met at the inaugural Center for Knit and Crochet conference in 2102. That didn’t happen for various reasons so when I found out that June lives quite near where I go to visit my step daughter we agreed to meet. For those of you who are familiar with Principles of Knitting you’ll know that June is a total expert on knitting. Her book covers everything from how to actually make the stitches to all aspects of planning a project.

June is also working on producing knitting belts which are available from her web site. They are all top quality leather and hand made, so a real work of art and craft. Plus, using a knitting belt is a great way to knit.

So as well as having lunch, we talked a great deal of knitting ‘shop talk’, fairs and events. June was due to go to the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, October 15th and 16th, so just coming up now, techniques, needles, and all sorts of textile-ly things.

Here’s June and I having had lunch:


Then June introduced me to a unique shop and gallery called Lacis which has haberdashery, tools, books, textiles and costume. It really is amazing, and if I wasn’t used to seeing huge quantities of old and vintage textiles in the Knitting & Crochet Guild Collection, where I volunteer, I would have been even more amazed that I was. I have never seen such a selection of thread, needles, gadgets, patterns, pins, ever. And that’s including John Lewis haberdashery in its heyday and Duttons for Buttons and all those wonderful places down side streets in London ….

When I’d recovered from that, at least a week or ten days later, I went to visit A Verb for Keeping Warm, a shop and centre for all sorts of textile activities in Oakland, so about 30 minutes away from where I was staying and not so far from Lacis. If you have a look at the web site you get a sense of the place and what they do there. Have a look at the pictures of the outdoor space at the back of the shop – it is quite special. I asked if my partner could sit here while I browsed and it was fine. We were both happy.

Here’s some pictures:


Natural dyed yarn and dried marigoldsfor dyeing with in the outdoor space

img_1031A hanging showing natural dyed fabrics in the shop

img_1032Hats, natural dyed wools

Verb has knitting and spinning and dressmaking/quilting supplies so there was a lot to look at and all of it beautiful – lovely things, well presented, plus some that I hadn’t seen before, like this magazine from Canada, Uppercase. I bought this edition, more or less for the image on the front cover, which looks like a patchwork quilt, but made of pieces of painted wood from salvaged houses. You can see more of them at the artist’s web site.


I also bought a copy of the natural dyeing book, written by the Verb’s owner, Kristine Vejar. A clever move, calling it The Modern Natural Dyer, as I have several books on natural dyeing, and have done some natural dyeing, but I obviously need an update. I left this in California with my daughter. I’ll get it back next time I visit if she hasn’t used it by then.


And the last couple of things I bought (remember, I never buy yarn, and I don’t buy books when I’m abroad as they are too heavy to carry home) was a skein of Brooklyn Tweed yarn in a sludgy green that is my favourite colour more or less, and a Brooklyn Tweed book. I look at BT books on line and they are wonderful – beautifully produced and photographed and this one is no exception. It will probably be a present, as I really do not need another knitting book. I even forgive the incorrect spelling of Woolens. Joke.



And finally, I bought some Blue Faced Leicester tops in Verb, as the spinning wheel was out at my daughter’s house. I took the wheel over there after my mother died, over ten years ago, literally in a box, held onto wheels with some bungies. It travelled as checked in baggage. Anyway, the white tops were quite ok to spin with, although not a nice as some grey Gotland which had come from the local knitting shop in Lafayette. Here’s me spinning on a Hebridean wheel in California:


And that’s all for now. Thanks for reading if you got this far.


Birmingham Saturday October 15th and Sunday October 16th I will be teaching two workshops:

Saturday is the Birmingham branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild meeting and the subject is lace. There will be a show and tell of lace garments and samplers from the KCG Collection followed by a hands on workshop of lace knitting, using a sampler from the collection as inspiration. Participants can make their own selection of yarn and needles with a view to knitting samples or a scarf.

Yellow lace sampler

Sunday is an independent workshop on glove knitting. Participants will have the opportunity to learn and practice the techniques used in knitting two colour gloves and will need to bring 2 colours of plain smooth yarn in 4 ply or DK and double pointed or circular needles in appropriate sizes.

Sanquhar glove

There are a few places available on both. Cost for the lace workshop is £12.50 and the cost of the glove workshop is £20.

Both take place in the Community Room of the John Lewis store in central Birmingham.

Contact me via this blog if you would like to reserve a place.

Helsinki in July

When I went to Estonia, to Craft Camp, last month, see previous posts, because of the lack of direct flights to Tallinn the capital, from the north of England, and my horror of the larger European hubs (Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Schiphol etc; bad experience both ways last year, long story), I decided to fly to and from Helsinki from Manchester, then complete the journey to Tallinn by ferry across the Baltic, just a couple of hours.

So it came to pass that I had two stopovers in Helsinki, one on the way to Estonia, and one on the way back.

On the way there, I had most of the afternoon and evening to explore and the morning of the next day, before catching the ferry. On the way back, I had an evening and morning before heading out the to airport.

So what did I find?

Well, I stayed in a trendy boutique hotel, The Klaus K, which was very central with helpful staff and had rather lovely bas relief in granite by the front door, the only thing is, I’m not sure what they are doing. Something with grapes perhaps, although you would think that Finland would be a little far north for that?

Bas relief outside the Klaus K hotel in Helsinki

Bas relief outside the Klaus K hotel in Helsinki

The water was not far away and of course it was light until late. I also found a great pizza place, my favourite, and some great shop windows.


The Louis Vuitton window complete with the planets

The Louis Vuitton window complete with the planets

The following morning, when I went into the main station to buy an English language newspaper (The Financial Times as you ask) I discovered that it is the most wonderful Art and Crafts/Art Deco building with it seemed, most of the original features still in place. Note the addition of the Burger King sign.

Railway station exterior

Railway station exterior

The railway station interior

The railway station interior

Then off to the docks to find the ferry, using the tram system, cheap and easy, but it would have been walkable in fact.

The ferry was brightly painted with a huge disco area and seemed to mainly serve people going across to Estonia to buy cheap booze, which I discovered on the way back when I saw inside a huge hard case full of multipacks of cider.

The ferry to Tallinn

The ferry to Tallinn

On my return visit, I stayed at the same hotel, and ate in the same pizza place (there’s no point in having to find out where things are all over again, I think). Then, having been told the names of the best yarn shops in Helsinki, I went out on a Saturday morning to find them. There were two out of three within easy walking distance of the hotel. Now, I am a big fan of people taking their holidays, and of having time off at the weekend, but in this case, these conspired against me. The first shop, Snurre, had just closed for a fortnight’s holiday, as I had thought it said on their Facebook page, which was confirmed by a sign in the window and my disappointed reflection:

The yarn shop

The yarn shop

It says it's closed for 2 weeks

It says it’s closed for 2 weeks

The second shop, within a few minutes of my hotel, didn’t open on a Saturday. The third was too far away to get to that day.


But after that, I had the Design Museum in my sights, Helsinki being one of the hotbeds of mid-century modern, so fashionable at the moment. The permanent exhibition is an excellent exposition of Finnish design from about 1850 showing how the emergent state used it, and still does to some extent, as a means of creating national identity and of improving standards of living. All this I approved of thoroughly and enjoyed very much.

Permanent display of Finnish design

Permanent display of Finnish design

Finnish hospital design

Finnish hospital design

Other exhibitions, which approached design more from the point of view of the design superstar, in this case, Eero Aarnio, I was not so enamoured of, although there was some interest in seeing the construction of ‘iconic’ 60s objects that he was responsible for like the ball chair that is an almost complete sphere.

Anyway, this is the type of ‘design’ that I find most irritating, the designer making statements about “it is also possible to create a new need, a good example of which is ‘Puppy’, which I designed. No one needs it, but there are so many who want it to have it” (from the web site). Why does the world need small models of puppies in brightly coloured plastic?

So that was Helsinki, for me. Next year, I might go via another route.

Double filet crochet

Going back to the Knitting & Crochet Guild Convention in early July, one of the workshops I did was the Double filet crochet, on the grounds that it was something that I had never done and know little about. 

This is what I produced:

The piece is about 4 inches or 10 cm square and the top view is the face and the lower one the reverse.In the centre you can see the 2 layers of filet mesh, one over the other. The technique was very ably demonstrated and taught by Barbara a and Michael Mann, who have made this a speciality, running the East London Double Filet Crochet Group for many years. See their web site here for more about this fascinating technique. There’s also a Double filet/Interlocking crochet group on Ravelry.

So my scrap is but a tiny start, a beginning of many potential projects and design challenges.

Estonian Craft Camp 2016

Estonian Craft Camp 2016

Readers may remember that I went to this in 2015 and posted about it here:

and here:

You can see the wristlet I made here:

I enjoyed myself so much that the only doubt I had about returning was that it could be as good again. In the end I decided to take the chance and signed up for Craft Camp 2016, the third one.

You can read about the organisation and aims of the camp here:

The Estonian Government takes the promotion of ‘folk crafts’ seriously and they are taught at university level, for instance at the Vilanjdi Culture Academy.

The camp, for me, is a perfect combination of activities, location and people, and the language is English, which makes it possible, as I don’t speak any of the languages heard there – Estonian, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, German, Dutch ….

The activities I chose this year were all textiles:

Fringed wedding gloves,

Techniques used in knitted garments in Saaremaa, an Estonian island,

Mugli embroidery, and

Saaremaa and Kihnu knitting bags

There are descriptions of the workshops here:


The fringed gloves workshop was taught by Kristi Joeste, author of Ornamented Journey, probably the most attractive knitting book I know. Fringes on gloves are said to protect against the evil eye and in this capacity they were worn for weddings. The fringes can be knitted in or sewn: this workshop did the latter. Kristi had studied three examples from the Estonian Museum collection and we knitted small pieces of these, flat rather than in the round, to have a base on which to sew the fringes. These samples incorporated purl ridges onto which the fringes are sewn and some two colour work. Here are the materials (note the 1.25mm dpns) and one of my samples:



The next was Archaistic embroidery from the Mulgi region, taught by Liina Laaneoja and Annika Vaalma, see here for more information.

The teachers of this workshop are graduates of the Viljandi Culture Academy and have a business making garments decorated with embroidery. We were given the materials to make a game of noughts and crosses using a felt base and 9 small felt squares which were to be embroidered using the following traditional motifs: circle, cross, tree of life and rose. These are worked in only 3 stitches: blanket stitch, chain stitch and stem stitch.

There was a free choice of colours (fine wool thread) to use on a light brown base. I was stuck for colours until I decided to use a photo I had taken in the grounds of the camp that morning as a source:



I chose to embroider 7 of these squares (about 2 inches/5.5 cm)  to put in a frame, rather than make the game. I discovered that I am a fast and accurate embroiderer (I did lots when I was a child), probably better at that than I am at knitting. This is what I made:IMG_0385(There’s a couple more too, but you get the idea)

The motifs are documented in this wonderful book and this is the page that gave me particular inspiration:


The day out was to the Setomaa region of Estonia, but I might post about this separately.


The third workshop was Knitted Sweaters and garments from Saaremaa, a large Estonian island. The workshop was led by Riina Tomberg, author of a book about these garments, see:

The project is a wristlet that incorporates some of the details found in these garments. This is tricky technically, as is all Estonian knitting, due to the extremely fine needles – 1.25 or 1.5mm – and relatively thick wool – 2/8s or about a woollen spun 4ply. Making stitches is physically difficult with this combination.

This is the completed wristlet, Riina’s example, NOT MINE, but one person did complete theirs in the course of the camp and showed it on the last day. However, I think they stayed up almost all night to achieve this!


The opportunity to make a ‘traditional’ knitting bag was the last workshop and for this we were asked to bring fabrics cut ready for patchwork and a lining. These were to supplement those provided in the workshop by Riina. I decided to mix up the two types of fabric and was very pleased with the result:


The national museum has examples of these bags in their collection and they can be seen here:

(not all have a picture, but it’s worth clicking through to see the variety). Most are clearly made from scraps and some include fabric and crochet; many have a similar aesthetic to the quilts of Gee’s Bend, which I blogged about in January this year.

So that’s all for now apart from a last picture, of me with my products at the show of work on the last morning:


Estonian Craft Camp 2016

It’s day three already and I’m torn between feeling as though I’ve been here forever and thinking that it’s half over.

So far I’ve taken a class on constructing the fringes for wedding gloves which is an Estonian custom and done embroidery in the Mugli style.

These are the materials for the fringed glove workshop; note the double pointed pins are 1.25mm in size. The teacher was my glove knitting heroine, Kristi Joeste, who wrote a lovely book called Ornamented  Journey.

This is my first sample of three:

There is a film this evening so I hope to add more tomorrow. 

Estonian glove workshop: 16th June 2016


Thursday 16th June – Estonian gloves workshop.

(Huddersfield branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild)


I went to Estonian Craft Camp last year and am going again this year in July. The web site is here if you want to find out more:

Other crafts than knitting are also covered and I did nalbinding (pre-knitting constructed textile) and making bone needles last year. I did blog about them in July 2015:

This workshop is just to give a taster of how to go about knitting wristlets, gloves or mittens in the Estonian style. You are going to knit a sample piece to try out three techniques and then from there you will be able to design and knit your own.


These are some resources for finding out more about Estonian knitting:


Estonian Knitting by Nancy Bush


Ornamented journey by Kristi Joeste


YouTube has some useful resources: a book review:

Estonian Knitting 1. Reviewed here by Felicity Ford (Knitsonik)

Estonian Cast on by Nancy Bush


The materials for the Muhu wristlets: note set of 5 1.5 mm double pointed pins and pure wool 3ply


Getting started on 4 pins


A completed wristlet – not mine


Knitting & Crochet Guild

Huddersfield branch, 16th June 2016


A taster of Estonian knitting for the workshop


N.B. Bare bones instructions


Use a set of 4 or 5 needles – and cast on 36 stitches using one of the Estonian methods

(any long tailed cast on will do, or a chain cast on)

Knit one round in purl and one in knit


Purl stitch with braid

Take a short (80cms approx?) length of contrast yarn and knit in with main colour on first stitch. Purl every stitch using the two yarns alternately, wrapping one over the other as you go. A two colour braid will form.

This can be done with one colour, but it’s easier with two to keep track of the yarns. Hot tip: unwind the yarns by letting the knitting spin around, not the yarns.


Knit 2 – 3 rounds main colour.


Two colour border with lace holes

First round: Knit 4 contrast, 2 main all round

Second round: YO K2tog all round


Carry on knitting

This would be a good time to try some small two colour patterns – little squares or just alternate stitches in the contrast colour to get used to knitting with two colours, one in each hand.


Estonian/peasant/after thought thumb:

Knit a few stitches, then knit say, 4 or 6 sts with your contrast yarn, replace these on the left needle, and continue to knit in the main yarn. When you are further up the knitting the contrast sts can be taken out and picked up for a thumb.

Use this as an opportunity to design your own wristlet or mitten – you will need more stitches of course. The amounts of yarn needed are very small.


Top edge of traditional wristlet is finished with a crochet picot edge – suggest this could be used on the cast on also, if this is a little ragged?


Some gloves that were shown in the workshop at Craft Camp, and in other sessions





The above gloves are all typical Muhu island gloves

The white/cream and colours are from another area, Ruhnu





























A couple of pairs designed and knitted by Nancy Bush for Estonian friends are shown as part of an online exhibition here: scroll across until they appear), or here they are: