If it’s Saturday, this must be Alexandra Palace

I hope the pictures and text aren’t too badly askew; I’ll tweak it a couple of times, but life is really too short. I have started wondering whether Typepad is better at allowing precision alignment at the draft stage.

If you’re interested in fibre arts and live anywhere near the UK, you probably know of the Knitting & Stitching Show. If not, investigate it: you might want to start saving for next year! Judging from the blogs I’ve read, it’s unlike like Rhinebeck, or any of the other North American events with real livestock and raw fleece. The K&SS may be more diverse — there are exhibitions and booths for people interested in all fibre arts, including embroidery, cross-stitch, knitting, crochet, all manner of braiding, and more besides, but it lacks the tangible, tangy evidence of where those fibres come from. Anyway, last year I wandered rather aimlessly. This year I had a purpose, to meet HPNY Knits. And buy some Habu yarn. Two purposes. And find a good combination of multi-colour and plain sock yarn for some interesting socks. Three, that’s three purposes. Then there’s getting a colour card from Jamieson of Shetland, there might be some dyed roving to placate my spindle… too many purposes to count.
So, with an almost empty backpack and spare bags to carry all my purposes, my travelling socks, my spindle, my iPod (sans earphones, dammit) and a banner with a strange device (the poem has been set to music, and was often sung as our family began what we knew would be ill-fated ventures) I set off. Memo to self: go on a weekday next time. The Saturday journey there from here involved a change and a long wait on the platform, both ways.

In the Palm Court was the Knitterati Glitterati (I couldn’t possibly, dahling, I’ve too much to buy) and the knitted Ferrari
which I must confess was somehow less impressive in the flesh, er, yarn. I think the flash and gleam of light reflecting from the polish of the Real Thing must be more important than I’d realised; the matte, textured surface just didn’t do it for me. But it’s an astonishing piece of work nonetheless.

Onwards, past the ticket-takers who still looked fresh and cheerful (the show’d only been open 30 minutes), then hard left into the West Hall and Habu. I’m to meet HPNY Knits there at 11, but I just wanted… needed to get my hands on some Kusa. Oh, and the cashmere, and the silk, I tell you, the silk. There are items knitted from their kits on the wall and one top is just stunningly beautiful, the patterned knit fabric drapes wonderfully. So many things, so little time. Not to mention funds. Fortunately HPNY arrived before I went completely mad, but she kindly took a photo to preserve my manic grin for posterity:
Gentle reader, I assure you that the width of that smile is not due to the white bag clutched in my left hand, but to my pleasure at meeting HPNY (and jpg artefacts, too. I can’t possibly have that many teeth). We enjoyed a cup of tea with Sasha Kagan(!) then put the half-hour before our class with Lucy Neatby to good use, watching new knitters wielding extraordinarily thick needles on astonishingly thick yarn on the Coats stand. I’ve never been one for thick yarns. I turned around and there behind me was Shilasdair Yarns. Their sweater samples didn’t do much for me, but their array of yarns (spun by Jamieson’s, I think I was told) is very beautiful, and all from natural dyes. We’ve a few minutes left and Touch Yarns is nearby…
HPNY is on the left, going straight for the sock yarn, I dithered over roving and alpaca and together we were just a tiny bit late for class. I had no expectations whatsoever of this class (and Ziggy Rytka’s lucet class later in the afternoon), but both were extremely good value. Lucy’s enthusiastic explanations of the mechanics of knitting may have revealed the reasons for my uneven tension: experimentation is needed. I’ve been abusing my stitches, but will mend my ways :-)

A photo of that amazing vest (steeks, it was steeked!) and Lucy, who’s a marvellous speaker. Note the trademark ‘happy stitch’ on the pad behind. After class we headed separate ways, HPNY back to town and me into the thick of things, list and plan in hand.

In no particular order…
Jamieson’s of Shetland. The gentleman blurring into action behind the books is the 5th generation of the family in the business, and a very nice man indeed. They’ve got some very elegant handknits in those books, and just look at the colours! I can, any time, I have a shade card :-)

Lorna’s Laces sock yarn, anyone? This is one end of the Get Knitted stand; the other end was Fleece Artist. I have a feeling that they’d had more stock earlier in the event, though. I forced Sue to feel my Mountain Colors ‘Bearfoot’ sock yarn, after which she promised to find out if they’d like a UK stockist. Apparently some of the most widely-mentioned-in blogland US yarn suppliers are working so hard to supply demand in the US that they’re not interested/haven’t energy to supply the UK market as well. *sigh*

The House of Hemp. Their yarns are nothing short of gorgeous. Alas, the flash has bleached the colours, but it’s still possible to see something of the subtlety. The underlying silver-grey of the hemp fibre mutes and unites the tonal range. I want all of them, now. Hemp, like nettle, feels a bit harsh to start with (although their yarns are already relatively soft), and softens with age and use: the sample knitted/crocheted garments were soft and supple, and the woven fabric was… I’m running out of words to describe it. Just absolutely beautiful. I was not at all surprised when a tap on my shoulder proved to be the hand of my weaving teacher, Melanie Venes (her face is just visible at far left).

21st Century Yarns (I think the owner is the lady in the red&white skirt). The colours of their hand-painted yarns are really, really, really nice. Really. And they’ve got an amazing designer putting together some really, really, really pretty kits. Those pictures do NOT do justice to the colours or the complexity of the design. They’re knitted as patchwork or other geometric units, changing colour frequently but logically. I came very close to buying a Clamshell Shawl kit, saved only by the song of the Kusa nestling in my bag. I must stop writing soon, I’ve got yarn to knit…

I hope that clicking on that does allow you to see a larger image. To left is a close-up (taken with his permission) of a piece by Richard McVetis, BA (Hons) Embroidery 2005 from Manchester Metropolitan University (according to his card, which I will cherish). That’s white felt, cut and stitched into an organic form which is then embroidered with black thread and what must be endless patience. Every one of those tiny dots, or stipples is a stitch in black thread. His work resonates powerfully with me, because for many years (and even now, sometimes) I used pen & ink stippling in technical drawings. Beetle genitalia, I can do masterly renditions of beetle genitalia. Never once did I consider what would happen if you did it with needle and thread, and even now I am awestruck by the thought of the sheer time and talent needed to do that. He stitched those lilies from life, folks. In thread. The 3-D forms are then stuffed with a variety of materials to become sculptures. Hanging on the wall are, well, hangings. Stitched in the same way, but this time you can see the back of the work as well as the front. Now, when my mother taught me to embroider (Every well-brought-up young lady can sew and play a musical instrument), she repeatedly and pointedly told me that “the back of the work must be as tidy as the front” before sending me back to rip out what I’d done and do it again, more tidily. The back of this is NOT tidy. The thread travels from dot to dot, it flows, swirls, moves. The stippled front is static, frozen, beautiful; the stitches on the back are alive. Can you tell how much I like McVetis’ work?

Finally, the view over London as I left. Saturday sky? Next post will reveal my stash enhancement. Just, please, remember I have three stashes to feed.


1 thought on “If it’s Saturday, this must be Alexandra Palace

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks Sarah! What a fantastic picture you create. I had no idea what the show is really like but now I’m very much more enlightened. I really think I’d have been having heart palpitations, being surrounded by all that beauty (not to mention temptation).The top you photographed is just so stylish amd I’m suitably stunned by the work of RV. Incredible!Enjoy your stash enhancement!(I’m DEFINITELY going next year).



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