A little bit late, but… Madrid!

I went to Madrid! Ok, I got back 2 weeks ago. But let’s just pretend it was today? It has been the most hectic time over here, with moving preparations, and I really wanted to make this post about more than just photographs. Although photographs are cool:

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I went to visit Ms Juliabe, who is even friendlier, funnier, and sweeter in real life than she is in her artwork. And way more knitting-obsessed… as if that was possible! She also lives in a beautiful city, and took some time to show me around.

We visited the old city, saw lots of cathedrals and government buildings (which I took plenty of pictures of, but won’t waste anyone’s time with showing as you can always Google “Madrid buildings” and find professional photographs!) However, I will show you my favourite photos of the things that really captured my interest and imagination, and leave streetview to fill in the gaps!

Madrid is full of cool old-timey supplies stores, like this one we visited that sold materials to made espadrilles, saddles, and sandles:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeing a pair of foodies, we also visited several markets and gawped at food. I especially loved the space outside Mercado de la Cebada, which had been turned into community art and activity spaces, complete with peepholes made from repurposed washing machine doors:

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Julia’s neighbourhood is in the vicinity of the old city abattoir. It’s a beautiful sprawling complex that illustrates how important livestock and meat were in the history of modern Madrid. It has become a cultural centre, with cinemas, hip cafés, and exhibition spaces, and book-vending machines!:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course, I loved this juxtaposition of contemporary art and culture with the brutality of mass-butchery. The old buildings are stunning, decorated in detailed tilework (which have inspired some colourwork motifs in my notebook), and the renovation has taken pains to preserve this as much as possible and retains some of its witty signage:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s my wool-obsession shining through right there, as there were other signs for pigs and cows, but they weren’t interesting enough to photograph! Fortunately, there are plenty of yarn shops in Madrid:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs well as yarn-bombing in public spaces:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd of course we bought yarn:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI turned the first 2 skeins of Black Oveja’s Laña de España in Teja into a Guernsey Wrap by Brooklyn Tweed:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s an easy-to-follow pattern that knits up pretty quickly into a very attractive wide scarf. Although scarfs tend to be tedious, the knit-and-purl patterning of this project makes it interesting enough without being too demanding. A single-colour project made a nice change from my recent colourwork spree, and meant this project was super-portable because I didn’t have multiple balls of yarn to tangle up on the go.

It has been snowing on-and-off since I finished this, so there have been plenty of opportunities to wear it. The yarn is not scratchy next to my skin, but not soft either (so perfect for my tastes!), and has a really bouncy texture – especially with the gansey patterning of knits and purls. I haven’t knitted a scarf in years, but this was the perfect project for this yarn, in the perfect colour, and with perfect timing. It is the absolute perfect memento of my time in Madrid: interesting, historical, colourful, and cosy.

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The other 2 skeins are in the process of becoming a colourwork hat. Bear with me!

Dancing isn’t just for the weekend

This is my pal Flo. She’s one of the coolest people I know. She is down-to-earth, happy in her skin, with a wicked style, and easy-going sense of humour. She is also my favourite meme from Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign, which launches in full today.

The campaign arose out of research conducted by Sport England which asked women about the gap in participation in sport between the genders. With 2m fewer women than men taking part in exercise, across all age groups, Sport England wanted to know why this number was so high and how it could be reduced. I’m saddened by their findings, which include women’s fear of being judged by other women and feeling like they didn’t look right to exercise among the top reasons that women aren’t active, in spite of 75% of women interviewed saying they would like to me more active.

Along with Victoria, I love it when I’m at the end of a class covered in sweat and I know I’ve given everything to looking so thoroughly disgusting. And I hope you can all see the beauty in melted makeup, sticky joggers, and smelly trainers, because This Girl Can is about embracing the women we are when we exercise even if we look the opposite of these svelte, effortless, and elegant fitness models used by Sweaty Betty.

See us in all our sweaty, exuberant, giving-it-all glory during tonight’s Coronation St ad break (approximately 19:45 UTC/GMT on ITV). 

When you see the advert tonight, it will include views of women’s bodies that aren’t often seen on TV and certainly not usually framed in a positive context. We hope this campaign will encourage women to realise that how our bodies look and what they’re capable of doing are two very separate things.* When we arrive at a point where how you look becomes irrelevant if you’re taking care of your health (in more ways than one), then we will also be at a point where more women are experiencing the joy, community, and myriad benefits of regular activity.

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Sweatt Riott classes are now running in Hulme’s Z-arts on Mondays (19:45-20:45) and Tuesdays (19:15-20:15), along with Zumba on Tuesdays (18:15-17:15) and Thursdays (18:30-19:30). Come along and meet some of the women having a blast in the advert.

* Before anyone points out the relationship between BMI and a host of health problems, it’s fairly universally accepted that being fit and healthy has a relationship with weight, but that isn’t the same as carrying low body fat, and having body parts that wobble is completely unrelated to how far you can push yourself and what you can achieve when you do.

January Jumper and something to look forward to…

Everyone has a knitting queue, right? An ever-growing list of things that we want to knit “one day”, maybe even stash yarn, buy new needles, or knit swatches for in avid preparation… and then never get around to actually starting?

Mine’s pretty long, crammed with broken dreams, and Aftur by Védís Jónsdóttir is one long-term resident that I’ve admired for years. My love for 4ply/fingering weight jumpers and top-down constructions has seen it languishing in the middle of a growing queue, while never getting close to the top to be a contender. Fortunately, this was a busy xmas break for me, requiring lots of driving, planning, and preparation, all of which meant I couldn’t work on a proper project. Cue easy-to-follow (cough, modify!) pattern in a thick yarn:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo increase the cosy-factor I used ribbing for the hem and sleeves, and a rolled neckline. I used vertical darts for the body shaping instead of placing the shaping at the sides, and added in short rows before and after the yoke to increase the length of the back in relation to the front. It’s basically a perfect fit, and I’m dead happy with the outcome. Even without the modifications, it’s a great pattern that knitted up very quickly. Definitely give it a try!

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As is obvious from reading my blog for any length of time, I absolutely love the city and surroundings of Manchester, from my Moss Side neighbourhood, to the dark industrial heritage of the city centre, the hills of the nearby Peak District, and the mountains of North Wales just around the corner. The history, present, and future of this city has become one of my passions, as every poor misfortunate who has ever met me since I moved here will be able to testify!

The word “Aftur” appears to mean “again” or “to return” (as part of “to come again”), which is apt as I’m going to be making a big, scary move away from Manchester next month and this will probably be the last jumper I knit while I’m here. Fitting, then, that it should have a name with such a promise of unfinished endings. Me and this city, we’re not done yet.

 

2015 and beyond

First up, happy new year. I hope everyone had grand celebrations and a relaxing time besides. I spent the past weeks with family, going for walks, visiting friends, knitting, and sewing. It was time well spent.

Highlights were:

• The tree

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• The company (you’re going to have to imagine them all there, together, eating, drinking, laughing, playing Charades, Jenga, Articulate.)

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• The plant pot Roman Candles in my parents’ courtyard

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• These photos, which I will write more about later this week

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Now that I’m back, I’ll be catching up on a few FO posts and discussing a few fun things that are happening around here over the next couple of months.

Finishing spree

Remember I said there might be some photos to come of finished items? I wasn’t lying! It’s true, I have finished a number of projects that were either languishing or just unphotographed while I waited to get my paws on a camera that actually works… This task now accomplished, I present my latest FOs:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst up, I can’t believe this is finally finished and I actually got modelled photos. This is a reknit of Schiehallion (it’s on its way, folks, honest! Keep reading to learn more about the hold up…) that I did in ColourMart’s cashmere/silk/viscose/merino blend, as with the original. I often choose this yarn for unselfish knitting because I appreciate other people don’t have the same love of rustic-textured wools that I do, and this is a soft yarn that wears remarkably well for its fluffy handle. This version is for someone who is very fussy about “itch” and has rejected yarns with more cashmere content as “itchy” (please don’t get me started… groan!).

It’s not a British wool, but ColourMart are a great small business located in Shrewsbury, England (but right beside the Welsh border) that buys mill ends from smaller UK mills and sells them around the world, alongside international big-hitters like Lora Piana, to customers who might never otherwise experience Rennie, Knoll, Gardiners – and certainly not Lightowlers, the Holmfirth mill whose Jacobs yarn is in stock right now.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I first reknitted the pattern as written, the armholes were really deep. I’m currently working on a fix to this that will work across the huge range of sizes, so this is part of the current hold up on the pattern release. That and not being able to take photos of this garment because the armholes were so disproportional to the rest of it! As I discovered this sad fact to be sincerely true after steeking it I had to unpick entire rows above and below the section I wanted to remove and then graft the remaining pieces together. It’s only just noticeable before another wash (you can see its horizontal line on the left-hand side of the above photo, just above his right armpit).

If you ever want to know how not to spend a dark, cold, damp December’s day, just ask me, ok? However, it is fixed and now belongs to one happy recipient. Job done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Mokum, a pattern in the works. It uses a tile pattern that reminds me of the pattern and reflection of grachtenpanden rooftops. It’s knit top down in 4ply weight wool yarn with a colourwork yoke and short row shaping at the back neck and back shoulders, bust and back darts, and cool contrast colour edgings. All the things I love!

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I say it’s “in the works” because, although the lambswool from ColourMart is a terrific colour I’m not convinced by its 3-ply structure for a garment. I’ve been wearing this around for a few weeks now, and my initial reservations about the swatch have been confirmed. All of my favourite garments are knitted in 2-ply yarns (thinking of Jamiesons, Rennie, Snældan, in particular here, as those are the jumpers I wear the most) and although the stitches in those yarns have less definition, they form a more integral flat fabric than my new green jumper. So, I think I want to try the pattern with a different yarn before offering it for test knitting (although as always I would love to hear from interested parties – especially anyone wanting to use one of those yarns).

I’m aware it’s Friday afternoon already, but I plan to have two more garment FOs by the end of the week… Did somebody say “clear up”?