Category Archives: Events

Mitts For Monday

So, I’ve taken my first tentative steps into the realms of making-to-sell!

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I had the oppotunity to host a stall at a Christmas party-bazaar last Sunday, run by a Walthamstow-based jewellery maker who I’ve done a few classes with. (Birgit Barrett of Beyond Beading. www.beyondbeading.co.uk )  I committed to the stall around four weeks before, without having any products or specific designs.  I settled on the idea of mitts which are, in theory, quick to make up.  I only managed nine pairs in the end.  It would have been twelve, but I messed up three sets.  Frustrating!!  Nine pairs in four weeks may not sound like a lot but several factors affected productivity: due to the size of the venue, I knew the stall would be small (between 2 – 4 pages of A4) so I was told I wouldn’t need much; some of the time was spent experimenting (not all ideas worked out – as I had precious little time, this felt like a waste of time rather than a learning process); and I went to visit a friend for a few days.  Unnecessay distraction!

I did four styles: plain rib (double crochet front loop only: half treble back loop only); plain rib with buttons at the wrist; a double ribbed type (a ridge&furrow rib acheived with raised trebles, with the flatter rib of the other mitts across the palm); and longer mitts using hairpin crochet, again using plain rib over the palm.

Having beavered away for a month, I only managed to sell one pair!  Still, better than nowt!  And most other stall holders didn’t sell much either.  Birgit said similar events in previous years fared better, but that’s just the way it goes.  One of the other stallholders said the amount of times she’s sworn she wouldn’t do another market after a slow session… but she always does.  Interestingly, one of the jewellery makers said she can’t make products with beads and stones she doesn’t like.  In agreement with her was a lady who makes cards and crocheted brooches.  She said she had at one point really focused on what she thought customers might like, choosing a range of colours etc, but that these items didn’t sell well after all, so now she makes what she personally likes.  Food for thought for a newbie like myself!

It was definitely worth doing this small event.  I had positive feedback on my products and the experience got me thinking about presentation (not my forte).  Luckily, my fabulous friend Lesley and her lodger Serena had been on hand to help out doing labels etc, for which I am very grateful.  I owe them a cake or a round of drinks..

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Knop & Snarl

Amongst all the sights and stalls at the Ally Pally Knitting and Stitching Show last weekend, one of the most eyecatching was a London black cab, its typically shiny casing clad in a technicoloured cosy made from over twenty kilos of wool.

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The impetus for this intriguing project was a collaboration between author Safia Shah and The Endangered Words Campaign.  They aim to rescue fabulous words from the verbal scrapheap, resuscitating those words which are vanishing from our linguistic habits, given the texting and tweeting tendencies of modern society.  I suppose this is partly to do with the brevity of these forms of communication, as some words are just waaaaay too long to attempt in short spaces.  Having said this, the endangered words list isn’t limited to cumbersome words, as the monosyllabic are also included.  A handful of these words sprawl in knitted scrawl across the rump of the taxi, including: curmudgeon, brouhahah, muckle, mollycoddle, quaff, squib, snarky, and mimp.  I can’t even find some of these words in my trusty Oxford English dictionary.

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Shah adopts the use of such endangered words in her soon-published childrens book Carnaby Street’s Great Uninvited.  The story culminates in an outlandish knitting contest, and a knitted cab-cosy would certainly be a contender for first prize!  She is a lover of words, wanting to promote communication “beyond the telephone keypad”, which is where knitting and crochet comes in; hands engaged with the hook and knitting are too preoccupied to text or tweet, giving greater opportunity for vocal yarning.  The conversation  over this cosy must have been a very long one, as it took four months to make by twenty ladies collectively known as The Materialists.  The loss of words matters to Shah because there are a multitude “out there just waiting to be used”.  She considers it odd that in childrens literature there are invented words, despite there already being “so many intruiging or amazing words slipping out of use”.  Investing in such words isn’t about superiority or being lah-di-dah.  As Shah asserts:  “Language is something to play with, not to use to show off”.

For those UK-based yarnsmiths out there, keep your eyes peeled: this woolly Fairway vehicle is road-legal and will be journeying round the South East between the start of November and the end of the year. And while we’re gawping in amazement at this taxi, let’s not forget some marvellous words relating to our own craft.  There are descriptions of yarn texture which I hadn’t heard of before starting the crochet diploma, and they are worth bandying about because they are so delicious. (Shah talks about relishing the sound of words, saying “You can almost mentally suck a word or phrase, like a boiled sweet.  Slurp away and you will get far more out of language than its simple meaning.”)  My favourites are: knop (including little lumps of fibre), boucle (loopy), and slub (having thick and thin sections).  I also like snarl which, in this context is nothing to do with growling.  It describes yarn with long twisty bits sticking out, but could equally apply to what happens when our skein gets tangled up, or snaggled.

There has been a resurgence in crochet and knitting; people are keen to ensure these activities survive after slumps in popularity (especially crochet).  We crafters could give endangered words a helping hand too.

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