Full disclosure: I’m a crocheter not a knitter, and not as ‘into’ it as much as a lot of people, for example the people who will apparently queue for hours in hot sun to buy yarn at a fibre festival. However, I chose to read it during my knitting & crochet group’s summer retreat which is a very different to the retreats mentioned in the book, in that there are no professional demonstrations or lessons or meditation, just lots and lots of booze (we’re not called the Oxford Drunken Knitwits for nowt!), some occasional yarn craft and a hot tub with friends.
So not being a knitting nerd, I still enjoyed this immensely, I think the travel aspect was well written and that’s what drew me in. I didn’t notice the ‘name dropping’ that this book has been criticised with having, because I don’t know the names? (I’d not even heard of Parkes before being recommended this book). In fact I only recognised one person because I’ve seen her patterns on Ravely, however I enjoyed learning more about that person and how they got to where they were in the ‘Knitting World’. The stories involving people I didn’t know, I still enjoyed – the fact that these stories are mini essays mean you can choose to just skip to the next one should you choose.
I felt that Parkes’ previous experience as a travel writer shines through in her lifelike descriptions of the places she visits and the people she meets. I can almost smell the barns of the festivals or feel the heat of the conference centres and hotels of various events – she really brings the places to life, which to appeal to a wider audience is no mean feat.
One of those days where it feels like forever since I’ve seen my knitting group – the Oxford Drunken Knitwits (although I prefer crochet). The knitwits are a group of yarn fiends who meet up at a different pub every Wednesday to drink and yarn-craft, as a rule drinking is optional, crafting is not – we’ve had all sorts from the knitting and crochet, to felting, yarn spinning and occasional cross stitch.
Since it’s inception in 2012 the Knitwits has spawned a further nine chapters (as of November 2018), as far afield as Philadelphia to the west and Brisbane to the east. As many people come to Oxford for work or study, the population here can be quite transient – this also means I’ve made friends with people from all around the world, with a variety of different backgrounds and interests – its one of the things I love most about the group.
This Wednesday we met at the St Aldates tavern, a cosy pub in the city centre – we were given the upstairs room to ourselves, which given how many people showed up turned out for the best. We also had a record number of male crafters turn up which prompted the above photoshoot!
St Aldates’s tavern has a good range of real ales, they are part of a pub group that is included in the City Club App (there’s currently four in Oxford) – I’ve previously been a bit dubious of these apps that keep coming out, but then I’m invariably drawn in by an offer or two. With this app you open a tab on your phone, and show it to the barstaff everytime you order something and at the end of the night you just click pay (you enter your card details on set up), and it whooosh, paid. But that’s not all, you get points for spending money and these can then be redeemed for food, drink, games of pool, tshirts… but hey mostly drinks. And as an added bonus, for using the app in November I got a free gin something or other which I need to claim asap.
The Oxford Drunken Knitwits meet every Wednesday – to find out where we’ll be next week, sign up using the link above.
Today was hard, being back at work after a jam packed 4 to 5 days in Iceland. So I relaxed by getting back into my crochet, after lovingly stroking all the yarn I brought back with me. I make a point of visiting the Handknitting Association of Iceland, located a stone’s throw from Hallgrimskirkja on Skólavörðustígur. It serves as both a store where you can buy handmade (and some machine made) knitted/woollen clothing along with being the best place (in my opinion) to buy the yarn to knit or crochet something yourself. It’s certainly the cheapest place I’ve found in Iceland and certainly cheaper than back home in the UK – the shawl I’m currently working on will cost less than £14, which for pure wool is fantastic.
The association was set up in 1977 by women who were supporting their familes making garments, establishing standards and guidelines for the production which are still in use today
Whilst the flagship store is on Skólavörðustígur , there used to be another, smaller store on the main shopping street in Reykjavik – Laugavegur, however that seems to be closed now that I have also visited. There has been quite a few pieces in Icelandic media over the last couple of years about the influx of chinese made ‘lopapeysa’ you know the infamous Icelandic sweaters – that the stores are ironically charging even more for! If you buy from the Handknitting Association, you will find a tag inside the sweater with the name (and sometimes contact details) of the person who handknitted your item, how cool is that?! You can also buy from their website (see link above) and they will customise the size and colours for you – because it’s being made for you (the only thing to consider is that as iceland is not in the EU, you’re liable to import taxes, which for the UK is 20%).
So if you’re a yarn-a-holic like me, you should definitely visit when in Iceland.