Fair Isle is the name given to the multicoloured knitting typical of the Shetland Islands (It is named after the Fair Isle, one of the islands in the Shetlands). I’ve tried knitting stranded colourwork for the first time this past year and I was surprised to find that I enjoy it a lot! I usually don’t like doing a lot of straight knitting since I get bored easily but having to change colours and do slightly different order of colours on each row is just enough change to keep me interested. Since Shetland Wool Week is upon us, I decided to knit the official pattern of the festival – Gudrun Johnston’s Bousta Beanie.
Last time I knit a stranded colourwork hat, I discovered my tension is much looser when doing that type of knitting. My first Julie and I knit the same hat, with the same yarn and this was the difference in our gauges:
The one on the left was actually done with needles one sizer LARGER than the one of the right.
I knit the hat about with 3mm needles. Since the Bousta Beanie is knit with the same yarn, starts with 10 more stitches, and calls for a 3.5mm needle, I decided that I needed to knit a gauge swatch. I also wanted to test the colours I had. The yellow and rust was clearly the best:
Two days later and I have made nice progress:
We spent Christmas 2015 in Iceland and people are always asking me for tips of what to do, where to eat, where to buy yarn. I better write it up here so I don’t have to dig up all my notes all the time.
Yarn is everywhere in Reykjavik. In grocery stores, in souvenir stores, at stores in the airport, in random clothing stores. The standard Icelandic yarn is Ístex Léttlopi and it is probably the only thing that is cheap in Iceland. The first yarn shop I went to was Storkurinn, which sells not only Icelandic yarn but also yarn from around the world. They moved locations and are now a bit further from downtown, but I think it is still worth a trip. In addition to yarn, the store carries an amazing selection of buttons. I bought a few skeins of Léttlopi for a shawl there but regret to this day not having bought Hélène Magnusson’s lovely Icelandic yarn. After wandering all over Reykjavik for a week and browsing online, it seems that the best place to stock up on Icelandic yarn is The Handknitting Association of Iceland, which is also where you can buy handknit sweaters and cardigans. There are two stores downtown, one of which carries more yarn. That’s where I bought enough yarn for a cardigan and a vest for the equivalent of $40.
The food in Iceland was fantastic. It was also very expensive. I basically stopped trying to convert the money into Canadian dollars, and just went with the flow. Some highlights of our trip:
- Kex Hostel – It was probably the place we went to the most. The hostel has an amazing cafe area, with a lovely patio in the summer and an amazing view of the bay and the mountains across. We went for their famous buffet breakfast, then again for lunch on another day, and then again for coffee a couple times. It’s a great place to just sit, write postcards, knit, relax. The food is excellent, the coffee is from Reykjavik Roasters, and they serve lots of craft beers. Highly recommended.
- Mandi – I am very sorry we only discovered Mandi on our final two days in Reykjavik. It doesn’t look like the kind of place you would want to go in. It has that corner store vibe and the only sitting is bar style along the edges of the store. See link above. But if you like fish, order the Mandi Specialty Fish and then thank me later. OMG. So good. And ridiculously cheap by Reykjavik standards. Trust me. Go there.
- Icelandic Fish & Chips – It was one of the first places we went to and it was excellent. The fish anywhere in Reykjavik was amazing. There’s a neat little volcano museum next door.
- Reykjavik Roasters – Put simply, one of the best roasters in Europe. On any half decent list of cafés to go around the world if you are a coffee geek like me. It was busy and crowded when we went but it was still worth it. Excellent place to buy coffee beans to bring home. Excellent cortado.
- Nora Magasin – Very high quality food here. Alan had the famous deep fried chicken and I had a fish dish (of course). It was an excellent meal.
- Skúli Craft Bar – The place to go for craft beer. A very wide selection that included some interesting Icelandic options.
- Sandholt Bakery – The most amazing sourdough bread I have had. Also a good spot for lunch.
What to do
It was winter, so we didn’t feel brave enough to rent a car and drive around. The weather can be very treacherous in Iceland, so ALWAYS listen when a local tell you to avoid one thing or another. There was a thick binder full of news clippings at the tourist office of tourists who died or were terribly injured because they did not listen to the locals. In the end, we booked a few day trips from Reykjavik Excursions, the same company that runs the shuttles to and from the airport. We took the Golden Circle tour with a stop at the Fontana Spa and the trip to the Blue Lagoon. The rest of the time we simply walked around Reykavik from coffeeshop, to restaurant, to cafe, to bar, with the occasional museum and opera house thrown in.
It was an amazing trip. Alan and I talked about it for months. I definitely want to go back in the summer.
I haven’t done much photography for a while and have mostly relied on my phone for a while. I considered buying a new camera but I also did not want to be carrying a bulky camera around. I have a Canon Powershot G16 that I bought for research so I decided I would take it on my recent trip to Bristol, UK, for a conference. It would be a test of sorts to see if I really needed a new camera. I have to say I am quite happy with the results I got!
Click on the pictures below to see the slideshow.
I was recently at Bristol, UK, attending a conference and of course I had to check out the local yarn scene. After some online searching, it seemed that the place to go was Bath, just a quick train ride away. So before the conference started, I hopped on the train and took off to Bath. Since I was a bit early, I combined my love of yarn with coffee and went to one of the prominent specialty coffee shops in Bath – Colonna & Small. It was definitely worth a visit – the space was beautiful, with lots of natural light streaming in through the skylights. The staff was knowledgeable and willing to talk at length about the properties and flavour profiles of the range of coffees they had available that day. I was very pleased.
After my coffee, I walked up the street to find the shop I was looking for: A Yarn Story. The place was small but cheerful and I could see that knit nights there must be very enjoyable. I chatted with the owner for a while, she had been at the recent Edinburgh Yarn Festival and we talked about that and some of the British yarn dyers and designers that I knew about and the podcasters I followed from Canada.
I was happy that the stock of La Bien Aimee yarn was a bit low.
From left to right: La Bien Aimée Merino Singles in Driftwood Graffiti, Walcot Yarns Opus in natural grey, and The Walk Collection Delicate Merino in Blush colourway
I’m hoping to use some of these for the Shawl Society this year!
I’m on a yard diet this year. I have no issues with having a stash – my main problem is that most of my stash is carefully curated and I do want to knit all the yarn I have. Unfortunately, I knit very slowly, which means the more yarn I buy, the more anxious I get that I’ll never get to what I want to knit. So I decided to de-stash a bit this year. The plan has been going well but I have discovered a new obsession: colour cards. I now own three and there are two more on the way. I have the full colour card for two of the best Shetland yarn companies: Jamieson’s and Jamieson and Smith. I also have the colour card for Blacker Yarns brand new yarn: Samite. I love looking at them and planning what I might do with that yarn when I finally get to order it.
MKAL stands for Mystery Knit ALong. A KAL is when a group of knitters decide to knit together a particular pattern, or a design from a particular designer, or with a certain yarn. A KAL usually has a starting date and some might have a closing date although most of the ones I have seen are fairly flexible in terms of deadlines since we all knit at different speeds and have various things going on in our lives and KALs are meant to be fun, not stressful. The idea if to build community around knitting something.
Now, a MKAL is different in the sense that you do not know what will the finished product look like. That’s the “mystery” part. An MKAL is usually organized by a pattern designer, who will announce it a few weeks in advance, give some information on the type of yarn required, how much is necessary, and what type of projects it is. There is an element of risk in it since you do not know if you will actually like the pattern. To minimize that risk, most of us do MKALs with designers we like. I haven’t knit any of Helen Stewart’s patterns yet but when she announced her Snowmelt MKAL, I had to join. I’ve seen enough of her patterns in person to know they were my style: feminine, easy to wear, and the patterns were extremely well written. [warning: if you are doing the MKAL and want the pattern to remain a mystery to you, do not scroll down to the bottom]
At first I chose these three skeins of Hedgehog Fibers:
The colours were perfect but when I started knitting it, I did not like the feel of the white yarn, which was a loosely-plied sock yarn. I was afraid there would be too much contrast with the feel of the other two skeins, which were one-ply. A quick trip to the yarn store and I came back with this beautiful skein of one of my favourite yarns: Lichen and Lace one ply fingering.
Lichen and Lace in Shroom colourway
I could not be happier with the results so far!
I started my first blog in 2006 when I moved to Barcelona for a year. My main objective at the time was to have a place where I could write about my life in Barcelona, post some pictures, so that friends and family scattered around the world could know about how I was doing. I didn’t want to be clogging anyone’s mailboxes with emails. I also wanted to have a record of what I knew was going to be an interesting year. I didn’t read too many blogs at the time and was amazed how quickly I not only enjoyed writing my blog but how the act of writing a blog led me to read other blogs. I was also amazed at how many people I met through my blog.
When I moved back to Toronto in 2007, I kept blogging and renamed the blog Building Bridges since it best captured my mood and who I was. Like everyone else who was blogging back then, I slowly stopped blogging and switched much of my musings to Facebook. Four years ago I started knitting and have wanted to have more of a space in which to record my journey through the world of yarn, knitting, and patterns. Something I could go back to and share with others. I also wanted a place where I could chronicle my journeys through food and coffee, one of my passions. This site is a result of that.