Etsy Labs: Just knitting

Last weekend was lovely: exciting and relaxing at the same time, one of those weekends when everything seems to come together effortlessly. Good food, good friends, good weather, good activities.

And the latter included one of the coolest crafty things I’ve been involved in for a while! Thanks to my wonderful friend Johanna, I managed to find out about and join the second ever Etsy Labs event in Belgium. Yes, that’s Etsy as in THE Etsy! With sponsorship by Etsy NL, with Etsy goodie bags and with real-life Etsy sellers :) Not to mention that photos from our event ended up ON Etsy! Stay still, my beating heart! :)

The goal of the meet-up was to teach some knitting and help the approximately 20 participants make little knitted pouches for their sunshades. The participants were a wonderful mix of crafters of all levels (from “professionals” who make their living from craft to total beginners), and everyone was open, warm and kind.

We had loads of fun and have been gushing all over facebook ever since about how we can’t wait for the next one! Knitting or not, you better believe nothing will be able to prevent me from coming! And if you are in the Brussels area, you can also stay updated about future events by joining the BXL Handmade group on facebook.

I’ll use this opportunity to thank those most ‘responsible’ for the whole thing: it was organised by the tireless Anna Denise and the lovely Emilie, and hosted generously in her awesome home by Raori. All their blogs are worth a visit and you can find loads more photos from the event on them.

All Photos © Anna Denise van der Reijden (www.annadenise.nl)

work in progress

On Wednesday, I made my way to charming Notting Hill to participate in the inaugural meeting of The Last Wednesday Knitting Club. There were seven of us and the atmosphere was just wonderful – there was tea, scones, relaxed chatting, laughing about tourists (an inevitable part of any London conversation, but even more so when you’re sitting in the The Travel Bookshop and flashes are going off like mad outside), sharing stories about knitting, and of course – working on current projects.

I love the fact that every single one of us was working on something completely different and intriguing: Giselle was working on an adult sweater that involves lots of steeking and is currently not looking like a sweater at all, Jacqueline was trying to finish off a Christmas (2009 :D) gift scarf in a gorgeous color and stitch pattern, Saara was knitting a square with gi-normous needles just to be sociable (how lovely!), two American girls (ouch I forgot their names) were both attempting moebius scarves which, while they look simple, turned out to be incredibly complicated (it made me decide I could live a while longer without attempting one myself…), and their friend was just learning to knit for the first time ever!

I myself was working on the Elizabeth Zimmerman February Baby Sweater and I actually managed to get through some really complicated parts of it there! Taking a complicated project to a knitting group is never the best of ideas, but I didn’t have any other works in progress so I had no choice. I did ok, though! I managed to figure out how to connect the sleeves to the body and now I have ahead of me a long stretch of lace pattern… The lace pattern itself is quite simple, it’s the construction of the sweater that’s complicated. But luckily that bit is done now.

There’s another problem with this sweater though: it is impossible to photograph! The yarn is a gorgeous semi-solid MANOS silk blend (colorway 6461), but it kept looking bright red in all my photos… This one above is the best I managed. I found better photos on another blog, so go look at it over there to get a better impression. Luckily, the intended recipient’s father is a semi-professional photographer, so I hope that he’ll be able to take better photos of the finished project…

And to see what our first knitting group meeting looked like, visit Jacqueline’s blog for some scrumptious photos! And have a wonderful weekend! :)

speaking of knitting groups

I love the blogging community – it is so rewarding and the little benefits one gets from it still surprize me every day. Here is my most recent discovery. A new knitting group is starting up in London, with the first meeting next Wednesday.

You can bet I’ll be there! This is so great – I love being present for the very beginning of something and seeing it grow…

p.s. Click on the poster to go to the founder’s website :)

knitting groups

My semester ends tomorrow, and I have a full month of “‘no obligations” ahead. Well, there are inverted commas there for a reason. I actually have to figure out my dissertation topic, write a 3000-word paper and study for exams all by the end of April. So I’m already feeling like I don’t have enough time! I guess you’d say “well, at least you get to design your own schedule”, and that’s true, but honestly I find that aspect of it the most difficult. Well, not the designing aspect, but the sticking to it aspect! I’ve decided that the way to do it is to actually create a formal schedule, with one or two hour slots allocated to different things, and fun things scheduled in as well. Also, I’ll be going to the library to do my work – I think that will keep me more focused. Especially if there are friends there as well, so we can take our breaks together and I don’t feel completely isolated in my studying. Sounds like a plan, eh? I’ll keep you posted on whether it actually works.

One of the things I want to build into my schedule is going to knitting groups more regularly. This was one of the aspects of moving to London that I looked forward to most – there are simply no knitting groups in Croatia! I had started reading about them a year ago and they looked so exciting! I was lucky to come across the I Knit London website by chance at a time when moving to London was still a vague dream, and I drooled over their photos of events where a bunch of knitters would gather around tea and cake to chat, knit, munch, relax, ask for help and show off projects… Should you like to do some drooling of your own – here’s the flickr link. :)

My first real-life experience with a knitting group was last summer in Oslo. I posted on the Norway group on Ravelry and one friendly knitter offered to meet me on the University of Oslo campus and take me along to their Stitch’n’Bitch group. They met at a sweet restaurant downtown and everyone was extremely friendly. The few women who were sitting closest to me chatted to me in English, and the rest just smiled at me very warmly. I pretty much entered my ultra-shy mode, sat there all confused and dabbled with my knitting. I had decided on just making a swatch, which was a good decision simplicity-wise (take a too-complicated pattern to a knitting group and you’ll end up with a bunch of mistakes, certain things just require full concentration), but a not so good one time-wise (I was done with the swatch to soon and then didn’t know what to do with myself). All in all, it was a pleasant experience.

When I finally arrived in London, I was overjoyed to find out that the IKnit shop was in my neighborhood, a mere ten minute walk from where I live! I paid them a visit in my second week here and loved it. At that time I was getting a bit overwhelmed with London life – so many things were going on at my new university, I was meeting a bunch of new people every day, and there was so much going on in London! It was great to have all this activity, but soon I got tired of feeling guilty for not doing something incredibly exciting every single minute of the day! I remember how refreshed I felt after my few hours at the knitting group – it was the first time in this city that I had slowed down, sat down, and enjoyed a quiet evening knitting, chatting sporadically and just relaxing. Like in Oslo, I was again quite shy about being a newcomer and didn’t say much. Actually, I wasn’t much better when I went to the group yesterday! But that’s the great thing about knitting groups – you can overcome that initial feeling of awkwardness about being with all these strangers by focusing on your knitting. Sooner or later, someone will ask you what you’re working on, comment on your pretty yarn, or inquire as to the way you hold your yarn (everyone has a different method!). And slowly, the conversation will get going… And then all of a sudden you’ll realize it’s way past the time you had planned to stay there! And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? :)

Knitting groups are a wonderful way to start feeling like a part of a community in a new place, to meet people that you’d otherwise never come across (where on earth would I, a graduate student from Eastern Europe studying in central London, meet English housewives and grandmothers?), and to share your passion with other enthusiasts (no one understands better the temptations of yarn than other knitters!). I’m considering starting one when I get back home, but I’m not quite sure about it yet. I’m sure they take a whole lot of energy to run!

And for those of you curious about what knitters talk about at these gatherings, go read about Sarah’s brilliant little experiment! By the way, guess where I met Sarah? ;)