Thursday, 30 November 2017

Hookery in the Bookery went to Bessbrook-ery

Image result for christmas garland
Supper and shop was how it was described, and who could resist?  What could be nicer than a wee festive treat for our ladies, a group excursion to a quaint little village tucked away in the Co Down countryside, to spend an evening at Crafty Wishes?  The welcoming Christmas windows were spectacular with an old-fashioned fireplace and a knitted fair isle Christmas stocking hanging on it.  Moreover, no parking issues, which was the icing on the cake.
Lorna advertised her November/December friendship evenings on 2nd October and I think it took us all of 24 hours to book our visit.  We did not want to go too early because we wanted to be as festive as possible, but we didn’t want to get into the midst of the December rush and vie with other bookings that the women in the group might have had.
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We set out from Newtownabbey at 5.40 and it took until 7.10 to get there - soooo glad I don't have to negotiate that rush our traffic every day.  the evening flew by and soon it was time to make the reverse journey but I imagine many of us will definitely be back.  I have my eye on the Christmas table cloth ....  Just saying.
Knitting, crochet and craft are all about sharing ideas and time, helping others or encouraging those who have lost their mo-jo, assisting the inexperienced and finding new challenges for the confident crafter to make or do.  It’s about the fellowship of time spent together, relaxing, the problems shared and the problems halved. 
A few of us have been there on a couple of occasions in the past, including for the Macmillan coffee morning in September, and we have found that the welcome is always warm and friendly.
Image result for christmas stocking
This shop is a real treasure trove, a treat for the dedicated, enthusiastic knitter and crocheter, many beautiful gifts for sale, yarns to die for and patterns a-plenty.  There are seasonal Christmas patterns for festive characters and decorations, scarves and hats as well as all the usual array of patterns from all the major suppliers.  Accessories from buttons and bows to yarns of all ply, from the very fine to the super chunky.   And lots of already knitted and crocheted items on display, which give her customers ideas.  
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Lorna also sells some costume jewellery such as brooches and long necklaces to adorn your yarny creations.  The shop even has a loyalty card!
We were presented with festive treats of (non-alcoholic) mulled wine, mince pies and other festive goodies.
It was a real winter's treat.  Thanks to all the ladies for coming along and than you Lorna for hosting. 

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Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The return of the Knitter

In school, we learned Amo, Amavi, and Amabo.  I love, I loved, I will love.  In my case, it is I knit, I knitted, I will knit.  I tell you this, it is partly through an old school friend, that I have fallen in love with knitting again.

I was always a knitter, I come from a long family of knits.  I learned to knit when I was 4 years old, it was almost an extension of me.  Girl Guide knitting badge was like taking candy off a baby, not of course that I would ever do that!  

At university, I used to knit my own clothes.  I remember an illicit weekend in Dublin and I was knitting a dress to take with me.  Time was against me, I was knitting blue Donegal tweed and silk on a circular needle.  I kept knitting until I stepped into the magic circle, and, I thought it covered all the requisite bits.  A pair of pink tights, and white ankle boots and I was ready to go!  And I am sure I was lovely.  Looking back, it was a little on the short side!

For me, when I had children, it was great!  Now I got to knit children’s jumpers.  There was a brief halcyon moment when I used to design my own jumpers for my twin boys.

And then came the Julius Caesar dagger in the heart moment.  Twin one was whispering to twin two. “Can you knit school trousers?” asked twin one.  “No, you can’t” I replied.  The relief in the voice was tangible as twin one whispered to twin two “she says you can’t, we will be buying them in a proper shop”.  Et tu Brute.

So …. That was the end of the knitting, and a heart broken mother.
Fast forward 25 years and twin one marries a girl who not only knits, but spins her own yarn.  Result!  But talking to the young is a whole different language these days, yarn not wool, cake not ball, (cake – I eat cake!), indie dyers not wool shops, ravelry not patterns in a big folder.  This was all a foreign land to me, then my daughter in law took me to Unravelled in 2016.

Unravelled was my epiphany.  I had no idea what was going on, mostly, but it was ever so exciting.  I walked round and round in a state of confused awakening.  I love all these skeins, but what do you do with single skeins?  Why does everybody knit shawls, or wraps, or even stranger, haps?  What is a hap?  How do you know how much wool to buy if you don’t have a pattern book to flip through?  Where did all these “young” people come from?  They all knit?  I came home enthused but emotionally exhausted.  I spent hours reading knitting blogs and trying to get to grips with Ravelry.  I started buying random amounts of wool, sorry yarn, but no clear idea what to do.

And then Heather contacted me.  I had left a comment on this Hookery blog,  Heather and Elaine had a conversation about this lady who had posted a comment and how there could be connections. Elaine, realised we had gone to school together and that our fathers had been friends for years and years.   And then I was contacted, I was invited to join the girls in their meet up.  And …. It all clicked.  I had come home again.  I could see why folks knitted more shawls and scarves than there were days in the week!  Knitting in the round and having cake on the needles was where I was meant to be!  I spent a lovely summer with the girls, and set off to our very own Yarnfest at Whitehead in August fully prepared.

This time around, I knew where I was going.  I was buying skeins with a purpose.  I knew what BFL high twist was, I knew what fingering weight was, I even knew what sport yarn was.  And, no it isn’t a jumper you wear when playing cricket!

So, back to my declensions.  I knit, I knitted, I will knit.  I DO knit!  And I look forward to spending time with the girls again, and seeing the eventual completion of Bernard.  And, would you believe it? I have even mastered brioche!  Yes, this time last year, I thought brioche was a French bread too.

Helen x 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Hookery on tour

Hookery went on tour this year.  Our ladies travelled far and wide and some have sent through interesting photos.

Mags was on holiday in France and locally in Fermanagh.  In France she went to the Vendee but to quote they were ‘in the middle of glorious nowhere’. just into the Vendee region.  Knowing that it would be too hot to crochet and preferring to spend her time in the pool, her French project was very small.  Mags crocheted some flowers from Lesley Stanfield’s book 100 flowers to Knit and Crochet and plans to sew then onto a dressing gown.  Mags assures us as readers of the blog that photographic evidence will not be forthcoming of her modelling the finished article.
Camping at The share Centre in County Fermanagh provided the family with a few days of glorious sunshine between two weeks of torrential rain, a typical Northern Ireland summer!  The pic is of her ‘Argory blanket’ and was taken inside the tent because, unusually for Northern Ireland, the sun was in full blaze and too strong!  We are never weather-happy in Northern Ireland.

Elaine went to Scotland.  Her first visit was to a woollen mill in Hawick, the Scottish home of cashmere, ‘seriously the real job’ as she described it.  It would have been a shame not to buy …..  Elaine’s husband was encouraged to pose wearing the WIP, which is a new winter chunky James C Brett scarf, wonderfully matched to his jacket.  Although I understand that for the purposes of creativity, craft and continued matrimonial harmony he smiled throughout but has neglected to allow his photo to be included here.
Then they went on to Balmoral Castle on Royal Deeside where the scarf made another appearance.
Helen’s holiday hookery photos have come all the way from New Zealand.  The first was taken at the Franz Josef glacier and the second, as you can tell, on a much warmer and sunnier day in Queenstown.  The much-looked-forward-to holiday was over in a blink of an eye.

Catherine travelled to Moraira in Spain for a whopping 3 weeks as a special family birthday treat.  Whilst there she crocheted herself a beach cover-up which she got to wear before she came home.

I was in Germany, staying in Boppard on the banks of the Rhine.  I got some work done en route.
Within 30 mins of accessing the local shops on day one I had found a shop which sold wool.  It was a strange shop selling both wool and outdoor/trekking clothing and equipment.  It was also a very wet day!
Now which one to choose?  400g or 25g?
I also found a wool shop in Cochem a few days later which was more traditional selling textiles, material, wool and accessories.

Evelyn and I were on the North Coast and couldn’t resist the temptation when a photo opportunity arose.  Not so much a rose between two thorns as a pick-up truck between two roses?  Seriously, we should all remember water safety and thank these folks in the RNLI for the sterling work they do to patrol our beaches during the summer months and rescue folks from the sea all year round.

A few of us managed to have a wee day out, a girlie day, in August with lots of shopping and tea/coffee/lunch.  Individually we had all come across this wee wool shop and independently thought that it might be worth a visit.  It’s a wool shop in Bessbrook and although it has been there for about 40-50 years it is now under new management by Lorna.  Isn’t it great to see this happen and not see another independent yarn shop close it’s doors?  Lorna was on hand to help Elaine choose a yarn to match a current project, I was looking for some cream DK and we also got to chat to another customer and ‘help’ her to choose yarn for a new projet.  It turned out that Elaine and Lorna had mutual, local connections and histories were discussed.  I think that you could call this Hookery in the Bookery went to Bessbrook-ery.  We wish Lorna all the best in her new adventure and we will certainly be back.
One day, I did manage to have a late breakfast of coffee, croissants and a little time to do some crochet at Magheracross, near Bushmills, Co Antrim.
A few idol minutes up at Malin Head produced this.
Hope you all enjoyed our tour?

Monday, 19 June 2017

World Wide Knit in Public Day June 2017

Here we are at our 3rd WWKIP Day held once again in Yarns Coffee Halt at Theatre at The Mill, Mossley.  We held our WWKIP Day a week earlier than the official date because of holidays etc. among the group.  We had our WWKIP Day on Saturday 3rd June.

Our local Hookery Group were joined by some lovely ladies from
the Knitwits Group in Portstewart who went on to host their own WWKIP Day on Saturday 10th June on Portstewart Promenade. Thank you ladies for your support.   Maybe next year we'll travel
to the North Coast and join you for The WWKIP Day.

We also had some friends from Whitehead who joined us again this year. Thank you ladies. 

The staff at Yarns were very attentive as usual and thanks must go to the Duty Manager and to Heather in the coffee shop.  We had 36 folks who came along - women, men, adults and children, some who could knit and crochet and others who couldn't, some who were coming back for a second time and some who were new.

On the table in the photo above you can see some white pieces of work.  It was quite difficult to get a good picture of the white work.  One belongs to Catherine's great grandmother and was crocheted back in the late 1800s.  Catherine's grandmother worked in the local linen mills and she then attached the crocheted pieces to some linen.  The work is so detailed and one can't even begin to imagine the poor light that the ladies had to do the work and also the material is so white and clean.  Another couple of pieces belong to Helena's sister-in-law who crocheted collars and cuffs for Irish dancing tunics.  All of these pieces of work have Irish roses and shamrocks on them.
We decided on a floral theme this year and everyone pulled out all the stops to come up with unusual ideas for crocheted and knitted garments and other items on the theme of flowers.  The photos don't do justice to the work.
Ladder kindly loaned by Mags and the flowers and vines kindly donated by Judith, Niqi's mum.  Judith was tasked with crocheting 'just a few' while she was over on holidays a few weeks ago. 
  Doesn't Ermintrude look well?  This is one of the cows placed in public places around Northern Ireland.  This one is in The Civic Square at Mossley Mill.  Ermintrude's head was carefully measured to ensure a snug fit of her sun hat!
It was a warm day so Ermintrude didn't really need her blanket but there were a few very heavy showers of rain!
'THE Bernard' as it has become known was ceremoniously cast off on WWKLIP Day.  It had been cast on at last year's WWKIP Day.  
This is a very special little flower.  Maureen was teaching herself how to do this pattern when news came through about the Manchester Arena explosion.  After she had finished the flower Maureen decided to put a single pink button onto the flower to represent each of the 22 lives lost.  
 Some other flowers seen on the day.
On trend cacti ....  Have you noticed them everywhere in the shops, in flower shops, on clothes and in the home decor magazines?  Can you see the dinky red watering can tucked away in the background?  
Here's a cheeky little cacti man made by Chloe ....  And a bouquet of carnations made by me.
 The group are making a friendship blanket.  We have all made flowers according to a pattern from Crochet Now but have chosen our own two-tone colours.  Catherine has started joining them together and some of the rest of us will do some more of this.  It is our intention to raffle it off once completed.
 Meet the members of Hookery Group.  Elaine started to crochet in February and this is her first piece.  It's a labour-of-love blanket for her husband.  The Mayor came to pay us a visit too that day on one of his last official visits at the end of his term of office.
 Evelyn's smiley little happy flower, from an Attic24 pattern, resting against Niqi's Sunshine and Showers blanket.
Maureen's sunshine flower.
 We were lucky enough to have one of our Poppy Pieces on display for our WWKIP Day.  It generated lots of discussion from members of the public who were also using the coffee shop that day.
And so to rest ...

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Yarn Shop Day 2017

Saturday 6th May was Yarn Shop Day and I asked all the ladies to visit a yarn shop, buy some wool, take a pic of their favourite yarn shop, either of the outside of the shop or preferably of them shopping inside, or to write a few lines about their favourite yarn shop, the farthest one they have ever visited or the most expensive one they've ever been to.

My own favourite local place to buy yarn is in Mullan's along the Promenade in Portstewart.  Don't be fooled by the ladies' clothing in the window because there is a veritable treasure trove of wool, buttons and accessories at the back of the shop and lots of knitted examples of the patterns on sale. The colours, textures and patterns are to die for and always a new sample from the latest trade show. There are always samples of many of the patterns hanging on display around the shop or in the window and some of these are for sale.  Gerardette is very friendly, supportive and enthusiastic and she also helps to run the Knit and Natter Group in the local Library.  This group along with customers of the shop knit tiny baby hats for the neo-natal unit at a local hospital and also twiddle muffs for dementia sufferers.  It was Gerardette who introduced me to the liquorice allsort blanket last year. Gerardette also provides seating for husbands who have to patiently await wives discussing and choosing wool because a visit here is never a short one.
My other special woolshop is John Gregory's on the Ta Xbiex Seafront, Msida, Malta. It always strikes me as unusual that a country which is so warm has a wool shop which can sell aran, chunky, and super chunky wool.  But then I suppose if your summer temperatures are 40 degrees on average and your winter temperatures are in the mid-teens then the winters are relatively cold.  I always go and buy some yarn there when I'm on holiday and I knit or crochet a little something to remind me of that particular holiday.
From an early age Elaine the English teacher discovered wool, especially the smell of new wool in a wool shop.  She loved the smell when the door to Sew 'n' Knit in Canal Street, Newry, opened.  This was the shop Elaine's late mother used to frequent as she was a keen knitter and seamstress - buttons, wool, needles and hooks aplenty.  The owner was a very slight lady with bright auburn hair who at the time also wore the fashionable pink checked nylon coverall.

Another reason as to why the shop sticks out in Elaine's memory is because it had a laminate wooden floor, breaking new ground ahead of the fashion rage years later!  Today with the abundance of textures, colours and weights of wool it is a far cry from the basic DK and bland colours of back then, differentiated only by DK, baby and aran!  But to an 8 yr old this shop was a veritable Aladdin's Cave and has stood the test of time in Elaine's memory - a true mark of class.  Sadly the shop no longer exists but remains the 'bar' in Elaine's psyche to which all other wool shops have to adhere to.

Teaching Catherine took herself off to Parlour Yarns in Carrickfergus for Yarn Shop Day.
Catherine speaks of this shop as a 'cave of delights' with yarn everywhere and too much choice. There was a warm welcome and lots of help to find her particular colours.  In other words, there was more money spent than anticipated and even more wool added to her stash!  However, there was a gift if you spent more than a certain amount of money -  a bag with two different balls of yarn, a DK and a JC Brett chunky, and a crochet magazine.  There was a raffle for all callers to the shop that day and Catherine was lucky enough to win the second prize of a set of clover crochet hooks in a nice case. Altogether a pleasant way to spend an hour.
For Hooking Helena a trip to Mullan's in Portstewart is always a bit of a problem, in the very nicest sort of way of course.  What to choose from the extensive range and how much she can get away with buying without her 'long-suffering, wool-widower' husband finding out about.  Additionally, there is the issue of storage at home, but there is always under the bunks in the caravan .....  Sssshhh dont tell her husband!  On Yarn Shop Day Helena was very determined only to buy two balls of super chunky needed for a Nordic flower cushion cover - but which colour to choose?  Luckily Gerardette had two contrasting colours beside each other and Helena could hear her husband sigh with relief.  

Little did Helena's husband realise that this was only the first yarn shop visit of the day.  Next stop was a certain cash and carry in the local area where cheaper DK wool is well stocked.  
This cheaper wool is very good for knitting charity blankets or for items which need frequent washing.  Oh what a choice of colours they had and all DK!  Twenty minutes later, and in record time, Helena had chosen 10 different coloured balls and had paid for them at the till.  Phew!  

Our farthest traveller has to be Sheila who was in Norway.  Sheila didn't buy any wool because she had no idea of the Norwegian Kroner prices in the shop or the value for money because of currency exchange.  The shop was in Aldasnes, Norway, and she visited whilst on a cruise to celebrate a 'big' birthday last year. From memory the wool was all very thick and was in very dull colours which was disappointing since Norway is the land of the Northern Lights and associated with the Scandinavian tradition of patterned sweaters. Sheila hopes to go back some day and she will definitely buy some wool to bring back as a memory and keepsake.

Thursday, 13 April 2017


Breaking news 

Here is some advanced notice about our Hookery group's WORLDWIDE KNIT IN PUBLIC DAY 2017. This year again it will be in the Foyer at the Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey.
Due to holidays within the group we are holding it a week earlier than the official date. We are booked in for Saturday 3rd June and it will run approximately from 10.30am - 2.00pm.

There is a cafe which serves scones, traybakes, paninis and sandwiches with tea, coffee and soft drinks.
We'll have a think about what we can do to make it a little bit more fun so if anyone has any ideas just let me know.  Raffle?  Exhibition of work? Demonstration?  Pattern/book swaps?  Stash/odds and ends swop?
Please share this post and hope to see you and your friends there.