Kniftybits's Blog

All knitting, all the time.

Knitting Needles of Terror December 6, 2010

Wednesday I made my final (sob) visit to my LYS, Yarn on the Square, where I snagged the vibrant yarn I’d lusted over countless times – enough to make a hat (please, let it be enough for a hat!).  During discourse over my purchase the proprietor informed me that the UK ban on flying with knitting needles had been lifted.  Rejoice! She said she read it in a magazine about a month ago.

Whew!  No more secreting my needles among other items and holding my breath until I was through security.

Travel day arrived and I shoved my sock project in my hand baggage with a clear conscience.

We received a final tour of London as our cabbie avoided the M25 due to snow and bad drivers.  We watched snowflakes swirl as we passed the London Eye, Parliament, Westminster, Buckingham Palace, and Harrods. It was lovely.  The American Airlines check-in line, however, was not lovely at all.  The announcement that they were closing our flight caused us and a multitude of other impatient travelers to jump to the head of the line.  (Yes, we were the ones that you hate as you wait your turn.)  However, it wasn’t our fault as the service was unaccountably slow with the many jauntily dressed employees doing a stellar job of holding the floor down as they chit chatted.  Once at the front, a brief disagreement ensued with the AA gatekeeper about whether our extra baggage was included in the ticket.  We emerged victorious, in spite of her threats.

We raced to security, stripping as we went, only to be stymied by the inept who insist on waiting until they get to the black buckets to remove every bit of lint from their pockets.  Those of us standing there with shoes, coat, scarf, bagged liquids, laptop, belt and change in hand, glaring at you offer the following bit of traveling wisdom, “You know this is coming so get ready before you get to the front of the line or we are going to start invoking our right to jump ahead of your unprepared self.”  (Not that I’m bitter.)  We arrived at the gate panting, sweating, shins screaming from the 8,000 mile hike and £15 in hand that we were going to spend on breakfast, but instead spent at the vending machine.

Then we settled into our seats with a sigh of relief and I readied for a movie and knitting marathon.

Halfway through Eat, Pray, Love the nice expat Brit living in Tucson leaned over to ask me how I got my knitting needles on board.

“Oh, they lifted that ban,” I answered authoritatively. “Not that I ever let it stop me.  I figured the worst that would happen is that would take my needles and I would cry.” I smiled brightly and returned to my sock and Julia Roberts.

But then I started to wonder.  Did I just lie to that woman?  I envisioned her being escorted to a tiny sterile room by a burly security guard holding her knitting needles of terror in an evidence bag as she cursed my name.  I should never disseminate unverified information.  So, today I checked.

And I sort of lied.

According to the UK government guidelines listed on you are allowed knitting needles in your hand baggage.

However, according to the Heathrow website, you are NOT allowed knitting needles in your hand baggage.

Hmmm, which is correct?  What’s a knitter to do?  Well, I, for one, will continue to travel with my needles and hope my fellow traveler never finds herself in trouble for listening to me.  Which reminds me…I need to check up on TSA guidelines.

What’s been your knitting needle travel experience?


How I Met Nigella November 26, 2010

The day before our pack out, as I was pulling out my hair, I met Nigella Lawson.

Yep, that's our book she's signing!

Over a month ago we bought tickets for her talk and book signing hosted by our local bookstore, Topping & Company.  (Such a fabulous bookstore!  I sure am going to miss it.)

In spite of our constrained time table I insisted we arrive 30-minutes before the admittance time convinced there would be a queue around the church.  But there wasn’t.  Us and the gatekeepers were the only ones who stood in the amber autumn sunlight.

So I decided to race into town center to buy the cans of furniture polish I couldn’t get in the states.  And if I had time I was going to stop into Yarn on the Square to get another skein of Lang Yarns Mille Fiamme to make a hat to match my scarf. As I strode up the High Street a beautiful woman approached with a fawning man.  Nigella Lawson! I watched as others did a double take.

She walked right by me and I was so excited that I opted to race into Yarn on the Square before getting the wood polish to share my news with Ginette and buy my yarn. I achieved both and then raced back to St. Mary’s.

After the talk we stood in line an interminable period (so long that I actually started to swatch my next sock as I stood there, much to the amazement of the ladies behind me).  The wait was mostly due to queue jumping, how very unBritish of the crowd!

When we got to the front I couldn’t think of anything charming or witty to say to Nigella.  I wanted to mentioned that she walked by me on the High Street and that I thought she was just as pretty in person as on TV, but I didn’t want her to think she’d just acquired a new stalker.  So instead I smiled and said I enjoyed her talk as she signed our book.

Incidentally, I heard she was meeting Delia Smith for dinner in Norwich that evening. I wonder if they went to the chippy for fish and chips?


My Ultimate (I Hope) Winter Scarf October 9, 2010

I’ve warmed many a neck with my knitting needles since I’ve learned to knit, and I’ve knit myself multiple scarves, but when it’s really cold out and I need a really long, really warm scarf I still reach for my (gasp!) store bought scarf; the mega scarf I bought when we moved to England.

I’ve tried making myself an ‘Ultimate’ scarf before with some beautiful yarn I bought in Greece, but in my haste (I really needed an easy project to work on at Stitch & Bitch so I could, you know, bitch) I knit it in stockinette.  That thing curled up tighter than tightwads fist!  I still wear it, but it’s more a fashion scarf than a winter scarf.

I walked into Yarn on the Square a few months ago and fell in love with Lang Yarns Mille Fiamme, however I managed to resist.  (I think it involved me screaming ‘no, no, no’ as I ran out the door.) But, a little while later, my visiting Mother suggested we pop into the yarn shop and there is was again – singing it’s siren song, ‘You love me.  Touch me; feel how soft I am.  I am beautiful.  You covet my colorways.  I promise you a lifetime of warmth and happiness.”  How could I resist?  But, of course, I couldn’t chose just one.  I fell in love with three.


Mille Fiamme All Balled Up & Ready to Go


I immediately balled the skeins when I got home, so quick I didn’t even take a picture before doing so.  Ooops.  Part of my knitting OCD or ADD, not sure which.

I swatched the work in multiple needle sizes, in the end opting for the suggested 9mm US 13 size, for best drape while still being knit tight enough to keep me warm.  This is supposed to be the ‘Ultimate’ scarf after all.

My goal was to integrate the three colorways into a cohesive fabric, thus after pouring over my various stitch books I opted for a Three Color Linen Stitch.  A) It blends the colors seamlessly.  B) It doesn’t curl (ding, ding, ding we have a winner!). C) It looks cool.


Linen Stitch (this swatch was knit in one color)


To make my life extra challenging I decided to knit it lengthwise on a circular needle (wish me luck).

I’ll update you on my progress! 🙂


Knitting Hot Spot – Ely, Cambridgeshire September 16, 2010

Imagine my surprise and delight as my own little hometown of Ely, Cambridgeshire, developed into a knitting hot spot in England.  Of course, I don’t know if you know that it’s a knitting hot spot, so let me tell you.

After losing our local haberdashery shop, a few short months later we were swimming in yarn choices. There are FOUR wonderful options for yarn, plus the local Sue Ryder charity shop that sells some yarn.

Newest, and lighting the knitting world on fire is, Yarn on the Square!  This amazing shop stocks those luxury yarns we knitters love, such as Rowan, Louisa Harding, Noro and Debbie Bliss, plus lots of other lovely and fun yarns.  For my birthday I received Sublime bamboo & pearls from their shop, which is gorgeous to work with and knits into a lovely drapey fabric (who knows how long it will be until I finish the sweater I’m working on)!  The proprietors, Christine Brown and Ginette Heard, are warm and friendly, offering help and a chat.  Plus, they have extensive class options and even hosted Debbie Bliss for a book signing!  They are located in the center of Ely on the market square in a light filled shop with a large picture window, comfy couches, a work table, and a great atmosphere.  I’ve been to many a knitting shop and Yarn on the Square is at the top of my list.

Another recent addition to the Ely wool scene is The Ely Wool Shop.  This traditional wool shop gives you a sense of history in it’s historic building located directly across from Oliver Cromwell’s house with a view of Ely Cathedral.  The proprietor, Sandra, is very friendly and helpful.  Her shop offers a diverse range of yarns from around the globe, including Katia, Rico, Artesano, Manos del Uruguay, and Malabrigo.  I was very excited about the Artesano alpaca yarn I bought there the day she opened shop and on more than one occasion I’ve been interested and baffled by the unique choices of yarn, such as paper yarn or plastic yarn.

Barbara Curtis, proprietor of Curtis Crafts kiosk in the Ely Cloisters, is an accommodating member of the yarn world.  When I was on the hunt for acrylic sock yarn for my wool adverse mother, she beat the bushes for me and called to let me know the results of her search.  I really appreciated her follow through.  Barbara provides the affordable, work-horse yarns that are the backbone of certain knitting projects, especially baby knits.  In her kiosk she houses a plethora of King Cole, Cygnet, Woolcraft, knitting notions and other craft kits.  Park in the Waitrose parking lot and she’s located next to Cafe Carrington.

I’m not sure when it happened, but as all these lovely ladies were bringing woolen love to Ely, the Ely Cycle Centre, a catch all shop of toys, crafts, cycles, models, and DIY, upgraded its yarn options as well.  They now have a pleasing little display with a variety of yarn not represented at the other yarn shops.  There is also a delightful array of buttons, fabrics, ribbons, etc.  This department store, directly across from Costa Coffee and Mountain Warehouse, has served Ely for over 40-years and resides in a beautiful red brick building.  It’s definitely worth a look.

So, now you’ve made it to Ely, laden yourself with yarn delights, and wonder what else is there to do?  Yarn shops are compelling, but those spouses and children you’ve dragged along need a break.  Well, let me tell you…

Culturally speaking Ely offers one of the best cathedrals in England (not that I’m biased).  You can tour the cathedral and check out the Stained Glass Museum or climb up to the Octagon Lantern, an amazing feat of engineering and delightful to behold.

There is also Oliver Cromwell’s house, one of his only surviving residences, directly down from Ely Cathedral.  One must wonder how Ely Cathedral managed to survive his reformation.  I’ve heard it’s because it would have cost too much to tear it down, but I wonder if maybe he was a little attached to it?

You can also learn more about Ely at Ely Museum or drive ten minutes to Prickwillow and study up on how they drained the Fens at the Drainage Museum.  For more sites, check out this link.  Also, plan your visit for Thursday or Saturday to enjoy Ely’s thriving markets.

The waterside offers a number of attractions, including FREE Babylon Gallery for art lovers, the chance to take a river tour, Jubilee Gardens to enjoy the atmosphere, and the best tea room in Ely (and all of Britain in 2007!) called Peacock’s.  Peacock’s tea list is extensive, their scones are magical, their sandwiches are delicious, their daily specials are tasty, their cakes are heavenly, and their prices are reasonable.  A definite must to sip and knit!

Now that I’ve touted Peacock’s I feel compelled to mention that there are a number of other wonderful tea rooms in Ely.  The Almonry, directly across from the market square with garden seating plus an inside restaurant option also offers a stunning view of Ely Cathedral. It  is a close second for tea rooms in my opinion.  The Maltings also houses a restaurant directly on the waterfront, plus there is a new tea room on High Street in Steeplegate.  There may be others, so I apologize if this list isn’t comprehensive.

For dinner Ely offers a number of chains such as Prezzo or Pizza Express, but there are also some wonderful local pubs and restaurants, such as Montaz Indian, The Boathouse, and The Cutter Inn.  I recommend you go local!

For a pint there are 12 pubs – I won’t list them all, so check out the link.  Just remember drinking and knitting can lead to knitting regret in the morning.

Now you know why Ely will be the next knitting vacation hot spot – get here before the rush!