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Stitch Solihull

I do like to visit independent yarn stores so while I was staying my in-laws recently I asked on a couple of Facebook groups if anyone knew of any good ones nearby and Stitch Solihull came up, so on a rather rainy Sunday, I paid a visit.

Stitch Solihull was opened just three years ago by Ana, who told me she had no previous experience running a yarn store, so what she has created is all the more impressive. It’s a gloriously colourful space with a fabulous welcoming sofa generously adorned with cushions and crochet blankets, and the biggest Heidi Bears’ Dinosaur if have ever seen (Ana made him in aran). Ana has also made a more normal size Heidi Bears’ Hippo. Isn’t he fabulous!

 

Now, I do like a yarn shop (well, any shop really) with a big comfy sofa and if I hadn’t been accompanied by my husband and children (who refused to play outside in the rain) I might have lingered there, knitting in hand. But there was an extensive range of yarn to be squished, including a favourite of mine, Fyberspates Scrumptious, a merino/silk 4 ply in gorgeous colours with a particularly lovely twist, and Noro, which I’d always thought was a bit rough and scratchy until a friend of mine filled me in on how soft it became after washing.

  

 

Ana also stocks a range of hand dyed yarns, as well as undyed yarns and can arrange to have yarn hand dyed to order.  It’s always interesting to see what the owner has on his or her needles and Ana did not disappoint. She had not long cast on a pretty shawl in a lovely yarn from Juniper Moon Farm.  

But it’s not just yarn. Ana stocks gorgeous fabrics, an extensive collection of buttons, needles, hooks, kits, thread and wool wash. And, Ana is the owner of the most impressive wool winder I have ever seen. Now, wool winders aren’t usually terribly attractive things, don’t take a good photograph, so consequently would not normally be a subject of my blog, but, just check out this big boy!

 
So, eventually, with my children getting restless, I signed up to the news letter, made my purchases and made a mental note to return. You can find Stitch Solihull in a ‘cabin’ in the outside plant section of Notcutts Garden Centre just off junction 4 of the M42 and if you are ever passing, and need an excuse to break your journey, it’s well worth popping in.

 

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What are you making NOW?

These words, uttered by my 5 year old daughter in a tone of incredulity  recently, upon the sight of me knitting (again!), made everyone one else in the room laugh heartily, but made me fly into a panic. “Nothing” I said as I hastily shoved my knitting away in a bag out of sight. But she eyed me suspiciously and I suspect the game is up.

 

The game, which, until now, I have played regularly with both my children, is informally called “did you buy it in a shop?”. You see, despite being lovingly clothed from an early age in fabulous handmade knitwear and fed nutritious (ahem!) home made biscuits and gingerbread men, my children are astonishingly keen to eschew all home made items. No, I don’t understand it either. If I hadn’t been there and actively participating on the night of their birth, I would seriously question whether they were actually my children.  

Their favourite snack is any biscuit out of a packet. Any biscuit. Just so long as it has been previously packaged. The packet, it turns out, is of the upmost importance, signifying shop bought rather than made by their mother’s fair hand. If I answer “yes” to the question “are they from a packet?” I am greeted with yippees of delight. If I answer “no”, I get a sullen “oh” and they take the biscuit as if it were something I might have otherwise offered to the dog. It’s worth me pointing out at this point that I am no slouch in the home made biscuit department so it’s not because they are of lesser quality than the shop bought biscuit (anything but!). They simply lack a packet. 

The same is also true of their clothes. If a cardboard box with the word Boden on the side, is delivered to our house, the children open it with squeals of delight, hastily trying on everything and wearing it (often all of it, no matter how many tops are in there) for the rest of the day. But try getting them to wear a home made garment? Not a chance;  if you can persuade them to try it on (just for a photo, so mummy can put it on her blog, please??), within 30 seconds they are complaining it is too hot, too tickly or too itchy, despite no part of their bare skin actually touching the item. So the item is removed, parked in a drawer and barely looked at again, except with suspicion.

However, if they don’t see it being made, and I have a handy bag available I can produce it with a fanfare and a big tah-dah! and they’ll love it and wear it forever. Yes, I know it’s a lot of effort to go to but, well, it’s either that, or not knit, and that’s just ridiculous.  

So, you see, it is quite important in order to maintain the ruse, that they don’t see me actually making the garment. Consequently, after my daughter’s question, I’ve been struggling with what to do. The item in question is a sweet cardigan called Entrechat by Lisa Chemery made from a gorgeous aran weight yarn hand dyed by Daisy from Devon Sun Yarns. I don’t want to pretend I bought it in a shop. Especially if there is any chance my daughter will recognise it and realise I’ve been hood winking them all this time. But I don’t want her to refuse to wear it either. So I’ve been dithering over what to do.   

As is often said (although perhaps not by many people parenting young twins), honesty is the best policy; not least because, one day quite soon, they will be able to read this. So, honesty it is. Here is the finished cardi. It maybe the last time it sees the light of day for a long time. But, I’ll let you know how we get on.

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Darning. How it came to this.

Like a lot of people, I knitted when I was a child, and, maybe slightly more unusually, I continued well into my twenties, but, the closure of our local yarn store when the proprietress retired and with the cost of good quality yarn being beyond my, then, meagre resources (and I really couldn’t be persuaded to make any more garments from acrylic), I gradually stopped knitting. That’s not to say I stopped crafting. But I did stop knitting. Or at least knitting regularly.

Then after ages and ages, two things happened. The first was that I had my children. For the benefit of those readers who haven’t had a peek at my “about me” page, I have 5 year old twins, a boy and a girl, and I was (and remain) astonished at how exhausting parenting is. For a period of about 6 months, in order to cope with my 4am starts, I would fall asleep on the couch by eight o’clock each evening. And so, it was in an effort to stay awake (and remember who my husband was) that I came to the conclusion if I was doing something with my hands, it would be harder for me to nod off in the evenings. So I bought some yarn and patterns, and picked up some needles and started knitting. I made a cardi for my daughter and a couple of sleeveless pullovers for my little boy and was generally pretty pleased with them.  

Then, three months later, I realised these garments were getting a bit snug, then about a month after that, they were definitely too small. At this point, it dawned on me that babies grow really fast. So, if I was going to knit their clothes, I was going to have to knit a size up so they would get a decent amount of wear from them. But it takes longer to knit a bigger garment so it was a couple more months before I finished the next cardi for my daughter. By this point, she had learnt the word NO! and refused to wear any form of knitted garment. I persevered for a while but attempting to put her little arm into any knitwear lead to tears and tantrums. Then summer arrived, and I surrendered the battle and the needles (but not the war -although that is a subject worthy of a post all on its own),

Then the second thing happened; my very good school friend Gail taught herself to crochet. I loved the things she was making and, I was missing yarn, so she set me up with a crochet hook and got me started on granny squares. For the whole of that Autumn and Winter, I made blankets. I made them with such a fervour, my husband started to fear for my sanity. We soon had more blankets than beds but I couldn’t stop. I started blanket after blanket. Bought yarn pack after yarn pack. Joined Facebook group after Facebook group. And then I discovered hand dyed yarn.  

And here is the thing. Until that point in my life I’d never heard of sock weight yarn. Obviously I’d heard it called by its other name -4ply – but not sock weight. And then I had a conversation in my head that went something like “this is called sock weight. Does that mean you can knit socks with it? Wait, socks are knitted? I could knit socks!” 

And so I did. A mini obsession was born. I made lots and lots of socks and was supremely happy with every pair. But that was a while ago now and it’s funny how these mini obsessions go in cycles. The sock phase was superseded by a shawl phase (as these are also often knitted with sock weight yarn) which, in turn, was superseded by my recent, and still continuing, hat phase.   

I mention this now because, yesterday, I noticed that my most favourite watermelon socks (pictured above), made from fabulous hand dyed yarn from Abi Grasso, have a hole in the sole. Whilst I’ve done some other forms of mending, I have never darned anything and will admit to feel a bit daunted by the prospect. So, if you need me, I’ll be watching sock darning videos over on YouTube and wondering whether to invest in a darning mushroom.