When you think about it, in this day and age knitting from a pattern is a bit of an odd concept - you look at a photo and purely from that photo you decide it's something you want to spend two months of your life working on. You can't try it on like you would in a shop so you have no idea whether it's actually going to suit or even fit you until it's finished. You also regularly dismiss designs you think wouldn't suit you on the basis of a few pictures. This why, for the last year or so, Ysolda Teague has taken samples of her garment designs to every major event on the international knitting calendar and this month she took the samples on the road for a little tour or the north of England. Having visited Baa Ram Ewe in Leeds and Ramshambles in York, Purl City Yarns played host to the Little Red in the City party this Saturday.
I first met Ysolda two years ago at the iKnit event in London when my knitting buddy and I kept bumping into her and her right-hand-woman Sarah. We've met several times since but always at major knitting events in London, which means there's never a lot of time to just hang out and chat, so it was great to be able to welcome her to Manchester.
Ysolda's right-hand-woman this time round was Becks who, along with Sarah, helps take care of the rest of Ysolda's business so she can concentrate on actually designing stuff.
The event began with a bit of a Q&A, giving the knitters a chance to find out more about the design process, Ysolda's future projects and some of her tips for successful garments. Many of the knitters attending were already getting started on knits from Little Red... including myself and the other Becks both knitting Laikas with Wollmeise lace.
After the Q&A, the knitters were able to try on the samples Ysolda and Becks had brought with them and get some fitting advice from the designer. Somehow, she'd managed to choose a bright, hot, sunny day for this event - not the kind of weather Manchester's renowned for and possibly not the most conducive to trying on sweaters, but that didn't seem to bother anyone. We decided that Cara definitely has to make Chickadee in exactly the same size and colour scheme as the sample and I'm fairly certain Melia will be going into Polly's queue (I've cast on for mine already!).
Many of the attendees had the same experience as I had the first time I played dress-up with the samples at Knit Nation last year - patterns which they thought wouldn't suit them when they looked at the photos suddenly became a must-knit once they'd tried them on. This is the reason that Laika's been in my queue for the last year!
Inspired, book and yarn-laden and full of chocolate brownies, the crowd gradually dispersed, planning their next few months knitting. After a bit of a tidy-up and Becks performing her packing magic with the samples, I took the two of them to the Northern Quarter for a little light refreshment and a few hours of chat at Common before they had to begin the journey to their next destination - a Travelodge at the delightful Scotch Corner* (there's pretty much nothing there except a major motorway junction), en route to Knit Studio in Newcastle.
Naturally we managed to find time for a few photos - Ysolda was quite fond of the bright pink wall opposite Common, but she seemed a little sceptical when I mentioned that there was a giant broom and shovel just around the corner.
There's nothing to mark or explain George Wyllie's sculpture on Thomas Street, but it makes for a handy photo opportunity. I sort of feel like she should be in Mary Poppins.
Ysolda, it was great to have you and Becks here - hope to see you back in town soon!
* I challenged them to tweet me something exciting about Scotch Corner. They didn't. I assume it was as dull as I imagined!