R&R / My trip to Guthrie & Ghani

After launching Frosted Flowers last week I was VERY glad to have planned a trip to Birmingham to visit some friends and escape from routine.  It was all too brief, but I made the most of the time; I had barely finished uploading my patterns before the postman arrived with a parcel full of yarn for what could be a very exciting commission!  More about that in weeks to come – but for now I’m happier focusing on non-work-related things!

For readers who may not have seen the BBC2 programme, Guthrie & Ghani is a gorgeous haberdashery shop in Molesley, Birmingham opened by Great British Sewing Bee finalist, Lauren Guthrie.  Together with her husband and fantastic team of staff, she has turned a converted detached house into a lovely shop.  The ground floor is devoted to quality haby products, fabric, trimmings, buttons and yarn (including Rico, which is hard to find in London – I was impressed with the quality and colour palette upon seeing it in person) whereas the top floor has become a  studio and workshop space for classes and for Lauren and the girls to run up all kinds of lovely garments and home furnishings.  I cannot wait for my next opportunity to visit!

It would’ve been far too cheeky to go around snapping pictures of the shop to post on here, but here are a couple of shots of my friends and I in the shop and the Amy Butler voile I treated myself to on the day.


I have been looking for cheerful yellow fabric for a long time and had to have 3 metres of this on sight!  Everything I’d seen before had been too twee or had paired yellow with black or grey for some inexplicable reason – why??!! Yellow is such a happy colour, don’t make it miserable! – and I love the colours in this fabric, especially the soft buttermilk yellow with the more sunshine hue of the flowers.  Perfectly springlike!  One day it will be turned into a lovely dress – with a full skirt, of course 🙂

Although I didn’t know it, last Thursday would also be spent marvelling at other people’s talent.  One of the ladies in my two-part colourwork class at Fringe 108 is an extremely talented weaver, and at the end of the last session on fairisle she showed me some of her swatches.  I couldn’t help but notice the amazing scarves she’d been wearing since the first lesson so I am very happy that she brought in and allowed me to take a picture of some of the fabric she’d made on her loom at home:

BeautiesOfTheLoomShe hasn’t been weaving for long, but even as I taught her colourwork techniques for knitting I was amazed at how quickly she picked things up (I very nearly didn’t believe her when she said she’d never knitted fairisle or intarsia before!) but her eye for colour is fantastic; even though there are very few colours in this family of swatches they are all eye-catching in their own way.  When my dressmaking skills are up to the standard needed to make a coat, I might commission her to make the fabric for me!

Immersing myself in others’ creative talent inspired me to recolour a sweater from Rowan magazine 52, last winter’s offering.  I have yet to make a sweater in their Lima yarn, but after getting out of town last week I decided to recolour the Sole tunic into shades reminiscent of the sunset sky.  The dark blue will be the base colour, along with the variegated Lima colour in blue and indigo; the former shade was in my stash but I grabbed the accent colours from Deramores (as I write they are offering 20% off Rowan Yarns).  The only other thing to do is adjust the fit as I don’t like the shape of the tunic, not least because it will drown me.  As ever, the model is tall so this isn’t immediately obvious, but one glance at the spec drawing told me that it would come up long and far too wide (the smallest size is 68cm across!), so I will wing it and make it into a easy-fitting jumper:


My last treat was Kim Hargreaves’ last winter collection, Storm.  Another reason for being a big fan of Kim Hargreaves is that she always includes lots of cardigan patterns, and I live in them when I’m teaching.  I can only stand to wear a sweater if it’s cotton, but if it’s cold and I need to be cosy without overheating, a cardigan is the only good thing in the world.KimHargreavesStorm

My cardigan picks are Thor and Drew for snuggle and practicality – easy to wear and with 5mm needles, quick to knit up.  I have just about enough stashed yarn to knit both of them, although I will do without the Kidsilk Haze for Drew and for Thor I will need some odd balls of Alpaca Cotton for the contrasts.  I am not normally one for grey and black but the zigzag fairisle pattern makes it interesting enough for me to have a go.  My other favourite is the Ripley sweater – I don’t have the yarn for this in the loft so can’t say when or if I’ll ever make it, but as with Thor, the grey is lifted by the sky blue and vibrant tartan pattern.

My last semi-recreational fix, if I can brave the rain forecast for tomorrow, is a trip to the V&A to listen to a talk on sustainable fashion with Livia Firth and Lucy Siegle.  I haven’t been to one of their Friday evening talks/lectures for some time now and this sounds as though it might be worth going to.  Personally, it would be nice to engage more with the debates surrounding sustainability and I often wonder if arts and crafts such as knitting and dressmaking are viewed as too much of a niche by the mainstream.  I have my own personal goals about contributions to sustainability – one within relatively easy reach is to be more discriminating about the yarns I work with and find out as much as I can about their production and the company’s ethics.  There are many small British companies and sole traders producing beautiful wool that I have yet to even touch.  I have a large stash of Rowan Yarns amassed during my previous employment with them, but over the next year or two I will do more research and no doubt find other beautiful yarns to knit, crochet and design with.

Just about everybody in my knitting and crochet classes is empowered by the fact that they can create whatever they want, however they want, using the materials they want after mastering some basic techniques – the only restrictions upon them are the amount of time they have to practice and how imaginative they are willing to be.  It is especially nice to meet women who turn up knowing exactly what they want to get out of their time with me, as it gets me out of the usual routine of teaching a topic and I enjoy the challenge of discovering how my experience and advice can help them in particular.  It is all about being resourceful.  I am in the process of setting myself a personal challenge for the next year or two, which relates to sustainability and resourcefulness – but more about that when I have come up with a concrete plan!

Leave a Reply