Tea Party Time

On Saturday, 17 October I attended a tea party hosted by the ever-exciteable Jess of Ginger Twist fame and the talented Claire Devine at Pekoe Tea in Stockbridge. The party was to launch the tea hat collection patterns created by Claire which were knit using Jess’s yarn.

The event was a sell-out, and those who paid extra for a pattern and yarn joined together with the virtual world in casting on a tea collection hat. Having enough on my plate at the moment, I chose not to join the knit along. There was still plenty to entertain though. I brought along my current knitting project and settled down to knit with friends. The evening included tea cocktails (as I was driving I was unable to partake in this), a selection of tea and macarons.  We were also given a whistle stop tour in tea education and had the chance to try on the collection of hats. It was a rather an interesting evening in great company.
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Festival Madness

Yes … the festival activities of August!

Life has been rather busy, especially work and the last thing I really feel like doing after a day’s work is sitting and writing, even if for pleasure.

Back to August. This year neither Rod nor I had much appetite for festival activities. Don’t get me wrong, I love that the world comes to Edinburgh, but some years I’m just not in the mood for it. This year Rod and I made it to one show together – a show by John Lloyd (man behind QI, Blackadder, etc). John Lloyd is a big favourite of Rod’s and we went to see his show last year which we enjoyed very much so decided that we would see his new show this year. It was as good as we hoped, no, better. Following the show Rod had a chance to meet his idol again as he signed books in the foyer. Rod added a QI book to his collection as well as asking John to sign his copy of the complete Blackadder scripts which he already owned.

I went to one other show in the Fringe, Stitch in Time: a knitting cabaret by Melanie Gall. Her show was a collection of knitting songs from World War 1 and 2, interspersed with tales about the songs. Melanie filled the small venue with her amazing voice. She sang many a song about girls called Kitten busy knitting mittens. I guess there aren’t too many girls names that rhyme with knitting related activities or outputs. One of my favourite songs was about a girl imagining the man who would wear her knitted offerings. There was a combined sadness and romance to the song. The show also provided a bit of education. I had know idea that Lord Kitchener was the man behind the kitchener stitch.
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I ended up having a bit of a fibre filled weekend following the cabaret show as I went to the Pringle exhibition at the Museum of Scotland. There was some very glamorous looking knits with intricate beadwork to greet the visitor on entering the exhibition.
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There were examples of more traditional pieces, more along the lines of what I expected to see.
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But also modern designs too.
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I particularly favoured the textured Knits.
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Below is a particular favourite.
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I didn’t realise that Pringle produced underwear. I rather loved this fine little vest.
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The Pringle exhibition was in quite a small room, but it was packed with an interesting history of the company. Pringle produced a lot more variety than I realised.

I decided to stay in the Museum and seek out other fibre related exhibits. I rarely spend time in the Museum of Scotland, preferring the older Royal Museum next door.

I discovered quite a reasonable selection of pieces on display ranging from spinning to weaving and knitting.
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I really ought to spend a bit more time in this side of the museum, but sadly I find the layout quite off putting so never venture too far in.

I had heard from a friend about an interesting exhibition at the Dovecot so strolled along there next. First I discovered another fibre related exhibition at the Dovecot that I had not expected relating to Bernat Klein. There was a mix of yarn, textiles and painting in all manner of bright colours. Not necessarily to my taste, but interesting all the same.
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I then got to the exhibition I was really there to see, Aggregations by Kwang Young Chun. His artworks were individual tiny little boxes wrapped in paper and tied with string then glued together into a larger piece of artwork. The time that has gone into each piece is clear to see. I was a bit click happy at this exhibition , but the artwork really caught my eye.
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My fibre filled month was rounded off by an evening spent at a work colleague’s house. She was hosting Janet Renouf-Miller on her Knit 1 Bike 1 cycle tour around Scotland. In exchange for food or a bed Janet was providing workshops as she cycled her way around the country. As a group we didn’t really need a workshop so instead Janet did an advice clinic and presented her journey so far. Her story was interesting and her crocheted creations rather impressive given she was not following any patterns.
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We had a lovely evening and I could have chatted with Janet for much longer but darkness was setting in and Janet needed to cycle on to her bed for the night.

August was not your traditional festival-filled month, but who said it had to be 😀

Paying our Respects

Last year we went on a camping trip to Ypres and The Somme to visit WW1 graves, memorials and battle sites. It was so good we decided to return to The Somme this year, and add a little day trip to Ypres, particularly to watch the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. Last year we saw the Last Post three times. Twice whilst we camped in Ypres and a return trip from France to see it one more time.

When we decided to return to France for a camping trip, we thought it would be pretty great if we were able to take part in the Last Post ceremony and lay a wreath at the Menin Gate. We got to thinking that perhaps laying a wreath for the rugby club (Sale Sharks) we follow would be a good way to give something back too so Rod got started on making enquiries.

We were referred to Sale FC Rugby Club where Sales Sharks roots are based and the club got to work in digging into their archives and pulling out what they could in relation to players who were with the club during WW1.

Our next step was to arrange for a wreath to be made. Rod made contact with the Lady Haigh Poppy Factory in Edinburgh. When it was ready we popped in to collect it as the factory is not too far from us.

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Wreath paid for, we asked if there was any opportunity for a tour. We were in luck and one of the staff downed tools to give us a bit of history to the charity and then walk us through the process of making poppies. We were introduced to the staff at each station, all injured ex-servicemen. We saw the processes for the different poppy products they make and were even tasked with forming a stick on poppy with the different components ourselves. I wonder where my little poppy contribution will end up. We were each given a little poppy to take away at the end of the tour. 

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I am very grateful for the men to have allowed us this behind the scenes tour and we’ve been invited back … as long as we bring biscuits.

A few weeks later we booked a trip down to Sale so that we could meet the team we had been liaising with at the club. We took the wreath with us to take some pictures so that we could form a picture story of the wreath’s journey.

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The club gave us a club tie and shield at the end of our meeting and these joined us on the trip to France and Belgium.

We the nipped by the AJ Bell Stadium to show the Sharks connection too.

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Finally, the day arrived for us to leave Edinburgh and make our way to France. The car was packed and the journey from Edinburgh to The Somme saw me with the wreath on my knees for the whole journey.

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We arrived in France on the Thursday and the last post ceremony, at the Menin Gate in Ypres, was taking place on the Friday. Thursday was reserved for pitching the tent, shopping and we didn’t venture too far, rather taking the chance to relax after such a long journey.

On Friday we travelled towards Ypres, stopping at a few memorials, battle sites and graveyards along the way. The Last Post ceremony was fast approaching so we headed into the town of Ypres and parked up.

We had a stroll around the Menin Gate then found the best place for our friends Gwen and Campbell to watch the ceremony.

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We introduced ourselves to the men who oversee the ceremony. We had arrived early to ensure Gwen and Campbell found a good place to watch everything so this meant we had a bit of a wait.

People started filling the gate. There was the expectant chatter filling the arches and I was starting to feel a bit nervous. The Master of Ceremonies came over to speak to the six of us (three pairs) to explain how the ceremony would run and what we needed to do. He also said that he needed to find somebody to read the exhortation. Rod volunteered. While we waited the Master of Ceremonies told us a rather shocking fact. The ceremony had taken place a little over 30,000 times … not even enough for each name that is listed on the Menin Gate. Really puts the scale of deaths into perspective.

Finally it was time for the ceremony to begin. I was so focussed on what I needed to do the whole thing was a mash of bugles, a few words spoken, singing from a school choir and the silence of a crowd. Thankfully I’d seen the ceremony three times before so didn’t mind not absorbing it all fully.

I did listen to Rod read out the Exhortation. I had to pay attention to that! This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for him. He did very well, he was loud and clear and I am so proud of him.

We were second to walk through the gate and hang our wreath on the display stand. I felt as though my body was heavy and yet I felt as if I floated across the walkway and up the steps. We struggled with hanging the wreath but figured it out in what felt like an agonising eternity. We stepped back, we bowed our heads then turned and walked back. We were done.

As much as I don’t really remember the whole ceremony, it will also stay with me for a lifetime and I feel very privileged to have been able to participate in this act of remembrance.

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Whilst in France and Belgium we were armed with a list of former Sale FC Rugby Club players who had been killed during WW1. We did a bit of research and sought out as many of the players as we could.

We tracked down eight of the men out of the 18 who had played for Sale FC Rugby and made the ultimate sacrifice:

*  Charles Edward BEAUSIRE (Ypres Menin Gate Memorial)
*  Henry BELL (Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme)
*  Robert BLACKSTOCK (Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery, Picardie)
*  Stephen BROADMEADOW (Thiepval Memorial, Somme)
*  Sam KENWORTHY (Guillemont Road Cemetery, Guillemont)
*  Edward KINGSLEY (LYNCH) (Ypres Menin Gate Memorial)
*  Robert John SMITH (Aveluy Communal Cemetery Extension, Aveluy)
*  Eric James WOODHEAD (Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Mametz)

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The whole trip came to a conclusion on Saturday, 5 September. Unfortunately I was not able to take part in the final element, I was busy welcoming new international students. Rod went down to Sale FC Rugby Club for the opening game of the season. He was armed with prints of all of the photos I had taken on the trip in relation to the players we were able to find and the ceremony at the Menin Gate, all of the photos on a memory stick and a collage of photos framed.

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Rod was treated as guest of honour with full hospitality. He formally presented the club with the pictures and was invited to read the exhortation. As a thanks in return Rod was presented with a signed Barbarians top.

What started out as a little idea grew to be rather a big deal for the club and they were very grateful (and perhaps a touch bemused at our daftness).

Camping Trip Number One of 2015

Finally, the weather is warming up a little. With the weekend approaching, and no plans we decided to take our first camping trip of the year. A favoured camping destination has become Northumberland. It’s not too far away from Edinburgh so an ideal weekend trip, and there’s plenty to see and do in the area.

Our usual choice in campsite was full, and Northumberland campsites were largely full or rather expensive,  but eventually Rod found us a pitch. We had to go for a standard pitch as the electric hook-ups were all booked, but as we were only going to be away for two nights we didn’t mind.

Thursday night we packed the Mini up and Friday afternoon Rod met me at work and we headed down the A1. We arrived the site and pitched our small tent by around 7.30. Our small tent takes no time to set up so we nipped to the supermarket in Alnwick then onto Seahouses (or Seahorses as we prefer to call it) for dinner at a wonderful Indian restaurant.

After dinner we went down to the harbour to look at the boat trips, a possibility for Saturday and we were greeted with this beautiful light behind Bamburgh Castle.

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We were ready to head back to the tent but took a little detour into Beadnell. What a beautiful beach.

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As we wound our way along the country lanes we caught a beautiful sunset. The sun had turned the field to gold.

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Saturday morning we headed further south to Souter Lighthouse. Since we got National Trust membership this has been on my list of places to visit. We arrived a little before it opened so we had a quick walk. Just next to the lighthouse there was a kite festival/demonstration taking place. We returned to the lighthouse for breakfast then made our way in to explore the building.

We’ve visited a couple of lighthouses, but I think Souter has become my favourite. We were able to walk around at our own pace rather than take a guided tour, and then at the top of the lighthouse there was a guide to give a little talk. All very interesting.

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Of course, the knitter in me couldn’t miss spotting the handknit socks in the fireplace of the light keeper’s cottage.

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We returned to Seahouses in the afternoon and managed to book onto a trip to Longstone Island. We boarded our boat and we were surrounded by guillemots and puffins on route to the island. It was amazing watching the birds flapping furiously across the sky, diving into the water or calmly floating on the surface of the sea.

At Longstone Island we were free to explore for a short period of time. We watched a couple of seals sunning themselves, then progressed onto Longstone Lighthouse.

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At the lighthouse we noticed a few seals in the water. One in particular put on a bit of a show for the crowd, I’m sure he loved the attention.

We returned to the boat ready for the trip back to Seahouses and on the trip we saw many more puffins. I’m sad I wasn’t able to capture a picture of any puffins, they were just too quick!

Saturday evening we walked to a pub not too far from the campsite, the Cottage Inn. What a great find. The food was delicious, the drinks a good price and there was a good beer garden.

Sunday morning we packed up and made our way to another National Trust property, Cragside. We explored each room, and as usual, the kitchen area was a bit of a favourite. I can’t explain why kitchens are a favourite. I can’t cook. I don’t cook. My fascination with windows also continues.

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We took the scenic drive around the grounds then started our journey north.

Whilst on route we spotted a sign for the honey farm. We’ve passed this place a few times but it’s always been closed. This time we were in luck. We visited the little museum, saw a hive at word and may have bought some honey mustard and honey ice cream 😋

We nipped in to see Dan the coffee man at his roasterie then progressed to a great little bar in Berwick called The Curfew. It’s down a little alley, the sort of alley you’d walk straight past. We had a lovely evening but soon home was calling … why does work get in the way of life?!

Socks

I recently completed my third ever pair of hand knit socks and I am very pleased with them.

They are certainly an improvement on when I started knitting socks. My first attempt was a recommended pattern, Spice Man and some inherited plain blue sock yarn. I had double pointed needles, cast on and knit. So far so good … except it wasn’t good. I had a terrible ladder up each side of the socks. I bought a couple of circular needles and continued. Yes, there was an improvement, but I was still left with the original ugly ladders. I put the sock down and stopped. My heart wasn’t in this project. I went on to knit other things. I eventually frogged that sad little partial sock and was given a great tip – knit socks you really want to. I realised that I wasn’t fond of the yarn so had no desire to try and knit those socks again. I passed the yarn on to somebody else. The pattern is still useful in that it has good basic measurements for knitting socks that I’m told can be adapted to many sock patterns.

My next attempt was a wonderful match of pattern and yarn. I LOVED the yarn, the pattern was a delight to knit. Finally, I had a pair of socks. They are a little on the tight side, but nonetheless I am pleased.

My next sock attempt was a pattern test. My first ever pattern test. I powered through whilst on holiday. I faced constant distractions and made many mistakes. The yarn wasn’t quite right for the project – the socks were tight and the yarn had very little give.

The next pair of socks were made from a yarn I bought from a dyer in the US. I fell in love with its name – World Map. I went for a pattern that was the perfect match. Every colour change was to be purled. I purled the green so the socks became a topographical map.

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The colour changes were quite subtle and so it was quite hard to sometimes see where I needed to switch stitch. I love the idea of the pattern and yarn, but if I were to do a project like this again I’d want more obvious colour changes and I’d probably use a different plain sock pattern and just adopt the purled colour change into that particular pattern.

This leads me to my latest finished socks.

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They’re still not quite perfect, but I am still very pleased with the end result. I bought the yarn at the very first Indie Burgh Yarn Crawl. I loved the colours and they reminded me a little of those images of cherry blossom on a pale blue background. The colours are actually to represent Ginger Twist Studio, Be Inspired Fibres and Kathy’s Knits. I decided the yarn should become socks, and then I found a pattern for tabi socks. Yes, yarn and pattern are a fabulously pleasing combination.

This pattern had and easy to remember pattern repeat and they were quick to knit.

I’m almost too scared to wear the final result. They seem too pretty to wear or hide in shoes. I’ll get over that 😄

I’m now onto knitting pair of socks number four. I found a sweet little pattern specifically created for those 50g skeins of Koigu.

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The pattern is easy enough to remember, the yarn is pretty, but I’m not sure any socks will ever be as great as my cute little tabis.

Elephants

I’ve always loved elephants, but since I got together with Rod they have become even more important to me,. Rod grew up in Kenya so to him, elephants are a little piece of home. He even used to run a bar in Nairobi called The Pink Elephant. Not long after we got together I asked my friend Mel if she would knit me a pink Elijah if I bought the pattern for her, followed shortly by a request to knit another in grey. I wanted to surprise Rod with a pink elephant,  his own little mascot. I fell in love with Elijah and wanted one of my own too. This was all before I had the ability to knit, and in exchange I sent Mel a box of goodies,  including some lovely yarns. Mel did a fabulous job on our elephants and Pink and Elijah often join us on our travels, sometimes posing for photos along the way.

More recently my Aunt and Uncle, seeing our elephants, asked if I would knit them each an elephant. Of course, now I can knit, but at the time of asking was still a bit scared of anything that looked vaguely complicated so gave a non-committal shrug. I stored the request for elephants, promised myself I’d make the elephants when I was able.

At the start of the year I decided to match as much of my stash with patterns as possible.  This was difficult but enjoyable all the same and in the matching process I decided that a small skein of Yarn Yard’s Clan in a lovely mottled purple would become an Elijah.  I worked my way through a few progjects and soon Elijah could no longer be resisted … I was ready to tackle Elijah. 

I had to look at the instructions to start Elijah,  a lighter circular cast on, but couldn’t work it out so resorted to a YouTube video for help. Once I got the cast on out of the way I was soon flying. I worked on the head whilst watching a film
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And then before I knew it Elijah had formed a body
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Legs
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Arms
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And ears
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I even added a tail, even though the pattern doesn’t, by threading six 30cm strands of yarn at bottom level, plaiting them and tying in a knot.
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I loved knitting this little elephant, even if he was a bit fiddly in places. I love this flump so much I want to keep him, I was even encouraged to by friends, but I stayed strong. I named the elephant Tembo, Swahili for elephant,  and decided that he would become Uncle Geoff’s. I have a pale blue sparkly yarn coming over from Australia in August, thanks to a lovely friend, which will become Aunty Anne’s Elijah,  although I think this one will be a girl. Maybe she should be renamed Elle and have a little flower over her ear just to make sure everybody knows she is a girl. Hmmm … maybe Tembo should have a little bow tie.

I have now acquired another couple of skeins of Yarn Yard’s Clan, in pale green and peach, from a fellow knitter and Elijah fan and have already decided that the green skein is going to become a surprise Elijah for a friend living in Martha’s Vineyard who sponsors an elephant at the DSWT. Rod then said he needed another elephant,  one for his desk, so I think little Peaches will go to Rod.

Ive never knit any project more than once,  but I now have three more Elijah’s lined up and I can’t wait to get on with them. However,  in an attempt to not tire myself of the project I didn’t rush straight into knitting another elephant and instead went for some socks … but I’m dreaming of Elijah. This really is a great project.

Indie Burgh Yarn Crawl

Jess, owner of one of my favourite local yarn stores, first let me into the secret of the Indie Burgh Yarn Crawl last year. She had the vision but not a name. Lots of words but nothing that pulled together so she asked for some suggestions. I can’t believe my title was chosen.

Of course I joined in the fun of IBYC 2014 with a few of my knitty friends. We had a great time and I wondered if the event might run again. I am pleased to say that the event was confirmed and expanded upon. IBYC 2015 spanned the whole weekend with yarn shops Ginger Twist, Be Inspired and Kathy’s Knits all participating again along with some workshops and a grand finale gathering at Safari Lounge.

Unfortunately I was working on the Saturday, but I had enough time to run up to GTS shortly after 11am. I couldn’t believe that there was already a queue of people outside waiting their turn very patiently to enter Jess’s little shop. GTS really is a little shop, but it is packed full of wonderful goodies to delight any knitter, especially her hand dyed yarn. Us knitters can be quite an orderly bunch when required. Every time one person squeezed out of the shop another squeezed in. I already had an idea about what I was after in GTS. Either her special dye lot for IBYC 2015 or another of her hand dyes. As I got to the front of the queue to enter the shop I spied the one-off colour, a lovely shade of purple. Decision made and as I entered the shop I picked up a skein, paid and had a brief chat with Jess and the wonderfully talented Claire Devine. I made my way out the shop and headed off to work for the day.

Sunday morning Rod had to finish off from yesterday’s work so I grabbed a lift from him up to Kathy’s Knits. I was rather surprised to see so few people in, but perhaps most people ran around yesterday or perhaps people were enjoying a bit of a lie in and would descend upon the shop a little later on. Kathy’s shop is quite local to me but must admit I’ve only been in a handful of times. Isn’t that terrible of me 😕 Kathy sells some really wonderful yarns, focusing primarily on British yarn. Her shop is full of temptation and I had no idea what would catch my eye. Temptation didn’t take too long to take hold. I thought Titus could be a contender, but then I spotted that Kathy had some Easy Knits in. Oh how I love the colours that Easy Knits produces. Right at the top of the pile were two skeins of a lovely denim blue. I picked them up, I squished them, Kathy told me they were new out. I just had to have them.

I walked up to Frederick Street to catch the bus up to Mei’s. I had just missed the bus and had half an hour to kill so stopped in to Hotel Chocolat to buy a hot chocolate. Maybe just missing that bus wasn’t so bad after all.

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Mei’s shop, Be Inspired Fibres was my final stop, the least local of my local yarn stores. Mei specialises in more luxurious yarns. I always struggle to make a choice in Be Inspired as it’s all so enticing and my budget doesn’t allow me to buy everything. I entered the shop to find it also wasn’t crazy busy. Sunday was clearly the best day to yarn crawl. I was able to wander around the shop at leisure. I jumped from yarn to yarn, overwhelmed by the choice. I finally settled on a skein of Fyberspates, a small ball of Ito Gima and a Madelinetosh Unicorn Tail.

Working yesterday, I didn’t get much chance to be outside so I enjoyed a walk back down the road (including a side visit to the museum).

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Although I’d already covered GTS on the crawl I stopped back in there. Business was steady but the place wasn’t packed so I was able to spend some time in the shop and chat.

Another successful Indie Burgh Yarn Crawl is over. I think it’s safe to say that this event is now firmly established in the knitting calendar. Gosh, we knitters are rather spoilt in Edinburgh.

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