A Knitter on the Road - Day 1: Discovering Fibre Treasures

(Day 1- Trip to London)

Authored by: Phyllis Howe

When you are fortunate enough to travel, one of the first things a knitter or a crochet enthusiast often does is check out the local yarn and notion-related stores.  It's always fun to see what other craft communities are up to, and there is also the chance that you just might discover a new yarn or technique.  In any event, you are sure to meet some lovely people. 

Upon a recent trip to London, I visited Loop, a popular store known for its collection of fine and interesting yarns and interesting haberdashery.  Online, I discovered they were hosting a class devoted to the art of embroidery and mending. I was intrigued.  I really enjoy embroidery, and when I learned that this practice could be combined with the practical chore of mending, I became curious and willing to enroll.  It should be called "Pretty Mending," I thought. So, I signed up and got the last class opening. 

The type of "mending" that was being taught is also a stand-alone craft on its own.  It can be used to make unique and fun things – such as toys and collectible objects.  Taught by Tomomi Mimura, who is an artist and the creator of the concept, it turned out to be 3 hours of great fun and learning. Tomomi Mimura currently lives near Tokyo. She is an artist and a creator of darning-embroidery. She has written three books on the subject, which are well worth knowing about.  She is also often on teaching tours and works with her interpreter/assistant. 


One of the pleasing things about this work is that it requires very few extra tools. All you need is an embroidery needle, a little hoop, and bits and pieces of yarn—and who among us doesn't have lots of leftover yarn

One of my favorite things about Great Britain is its reverence for needle arts.  A trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum will surely warm the heart of anyone who likes to explore the links between various cultures and handicrafts. This museum has a category devoted to the subject, along with interviews from fiber craft celebrities and a fabulous (and free) collection of 1940s knitting patterns that features free downloads of vintage patterns.     

Knitting was considered a "must-do" in the 1940s, when the world was at war, and everyone was expected to knit for the troops.  Explore this section of free vintage patterns and see how universal and relevant these vintage patterns still are today.  This great-looking helmet is knit with a fingering-weight yarn. According to the pattern notes: "This design was made with ear flaps to enable good hearing during telephone calls." (You can bet the original designer never dreamed how useful this would be with "smart" phones.) In the "olden days," this would probably have been done in a conservative color and required handwashing.  The pattern still works well, but today, you can use a great yarn like Terra and have a choice of over 47 colors. (Personally, I think I'd choose Sunset with this one.) 

 Free Vintage Pattern & Terra ?unset? src=

The Museum also has ongoing dialogues and contributions from contemporary designers. A recent collaboration was with Katie Jones, a young "maker" who encourages her followers to have fun and express themselves with color. This "folk-inspired" collar was made with a DK-weight yarn. Just imagine how remarkable this would be with Viva, a DK-weight yarn that comes in 80 colors. The black background ensures that all colors pop like crazy.

DK-weight yarn

Find the free pattern here!

So, the next time you are "on the road" and looking for inspiration, be sure to Google and/or check out various museums, local stores, or craft fairs. You never know what you might find that will lead you on a whole new craft adventure—and make you some new friends.