I've finished* my first knitting project of the year - a pair of boot toppers using the instructions from the book 'Shetlandic Knitting' which I don't seem to have written about here yet (why not?). I bought it back in the summer, taken with it because it's the response of 3 Dutch women (who run a yarn shop in the Netherlands called Trollenwol that focuses on Scandinavian Knitting) to their experiences of Shetland. Their initial visit was to meet their suppliers, but they were inspired enough to come back and develop a book of patterns.
I'm always fascinated to see how other people respond to a place I know and love, and in this case it's a fruitful combination of Scandinavian techniques (including, but not exclusively, Shetland ones) with colours and motifs that reflect what they found in the Shetland landscape.
The boot toppers were simple and quick to knit (I chose a motif I found elsewhere) and quite satisfying for exactly those reasons. Mum thinks she'd like a few pairs and I'm happy to oblige, but it's also at the back of my mind that I need to find some projects that stretch me a bit more, and add to the fairly rudimentary skills that I've learnt so far. I'm not quite sure what I should start on (I'd like to knit a jumper but there's quite a lot of me for it to go round which makes it a bigger project than I currently fancy).
It might also be that I should find a knitting group to join, I keep reading about what a sociable activity it is, but whilst a few of my friends are knitters, none of them live nearby so this isn't my experience and I think I need someone a bit more advanced in the art to give me a push, and explain a few things.
Meanwhile mum and I also made our annual trip to the potteries (I'm inclined to say Stoke-On-Trent, but am not sure if that's quite correct). We visited Emma Bridgewater, which is clearly thriving but left us a bit disappointed. This is partly because the current range of patterns don't particularly inspire us, also because even for seconds in the sale some of the prices are eye wateringly high (£86 for a badly marked serving platter covered in lumps seems excessive). We didn't need anything, and there wasn't much in the impulse purchase range.
We miss the Spode factory which closed in 2008. It was an amazing place with a maze of rooms that started with plates slathered in gold and ended in the white room which was full of things which hadn't made it past the first quality control level. Undecorated china which cost pence and despite imperfections was excellent. It's what I bought when I first moved into my flat and I rather wish I'd kept it because it seemed indestructible.
Instead I committed myself to Burleigh's Asiatic Pheasant (mum was having a clear out, the chance for matching China seemed to good to pass up). Now I love this pattern, I love the factory shop, and I love it's history. Which is probably why I've managed to break or stain more of these plates then any other I've ever owned.
I lose track of what happens at the Middleport pottery where Burleigh has been based for well over 100 years, but every so often there seems to be news that it's been rescued again. It's looking good at the moment though, with a whole lot of little shops and studios producing all sorts of things on site. It's well worth visiting to see the place, support an excellent British manufacturer, and for me to replace my annual breakages (and maybe get some new things).
*Finished Knitting anyway, and passed them onto my mother for whom they are intended to weave in ends and generally dress them to her satisfaction. This isn't just laziness, or so I'm telling myself, it's so that they're the right fit for her boots...