Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Radcliffe Village Show and Other Assorted Bits

For the second year running the ladies of the Radcliffe Village knitting club invited me to judge their knitting (and this year crochet) competition! I am thrilled to do this, it's a nice little outing and it feels so very..... out of place.... for me to be doing this. The rest of my life is spent on Mansfield Road which I love, hanging around with people at the pub, swearing a lot and generally being a bit of a numbskull and to be invited to somewhere so lovely and homely and British in a professional capacity is, to be honest, a little bit mind blowing. Haha. You can read about last year's trip here if you're interested. This year, we knew where we were going but we were still only just on time. We were ushered into the judging hall and we were off! Last year the competition was just for scarves (adults and childrens categories). This year there were four categories: crochet blankets, knitted hats, knitted and crochet toys and then a kids category (that nobody entered sadly).

The skill on display here was truly awesome. Amazing things being made so near to where we are. There's a thing that I do, I'm sure it's not a normal thing, but I often end up thinking about what other people are doing - like right now, there will be people getting married in the world, or somebody leaving a job, or somebody wiping their bum or eating an orange, or crying or giving birth or.... whatever. I think about it quite a lot. But right now, this very second, somebody pretty near you is creating something amazing. It might be knitted or crochet or woven or spun or woodworked or painted or drawn or sung or danced, but somewhere near you, or not even near you, somebody on the other side of the world right now is doing something that you love. Imagine what you might speak about if you could meet them and then communicate. I wonder what you'd learn. Or what they'd learn. Or whether you'd hate eachother, or love eachother. Or who they might introduce you to. Anyway, in Radcliffe, which is pretty near us and I'm sure we could communicate if we met, there are lots of awesome things being made. Shut up Eleanor, get on with the blog. Haha.

This is what greeted me, how gorgeous is that?! 

I started with the crochet blankets. I went from one end to the other looking at each blanket as it came. I had no idea what I was looking for at first but that slowly became clear as I went along. The first thing, did I like the design? The colours? Honestly, there was beauty in each one and the designs were obviously chosen with much love, but there's a balance to a truly beautiful thing isn't there? A balance between colour and texture. Then I looked for interesting things. Which meant, I'm afraid, that the good old granny square was out. I love a granny square, you know this, but I couldn't allow that to win. That narrowed my pile down. And finally, I looked for finishing. I didn't want to see any ends and the border had to sit straight and be evenly picked up all along. This left me with three blankets. I chose the winner in the end because technically, out of the three, it was the most difficult to make, being all in one instead of squares. There was a lot of counting to that pattern and I know I couldn't be bothered.... ;) I loved the one that came second because of the colours which were just so unusual and the finishing which was spot on but I couldn't allowed a granny stripe to win even though I had Lucy in my head saying 'Go On ThAt'S jUsT ScRuMpTiOuS!' or something like that. haha.  And the third was just beautifully sewn together, and I liked the design but I felt like the colours were just a little jarring. The cute little bow design in popcorn stitch were just the cutest though!

Chris took the photos - I'd have got more detail of the exciting things but there was more to judge!

The next thing I looked at were the hats. So many entries! So many bloody lovely entries. Of course, it was most important that these fitted as actual hats so either me or Chris tried them on and it meant that some couldn't get through. After that I chose based on colour and design and how these worked together. And finally finishing. Which meant that I ended up choosing the thing that first caught my eye as the winner - a lovely design, well chosen colours, fitted as a hat and the finishing was superb, AND IT WAS A DOG! Once again, Chris took the photos so there aren't as many details as I'd enjoy.... but they're here anyway:

 The next hat was just so beautiful I couldn't resist. A proper old fashioned bonnet type affair with a bit of a crochet edge. I wasn't sure, given that the hats had to be knitted, whether I could allow this to win but it deffo had to come second. So well finished and such a pretty little design. And the third prize went to the most original - I recognised it immediately as a Minecraft character even though I've never seen Minecraft (played it?! See! I don't even know what it bloody is! I did this with Frozen before I saw it too, I knew more about Anna and Elsa's wardrobe than I did about my own at one point...). It was really nicely finished of course, as neat on the back as it was on the front and I have a soft spot for a stocking cap. Ahhhh.

And finally, I judged the soft toy competition. I must admit I wasn't looking forward to this as much because I don't really do soft toys.... Just not my thing. I love knitting and crochet for the practicality and toys just don't seem practical, unless of course you have kiddy winks.... Anyway, the one that caught my eye from over the table was the parrot. But as soon as I moved around to start the run through I knew I'd found a winner because I literally fell in love. Look:

How gorgeous is that?! I've been told it's a mouse since but there's something about his eyes that makes me think he's more of a racoon. A funny coloured raccoon. I loved the fact that the maker had combined knitting and crochet, and if you know me you'll know that I usually hate that but they'd both been used where they could make the best effect and the buttons were bloody perfect. But most of all....


Again, the finishing was spot on but the design and the choice of colours in the yarn, buttons, eyes and all the bits was just spot on. He also wasn't overstuffed which is a trap I fall into a lot and probably half the reason I don't like toys... Gorgeous. So he won:

The second prize went to this.... flower baby? I loved how modern and old fashioned the colour and design were at the same time. I can imagine a child from the 50's having this as well as a child from now. The yarn was cottony and obviously pretty posh and to be able to make a toy with a good tension and no baggy bits in that was quite a feat. Beautiful. But I couldn't let the parrot go without having some recognition because it was spot on! The colours! The wings! Those wings were made up of loads of little hand knitted and shaped feathers sewn carefully into place. There was a lot of work in that parrot there and some kid will be thrilled to have him.

Other highlights, but there wasn't enough time to photograph it because I like to give personalised feedback on each item, were a diamond shaped blanket in deep browny-purples matched with cream, really unusual. A gorgeous textured tortoise with beautiful chain stitch swirls on top to make the pattern on her shell - I'm pretty sure that some of the yarn was handspun and the colours and textures were put together in a really lovely balanced way. A fabulous knitted campervan! I suspect the lady that makes that has a business because I saw a stall with some of those on it later on in the day - if it's you, let me know and we'll give you a showcase because your work was fab! And a gorgeous little 4ply baby bonnet, properly old fashioned and exactly the thing I'd put on a kid. Every entry was gorgeous, I'm only sad I can't remember them all this year because there were so many!

This was organised by the ladies of the knit and natter at Grange Hall in Radcliffe and I assume they still meet every Wednesday from 1.30pm to 3pm (let me know if that's changed ladies!) and it sounds like they have a real exciting bunch of activities going on including a coffee morning in aid of male cancer research. Ladies, again, if you're reading this - let me know more details because I should have taken them on the day only I was horrendously hungover.... Haha. That's the way to do it!

So, now, onto the rest of the show and how lovely it was!

 Both days that they've chosen for this so far has been fabulous in terms of weather. It was SO warm and sunny and just beautiful. It's kind of strange to be there before it opens to the public - there's a really nice atmosphere and anticipation in the air. It opened with a short speech and a lovely brass band and then they were off.

People went to check who'd won in the many competitions - jams, pickles, chutneys, pizzas, bread, and victoria sponges. And on the other end of our table was the sewing bit. One of the classes was the upcycled category and there were some beautiful bits including a skirt made out of ties and a beautiful blanket made out of dresses and a sheet. But the thing that caught me eye was this:

A pair of jeans made into a cushion. We were both a bit taken aback - like why???? But the more I thought about it the more I realised that I could really do with one of those! Support for while you're knitting without getting too much in your way. AND it passed the touch test. This denim was as soft as a baby's bum! I don't know whether they'd done something special to it or whether it was just a very soft pair of jeans but I definitely thought that this should have won. It didn't... 

The hall was really busy: 

 An impromptu one way system was set up otherwise there would have been chaos!

Next we went into one of the side rooms where there was a display of those lovely ricketty fairground ride model things, the kind that they have in Wollaton Hall. And at the end of that room is one of those games where you pay 20p to pick a miniature sword out of some polystyrene and if it has a painted end then you get to win something which is where a plot first started to form in my mind. I won two and chose two packs of shower gel. More later.

There was a dog show:

But I remember from last year that Chris didn't want to stand around a watch. I could have spent all day there.

Then we headed over to the other end of the field where the fruit, veg and flower competitions had been judged and were being displayed. I think I took the most photographs here so I've put them in a board thing for you so as not to bore you too much. I was determined this year to enter a marrow but because of my haphazard gardening I ended up having to dig up my marrow plant and use my marrow about three weeks ago because the tomato plants that I'd planted without realising that they were tomato plants needed more space. I was sad about this on the day because it appears that there were only two marrows so I definitely would have won something. Haha. They were lovely marrows though!

We were thrilled that we saw that Debra, the lady who'd helped us judge because she was nothing to do with knitting or crochet, had won a few classes and placed in others. And those onions, mid row on the left were literally as big as my head. Absolutely amazing! They deffo deserved best in show.

There were some beautiful floral displays:

This one didn't win but it should have done. Maybe I should judge that next year too? Ha.

And then we bought some dougnuts, some beer and a little hand made cracker thing for my dad who recycles crackers every year. For some reason though I totally missed the fudge stall. I mean, I saw it, but I avoided it and I've no idea why. Only, when I went back inside to say goodbye to the knitting ladies they'd bought me a bottle of wine and some fudge to say thank you! HOW LOVELY! Honestly, they're a great bunch - a proper sense of humour and magnificent talent. If you're around Radcliffe and free on Wedneday afternoons you should definitely visit them. :)

Then we headed off to my house. I needed to get rid of a big chair that's been taking up space and become a bit of a dumping ground for years. I decided to dump it because it was third hand or so when we got it, and I got it to take to a carboot and get rid of ten years ago, and although comfy it was definitely worse for wear. But because that was going to the tip my mum got the great idea of sorting out the shed which had been a mess for a long time. If you've ever heard about my dad you'll know that he's a lot of a hoarder (I was going to say a bit of a hoarder but...) so his garage and many rooms in the house are full of stuff. This does everybody's head in and it was a real shock and surprise that he agreed to sort the shed out. Whilst we were sorting we found a load of old tent stuff - poles, shelters that aren't quite tents, fold up chairs - that sort of stuff. As well as some electrical bits that don't work and haven't for a decade and empty paint tins and broken toys. Anyway, suffice to say there was a big pile to take to the tip and an even bigger pile to take to the White Lion in Beeston for the refugees in Calais.

Having spoken to Jet at the party who is one of the organisers I'd decided that I needed to do something other than just feeling shit about it. So along with a lot of clothing and even more blankets and scarves and hats and gloves that I was never going to wear, and the tents and chairs and bbq items, with £50 of the profits from the shop party I went to ASDA and got some of the stuff that Jet was talking about. She had a great idea, think about the worst camping trip that you've ever been on and then imagine that you've lost your purse, that gives you some idea of what to give. So we bought £20 worth of pants (kids and adults), tonnes of shower gel and soap, toothpaste, rice, big woks than were on sale and tins of soup, beans and fruit that were on the cheap shelf. I really do think that we did the best that we could do but it just seemed to little for just over £50. We took it and everything else straight down to the White Lion where it was gratefully received and taken down to the storage. Please be aware that everybody that's collecting at the moment has asked for donations to be put on hold because they've been overhwelmed by the response and need to sort out more storage so bear with. I want to talk more about this, I really do, I feel really angry about some of the views that I've heard about this (including one from a tory councilor who's got to be one of the worst people I've ever met) but I am aware that it's political and I'll keep it off the blog. I am just so pleased that we as a shop could be involved in a tiny way in making somebody's hopelessly shit time a little bit better.

By the time we'd done that, and got our shopping done and got it all into the house I was inspired to sort out the dress that I'd been wearing all day. Verity got married a year and a half ago and I was one of the bridesmaids. She chose a really beautiful delicate colourscheme of cream and grey - it suited her so well but grey really isn't my thing. So not my thing that I actually ended up wearing silver. I made the dress myself and chose a yarn (I can't remember what it is sorry, and it's not from the shop for shame...) when Verity was there so she liked it too. The yarn was truly lovely and actually not that posh. It had like a polyester-y type french knitted core in a very bright silver and then there was a grey wool acrylic mix kind of shot through it, not really spun in but just hanging around in a fluffy kind of way. Haha. When I bought it I said I'd dye it eventually but I didn't have the spare money or time (it's a lot of yarn... needed lots of dye...) and because of the polyester content which I thought was undyeable. But when I went to Pikes the other day to get the buttons for my onesie, I asked the lady about it just out of interest and it turns out that it does dye! So I bought three packets of Violet and got on with it. It started out like this:
 And by the time it'd finished dying on the Monday morning it looked like this:

Whilst at ASDA I'd also picked up a bra because it was NEON yellowy/green but it came in a pack of two with a white bra and I hate white bras because I don't generally wear white (messy eater....) and they get gungey looking quickly don't they? So I chucked that in not knowing what it would do. A delightful Babie pink if you must know. Haha. It all worked out much better than it might have done so if you're thinking about dyeing something, bloody go for it.

By this time, and a bit of pottering in the garden, I was knackered so I sat down with a new crochet project and just crafted in front of the tv for the rest of the day. Chris made dinner, brought me drinks and crochet hooks when I needed them and mostly everybody left me to it which is just what I needed.

All together, this was a bloody fantastic weekend! Full of lots of supportive people and lots of excited people and lots of helpful people and just loads of brilliant people. I am still knackered, this summer really has been busy and it never really wound down in the way that summer usually does so I'm knackered from a knackering weekend and from a winter and then summer where I feel like I'm rushed off my feet. I am immensely grateful for all of this and it feels like the good kind of tired where you know that, once you get the chance, you'll be able to snuggle down into bed and sleep for 20 hours solid. Maybe at Christmas?!

Love Eleanor. xxxxxx

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