Supper last night certainly lived up to York's latest accolade, being voted on Trip Advisor the best destination for food and wine in the UK and the 5th in the whole world! Yaaaaaay!
There's something very comforting and nurturing about eating food you haven't cooked yourself. Thankfully, despite my cold, the taste buds were still able to do justice to the succession of scrumptious dishes Janet and Mark put in front of us. First up was a pearl barley salad with pomegranate seeds and herbs (sadly forgot to take picture, at this point - too busy catching up and quaffing copious quantities of wine), then a lentil galette, served with roasted squash and other root veggies. Next came an apple tarte tatin with cream/creme fraiche, finishing with a beautifully ripe cheese brought from France and washed down with Port. Absolutely yummy!
It was great to catch up with family news and I specially love hearing different music - last night Elbow, Noah and the Whale and Amy Winehouse (among many others) provided the backdrop to the evening. One of the reasons Spotify appeals to me is that friends can send me music I wouldn't normally listen to, constantly broadening musical horizons.
Anyway I'm so glad I didn't let the cold get the upper hand, there's nothing better than an evening chewing the fat with friends to banish the autumn blues. They say that laughing is good for your health and we certainly did a lot of that. Janet mentioned that when the weather turns cold, she still gives Almanac an airing - the cover sweater of Knits for all Seasons designed nearly twenty years ago. I love hearing stories of sweaters from my back catalogue still being worn, proving that all those years spent absorbing the Ralph Lauren ethos of enduring style over fleeting fashion weren't wasted.
Being the cat buff that I am, I can't finish without mentioning Benny - a cat of mature years who's been a bit of an adventurer and definitely knows his own mind. Mark and Janet used to live in our street and Benny also, but not with them. He actually lived with another family and for reasons known only to himself, decided to move over the road and took up residence with Mark and Janet before they moved. Since then he's lived happily with Janet's parents in a different town altogether when the builders were in their new home, but has finally quit the wanderlust and settled down in their new house. A feline Gulliver who enjoys a bit of variety in life and knows his own mind - like all cats I suppose. It was good to see him again.
I haven't revisited my Ask Jean archive for more than a year... where does the time go? So here are a couple of useful frequently-asked questions, first one about hand felting and the second about keeping your stash safe from the dreaded clothes moth.
I'm not a big fan of felted objects as I have a thing about the billiard board handle, but I often use felt as a detail for hats, in fact my fave hat which I wear all the time sports a felted flower.
Having said that on our recent knitters' tour to Ireland, I fell in love with a fabulous felted shawl. I was teaching a workshop at Powerscourt in Dublin. This is no ordinary shopping mall, but a real centre of excellence for fashion, arts, crafts and interiors and also home to This is Knit,atop-class wool shop. As I was leaving after my workshop I noticed a gaggle of my students in the nearby craft collective. They were all excitedly raving about a rail of felted shawls, each one crying out to be bought with its vibrant yet subt…
I recently picked up my needles again for the first time in more than a year. I've tried to knit before, but found it so stressful it was counterproductive. Not for me the calming effect it has on most knitters. The hypnotic smooth repetition of rows, the colours, textures and stitches combining as if by magic to form an unfolding work of art before one's eyes. Strange as it may sound to those who knit for pleasure, I associate knitting with deadlines for books and magazines. It was even worse when I did production and two collections a year for both myself and other large design houses. Deadlines were ever-looming, forcing me to push myself to the limit to create my signature knits, featuring both technical interest and classic, timeless style. In the past I've tied myself in knots over the years making sure the patterns were as near to perfect as could be, sometimes bringing on excruciating bouts of sciatica.
So.. all this stopped couple of years ago when I was diagnosed…
Rowan has been a part of the fabric of my knitting life for thirty years now, and the mill has been a place for several personal milestones. I did my first ever workshop there, after Stephen Sheard started to feature my designs in the early 80s and my first TV appearance was at the mill when Selina Scott brought The Clothes Show to Rowan and they filmed my workshop for the programme.
I almost feel Rowan yarns run in my blood - when I use it I feel inexplicably confident that the pattern will work. It's not just the gorgeous colours and fabulous yarn qualities, it's the way that the company has always blazed an exciting trail. In the beginning you could almost see the rank and file of the staid and stolid Northern woollen mills wagging their fingers and predicting Rowan's demise - a flash in the pan, their new-fangled ideas gone with them.
Well I'm glad to say the fibre fishwife faction were completely wrong and in fact Rowan have prevailed and sadly it's the mil…