Wednesday 21 October 2015

Knitaway in Blackpool

Last weekend, I went to Blackpool for a knitting weekend with eight friends from the Huddersfield branch of the Knitting & Crochet Guild.  It was great - we had a wonderful time.   Lots of knitting , lots of chatting,  and we were really well looked after by Paula Chew at the Westcliffe Hotel.   (Not to be confused with the Westcliff Hotel, Blackpool, which proclaims "we welcome stag and hen parties".)  

Paula runs knitting holidays where she provides workshops, yarn shopping trips and other knitty activities, but we did our own workshops.  Marie led a workshop on brioche knitting (a re-run of the one she did at the Guild Convention in July, since none of the rest of us had been to that one).  We worked through a small brioche project - either a cup-holder or a wrist-warmer.  Mine's going to be a wrist-warmer.

My brioche knitting, warming my wrist

Margaret taught us how to do entrelac, which I have not tried before. The project Margaret set us was a small pouch (for stitch holders, or whatever), though I haven't got mine finished.  I'm glad to have tried entrelac - I hadn't realised before that the individual rectangles are not square.  In the pattern we were following, they are 10 stitches by 10 rows, but stocking stitch is wider than it is long.  So the woven effect is partly because the rectangles don't want to lie flat.  Not a very profound observation, but something I didn't know until I tried it.

Entrelac in progress 

I did the third workshop, on slip-stitch patterns.  I had swatches of 8 or 9 stitch patterns, some in just one colour and some in two colours, swapping after every two rows, so that people could try any that they liked the look of. I had borrowed a linen stitch scarf from my friend Steph, with the colour changing every row, which looks wonderful. But although linen stitch can look very good, it is a lot of work - it is very compact and dense.

Linen stitch swatches and scarf

I also took my Old Moor sweater that I knitted four years ago, to show the bands of Woven Transverse Herringbone - another stitch that is a lot of work, but can look very good.

Detail of Woven Transverse Herringbone in Louisa Harding's Old Moor 

Some of the other stitch patterns I had found give a lovely thick soft fabric, and there are some nice effects in two colours.  Marie made a little bag (for her car keys?) in Slip Stitch Honeycomb - a very pretty pattern in two colours.
Marie's Slip-stitch Honeycomb bag

Slip-Stitch Honeycomb is one of my favourites, too - I wrote last week  about a test piece for a cushion, which in fact uses both sides of the stitch pattern.   One side looks better in two colours, but the other side looks better if you're only using one.  And I've made a lot of progress with the full-size cushion:

Slip-stitch Honeycomb cushion, in progress

 So we sat in Paula's lounge and knitted and chatted and were offered tea, coffee and food regularly.  And there are current knitting magazines to read, and knitting books everywhere. And Paula has a little shop at the front of the hotel, so that if you haven't got the right needles or need some nicer ones, or run out of yarn, they are right there for you.  (Four members of the party spent a lot of time discussing the Opal Yarns Advent Calendar in the shop, and finally devised an incredibly complicated way of sharing it, involving drawing lots for the individual days, setting up a Facebook group, and rendez-vous every week during December to pass it on.)

And to get the full sea-side experience, Paula sent us off to a fish-and-chip restaurant on Saturday night, Seniors in Thornton, which won "Best Fish and Chip Shop in the U.K." in 2012.   (I don't actually like fish-and-chips, but it does other fish dishes too which are very good.)

We didn't see very much of the sea, although the sea front is only 100 yards from the Westcliffe, but I did go for a walk along the promenade on Friday afternoon, and set foot on the beach - if you 're at the sea-side, you ought to go on the beach if you can.  It was almost empty, apart from a man fishing at the water's edge.  

And of course, the Blackpool Illuminations were on.  They have been an annual event for a long, long time - I remember seeing them when  I was a child.  There are 6 miles of them along the sea front, though I only saw a short stretch near the hotel, with some of the tableaux  - moving images made by light bulbs going on and off.  Some of them seem similar in style to the ones I saw decades ago, though I remember them being all in white, rather than colour.  

The Blackpool trams run along the sea-front, next to the tableaux, and one or two of the trams are also illuminated.

Illuminated tram

It's a very popular event  - quite odd, in these days of amazing CGI effects.  There are slow-moving cars driving along the promenade all evening, as well as people in the trams and walking.  (Although most of our party preferred to stay in the hotel with a bottle of wine, knitting.)

The promenade, with Blackpool Tower in the distance

Altogether, it was a really good weekend.  We are already planning next year's Knitway at the Westcliffe.  Thanks very much, Paula.


  1. Hi Barbara, I've been hoping to contact you and hoping you can help me. I saw your photo of your Hendersons bottles (2011 I think !). I'm a painter in Sheffield and its a project for charity. All I would need from you is a photo. If you would be willing to email me, I can explain more. Many thanks, Victoria my email is :

  2. Hi Barbara!

    My name's Estelle and I work at Blogging Edge where we run campaigns for bloggers and brands to work together. We're currently running a knitting challenge that I thought you might like to get involved with, to win some knitting goodies worth £60. If you'd like the details, please drop me an email at :)


  3. Thanks Barbara, it was great fun! Well done for suggesting it and organising us all so well. Roll on 2016!

  4. Barbara, I'm interested to see your post including entrelac. Do you know anything the history of entrelac? I can find very little on the Internet, but I'm interested to find when it was first used. Cath.

    1. Sorry - I don't know anything about the history of entrelac. Would be interesting to know.

  5. Thank you Barbara, then I will start to see if I can dig any anything up. Cath

  6. Barbara, I've done a little bit of digging, this is broadly what I have found. June Hemmonds Hiatt "Principles of Knitting" shows a photo of a Finnish entrelac stocking, dated 1890. In "Knitting around the world" Lela Nargi says that entrelac is "widely evidenced in Scandinavia generally", especially Finland (particularly Tavastland and Osterbotten regions) - where it is known as 'konttineule', based on 'kontti', which seems to be birch bark weaving. There is mention of photos of 19th C entrelac stockings, but no pictures. I assume then that there is a good chance that it started in Scandinavia, and there is good evidence for at least 125 years in Finland. I looked in Mary Thomas's Knitting Book (1938), and entrelac is not mentioned (or at least, I couldn't find it), although she talks about 'geometric knitting', which I take to be intarsia. Obviously, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but it may be that entrelac was not widely known in the UK at that time, otherwise I would have thought it likely that she would mention it. My initial thoughts about entrelac was whether it would be appropriate for me to be knitting it while doing 1940s reenactment then I will take it as OK to be doing a blanket or throw, as entrelac was clearly around well before then - whether I will be using suitable yarn for the 1940s remains to be seen. Cath

    1. Thanks for the information about entrelac. I suppose that entrelac might be a good way to make something out of odds and ends of wool? I think that in the 1940s, knitting wool was so scarce due to clothes rationing that the first consideration was to get maximum benefit out of a small weight of new wool, or to re-use unravelled wool. I shall think of you knitting in your 1940s clothes - with a turban, maybe?

  7. Thanks for that Barbara, that is a very good point. I will save up odds and ends to make it look more authentic. Yes, a turban with my dungarees as a 'working boatwoman' on the canal with our historic boat.


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