Skip to content

Knitting in Pembrokeshire: Life-Saving

21 October 2011

This one's for the family members: here I am in my subfusc: tie, robe with streamers, mortarboard in hand, etc.

Well, folks, you probably thought I was in the loony bin, based on my last post. I wasn’t; I was just reading some 18th century women’s poetry, and getting settled, and even – yes, that’s right – buying some furniture. [It arrives a week from today. This means that, on our 5th wedding anniversary, Mr. Trask and I will be testing our marriage via furniture assembly.]

More excitingly, I was in Wales last weekend, knitting with the fabulous Brenda Dayne and the brilliant Amy Singer. They put together a retreat on designing with lace that was inspiring and enlightening, as well as a whole lot of fun. The group was small by design, so that we each got a fair amount of attention from Amy and Brenda, and also got to know each other.

First, of course, I must tell you about Matriculation. This is an ancient required ceremony at the University of Oxford, in which new students dress up in funny clothes and wait for several hours for two Latin phrases to be spoken (and then for a group photo to be taken back at their college). I signed up for Plug+Play Pembrokeshire long before I had heard of Matriculation, and as it turns out one is required to be there. Required. As in, my group of freshers waited 45 minutes at our college while they woke up and dressed the one guy who didn’t show. So I had to arrange with Brenda and Amy to come a bit late. With all that, want to know a secret? I was lucky that slacker they routed out of bed wasn’t me.

Clouds in Wales

Clouds in Wales: is there anything prettier?

You see, I stayed up late the night before Matriculation. No, I was not reveling in Freshers’ Week; nor was I outlining my dissertation like a good girl. No, I was catching up on How I Met Your Mother via iTunes. You know how these things come over you. You’ve been working hard, and you think, in a petulant head-voice, “I deserve to stay up late being irresponsible.” Oh, and throughout the show I was thinking, “I can pack tomorrow before the ceremony. No problem.”

When I woke up at 7:45 a.m. for an 8:15 a.m. kickoff at my college, which is about a 20-minute walk from our flat, I was pretty sure I was done for. The one thing I had done was lay out my insane costume the night before, so I was able to throw on my suit, my shirt, my opaque tights, my robe, my mortarboard, and my flat black shoes and dash out the door, as Mr. Trask (sainted man) yelled after me, “I’ll pack and meet you there!” [I will not mention to you that I had to text him to bring me deodorant.]

Brenda is Sympathetic

Brenda is sympathetic, listening to a knitter's tale of woe during Today's Sweater.

All of this is to explain to you all how I got to Wales with no knitting needles. The goody bag was providing us with everything but needles, and I. Came. Without. Them. So freaking embarrassing. But Brenda and Amy were lovely about this, and of course folks were willing to loan me needles. Even better, I got to borrow one of Amy’s Symfonie Dreamz Interchangeables (Mr. Trask, take note: the 5th wedding anniversary gift is traditionally wood). Still, not a move I want to repeat any time soon. Luckily, Jeni of Fyberspates brought some needles to our teeny-tiny marketplace on Sunday along with her gorgeous yarn.

This brings me to the stash-enhancement portion of the weekend: between the goody bag and the marketplace, I have tripled my stash. Anzula, Alisha Goes Around, and Indigodragonfly all contributed to our goody bags (as did Soak and the amazing Knitifacts). Plus, I might just have bought some yarn both from Jeni and from Nimu Yarns, about whom I hadn’t heard before.

Beggars Reach

"Beggars Reach: Probably the Best in the Area!"

Other than the continuous humiliation of having arrived late and unprepared, the retreat was glorious. Both Amy and Brenda are excellent teachers, and the group was both friendly and encouraging. People came up with some amazing lace designs. Plus, on Saturday night, we got to see Today’s Sweater live! Brenda did some of her sweater show-and-tell, and encouraged us to do the same. Catherine (who also has much better pictures of the weekend than I do) brought an amazing lace baby shawl that her mother-in-law made when Catherine’s daughter was born (she made one for each of the grandchildren, and three of the great-grandchildren), and then Catherine’s own version of the shawl, which was three-color and gorgeous. Josie showed us her version of double-knitting. Someone (Vandy?) showed us her stunning finished Lalique jacket. And Sally showed us an amazing baby coverall that she designed for a contest (using up several days of vacation time in the process) 20 years ago. I hung back, because I had not packed my Today’s Sweater, either. Sigh.

Amy Celebrates

Amy celebrates after blowing out all the candles on her birthday cake.

Other highlights included incredible food; much discussion of Doctor Who, Torchwood, and everything Joss Whedon has ever written; an early celebration of Amy’s birthday; and a group of us watching Downton Abbey on Sunday night (with Tina explaining to us that Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, was the living image of her grandmother).

Most of all, the retreat helped me feel at home in this country. Knitters are always friendly and kind, no matter what the country, and I had a chance to ask some burning questions about British life (although I forgot the most important one – “On which side of the sidewalk should I be walking?”). Being able to travel all over the UK was one reason Mr. Trask and I were excited about moving here, and the train ride alone was a beautiful reminder of that. When we got back to Oxford, it even felt a little bit like coming home. Once we have furniture, we’ll feel even more that way. Do you guys think I could knit a beanbag chair? [Don’t answer that.]

Finally, if you’re really curious about what went on, below is a fabulous video Laurie made of our time in Wales. Enjoy! And, commenters, do tell me about the most embarrassing “I forgot” moment of your lives, just so I know I’m not alone.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 October 2011 7:35 am


    It’s lovely to read your account of our fab weekend. Thank you for the links to my blog. I loved your account of matriculation too (reminded me of mine at The Other University where because it is more modern, by about 25 years, we didn’t wear sub fusc or hats, only gowns,). As I also worked in Oxford for a few years do let me know if you need any help in cross cultural translation! I don’t know its name but the knitters I worked with in Oxford thought the best yarn shop was in Jericho (aprox opposite Petit Blanc restaurant)


  2. Cguard permalink
    21 October 2011 7:36 am

    Oh joy! I actually woke up this morning (way too early) and was thinking about you and wondering if my computer was broken as I hadn’t had a chance to live vicarously hearing your adventures abroad. So glad to hear from you and about you and laugh with you (not at yet) this from the woman who when we went on a rare visit when the kids were little packed for everyone and forgot to pack for myself at a time we were too broke to do anything but wear dirty clothes for a few days.

  3. 22 October 2011 4:48 am

    There’s no convention with regards to which side of the pavement (or “footpath” if you’re in Ireland) you walk on. Walking around is like playing a very polite game of chicken – who will give ground first? Personally I pick the side where my right foot, which I broke a few years ago, isn’t in danger of rolling off the curb (that’s how I broke it).

    • Kathleen permalink*
      24 October 2011 4:10 am

      Thanks for this, Jennifer – it’s at least good to know I’m not alone in the confusion. How can there be no convention?!? There are rules for everything else! πŸ™‚

  4. 23 October 2011 4:30 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful retreat, and a fabulous way to quickly get into the UK knittig scene.

  5. 23 October 2011 6:01 pm

    I wanted to weep as I enjoyed this post.

    First, in thanks for being able to live vicariously through you. I have always wanted to visit the United Kingdom, and I have always been somewhat haunted by the knowing that, once I visit, I will want to live there — with furniture or not. πŸ™‚

    Second, in envy of the time you spent with Dayne and Singer. I do not know either of them, but I love them both. I remember when I first heard Brenda talk about the retreat on Cast On. I wanted to be there more than I can say here . . . it would take volumes.

    By the way, did you know Amy Singer’s mother used to be my boss? I still remember the sparkle in her mom’s (or should I say mum’s?) eyes as she told me about her daughter getting ready to publish her first knitting book. It was during my job interview with her.

    At the time, I hadn’t taken knitting back up yet, and I remember telling myself that someday I had to get back to it. Thank goodness I did . . . and now, Amy’s first book sits on my shelf in fond remembrance of my first hearing about her.

    Beautifully written post. Nice video, too.

    • Kathleen permalink*
      24 October 2011 4:11 am

      Lee! How cool that you knew Amy’s mother. Amy is so wonderful – very smart, very friendly. So good to hear from you, too, O Gluten Free Friend.

  6. Amy permalink
    26 October 2011 8:28 am


    I just stumbled across your blog and thought I would say hello as I am a fellow knitter and also live in Oxford.

    If you haven’t yet found them, the Bluestockings are a lovely knitting group that meet on Wednesday evenings at the Royal Oak.

    If you need showing around or similar let me know, always glad to meet another knitter!


    • Kathleen permalink*
      28 October 2011 7:06 pm

      Thank you so much, Amy! Lovely to meet an Oxford knitter. Do you go to the Bluestockings meetings? It would be fun to meet up!

      • Amy permalink
        2 November 2011 11:04 am

        I try to go when I can but it coincides with my weekly circuit training so I don’t get there very often. They are friendly though and new people show up all the time. It’s from 5:30-8ish every wednesday evening. They also have a group on ravelry.

  7. 26 October 2011 8:20 pm

    I love your subfusc – that is one of my favorite photos of you. And I love the fact that you made it to Wales for lots of great knitting.

    Oh, and don’t knit in the beanbag chair. Your back will never be the same.

  8. Kathleen permalink*
    3 November 2011 6:19 am

    Amy – thanks for the info! Turns out they meet just a few blocks from our flat, so I’ll be dropping in next week or the one following. Lynn – we opted for a futon sofa instead of a beanbag chair, so my back is (sort of) saved.

  9. 10 November 2011 2:21 pm

    Wonderful video! Looks like a lovely time.

Leave a Reply to Kathleen Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: