A wonderful, wool-filled secret

If you’re based in Cape Town and are new to knitting or crocheting, I’ll tell you a secret that’ll help you fulfil your crafty ambitions…

I’ve joined the weekly Stitch n Bitch crochet circle at the revamped A Touch of Madness in Observatory. (Have you been recently? My friends Olivia and Richard Andrews have done it up so it’s less of a scruffy student spot, but still very eclectic. On any given night you’ll see people of all types listening to live music or shooting the breeze over cards or boardgames. Take a look at their Facebook page for events, like film nights, silent discos and so on.)


A Touch of Madness, 12 Nuttall Road, Obs

So I needed wool – not so easy to find these days, especially in the City Bowl. But thanks to this blog post by crafter Jill Goldberg, the other day I discovered that I needn’t drive out to Woolworld in Woodstock – or further – for supplies. Orion Wool & Crafts in Oranjezicht is just round the corner. It’s tucked away in a residential road, though, in an unassuming little house among large angular houses, so you can easily miss it.

Pass the Engen garage, go up Orange Street towards Table mountain, turn right at the DeWaal “dog park”, then left up Molteno Road beside the reservoir, and when the road
gets very steep near the foot of the mountain, turn right into Woodburn Crescent. At the road bend, on your right you’ll see a little white house with a small sign, like those used to alert you to a hush-hush outdoor trance party, which directs you down a narrow flight of stairs to the basement.

There you’ll find a teeny-tiny super-clean shop filled with wool and thread and hooks and needles and embroidery and buttons… a delightful dinky cave full of fluff and colour.

You’ll be served by a tall and kindly gentleman who looks like he knows how to make
a really good cup of tea and is able to decipher what you need from your pattern. Roger read what I needed for my beginner snood pattern, found the closest types of wool in stock and just generally made my day. (Take a look at what I got – pretty, right?)


My progress so far. The wool comes from Turkey:
DiMeks Candy Floss in 305, Lot 02

To find a knitting group or crochet circle in Cape Town, visit the Facebook page for
South African Crafters for Good.

For workshops related to weaving, spinning, knitting, felting and dyeing, try the
Cape Guild of Weavers.


The Big Box: Cape Town’s boardgame café

Recently, I’ve spent a few Saturday mornings getting my geek on at The Big Box, a boardroom café located slap-bang between South Africa’s Parliament and the Jewish Museum, round the corner from the National Gallery.

It’s one of the things I’ve done with the Cape Town Coffee and Tea Socials Meetup group, and I must say, when it comes to breaking the ice and taking the pressure off meeting new people, playing games is a great alcohol-free ‘social lubricant’ for those not that into sports.


Timeline: One for the history buffs.

The Big Box back story
As this article explains, the café has French owners and origins. It’s the sister company of a boardgames café in La Rochelle, called La Grosse Boite. When husband and wife Eric and Emilie Breteau moved to the Mother City, they started hosting boardgame nights across the city, before opening Big Box in June 2015. As the only Giga Mic distributors in the country, the café also serves as a games shop.

The French flavour is found in the games themselves, many of which have instructions in French.
(No worries: Eric and Emilie come round and explain the rules to get you started.) Then there are the yummy crêpes on offer.

Ghost Blitz

Ghost Blitz and coffee.

I also like the fact that Eric and Emilie believe so strongly in the developmental benefits to playing boardgames, they’ve started a social-development programme to supply at least 20 schools and orphanages in the Cape Town area with free boardgames. So if you purchase a game from the café, 5% of the price helps finance the programme.

Games to play
The games I’ve enjoyed include:

  • Dobble, an observation game that’s great fun for all ages.
  • Story Cubes, pictograph dice that serve as storytelling prompts.
  • Timeline Historical Events cards, which require that you guess the order of key historical events on a timeline. (I can’t rave about this one enough. SO much fun!)
Story Cubes

Writers recommend Story Cubes for writing prompts.

But there are plenty others to try, including French games (such as Quarto), family games (such as Monolopoly), strategy games (such as Risk: Lord of the Rings) and solo games (such as IQ Link).

Go on, give The Big Box Café a go one Saturday. You can also hire the venue out, and BYO booze, for a group of 10 people or more.

To visit the café’s website, click here.

What goes well with craft beer? Colouring-in, of course

The year 2015 will go down in publishing history as the year of the adult colouring book. The concept is so long overdue, I’m sure loads of publishers and artists are kicking themselves, wondering “Why didn’t we think of that?”

The craze has been widely written about, colouring clubs have formed worldwide, and new publications on the theme keep popping up (a mindfulness exercise book featuring mathematical patterns to colour, anyone?).

I recently bought my twin sister, who trained as a textile designer, a colouring book of Arts & Crafts patterns for her birthday. And one I really have my eye on is this Secret Garden colouring book, which has sold more than three million copies in less than three months.

Recently, I went to a colouring-in event hosted by the Cape Town-based Meet-Up group called Play school for grown-ups, at the Brewer’s Coop in Woodstock.

Colour & craft beer

Pencils, designs, beer samples ready… go!

In-between sampling the craft beers and ciders on offer, we got to shading-in some stunning templates (some of us with more skill than others).


My friend Anna’s mandala picture. (She says her Waldorf school background may have given her the colouring edge.)

I had fun bringing some colour to an image of a steam-punk priestess, regressing to school-era art classes in stimulating adult company.

If you’re looking to de-stress and meet people, without the pressure on the meeting of people part, why not do the same? The Play school for grown-ups group has two events lined up for September so far:

And you can DIY with these downloadable colouring-in templates and designs.

Colour party

My friend Olivia’s montage of shots from the day.

Radio cinema

If the idea of listening to radio stories with strangers in the dark piques your aural curiosity, I recommend the Radio Cinema events hosted by Sirius Tales in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The event I went to last month, hosted at the Book Lounge, was themed Dark Winter. A R45 ticket secured our Friday night’s entertainment. Basically, you’re seated, the lights are switched off, and you all get to listen to radio stories (doccies and fiction) with wine in hand, popcorn passed round and snacks at intermission.

We heard:

  • A voyeur woman photographer, Michele Iverson, talk about her “Night Surveillance Series”, which sees her photographing people through their windows in their homes at night.
  • An investigation into SA’s “satanic panic” in the news.
  • A humour-horror from 1937, called “A Day at the Dentist”.
  • The sexy Ray Donovan actor, Liev Schreiber, read Italo Calvino’s “The Distance of the Moon” (you can hear it here).

The yummy Liev

It was such a stimulating, novel way to spend a Friday night: Eyes closed, the call of voices, and our imaginations free to go wild in the dark…

To check out the new project by Sirius Tales, podcasts of creative non-fiction from the African continent, visit Sound Africa.