Knitting and Protest, part 1

In January 2017, the ‘pussyhat‘ project took the world by storm.

This isn’t the first time knitting has been used for protesting (anyone heard of yarn bombing?), but it’s perhaps the first time it really grabbed the spotlight. (See also here.)

Unfortunately, the pussyhat, while it was a fantastic idea in theory, turned out to be problematic in practice. But I’m not going to debate that particular issue here right now. (If you’re interested, there is now the hopefully more inclusive rise of the Blue Wave pattern. Unfortunately it’s not as simple to make as the original pussyhat, but it’s beautiful!)

Anyway, here in this part of the world (specifically Ireland), women are facing a very important vote. A vote that, if successful, will launch Ireland into the 21st century alongside the legalisation of gay marriage – the first country to do so by popular vote, by the way. The Eighth Amendment was voted into the Irish Constitution in 1983, and says: ‘The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.’ On 25 May, Ireland will vote in favour or against REPEALING the Eighth Amendment. Which is important on so many levels. It allows women autonomy over their own bodies, for one. It stops the dangerous decisions that medical professionals are forced to make for their very sick, pregnant patients for whom carrying a foetus to term would be dangerous. It also stops the discrimination against women who, for WHATEVER reason they may have for not choosing to be pregnant anymore, are required to travel overseas for an abortion. That alone carries huge financial, emotional and physical costs.

Anyway. I’m getting sidetracked. Read more about the Repealing the Eighth Amendment here.

So since knitting is all the rage these days when it comes to making political statements, I decided I wanted to hop on board. A few have already had this idea, check out some of the cool Repeal the Eighth patterns on Ravelry here: Michelle Gregory’s simple and effective Repeal Hat; Laura Walsh’s Tog4Yes Hat; and Laura Walsh’s other design, the Repealthe8th hat. And soon, hopefully, there’ll be a design of my own coming out soon (free of course!)! Testing has already commenced, let the needles get clacking in protest! 😀

Happy crafting!

UPDATE: Here are the charts with basic pattern instructions included. It assumes you have a basic knowledge of knitting and colourwork. I hope you find it useful!

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Why?

Sometimes, people ask me this question: why do I have so much yarn? I already have plenty, in all weights and shades and varieties. What could I possibly need with another skein (or three)?

I’ve decided to sum up my answer here because I think it may apply to other knitters/crocheters/yarn addicts too. And we need to stick together.

So why do I acquire more yarn?

BECAUSE I NEED ALL THE COLOURS.

 

The End.

A Very Pink Shawl

My daughter is at an age where she’s beginning to appreciate handmade things, so when she asked for a shawl to wear, to make her feel like ‘a princess’, I was delighted to oblige.

A favourite designer of mine, Susanna IC on Ravelry, had just begun a Mystery Knit-a-Long (MKAL). (If you haven’t done one yet, do it! They’re so fun!) It was the perfect opportunity to knit another amazing lace design, and when a friend brought me this skein of Skein Queen, I knew I had also found my yarn:

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It took me ages to knit of course. Knitting a lacy bead-riddled shawl isn’t easy with small kids running around all the time (i.e., no personal time or space), and very little time to knit, period. (Also, there’s the small matter of where I got lost in the clues of the MKAL and just kept knitting, even though I knit 30+ rows past where I could have cast off for the size I chose. Oh well. I’m glad I kept knitting. But I digress.)

Luckily, she loves it.

 

Even the cat seemed vaguely impressed (as much as a cat can, of course).

 

I highly recommend any of Susanna’s patterns on Ravelry. They’re well-written, easily customisable, gorgeous, and she’s always happy to help through her Ravelry group.

 

Happy knitting!

Say It In Stitches

For the last few years or so, I’ve been finding the need for alternative forms of expression through the fibre arts. And as the Christmas season descends upon us, I’ve been finding myself drawn more and more to the patient and meditative art of embroidery.

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Yep, this is what it’s come to. It’s surprisingly relaxing and strangely cathartic. And I’m not the only one who thinks so, because these are one of my top sellers. Turns out people are willing to pay for my expletives. Which really just brings joy to my heart. What more could you ask for? I’ve even made tiny versions that you can wear. Nikki carries them in stock via Secret Stash, and I’m always happy to fulfill a commission should you want something more specific.

 

Here’s another recent commission I finished, and I think it sums things up pretty well:

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So that’s what I’ve been up to. Happy stitching, and have a wonderful New Year!

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WIP of Doom: Episode Laika

Today I’m going to tell the story of Laika, an unassuming deep purple cardigan with a lovely all-over lace pattern that I just had to knit, and which became, through a series of unfortunate assumptions and associations, a WIP of doom.

A little over four years ago I was home in California, visiting my family. My mother had recently gotten on board with my knitting obsession. She doesn’t knit, or sew, or cook, or do anything domestic whatsoever. When I first told her I had started knitting (like my grandmother, her mother), her response was: ‘Can you not afford clothes?’ Her associations with knitting were passed down from her mother, a Depression-era hoarder who was a master at all things domestic, who loved to stitch and sew, knit and crochet, but who sadly passed away before I was able to pester her enough to teach me any of that. Anyway, that’s another story. So my mother and I had been struggling to find common ground, and while she likes to shop, I hate it, but the one thing we could do together was shop for yarn.

So that summer was July 2013, and it was HOT. I was visiting with my just-turned 4-year-old son and my 13-month-old daughter. Going anywhere was a pain in the ass. We had driven out to Danville, CA, to this cute wee yarn shop called A Yarn Less Raveled. The kids fell asleep in the car, and I didn’t want to wake them. So my mom and I took turns going into the store, because I can’t resist a good yarn store, and because she was curious and wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I didn’t spend long because the kids were asleep and I was aware she was waiting. When I returned she asked if I had spotted anything nice. I told her about this Madelinetosh Merino Light I had seen, the clematis colourway, and I asked if she thought it would make a nice cardigan. Specifically, Ysolda Teague’s Laika cardigan. Here’s a pic of the yarn:

 

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Photo from Jimmy Beans Wool

 

Here’s a pic of the Laika cardigan:

 

Laika pattern from Little Red in the City

Photo from the Laika Ravelry page. See above link.

 

Then she went in. She was in there forever. The kids woke up and were bored. They started to whine. Finally, she came out. She had bought me 5 skeins of clematis, and had them wind it into cakes. I was bowled over. That night, I started to swatch.

Fast forward a year. I had barely made it past the first few rows due to one thing or another, but I was determined to get cracking. I was ready to separate for the sleeves, but the pattern didn’t make sense to me. There were many Ravelers who had figured this out though, and I thought I was just being stupid. I posted on forums about it, tagged friends on social media to have a look at my stitches. No one could suggest where I went wrong. Or rather, there seemed to be a lot of suggestions, but none of them seemed an accurate match to what I held in my hands, and I couldn’t seem to convey the issue. My stitch count was correct, my line up was correct. But the described increases would not match the 3-stitch repeating lace pattern that continued following the sleeves break. Even Ysolda was stumped. Disgruntled, I carried on.

That summer was a disaster, in fact. I got pregnant, which was no surprise in itself, we’d been trying for over a year. But it didn’t feel right. I had miscarried before, and it was horrific. This was just…odd. Turned out it was an ectopic pregnancy, and it ruptured one evening during the Twelfth holidays. Expecting a long wait at the hospital, I brought my knitting to keep me distracted. Yep, I thought I would work out this lace pattern once and for all to distract me from the pain and confusion. Ha. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)

Fast forward another couple of years. I would pick up the Laika every once in a while, knit a few rows, become annoyed all over again at my wonky increases and decreases, and set it down. I couldn’t rip it out, I couldn’t continue. I didn’t want to give up. It had come to symbolize too much. My mom bought me the yarn, even though she didn’t understand my obsession with knitting. She didn’t understand me but she was willing to try. I had persevered on this project in the hospital, when I was loneliest and at one of my lowest points. It wasn’t perfect, but it was there.

A few months ago I decided enough was enough. I dug out the remaining skeins, finished the body, and started on the sleeves. I whinged and moaned and bitched about them the whole time, but I finished them. I had some real come to Jesus moments about the collar: I had decided not to knit the hood, because as much as I loved the look, I knew I wouldn’t use it. I also decided against the buttons; I had been a stone and a bit lighter when I started this project, I had no idea if it would even fit. I scoured existing projects on Ravelry looking for inspiration. I liked the look of a zip. And then one night, late into the night, it was suddenly done. I tried it on, and it was perfect.

 

Soooo, the moral of this story? Sometimes projects do bad things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad projects. What’s your biggest WIP of doom story?

Crafting for Kitties

Recently I came across this book at The Works, and I couldn’t resist buying it. It looked so cute, with lots of little stash-busting projects. It’s called Knits for Kitties and features 25 patterns that you can use in whatever way you see fit. Obviously, it’s marketed towards cat toys, which is fabulous, but some of these patterns are so cute that I can see making them for my kids and their friends, for Woollen Woods crafting, yarn bombing, and other fun little craft projects.

I immediately tried out the spider. It was simple and straightforward and knit up in about an hour.

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The kitties were delighted.

 

Well, as delighted as they can be at their age with something that doesn’t involve heat or sleep.

 

Verdict: Would highly recommend! 🙂

SnB does Yarnfolk

August is going to be an exciting month for Northern Ireland! This year, we will host the first ever fibre festival in the North. On August 5th, Yarnfolk will be launched in Whitehead, home of Lighthouse Yarns. And SnB will be there!

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At the @BelfastSnB stand we’ll be doing a mini trunk show of our book, Knit 10 Together, celebrating 10 years of community crafting. (I talk about the book here, and Nikki covers our successful book launch here!) We’ll also have samples by our knitters, crocheters and stitchers so you can see what we’ve been up to.

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We’ll have two sessions where we’ll do a trunk show of the samples from the book, and talk about techniques used in the book. Then we’ll do live demos, where you can try out and learn something new.

11am – Crochet technique. We’ll teach you a great crochet technique: Magic Circle. This is a handy way to start crochet projects such as the cute stuffed “Chemistry Set” by Nicky Young, and “Bunneh” by Sharon Clark.

3:15pm – Knitting technique: Learn colourwork skills used in the book for the “Heatwave” hot water bottle cover by Siún Carden, and the “Hearts & Butterflies Cowl” by Jaele Rollins-McColgan. We’ll give you advice about how to make sure your colours pop, and how to handle two colours.

If you’d like to know more about the beading technique used in “A Very Hearty Hat” by Nikki Hagan, check out the beading class with Anja Szepan (who also designed the “Twisted Heart” cabled mitts in the book).

Come along to our cosy corner at the SnB stand at any time to knit and natter, or stitch and b*tch if you prefer! 😉

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WWKIPD, 2017: K10tog! — A Million Paper Stars

We were sitting in Starbucks on a cold Wednesday afternoon, as usual. Nikki said, ‘What are we going to do about our anniversary this year?’ In a group of crafters, we all knew she wasn’t talking about her wedding anniversary. She was talking about the anniversary of the year Belfast Stitch n Bitch was formed. […]

via WWKIPD, 2017: K10tog! — A Million Paper Stars

In My Spare Time…

Ok, so I don’t have a lot of spare time. But when I do have a few hours to kill, I like to sew. I like to quilt, make clothes, design costumes, whip up gifts (toys, baby accessories, notebook covers, etc.), and create bespoke bags. Bags for all kinds of occasions, like nappy bags, shopping totes, book bags, backpacks, and, of course, project bags. I’m obsessed with project bags. Of all sizes and shapes.

Lately, I’ve been making small project bags perfect for those smaller, on-the-go projects. The projects you want to pop in your purse, carry with you on the bus, sneak in a few rows before that meeting starts, and bring to social events where you might be at risk of DOING NOTHING. The horror. Seriously.

Anyway, these bags are great for socks, hats, shawls, mitts, cowls, scarves, baby knits, toys, wristwarmers, leg warmers, and anything else you can think of.

There are bags with cats, and bags with flowers. Bags with prints and bags with patterns. And more bags with cats. You can’t have too many bags with cats.

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Each bag has a handle for easy carrying, a drawstring and toggle closure, and are lined. Some have a little clip to attach notions, your keys, or other small items. These are currently for sale wherever Secret Stash is sold, or you can request a custom jobbie or check out more of my stuff through my Facebook page, A Million Paper Stars.

I’m especially fond of these new ones featuring The Walking Dead. I mean come ON. They’ve got ZOMBIES on them!

So, who wants to knit for the zombie apocalypse with a matching bag featuring said apocalypse?! I think I’ve hit my nerd-vana. ❤

Because I Like A Challenge…

When my good friend Julie told me that her sister was expecting twins after a long and difficult battle with IVF, I was ecstatic for her. Ecstatic for Julie to become an auntie, and over the moon for her sister. So naturally, I designated myself Chief Knitter for the babies.

Well that was several months ago. I had a plan, I really did. I had a timetabled, detailed scheduled plan. I knew what projects to knit, which yarn to use, I even had them dug out of my stash and awaiting cast on. So I don’t really have any excuse for why I let the days slide by without really even realising. Oh sure, you could say I had a lot on my plate, with three kids of my own, starting nursing school, finishing a book, and organising a few projects for our Belfast SnB group, along with my volunteering commitments and arty farty stuff like exhibitions to help out with, submit work to and commissions to stitch. But really, there’s no excuse. I’m just plain disorganised. So to say I was a little shocked when I found out the babies are due to be born in hospital THIS WEDNESDAY is an understatement.

So that is why we find ourselves – well, me anyway – frantically knitting the final cuff on a baby sweater at 10.30pm on a Monday while my youngest dozes next to me on the sofa. I’ve chosen the pattern Vertebrae by Kelly van Niekirk, and I’ll pair the sweater with a hat of my own design. And because there are twins, I’ll need duplicates of both.

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I’ve chosen Drops Baby Merino in navy and lime for the boy, and navy and pale pink for the girl. So they’ll be coordinating rather than identical sweaters. (This is partly for my own sanity, and partly because I believe twins should always be allowed a little of their own identities to blossom individually, out from under the vague designation of ‘the twins’. But I digress.)

I’ve been carrying this project with me all last week, and I hope to finish the first cardigan tonight. I even knit a few rows on my walk home.

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So if you see someone walking at a clip (probably late to my next class) whilst knitting busily and trying to remain tangle-free from my working yarn (which will likely be spilling out of my bag), you’ll know why. And hopefully the next time I update, it’ll be to show off my gorgeous knitting being worn by two beautiful and very loved little babies.

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