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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An EYF tour

I really love the month of March as it means it’s time for a quick hop across the Irish Sea to visit the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I’ve been every year since 2015 and have very fond memories of being with my tribe. People who get my enthusiasm and excitement for all types of yarn.

I thought now would be a good time to follow my knitting journey over the last four years as it’s pretty much summed up in my EYF stash.IMG_1999.JPG

 

The first year there was a little bit overwhelming as I had never seen so many skeins of yarn in the same place. I was like a child in a sweet shop, my eyes just didn’t know where to rest. At that part in my journey I was exploring the world of knitting socks and shawls so all those pretty hand dyed skeins of loveliness captured my attention. I think the most important thing was discovering indie dyers and seeing how many British dyers there were. I was excited to return home with some Old Maiden Aunt , Ripples craft and Skein queen.

Year two was more of the same but I found yarn from Easyknits and liked it so much that when I decided to knit a garment I decided to go for lighter loftier yarn than my go to super smooth merino . I bought some Blue faced Leicester and began my steps towards discovering the delights of more rustic yarn. I loved the sheepy smell of the lanolin as I knit . It conjured up images of gambolling lambs in spring sunshine.

Year three was a strange one as I had so many single skeins in my stash that I could knit enough shawls and socks to last a lifetime. I was beginning to want to knit garments. Now this requires more planning , patterns need to be chosen and the correct quantities need to be purchased especially if you are using hand dyed skeins. I got two lovely skeins of Old maiden aunt lace to knit a lace weight cardigan Laar. You would think that impulse purchasing of a sweaters worth of yarn but Ysolda is the best enabler ever and I found myself leaving with blend no 1 a beautiful mix of polwarth and zwarbles to knit a Polwarth sweater .

FullSizeRender.jpgThis year my journey from hand painted merino loveliness to sheepy goodness seemed to be complete. Through EYF and the podcast lounge I entered the world of podcasts and blogs and learnt about colourwork that requires a much toothier sticky yarn. So once again Ysolda enabled with Rauma yarn and Shetland yarns.

The thing that inspired me most was the meet the Shepherdess event on Sunday where I found beautiful yarns that had gone from farm to skein . There was so much variety from natural sheepish tones to beautiful jewel dyed skeins. I came away with some treasures and plans for colourwork mittens, cowls and hats.

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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.

Preparing for madness…

Well, more madness than usual.

EYF is not far, and yours truly is heading out to Edinburgh. Duh.

Surprising myself as well as others, I have actually been rather good this year so far, having refrained from any major purchases AND, have an actual shopping list for EYF that, as has been pointed out, does not just say “all the things”. I DO try, y’know.

In any case, TOFT yarn /kit(s) will be bought, most of it to be gifted once… transformed into a toy of some description, and I do have a jumper to shop for, but aside from that, I shall most stubbornly endeavor to behave. I’m likely to fail, but that’s not the point.

So, no yarn has been bought, a list has been made, what else does one do? Ah, right, try do work down the WIPs. Yeah. No. Not so much. I’ll admit, I’ve been a bad girl there. But there’s still 3+ weeks left, so a bit can still happen in this department. There’s always a bunch of “almost done’s”, is there not? I am determined to deal with those. No more casting on before EYF. There’s plenty to work on.

So… How do y’all prepare for a mad shopping spree like EYF? Do you treat yarn festivals as mad shopping sprees? Or is that just me?

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!

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?

Always Learning

One thing that I am sure about is that the second we stop trying and learning new things is the second we stop growing.

As this is a crafting blog I thought it would be a good time to share with you some of the tutorials and online resources I use to keep me growing.

First we shall start with the mysterious and confusing (for me) Sewing.
My own Nana taught me the basics of sewing when I was a young lady, on her antique Singer Sewing machine.

I loved the lessons we had, but I only really learned how to thread the machine (complete with a shuttle bobbin) and sew a straight line.

So here is where I have turned to expand my knowledge base:
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A great class that is reasonably priced and has given me a bit more confidence in using my much newer sewing machine.

Next,  is the art of Needle Felting.

I have always wanted to be a sculptor, but stone and wood are not my preferred mediums. Then I discovered FeltAlive and I learned I could work with my preferred medium and make lovely soft sculptures.

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The Tutorials are now free to all and that is a great value.

Now I am going to introduce you the learning Library that is Craftsy.

I found it when I was unable to go out to my local yarn shop and attend classes to expand my own skill and it was helpful to learn at my own pace.

The classes I really enjoyed were:
Plug and Play Shawls By Amy Singer

Heirloom Lace Edgings With Franklin Habit

Fearless Knitting by Lucy Neatby

Knit to Flatter With Amy Herzog

So I hope I have armed you with  few places to go and expand your skills and keep learning and growing and exploring your crafty world.

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! 🙂

Season of Rainbows

Hello!

Did you have a good season?

As we here in Belfast live in the Northern Hemisphere it was summer for us; but as part of the school break my youngest child went to Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania with their father.
This made me realise in a very tangible way that it wasn’t summer for everyone.

But while we were off for the season, children had exam results, holidays were taken, books were read, skills were learned, and I did a lot of work with my favourite subject: RAINBOWS.

Now my love of the rainbow is vast and deep and as we all remember, and is has so much more to it than just 7 perfectly blended colours.

Oh I could wax on episodically on the qualities of rainbows, but I will save you that. (I hope everyone noticed my Word of the Day entrance into my post, from my rainbow Word of the Day Calendar.)

Back on topic; I took some time this season to highlight my love of rainbows by wearing, working with, and noticing them where ever I went.

My own personal Instagram Feed got the bulk of my work, but because I adore you, our wonderful readers, I am going to give you the cherry picked highlights of my Rainbow season.
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First there is this fantastic Rainbow A-line Jacket made using the pattern Trapezjacke by Claudia Deutscher. A great wee pattern (more like a recipe,) that I flew through.

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Take a look at the buttons! (I had to get a little creative with them as some of my buttons only had one hole in them, so I added some accent apples.) Miss matched buttons for the WIN

The Pattern is wonderful and I think I may make another one with a smaller tail and heartier yarn.
The Paintbox DK is bright and cheerful but I’d like something that I can wear outside on cooler/ windier days.

img_1961Next, as wonderful props for my Chakradance classes I got these lovely rainbow figurines to represent each of the Chakras, and just be rainbow prettiness when not in use.

How about storage, the joys of rainbow storage can NOT be understated. How awesome is my new art case (a rainbow soft sided lunch box), that holds my water colours and ink pens perfectly? Or how about the delightful joy of my embroidery collection displayed to perfection on bobbins? Aren’t they breath taking?

 

Speaking of my water colours and ink pens, I have finally decided what to do with the plethora, (oh two words in one post! I owe myself a sticker!) of “adult” colouring books.
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I don’t like pencil crayons or crayons, but I am falling in love with water soluble inks and water colours, so I thought I would try these out in my colouring books.

Everything blends much more easily and I am learning the mediums in a care free environment, instead of the pressure of making something perfect. I mean really, a child can do this, so it’s ok if I mess up a little.

Now with all this colourful joy, you would think I tapped out of my season of rainbow, but not yet.
I’ve only mentioned 1 knitting project!

As part of my holiday I was going to spend two weeks by a lake in the family cottage, (in summer sunshine.) I knew I was going to be surrounded by children and such so I wanted a simple project that I could stop and start at anytime, but was using up some of my large collection of rainbow variegated yarns.

Enter in the Mini Mania Scarf by Sarah Core, and one skein of Fine Fish’s Gay Mountain, (a now discontinued colour way).

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You can see why I had to use it, BONUS Rainbow Shoe

It took me a while to get the rhythm of the linen stitch, but it works so wonderfully with this type of yarn I am surprised I didn’t discover it before. Look at this Stitch!
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I think that is just about everything from this past season. I hope this post wasn’t too long for you.
But as a reward for getting this far have a bonus:

My kids and Fiance got me the awesomest Unicorn Onsie and Prisim Narwhal, as a thank you for funding all their summertime adventures, and being taxi on two separate continents.

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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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