Karie Bookish Dot Net

Category Archives: Purls

This Thing of Paper – March & April 2017

Earlier this year I had the great pleasure of meeting many knitters at both Joeli’s Retreat in Manchester and at Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Many of them backed my This Thing of Paper Kickstarter whilst others had just learned about the project. This update is for backers and non-backers alike.

First, An Important Housekeeping Note:

If you need to get in touch with me for any reason, please contact me via email (hello @kariebookish.net) or via the contact form on my website (this goes directly into my email). When you email me, please use a descriptive subject header. Please.

Thank you so, so, so much!

This ensures I see your message as quickly as possible and that your query will get resolved that much quicker.

The Book – or, what has Karie done with her life this month?

The book is coming on in leaps and bounds. All the patterns are finished. I have been working closely with my technical editor Amelia Hodsdon on getting them ready for publication (more on that later). My focus has now shifted to three other things:

  1. Essays. All my notes have been collated; the essays now exist in keyword form; and the narrative structure of the book is mapped out with post-it notes. I am not sure how other writers do this, but I like to have my book outlined like a ghost on the page before I start fleshing things out. I am working with a copy editor, the marvellous Kate Gregory, on this part of the project. I am very aware that I only have a finite amount of words inside of me, so you will see less of me online as I save my words for the book.
  2. Perks & Rewards. All the Kickstarter backers signed up for sweet, sweet rewards and, whilst I sourced all the goodies very early on in the process, all the lovely stuff is now going to start arriving in Casa Bookish and will be sent out with the book itself. I’ll be getting an assistant to help me with the admin load.
  3. Making It Happen. Shops and non-backers have asked how they can buy the book once it is released. I’ll be setting up a small shop section on this website. Just like the Perks & Rewards section, I’ll have some help doing this.

 

The Book  –  or, what goes into making a pattern ready.

I thought I’d write a bit about what work goes into making a pattern ready for publication. Amelia and I work from a house style sheet – a document I have written that covers all style standards and practices involved in writing a knitting pattern. Here are some examples of what a good style sheet covers:

  • a set way of writing phrases like the beginning of the round – the style sheet determines if you write BORbeg of rndbeg of round, or even Beg of Rnd (or something else!).
  • how abbreviations are styled – k2tog or K2TOG; if you capitalise KYOK, should you then also capitalise SKYK?
  • the narrative flow of a pattern: does the garment start with the back or the front? is it important that the sleeves are worked first? When do you write about the extra cast-on stitches – do they belong to the body section or the buttonband section?
  • standard sections: NAME; MATERIALS; NEEDLES; ACCESSORIES; GAUGE; PATTERN NOTES; INSTRUCTIONS.
  • standard sub-sections: how materials are listed and which order; line breaks or no line breaks?
  • how repeats within repeats are written. Round or square brackets? How do we deal with really complicated stuff like a repeat within a repeat within a repeat within a repeat? Ah, look at page 5 where there is a guide on how to write this.

(An aside: When I teach pattern writing, I’m often asked if I can share my style sheet. Unfortunately there are no real short cuts to a good style sheet. It is one that designers build up themselves based upon their own experience and their thoughts on what a good pattern reads like.)

So, Amelia and I have double- and triple-checked the maths in the patterns, but we have also worked very hard on ensuring consistent style across all patterns and making sure the patterns have good narrative flow. One of our longest discussions was over whether one line of instructions needed to be in one section or another.

This Thing of Paper contains 11 patterns (and one exclusive pattern for high-level backers), so it has been quite a lot of work getting to this stage. I started out designing the patterns last spring, knowing that I needed a cohesive collection with a broad selection of project types aimed at different types of knitters, then I began writing the patterns and, finally, they have been edited.

 

Hiccups – or, what has Karie learned along the way?

Oh dear.

I am currently unravelling a large sample I had commissioned for the book. Not only did the sample arrive very late, but it also arrived in a completely unusable condition. Why don’t I just crocodile clip it and fake my way through the photo shoot? Because a) that is not how I roll, b) the book samples will be shown at trunk shows, and c) I actually want to be able to wear my samples. So, I am having to reknit the piece which means delays are cascading down the entire production line: photo shoots, layout, writing time etc.

This has proven one of my biggest lessons of the last year: outsourcing work does mean I can focus on my core tasks, but it also means that I rely on other people to work to deadlines and an agreed standard. I have been incredibly lucky to have good people step up to the plate when I needed them (and you will learn about them in the book), but it has not been a smooth process.

I have also learned about perfectionism. This is always my curse. Back in the day I designed nearly 25 patterns for my 8-piece Doggerland collection. This time I have curbed my tendencies a bit better but the early days of This Thing of Paper definitely saw me design an excess of patterns. I think I need to accept that is how I work and allow myself time to do so.

Timeline – or, Karie accepts she cannot control the universe!

I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. There are still issues that need to be solved, but that’s part of my job description. We also have a metric tonne of work to do between now and the publication of This Thing of Paper – but we have a clear road map with a full tank of gas. All the deadlines are locked in place and This Thing of Paper will be with you by the end of the summer (or winter if you live in the Southern Hemisphere).

Countdown to Edinburgh Yarn Fest

It is the most wonderful time of the year: the Edinburgh Yarn Festival is just over a week away!

Attending a fibre festival is always a great day (or weekend) out. You are surrounded by people who love the same activities as you do, and you get to do some serious knitwear-spotting too. It can also be a really exhausting time because there are just so many things to see and do – and you might find yourself so overwhelmed that you end up leaving empty-handed and slightly burned out.

With Edinburgh Yarn Festival just around the corner, I thought I’d update my survival guide and share some of my tricks for having a fabulous time.

  • Plan aheadHave an honest look at your stash, go through your Ravelry queue, and then make a note of yarn requirements. Yes, smartphones are handy for looking up requirements on the fly, but you have more time to browse if you already have all the information available! Do the same for any needles, hooks, and other tools you want to pick up.
  • Plan ahead. Start looking through the vendor list and visit their websites, so you know roughly what to expect. Make a short-list of your must-visit vendors and grab the official EYF map to find out where their stalls are. This stops you from feeling completely overwhelmed by everything on offer! Remember to factor in time to browse other stalls – you never know what might grab you on the day.
  • Plan ahead. If you are meeting with far-flung friends at EYF, make sure you know where and when to meet. EYF has an excellent cafe area that is perfect for an informal get-together. Check your favourite Ravelry groups for any meet-ups and, if you don’t have any photos of yourself online, make sure to describe yourself (“I’m short with curly brown hair and will be wearing a blue Waiting for the Rain shawl”) if you are meeting up with friends who may not have met you before.
  • Food. If you have special dietary requirements, always make sure to bring a back-up lunch. Personally I always carry some bottled water to keep myself hydrated and a small bag of mixed nuts to snack on so my blood sugar stays level throughout the day. The cafe sells nice cakes and there are coffee vendors strategically placed. Just remember to stay hydrated and don’t get hangry!
  • Bags. The UK has implemented the carrier bag charge (very good news for the environment!) so remember to bring your own carrier bags. You can also buy gorgeous tote bags at the events, of course. Do not rely on vendors having bags (though most will).
  • Wear sensible shoes & clothes! You will be on your feet most of the day, so leave your high heels at home. I hear the “wear sensible shoes!” advice all the time and yet I keep seeing miserable-looking people in high-heeled boots at events. Obviously EYF and other events are perfect places to show off your favourite makes, but try not to overheat!
  • Budget. Unless you are a multi-millionaire, chances are that you will have to make some tough decisions at EYF. Decide before you leave home how much you are going to spend. Decide how much you’ll spend on yarn, how much on notions, and how much on cute accessories like tote bags, mugs etc. Then leave room in your budget for impulse buys. Even the smallest budget should have an impulse buy allowance. You will fall in love with something unexpected.
  • Classes. If you have signed up for a class, make sure you have everything you need several days in advance. Don’t rely on picking up supplies at the event itself. Check if you need to do any homework and sure to arrive on time.
  • Travel. The EYF website and Ravelry group contain everything you need to know about transport, so make sure you know your train times and keep your tickets in a safe spot. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to and from the venue. Make sure you have a perfect travel project on the go – travelling to a fibre festival is part of the festival fun! If you are going by bus, you will instantly know which bus to take – it’ll be filled with knitters!
  • Be Social. Say hello to people! Smile and talk knitting while you are waiting in a queue. Let strangers know how awesome their cardigans are. Enjoy the atmosphere. If a vendor or a tutor has been especially incredible, let them know! Take pictures of amazing things and share them on the internet. Use the hashtag #eyf17 so others can enjoy your fabulous memories!
  • Remember to Breathe. Fibre festivals can be very exhausting (especially as so many of us are introverts and the buzz can get overwhelming). If you get tired, take a break. If you need some fresh air, go for a short walk. Nothing is more important than you enjoying yourself, so be kind to yourself rather than push through. The perfect buttons will still be there ten minutes later. The Leith Water Walk Way is not far from the Corn Exchange if you need a touch of nature.
  • And just have fun! This is going to be one of the highlights of your year.

I’ll be teaching three classes (Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons) so do say hello if you see me! I love seeing what people have made from my patterns, so don’t be shy. Looking forward to seeing a lot of lovely faces.

Current State of Mind: All The Things (Preview)

I am currently hard at work editing the book projects. However, I did find time to design a shawl which marks the first collaboration with local dyer Sheila of DyeNinja. Sheila dyes exquisite rich jewel tones on beautiful bases and I know many of you have already fallen in love with her palette. I have more to say about the forthcoming pattern once it is closer to being released (cross fingers it won’t be long) but I shall leave you with a little preview and a tiny hint about the inspiration:

“To every age its art, to every art its freedom”

2016: Let’s Make This Very Brief & With Some Good News

I am not going to write a long post rehashing 2016. I usually write these retrospective posts every year, but this year is different. You know this too. You don’t need me to remind you.

Instead I am going to share some very good news with you. I learned this a few weeks ago and shared it with my Kickstarter pals yesterday. Recently I have been travelling a lot for work. I have been to London, Northern Ireland, and off the Scottish coast. This month took me to Mainland Europe where I spent a lot of time in medieval town centres and museums as well as talking to textile people in Denmark, Germany and Belgium.

The highlight of my Mainland Europe trip was a visit to the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany. Johannes Gutenberg was born and worked in Mainz and the museum is a real treat for anybody interested in book history and print culture. I was given special permission to work with their collections (which includes two Gutenberg bibles) and the staff were all incredibly generous with their knowledge of early printed books. The museum also contains extensive material on book-binding, paper-making, and print ephemera. I can heartily recommend it. Currently the museum is also hosting an exhibition on the Futura font which sent this early 20th C loving gal into rapture (I contain multitudes).

Now for my very, very good news:

I am exceptionally pleased to announce that the Gutenberg Museum has requested a copy of This Thing of Paper for their archives.

Obviously they have a great deal of material in their archives, but I believe this will be the first knitting book to be included! I am very excited about this – it shows that the scope of what a knitting book can be and do is endless. Felicity Ford has written eloquently about knitting’s potential, and I’m so proud to make a small contribution to this breaking down of barriers.

And I cannot thank my Kickstarter supporters enough to helping me do this. I love knowing that your names will be in the Gutenberg Museum Archives too. Thank you.

I am slowly winding up all work for this year. Today will be my last rugby match with the inbox but I will continue to knit until 2016 runs out of breath. You might be amused to know that my word for 2017 is nope and that my resolutions are to swear more, say hell no a lot more, and spread a lot of love in the darkness.

Peace x

P.S. If you are looking for a gift for a knitting friend, I have decided to do a 20% discount off the Frances Herself shawl with the rav code courage. Code is valid December 20-21, 2016.

Frances Herself was inspired by Frances Macdonald McNair – a wonderful artist whose work was derailed by her husband. I designed this shawl for women everywhere – we are makers, lovers, fighters, and human. I chose the word courage as the code because we are facing a world where we need all the courage we have buried inside us.

The Knitter’s Gift Guide – 2016 Edition

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So, you have a knitter in your life and you want to spoil them. Maybe it’s a Secret Santa gift you are looking for – maybe it is the love of your life you are hoping to impress. But what to buy them? What would make a great present? Fear not, I have some really great ideas for you.

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The Yarnistry shop on Etsy has some fabulous wooden laser cut badges that let people proudly declare their love for spinning, knitting, crochet or yarn. Continuing with the theme, Marissa Thereze has fair-isle button sets that I think look really cool.

Stitch markers are great stocking fillers or Secret Santa gifts. If you search on Etsy for “knitting + stitch markers” you will find themed sets on everything from Alice in Wonderland to zombies. Personally I quite like this set of Green Man themed markers and these markers that will not get tangled up in your knitter’s project.

In the whimsical section, you can buy knitting-themed tea, a cute sheep print, or a car sticker warning off potential yarn thieves.

You can buy yarn for well under £5, but you rarely get enough to make anything substantial or the yarn isn’t the nicest. However, one ball of Drops Kidsilk is enough to knit a scarf (my Florence pattern is free to download from Ravelry) and it is quite, quite lovely.  West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley DK is a great yarn and Woolly Wormhead’s Rainbowret pattern (free on Ravelry) would look fabulous in one of the variegated shades.

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Knitters love small project bags in which they can store & transport whatever they are working on. I really like this Woodland bag from QuincePie and this contemporary project bag from The Stitch Society, but search on Etsy for “knitting + project + bag” for a spectacular range of project bags. Tote bags are also a huge hit: try Knit Long And Prosper for geek chic, Every Week is Wool Week for Shetland knitting enthusiasts, or Cake Lovin’ Yarn Rubbin’ Tea Gluggin’ for the giggles.

Namolio does seriously stylish accessories & notions. This fabulous linen needle book (which stores sewing needles) also comes in a version with hedgehog buttons. I also adore her linen/crochet badges and stunning pincushions.

Does your knitter like to read? Clara Parkes’ Knitlandia is a beautiful and funny love letter to the international knitting community. How about something else for the home? TillyFlopDesigns has this gorgeous Oh! How I’d Rather Be Knitting! tea towel, Debbie Bliss has some rather splendid knitting-themed mugs and Skein Queen sells cute lavender satchels that help ward off yarn-munching moths. Finally, knitters use SOAK to wash and finish their knits.

Yarn and pattern-wise, you have a wider choice. My Lindgren mitts (Ravelry download; not free) take 4 balls of Drops Lima. A skein of Malabrigo Worsted will make a Fuego hat by Justyna Lorkowska (Ravelry download; not free). You can buy a ball of self-patterning sockyarn (always make sure to buy 100g!) or some handdyed Pokemon-inspired yarn for the geek in your life. Sock designer Rachel Coopley has launched her own sock yarn: check out Socks Yeah!

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Knitting jewellery can make for an incredibly thoughtful gift and comes in a variety of styles. Knitting jewellery can be anything from this knitting basket brooch to this laser-cut necklace. YellowBearWares make pieces from recycled knitting needles – this red bracelet is pretty and leaves room in the budget for other things. You can also buy knitting jewellery kits. I like this striking green beaded necklace kit by Mahliqa. The independent dyer Kettle Yarn Co sells this shawl pin on her site. If you’d rather decorate the tree, Gabi Reith offers a really nice “knitted mitten” decoration which she will personalise for your knitter.

Beautiful kits (pattern and yarn packaged together) include a traditional Fair Isle hat from a Shetland yarn company and a contemporary colourwork hat from Scotland-based designer Kate Davies. Ella Austin designs quirky toys with a retro flavour: her Tawny Owl kit is really cute but explore the rest of her shop.

Speaking of yarn, the world is your oyster. Yarn is one of the best presents a knitter can get. There are a truly dazzling array of yarns and it can be difficult to figure out what to buy (and how much!) if you are not a knitter yourself.

Independent dyers and small yarn companies produce some of the nicest, unique yarns around. You often only need one 100g hank from them to make a pair of socks or a small shawl. For subtle and delicate shades, try Eden Cottage Yarns’ Harewood 4ply, Skein Queen’s Lustrous. For deep jewel-like shades, I really like the silk blends from Travelknitter and DyeNinja. Cool and contemporary design? Explore EasyKnits’ Dusted Dreams series, Scotland-based dyer Rusty Ferret and London dyer The Wool Kitchen. Should your yarn be single origin-esque with proven provenance? Kettle Yarn Co makes the exquisite Baskerville 4ply, designer Ysolda Teague has launched her first yarn with the beautiful Blend no. 1 (pair it with her Newhaven hat pattern), Tamar DK from  Blacker Yarns is just lovely, and Daughter of a Shepherd is yarn that can be traced to one single clip.

And if you’d rather gift something that can be worn immediately, witty t-shirts abound: The World’s Okayest Knitter, Francis the Alpaca, Knitted Spaghetti and around 32,000 other tshirts.

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Gifts over £25 for the knitter in your life? Apart from combining some of the items mentioned previously (and what a special treat that would be!), one of the best ideas would be to get a gift certificate from a local yarn shop. Not only does your knitter get to go on a shopping spree but it also supports the local knitting community. You can also look into gifting a space on a workshop – a day out learning new skills and meeting fellow crafters is a great experience. Check your local yarn shop for more details.

Needle sets can be pricey but they are a fabulous gift to give an intermediate or advanced knitter. KnitPro Zings are great everyday needles while the KnitPro Rosewood interchangeables set makes for a really luxurious gift. I’m personally a big fan of ChiaoGoo Red Lace needles. Sock knitters will love the Hiya Hiya Bamboo DPN set.

Kits range from intricate colourwork garments from Alice Starmore, a classic yoke jumper from Marie Wallin to a vintage-style jumper from Shetland.

Finally, I’d suggest giving your knitter the gift of time. If you are feeling extremely generous, you could look into knitting holidays (France, Scotland, or Iceland), but a cheaper – and equally nice option – would be a weekend without anybody to disturb them (and throw in a selection of awesome teas/coffees, food items, and knitterly goodness as mentioned above).

I hope this inspires you to give a lovely present to the knitter in your life – whether it is a cheerful Secret Santa gift or a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Happy holidays.

Pattern: Lausavisa

Earlier this year I had the great pleasure of collaborating with Kate Heppell & the Knit Now team on a very special issue of their magazine. I designed the Lausavisa jumper for the issue and also wrote an article.

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Lausavisa is a traditional Icelandic yoked jumper worked in the wonderful Álafoss Lopi. The brief was to design a lopapeysa inspired by the Northern Lights and I immediately began to think about the sailors traversing the sea underneath that beautiful lightshow. The jumper is knitted bottom up and features a yoke with an abstract interpretation of a sky with sun, moon, stars, and dancing lights. Lausavisa uses four colours (navy, pale blue, pale heathered grey/beige and mustard yellow) and is so incredibly cosy.

And the name? Lausavisa is a poetic convention in Icelandic/Skaldic poetry – an interjection or a bit of a detour from the main narrative. A bit like the jumper was in my normal working life!

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My article deals with my constant preoccupations: how does the landscape influence us as human beings, how does it change our knitting, and how do we make our marks on a landscape? The North Atlantic region spans many of our best loved knitting traditions – how have the ever-moving sea and the colourful skies changed those? The article is very much a companion piece to my recent Knitting the Landscape workshop (and if you took part/missed out, I recommend this wonderful art documentary on BBC).

I also helped Kate select the other patterns in the Northern Lights collection. Murray Stewart from Orkney has designed a beautiful colourwork set depicting a lighthouse spreading its rays across the sea – I literally saw Murray’s submission and yelled out loud I NEED THAT IN MY LIFE. Lana Jois uses the traditional Shetland Old Shale pattern in a lovely lace capelet and Rosee Woodland reinterprets the traditional gansey jumper. Canadian Jessie McKitrick happens to be one of my favourite colourwork designers. Her Magnetospheric Gloves are both clever and a cool colourwork project for beginners. Finally, Shetland Wool Week patron Ella Gordon is interviewed and has designed a headband pattern using a traditional Shetland motif. So, all patterns have a strong connection to the sea and to the North Atlantic region in general. I’m pretty proud of that!

Also out for old favourites like Midwinter Yarns and the Island Wool Company who make guest appearances. Thank you, Kate, for allowing me to roam around your domain briefly!

Knit Now issue 67 is out now. You can buy it from major UK retailers and supermarkets – or you can buy it online. If you are only interested in Lausavisa, I will be releasing it as an individual pattern at some stage next autumn but you will miss out on my article and all the lovely patterns from other designers. Consider yourself warned!

Photos by Dan Walmsley for Practical Publishing.

About Handknitted Scarves

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Just a very brief note as I catch my breath. Workshop season is in full swing and this means I am not home much. On the road I get to meet so many wonderful people and I see so many wonderful projects. This keeps me going until I am home on my sofa, snuggled up under the crochet blanket my mother once made me.

Knitting is one of the most soothing and calming activities I know. There is something so meditative about the repetitive hand actions and the small pattern repeats we keep in our heads: k2, p1, k8, p1.. As we sit there working, we ward off the troubles of life and can focus on something that makes sense. And then we put that scarf around our neck and it keeps us warm both in body and soul. We are reminded of that little meditative space as we go out to meet others and challenge a world that feels cold and fractured. And then when the world gets really cold and we face a very long winter, we know how to stay warm.

People talk a lot about symbols these days. They talk about baseball caps and safety pins. For me, a handknitted scarf is a symbol as well. It is a symbol of patience and perseverance. Tiny stitches are joined up in wonderful, joyful patterns to create a colourful scarf that keep us warm and happier. There is beauty in complexity and we should not forget that.

I don’t have any answers. But I try to pass on skills that will let you knit a handknitted scarf that you will be wearing in the years ahead.

Stay warm.

All the Things; All the Feels

Today I’m really tired. I spent the weekend in London for the lovely, lovely Yarnporium and while I took yesterday off, I am feeling a bit rough around the edges today.

I spent Friday at the Victoria & Albert museum in London which is dedicated to arts & crafts and design. I took in the Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery with a friend and also lingered with the sections on medieval European art. Saturday I taught two classes at Yarnporium (and managed to get lost on my way to teaching the Knitting the Landscape class which I thought was very on-message and method of me). I caught up with vendors and friends before heading to an evening do thrown by LoveCrafts in Bloomsbury. Sunday I spent the morning at Yarnporium again meeting awesome folks before spending my last hours in London at the near-by National Gallery.

I had been quite nervous about teaching Knitting the Landscape as the class had been commissioned by Yarnporium and thus was brand-new. The class went really well, actually, and I was blown away by people’s willingness to reassess their approach to knitting. I found it so inspirational to hear people’s stories and I loved how individual all the finished pieces looked. Though there are some limitations to the workshop (such as it can only really work with a large number of participants), I will be adding it to my repertoire going forward and I cannot wait to see how people interpret their world through knitting.

I have only just unpacked my bags from Yarnporium and now I’m off to Northern Ireland. I’m teaching Shetland Lace at Glen Gallery – this will be my third year of teaching their November workshops and I always look forward to my visit. So, laundry to do, samples to air and then it is off again..

.. but before that happens, I just want to tell you something that happened yesterday. I learned that I have been nominated as Designer of the Year in the British Craft Awards. This nomination really floored me – particularly because I am nominated along some serious heavyweights like Martin Storey and Marie Wallin. Having begun designing on a whim whilst working for a yarn company to making designing my full-time career just two years ago and now being mentioned alongside people I really admire .. well,  I cannot begin to tell you how much this means to me. I am not quite sure what to make of it all, but I am so pleased to see woolly chums like Tom of Holland, Knit British, and BritYarn nominated in various categories. It feels like we are slowly changing the conversations we are having about knitting. Hooray.

I’m off to continue work on the book and answer questions from my inbox. Please be patient: I won’t have access to internet or mobile data whilst in Northern Ireland!

Looking Forward To… Yarnporium 2016

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I’m currently packing my bags for London. This weekend, November 5 & 6, I’ll be teaching at Yarnporium which is taking place at King’s College on the Strand.

(Let’s just stay with that mental image for a while. If you had told me 20 years ago that one day I’d be teaching at King’s College, London, I would have swooned. It is so exciting for this bookish girl from Nowheresville, Denmark)

I’m teaching two workshops: my popular Introduction to Shetland Haps class and a new workshop called Knitting the Landscape which I have developed by request. Obviously I’m really excited (and a little bit nervous) about these classes and I cannot wait to meet the people taking my classes.

Teaching is really rewarding: I feel I always leave a workshop feeling I’ve learned something – this can be anything from a cast-on someone’s grandma taught them to a better understanding of why one specific thing can feel daunting for a knitter. I take these things and I pour them into the other parts of my working life – I’m particularly focused on demystifying knitting and helping people the best I can.

You cannot talk about an event like Yarnporium without talking vendors. I have several earmarked already: my friends at Blacker Yarns (we are currently collaborating on my book!), Ginger Twist Studio, Midwinter Yarns, Kettle Yarn Co, Travelknitter (also a book collaborator!), The Wool Kitchen, Woollenflower, Triskelion yarns and the awesome ladies of The Crochet Project .. and that is just to start! Also excited to finally catch up with Knit With Attitude and A Yarn Story! There’s also an Indie Focus section which I’m really pleased to see.

And to cap it all off: I have a thing at the V&A on Friday which relates to my book research. It’s going to be a glorious weekend and I really hope to see a lot of friendly & lovely faces there.

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Yarnporium & A Trip to Yorkshire

Last week I went on a research trip to Yorkshire for my book, This Thing of Paper. It was the first of two research trips and I am glad that I scheduled it while we are still working on the patterns. The second trip will take place later this year and be less visually intensive but perfect for the essays. Thank you to everyone who has made this work possible.

I had a profound experience when I travelled south to York, and I’m going to write more about that in a second. First, though, a very exciting announcement.

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I’ll be teaching two workshops at the Yarnporium show in London this November. First, I’m running a half-day class on knitting hap shawls which covers the classic Shetland hap constructions, how to deal with lace charts, and how to work applied edges. I will also cover any questions on how to customise & design hap shawls. Then, I have developed a class especially for Yarnporium called Knitting the Landscape. This class is an exploration of psychogeography and knitting. We’ll talk flaneuring, urban exploration, inner/outer landscapes, and how to express your own paths in knitted pieces that’ll keep you warm on your journeys.

I’m so honoured to be asked to teach a class like Knitting the Landscape – it’s really a step outside what you’d expect from a knitting workshop and it gets us all thinking about what we can do with our everyday making. I like that.

Now, back to my research trip.

I spent part of my trip in York itself. The city was founded by the Romans, then became a major settlement for the Vikings, before growing into a significant religious site and wool trading centre in the 13th and 14th centuries. Much of York’s city centre is well-preserved within the city walls (of which some date back to 300AD, but most to the 12th and 13th centuries) and the famous Shambles is a well-preserved medieval street. Between my appointments, I enjoyed walking around discovering small details here and there.

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We spent two days at the York Minster itself – one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world with various secondary buildings like a library and stonemason’s court. The level of detail is astonishing: little mice carved into the stonework, gargoyles peeking out, statues with changed faces, elaborate cope chests,  and the awe-inspiring architecture of the Chapter House (and its tiled floor). It was easy to spend hours here and we did.

But what I did not expect was to have one profound moment that reduced me to tears.

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved stained glass. The deep, rich colours and the layers of allegorical imagery with so much religious and historical significance .. so when I saw York’s Five Sisters window, I was taken aback.

However, there was something different about the Five Sisters window. It is mostly composed of grisaille (grey) glass with just a few coloured pieces inserted here and there. Grisaille was made by painting patterns on pieces of silvery grey glass. The pieces were then arranged into intricate geometric patterns using lead to hold the pieces together. I speculated that the geometric patterns may have been influenced by crusaders seeing Islamic tiles on their travels (the timeline would be right, I believe).

So I sat there beneath dark windows with strong geometric patterns and I had a strong emotional reaction. The window reminded me of the first time I read TS Eliot’s The Waste Land which was also formed of ‘fragments shored against these ruins’. Something about the small, insignificant pieces that swirled together in highly complex patterns to create something bigger than themselves. Small glimpses of colour and light to break the dark complexity .. the more I looked at the window, the more I cried.

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I later learned that Five Sister was last restored in the 1920s and dedicated as a memorial to the women who died during the First Word War. Mrs Little, a local woman, had a vision of long-lost sisters guiding her towards the window and as she approached, her sisters faded away to be replaced by five women sitting in a garden sewing needlework. I am moved by Mrs little’s words: “After the war was over, when memorials on all sides were being erected to our brothers, I often thought that our sisters who also made the same sacrifice appeared to have been forgotten.” Names of more than 1400 women are inscribed on oak panels nearby.

I sat there for nearly an hour underneath that window and I could have stayed much longer. Great art is what changes us and the way we look at the world. I never thought a 13th century grisaille window would affect me so but it did.

Life is so much greater than just our own tiny selves. We combine to make sense of it all.