News, Actually.

Some proper news! After numerous prompts I have finally set up a newsletter which will be a monthly summary of what I have been doing, plans afoot and some exclusive previews of future designs. I always find it a struggle to keep everybody up-to-date with all the things that is happening (designs, visits, events etc) so I figure a newsletter is a great way to summarise everything in one fell swoop. You can subscribe to my newsletter below - know this: I'm the only one who has access to the mailing list; I will only send out one newsletter per month; and I am not going to sell any details to any third-party people.

And hey, the Scollay cardigan is now out in general release! Drumroll, please!

July 2014 1058

This was the first garment I ever designed and it was knitted in glorious New Lanark DK (spun just down the road from me at a UNESCO Heritage site!). The pattern comes in seven sizes (from extra-small to 3X) and is both charted and written-out. I know many of you loved Dave's illustrations for my Doggerland collection and he's drawn the schematics for this one too. It's just such a nice, every-day cardigan and I love it to bits.

July 2014 1051

I am wearing the 1X size in the photos and I'm wearing it with no ease. I have included notes on sizing and modifications because I know some of you like a comfortable fit and other prefer a more fitted version. I'm rather short-waisted and the cardigan hits me below the hips, so I've also addressed the length of the cardigan in the notes. Customising fit is so important and I'm going to talk more about that later this year. Also, look out for a proper Scollay knit-along led by Louise Scollay of Knit British - yes, the cardigan was named for her!

Speaking of Louise and news, she's got a podcast interview with me up on her blog. I was interviewed by her on the second day of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Let me know if you can tell when my morning caffeine kicks in! We discuss future plans (oh, I am spilling a lot of beans), my work/life balance and I'm asked some rather great questions.

Now I'm off to knit in the sunshine. I wound a skein of Triskelion Taliesin 4ply this afternoon in a gorgeous emerald. I bought it last year at Unwind Brighton. So many memories contained in a skein of yarn..

April 2015 257

Thoughts of Alex and Lucy

I have been debating for days whether or not to write anything about Lucy Meadows.  I have been so filled with sadness and outrage and helplessness - and I wondered why so few of my friends seem to talk about this. A woman taking her own life. A woman whose transition from a male body to a female body was made public property (and publicly mocked) by British press. I worried that I did not have the right to feel sad, outraged or helpless about this because I rest within my biological gender. But I am a human being and it is my right to speak out against hate and ridicule - even if I sometimes have to be reminded about my right to do so. And I think of my former flatmate Alex and I also owe it to her to write about my sadness, outrage and helplessness.

Alex and I shared a flat back in the late 1990s. She had left her native country for Scandinavia partly because of a love affair and partly because she felt misunderstood. We shared a big flat with several others and we rarely spoke. That is, until one night.

I had come home late and Alex was out in the kitchen crying. Yet another boyfriend had broken her heart. Alex always fell quick and hard for macho men who promised to protect her - she was a tiny slip of a thing - and who vowed they loved her for her. Quickly, though, they always started to want to change her. They would buy her clothes and makeup and high heeled shoes and Alex would sit in the kitchen crying.

She told me that night that she was a biological woman who identified as a gay man within a female body and that she preferred to dress as a boy because female clothing made her uncomfortable. She didn't want to transition - she just wanted to be loved for who she was. Her real name wasn't Alex* but she wanted a gender-neutral name unlike her actual name. (And I refer to Alex as she because that was what she wanted me to call her.)

Oh Alex. Wonderful Alex. Shy, funny and skittish.

I was maybe 21 years old and naive for my age, but I grew up a bit that night. Alex was so full of pain and contradictions. We sat there until dawn and she just talked and talked. Our late nights became a habit. I left that flat a year later and I often wonder what became of her. She was vulnerable with very few friends outside the constant cavalcade of awful boyfriends.

Today I wonder if she ever decided to transition because her identity seemed very fragmented and contradictory - with a strong emphasis upon 'boy' - but I also recognise that there are never any easy answers. Identity is fragmented and contradictory and what may seem like an obvious thing to me may not have been an obvious solution to someone as complex as Alex.

So, I read about Lucy Meadows and I remember my late nights in the kitchen with Alex. And I want to shout and cry.

LOVE. Never hate.

* Alex wasn't even what she called herself but Alex will be her name here.

The Kirkja Shawl

June 2012 780
June 2012 780

And then I designed a shawl and it appeared in Knit Now. Okay, things are never quite that simple. Earlier this year I was exchanging ideas with Knit Now magazine, a UK knitting magazine focused on accessories and keen on showcasing British design. The editors were doing an issue on "heritage" and when I mentioned I was part Faroese, the end result was the Kirkja shawl.

The sample is knitted in Old Maiden Aunt 100% merino 4ply in the delicious "Buttermint" colourway (it takes just one 400 yrds skein!). I knitted the sample back in late spring, but I must somehow have known I'd need a ray of sunshine in December. Isn't it just a stunning happy colour?

I opted against a traditional Faroese shape as I wanted the shawl to be an accessible knit for intermediate knitters. No shoulder shaping or casting on several hundred stitches. Instead I chose to play with geometric patterns so familiar to Faroese knitters and showcase them in an easy triangular shawl.

It was really good working with others for a change. I tend to Wear All the Hats when I design, but I had the support of the Knit Now team during the whole Kirkja design process. It was fab seeing the finished photos from the professional photo shoot and I really enjoyed the bantering back & forth about stuff that non-designers find dull (i.e. pattern formatting & charting software).

Kirkja can be found in Knit Now issue 16 which is out with subscribers now and will be in UK shops tomorrow (December 13, 2012). Not only did it make the cover, but it also came highly commended by the editors and got a four-page spread inside the magazine.

(I'd pop champagne but I think I need some tea to warm myself up instead! It is freezing outside and our flat is cold. The glamorous life of a knitting designer!)

It's Getting Cold Now

It is premature to write my Reading 2011 entry but I did leave a comment on a newspaper site yesterday about one of my favourite reads so far. I miss keeping a literary blog - but then again my old literary blog was never just about books. I wrote about whatever took my fancy and I like to think I still do that. November 30 2011 has been a day of strikes across the UK as a reaction to the Tory-led coalition's "austerity measures". I have been watching the news unfold from my cosy home, but part of me did wish I could have been out there. Some years ago I would have been. It has been interesting to see how most of them media have been shouting that this one day of strikes could push the UK back into recession .. I seem to remember most of the UK got an extra few days off for the sake of a certain royal wedding earlier this year but that was "a celebration", of course. Interesting, also, that this strike comes the day after the Chancellor's "Autumn statement" which I was following with incredulity yesterday. You can read an acerbic and pointed response here.

Moi? Cynical? I think I am turning into a grumpy old woman (I have the grey hairs to prove it). Maybe just realistic rather than grumpy.

And so with a boot firmly planted in the realistic camp, I was delighted to find other people utterly bemused* by the never-ending editorials about The Party Season. I think I had a party season once when I was 20 and as a skint student, I wore secondhand 1970s silver-lamé frocks accessorised with green Doc Martens. And nobody cared that I wore the same 1970s frock to every single drunken student jig. I do not think I live in the same world as the glossies - who does? And who buys** them?

Let me share something amazing and lovely with you: Someone has been leaving small, intricate paper sculptures all over Edinburgh. Who? No one seems to know. It is a woman who proclaims that she is used to "making things" and that she has left these art objects to voice her support for libraries, books, words, and ideas. I absolutely love these objects - I would call them book art rather than artists' books (there is a distinction, I feel) - and I love the quiet making and placing of them. There is something so utterly wonderful about art objects that do not scream but whisper.

Knitting posts to come soon. Tonight I just wanted to write about slightly more .. cerebral things.

*) Sorry about using italics so much **) Actually I use italics way too often.

Ghost World

With great joy comes great heartache, so my great-grandmother always said. One of the hardest things about being an expat is that I am far away from people who matter very, very much. My dearest and best friend and her boyfriend visited us last week. I was overjoyed to see them arrive and I was unsurprisingly miserable when they left again. But we did have a lovely week together.

Highlights included watching the ever-changing skies over Loch Lomond (pictured left), having an afternoon pint of local brew in The Falls of Dochart Inn (out of tourist season significantly less Brigadoon than I suspect it'll be in high season), doing the obvious Monty Python jokes at Doune Castle, buying yarn at New Lanark, playing Munchkin in the evenings, having a tremendous dinner at Fanny Trollope's and .. just hanging out with some of the best people I know.

Of course I was also working my usual hours and trying to deal with paperwork, so things were slightly less relaxing than it could have been. I also miss our guests in a raw, unsettled way. Still, I feel nourished and ready to tackle what is ahead.

What is ahead? I am heading to London for work next week, so I need to prepare myself for that. I also have a couple of patterns to write and a lot of things to finish. Somehow I have also talked myself into a rather big homemade Christmas present that needs to be finished by early December.


Finally, and wholly unrelated, I went down to Occupy Glasgow's camp yesterday and I had to laugh out loud when I saw a sign saying "Daily Mail, We Don't Respect You Either". How marvellous.

Here, There & Everywhere

A couple of announcements: My Karise shawl has been chosen as a pattern for the next Old Maiden Aunt knitalong on Ravelry. To celebrate this, I am offering a whopping 20% discount on the pattern until November 30, 2011! Just cite OMAKAL as your discount code. More information in the Old Maiden Aunt Ravelry group.

I have been re-jigging my social media commitments, so I now have an open-to-all Twitter account that you can follow. If you used to follow me on Twitter, you may want to follow the new account instead. Knitterly stuff guaranteed, but I'll basically be tweeting about anything that takes my fancy. A condensed version of this blog, if you like.

(Speaking of which, I have managed to delete my entire folder of knitting blogs from Google Reader. I have tried to reconstruct my reading list of 300+ blogs but if I usually comment on your blog and you think I haven't been around lately, do let me know.)

This Saturday I will be teaching a lace shawl class at Wool 4 Ewe in Aberdeen. I think the class has filled up pretty well already, but any Aberdeenshire dwellers can check with Kathy whether she has had any cancellations. Hopefully I will see you there - and if not, feel free to drop in after the class to say hello!

So, yes. Busy times!

I have actually finished quite a few things, but I've not even made any Ravelry project pages for them, let alone managed any pictorial evidence.

This is a brand-new project. I'm using one ball of Rowan Kidsilk Stripe for a very straightforward triangular shawl.

Kidsilk Stripe is a new Rowan yarn: essentially 2 balls of Kidsilk Haze in one ball and combining shades of KSH to create lovely stripes. I've been pleasantly surprised by how much life the stripes have. Purple isn't just solid purple but has all sorts of subtle variegations. I hope my photo hints at that. I'm using the Twillight colourway for this shawl  (greens and purples) but I also really like the Cool colourway (teals and deep pinks).

And I have new specs! I was lucky enough to win a free pair of spectacles from Edinburgh-based Spectacles Direct via a Facebook(!) competition. I never win anything and I was in dire need of new spectacles, so I was very, very thrilled.

How do you like my "awkward MySpace photo pose? Ahhh, what you don't do to appease your mother when Official Photographer is at the other end of the city.

Finally, I finished reading Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child last night. It is exceptionally well-written (as you'd expect from Hollinghurst who is probably the finest stylist of his generation) but it is also exceptionally dull. I was going to write a full review but I would struggle to find enough interesting things to say.. ironically enough,  the exact same problem the book has.