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Saturday, 17 June 2017

Knitting birds with Arne and Carlos

It was a bright, sunny morning on Wednesday when I dropped small daughter off at school and headed the couple of miles from Winwick to Black Sheep Wools in Culcheth.  It always feels very liberating to be out of the day-to-day routine and doing something different, and it feels very decadent to be spending the day on a knitting workshop - especially when that workshop is with Norwegian knitting superstars Arne and Carlos!

Source: Black Sheep Wools
You may remember that I was lucky enough to go to their colourwork workshop last year when they came over to Black Sheep Wools, and I was really thrilled when Sara from Black Sheep invited me to their new workshop based on Arne and Carlos' latest book Field Guide to Knitted Birds.  I've seen lots of pictures of the knitted birds online since the book was launched and I didn't need asking twice!

There's always a warm welcome for Arne and Carlos at Black Sheep Wools!


The workshops at Black Sheep always sell out really quickly and this one was no exception. There's a lovely big dedicated workshop room which fits a good number of people (as you can see).  I took this photo from the table where I was sitting just before the workshop started; the room was full of excited conversation, the sound of new friends being made and tea and coffee being poured.  It was going to be a good day!


We had to take a set of knitting needles and a sewing needle (for finishing the birds later) with us, but everything else was provided so we were all given a copy of the pattern, yarn, stuffing and little beady eyes.  Also provided was the cake with another cup of tea.  They do such good cake at Black Sheep!


Arne and Carlos talked about their knitted birds for a short while before we all got stuck in. There's a whole range of birds to knit in the book, all based on one basic pattern.  Some are marked like the wild birds that visit their garden in Norway ...


others have traditional sweater markings (whaddya mean you've never seen a bird wearing an Icelandic jumper?!) ...


and more of them are wearing cosy winter hats.  I think that every bird probably needs a chullo hat - but I'd like to see you catch the ones in your garden to put them on! :) 


Here's Arne talking about the bullfinch from the garden bird section of the book.  Did you know that the bullfinch is the traditional Norwegian Christmas bird, much like the robin is here in the UK?  I'm sure there's also a joke here along the lines of "an Arne with a bird in the hand is worth ..." but the punchline is eluding me.  It's probably just as well.


What I've enjoyed about both of the workshops that I've been to with Arne and Carlos is that they have plenty of time to talk to people about what they're doing.  They are happy to show techniques (and often multiple times), to chat about their work, their books and their travels, interspersed with useful pointers for creating the birds along the way.  (I hope the ladies who were sitting opposite me don't mind being in the next few photos - I was just snapping away as Arne and Carlos were spending time talking to our table!)






We all started off with single colour birds, although there was enough yarn to use to bring in more colours if we chose to, and gradually, different breeds of bird began to emerge as the colours changed and people improvised with their knitting.  My bird was coming along pretty well at this point, and I had decided to give it a Fair Isle tummy (well, why not?).  One thing that I was sorry about was that I'd taken 2.5mm needles along with me - that's definitely habit, they're the first size that I grab in any situation now - and I'd have done better on a bigger size as we were using DK yarn.  That's something for me to think about next time.  These birds are pretty quick to knit up so I'd definitely consider knitting another one (or two, or possibly a flock).


I was sitting with a couple of other creative stars - in this picture on the left you can see Lynne Rowe, who designs both knit and crochet patterns for magazines and books, and on the right is Emma Varnam who is also a crochet designer and has just brought out a book on how to make the most gorgeous crochet animals.  I've met Lynne before and like her very much, but this was the first time I've got to spend any time with Emma and she was lovely too - crafting folk are, on the whole, just brilliant people to be around, aren't they? 


By the time our workshop was over, I hadn't quite finished my bird (too much chatting - it's a good job I don't get school reports any more!) but you can see it here all ready for the stuffing. 


Arne and Carlos were sticking around for another few hours as they were due to give a talk on their book and do some book signing, but those of us in the workshop took advantage of the fact that they were there and got our books signed there and then.  Oh, and took a few photos.  It was really lovely to see Arne and Carlos again, and I hope that they'll be able to make good on their promise to come back to Black Sheep Wools again soon.


More than a few of the people who had been at the workshop stayed for the talk, and it is very handy that Black Sheep has a really good cafe in the Craft Barn.  Lynne had to leave but Emma and I had ordered our sandwiches in the morning so they were all ready for us to sit and eat - and of course, chat some more!  It's so good for your soul to be able to spend time with like-minded people, which is why I'd always urge anybody to try to find a knit n natter group near to them where they can do just that.  

After lunch, we went back into the workshop room for Arne and Carlos' talk about their book.  It was a free event and a good number of people turned up - it was standing room only at the back!  I didn't take any photos whilst they were talking and I'm not going to tell you everything they said as I don't want to spoil it in case you get chance to go and listen to them, but I will tell you that they are such great fun to listen to.  They bounce off each other with good humour and have the knack of turning anecdotes into hilarious stories that make you wish you'd been a fly on the wall when they happened.

The Field Guide to Knitted Birds came about after Arne and Carlos managed to encourage wild birds to visit their garden at their railway station house in Norway.  They had been aware that something was missing from their garden but it wasn't until a conversation with a neighbour that they realised that the missing element was birds, so they set out to bring them into the garden with nesting boxes and bird food.  It took a while, but gradually the birds started to visit and became the subject of Arne and Carlos' designs.  Their knitted collection started out with versions of the wild birds - they deliberately chose not to design them too realistically - and then expanded to include pretty much any bird for any occasion.  Some of the designs in the book not only have jumpers but are decorated with feathers and sequins too, and whilst birds always have feathers, I don't think you'll find any wearing sequins!  

I said goodbye to Arne and Carlos, and to Emma, and then set off for home.


"Have you had a great day?" asked big daughter, when I got home.  "I've just put the kettle on."  "That's great," I said, "I've had a brilliant day and I've brought my piece of cake from Black Sheep that I didn't eat at lunch time and you can share ... oh no!"

My cake was still at Black Sheep, safely boxed up ready for me to take home.  "You're not really going back for the cake, are you?" big daughter said, incredulously, as I snatched up my car keys.  I certainly was.  You don't abandon Black Sheep cake and I've seen enough movies to know that famous line - "no cake left behind".  Or something like that.  Anyway, it  was worth going back for.


Now, if you're very quiet you can come into the garden with me because there's been a new visitor recently.  It's quite shy and likes to hide in the flowers, although I did spot it at the birdbox ...


You don't see many of these birds - in fact, I think this could be the only specimen.  It's called the Lesser Spotted Fair Isle Greybird (it should perhaps be renamed the "Hardly Ever Spotted Fair Isle Greybird") and it's indigenous to a particular garden in Winwick.   


I particularly like it's pink beak, which lets it tone nicely with the flowers it likes to hide amongst.  


I wonder what the RSPB will say if I list it in their Big Garden Birdwatch next year?


My huge thanks go to Black Sheep Wools for giving me a place on the Knitted Birds workshop, I had such a brilliant day meeting friends old and new and discovering a brand new bird variety. Creativity and evolution in one day! :) xx


Friday, 9 June 2017

Got the voting bug?

Has the General Election left you feeling fired up?  Ready to vote again?  Hand poised in anticipation of making your mark?

How about if you could vote for something different ... something yarny ... how about if you could vote for your favourite yarn shops, yarn manufacturers, knitting and crochet designers ... bloggers?
Vote for me!

No, I haven't completely lost the plot, and I'm certainly not going to make you any political promises (and I haven't forgotten that new tutorial coming up - blame it on school holiday mush-brain).  But I am absolutely over the moon to tell you that the nominations have been announced for the British Knitting and Crochet Awards and Winwick Mum has been nominated for the Favourite Knitting Blog category.  Wow!  Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to fill in the form in the Let's Knit magazine or complete the online survey and put my name in the box.  It means a great deal to know that my yarny ramblings are appreciated!

The voting is now open for the Awards and there are more categories then ever, meaning that there's more chance for you to make sure that you get to support those people in the yarn industry who brighten your day.  From independent dyers to designers, favourite charities to Yarn Shop Day experiences (and bloggers, did I mention them? J ) there are big names and small independents and I am thrilled to be listed alongside all of them.

There are 4 prizes this year for those who choose to vote - £250 to spend at buyagift.com, 2 knitting and crochet bundles worth £200 and 1 knitting and crochet bundle worth £100 which are all worth the effort of completing a form (how many more of us would have turned out to vote in the General Election if yarn was offered on the way out of the polling station?!).

You can find the voting page here: www.letsknit.co.uk/awards or you can click the picture below. The voting closes on 30 August 2017.  

Thank you!  xx



Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Monthly Musing - June 2017 - Have your say

It’s an exciting time in our household as the General Election approaches.  This will be the first one that big daughter is old enough to vote in and she’s determined to have her say.  We’re delighted that she’s taking such an interest in it – I don’t think I was so politically astute at her age and even until a few years ago would have told you that I wasn’t really interested in politics … but I do care about the NHS, my children’s education, the state of the roads, whether a fire engine will reach a burning house and that people have somewhere decent to live rather than shop doorways … it turns out that I am more politically minded than I had given myself credit for.

We are all affected by politics whether we like it or not.  You may well be sick of the electioneering, of politicians’ promises that may or may not carry any weight and of people telling you that you must vote because past generations chained themselves to railings and put their lives at risk so that you could so.  You may feel that you don’t like any of the political parties’ leaders enough to vote for them and you can’t wait until it’s all over.  I don’t blame you.  But when it is all over and someone that you didn’t choose is living in Downing Street, you can’t blame anyone but yourself if you didn’t put your mark on the voting paper, and this is what we have told big daughter.  If you want to have your say in how the country is run, then use your privilege (being able to vote in a democratic society is always a privilege, not a right) and vote.

“What difference is my one vote going to make?” you might ask.  On it’s own, perhaps no difference at all – but joined with millions of votes from around the country your small voice becomes a roar.  Think of it as a car stuck on a level crossing with a train speeding towards it.  On your own, pushing will make no difference but once a few people join you, that car is safely off the tracks in no time and the effort required by each person was no greater than the effort for you alone.  Why would you choose not to push that car, or to write an X on a voting paper?

I’m not interested in turning my blog into a political debate.  I have my views and you have yours and that’s fine.  What I am interested in is that you don’t miss out on your chance to help steer the country in a direction that will benefit everybody.  If you can’t choose the party you like the best, choose the one you dislike the least.  Look at who is helping your local community, standing up for you, being your voice.  Apathy helps no one.  If you don’t do anything else tomorrow, make sure that you have your say.


Monday, 5 June 2017

Socks away!

It's the second week of small daughter's school holidays and ... it's raining.  She won't mind at all as she's engrossed in a series of books which my brother and sister-in-law sent her called Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, who was the Children's Laureate from 2013-2015 so you'd expect the books to be good.  I've been keen to expand the genre of books that she has been reading - up until now it's been the Jaqueline Wilson and Cathy Cassidy style of books which are quite similar in nature and have been an easy read for her, and I've wanted her to branch out a bit more, so enlisted their help in thinking of author ideas.  I've never read any of Malorie Blackman's books myself but small daughter is enjoying them so much that I might have to borrow them. Based on the story of Romeo and Juliet, these books have been really making her think and, even better, are expanding her vocabulary which is always a good thing.  

Knife Edge by Malorie Blackman

Being stuck indoors for bit is probably good for me too.  I am making a concerted effort to get rid of more of the clutter in our house - I've got quite a pile in the garage ready to go to the charity shop, some things have been re-homed via eBay and others have found new homes with friends or friends of friends.  I hate throwing perfectly good stuff in the dustbin for no reason which is why the decluttering takes me such a long time as I sort it all out and then it hangs around for ages whilst I try to re-home it.  

I've been making good inroads into my mountain of knitting magazines though - I've got over 10 years' worth of them stacked up because I might need something in them (does this sound familiar to anyone?) when I know that in reality I am just giving house room to outdated articles and advertisements and there's no way I'd be able to remember exactly which copy whatever I wanted was in.  I've been promising myself for quite some time that I'll go through them and take out what I want to keep but of course have been putting it off - not least because I tend to see books and magazines as similar things and I could never bring myself to cut up a book (I found it hard enough at school when we were encouraged to write all over the books for our exam work!).  I have started though, and it's been a good excuse to catch up on podcasts whilst I'm at it.  It's taking me much longer to do than I imagined although isn't that always the way?  I am always convinced that these jobs will take about an hour and I'll be done with them ... 10 years' worth of magazines in an hour?  Clearly I have delusions of decluttering super-powers!


I am also making good progress with a couple of pairs of socks that I have on the go.  My tutorial sock is nearly done ... I have realised that making videos to go with the tutorials is a much slower process than taking photos, mostly because I try to put it off until the last possible moment but of course I then can't knit any more until I've filmed it!  Anyway, I am on the home stretch now and I still have good intentions of this tutorial being ready for this weekend - although don't hold me to it!

www.winwickmum.blogspot.com

I've also been working on a new sock in a very special yarn.  I was absolutely delighted to be one of the first people to get my hands on a ball of a limited edition West Yorkshire Spinners yarn which is definitely a yarn with a purpose ...

West Yorkshire Spinners Marie Curie UK yarn

This yarn has been dyed in the colours of Marie Curie UK, a charity which supports people and their families who are living with terminal illness.  It's the chosen charity of Christine's Wool Shop/Cityknits whom, you might remember, I visited on Yarn Shop Day and who will be hosting a Tea Party to raise funds for the charity on Saturday 10 June from 10.00am to 4.00pm.  They asked the lovely peeps at West Yorkshire Spinners if they would be able to dye a short run of their Signature 4ply yarn in the Marie Curie colours (Marie Curie have given them permission to do this) and this is what they came up with.

West Yorkshire Spinners Marie Curie UK yarn

Isn't it clever what can be done with dye?  The idea is that the yellow sections represent the daffodils in the Marie Curie logo and on some of the stripes they do just look like that!  I think it's a wonderful idea to help raise funds for a very worthwhile cause.  The yarn is being sold exclusively through Cityknits and at Christine's wool shop with £2.00 from every ball being donated to the charity, but you'll have to be quick as it's going fast!  If you can't get to Christine's wool shop in Bournville to pick up some of the yarn in person, you can find it online here.

West Yorkshire Spinners Marie Curie UK yarn

And in more yarn shop news, my local yarn shop Black Sheep Wools is hosting another visit from Norwegian knitting experts Arne and Carlos.  I was super-excited to meet up with them last year and am even more excited to be able to go and see them again this year when they'll be doing a workshop based on their new book, Field Guide to Knitted Birds.  The workshop is sold out, I'm afraid, so if you don't already have a ticket you'll have to rely on me to tell you about it afterwards (yes, I do have a fabulous local yarn shop who invite me to their workshops and yes, I am very spoilt :) ) but I'll be sure to take lots of photos and let you see what went on.

Arne and Carlos at Black Sheep Wools

After the workshop, Arne and Carlos are going to be talking about their new book in the Craft Barn and will also be signing copies of their books (Black Sheep have them all in stock).  The talk will be from 2.00-2.45pm and then the book signing will be from 3.00-4.00pm.  There's no need to book and it's free to come along but there is limited space at the Craft Barn - you can find out more about it here.

I have to say that the cover of this book tickles me - who would have thought that you could make knitted birds look like Arne and Carlos?  I love it!


Finally, and back onto socks, I have something very exciting to show you.  Lucy sent me a photo this morning ... the postman has been ...

Yarndale Sock Line 2017

Wow!  I only wrote about the Yarndale Sock Line on Friday and already there are socks being delivered ... thank you so much!  I'll be heading up to see Lucy in Skipton in a couple of weeks so I'll look forward to opening those parcels.  There have been so many lovely comments about the Sock Line in response to the blog post and social media, it's really wonderful to know that it's been so well-received and that you are going to get involved to help make a difference.  Thank you!

Right then, I'd better get on with a bit of sock filming.  I hope you have a fantastic week - stay dry! 


Friday, 2 June 2017

Yarndale Sock Line 2017

Are you sitting comfortably?  I'm going to tell you a story.

It's a story about socks and knitting and the generosity of people who want to help complete strangers, and it all started with a germ of an idea that came about two years ago, not long after the Winwick Mum Sockalong started.  

With the Yarndale festival due to take place a few months after the Sockalong tutorial posts were published and with Yarndale being all about celebrating creativity and craft, the question was raised in the Sockalong Facebook group about whether sock bunting could be displayed along with the miles of crocheted bunting that decorates the entrance to the Auction Mart where Yarndale is held.  What a great idea!  What better way to show that socks are a fantastic project (and encourage a bit more yarn-squishing) than to hang them up where everyone can see them? Attic24 Lucy, who's a huge supporter of the Sockalong and one of the Yarndale organisers, also thought it was a great idea and the Yarndale Sock Line was born!

The idea was that anyone who wanted to join in could send socks to hang up on the Sock Line and they would become part of the Yarndale decoration for the weekend.  But then I thought that it seemed a bit of a shame to have to put all the socks away after Yarndale and have them sitting in storage for the rest of the year, so instead I decided to ask for pairs of socks with the intention of giving them away to people who could use them.  I knew that this was quite a big ask - sock yarn isn't always cheap and socks can be quite time-consuming to knit - but I had reckoned without the kindness of the crafting community and before long, pairs of socks were flooding in.  The rest, as the saying goes, is history!



So far we've been able to give away over 230 pairs of socks.  We have been asked if we will sell the socks and give the money to charity, but we have chosen not to do that.  Instead, the idea of the Yarndale Sock Line is always to give the socks directly to people whose life might be brightened to know that someone is thinking of them, and what better way to show that than to be able to wrap their feet in woolly, socky love?  We have been able to send socks to hospices for both adults and children, to homeless charities, to crisis centres, to residential homes ... you can see the where they've all gone over the last two years here and if you need another reason to persuade you that giving the socks is preferable to giving money then just read the letters that we've received from the places we've sent them to.  And be ready for the lump in your throat. 

I am delighted to tell you that after the success of the first two years, the Yarndale Sock Line is now to become a regular feature of the Yarndale festival.  We're hoping that you will still want to join in this year and we will be able to send more socks to people who will appreciate the effort and the sentiment behind the woolly gift in their hands.  You would?  That's wonderful!  Let me tell you more about it!

Here's what you need to do to get involved:

1  Knit a pair of socks.  Any size, any pattern, any yarn - just a pair of socks that someone will be able to wear, although please consider when choosing your yarn that depending on their circumstances, it may not always easy for the recipients to wash the socks regularly and they will need to be hard-wearing unless they are specifically knitted as bed socks.  From plain socks to patterned, those of us who are sock knitters know that a kind of magic happens when someone puts on a pair of hand knits and they will be delighted with their socks of any style.  Top down, toe up, two at a time, even crocheted if that's your thing - whatever your preference!

This is my pair of socks for the Sock Line this year - they're knitted in Stylecraft Head over Heels in the colourway Everest and these are a size 4.5.  I've reinforced the toes using heel stitch - you can find my tutorial on reinforcing soles and toes here.  One of the things that I hadn't realised until I started looking into re-homing the donated socks is that places that look after children also need bigger sizes as well as the tiny sizes as poorly children are not always very young with small feet.  It really doesn't matter what size you knit as we will find a home for them all.  Last year we had sizes from tiny baby socks to size 12 men's socks and they were all gratefully received so you can take your pick!



2  Create a tag for the socks.   It's lovely to be able to see where the socks have come from, but it's also practical as it's easier to see where the socks should go when they are clearly labelled.  A luggage label is an ideal size, but you can make your own labels if you'd rather, and this year we have some very special Yarndale ones that you can download too.  Please don't use a label that wraps right around a pair of folded socks as it's not easy to hang them up for everyone to admire.



The label needs to be securely attached to your pair of socks and have your name (your first name is fine), the place you live, the size of the socks (in UK size, please) and what the yarn content is in case anyone has issues with wool.  If there are any particular washing instructions you may want to squeeze those on too. 



On the back, feel free to write a message to whoever might receive your socks, but please don't give any personal information.


3  Attach the socks securely together.  I don't want any socks going AWOL at the Auction Mart!  You can either do this by using a safety pin or by threading the string or yarn from your label onto a wool needle and taking it through both socks ...



before bringing the yarn back through to the front and tying with a secure knot.



4  Post your socks.  Requests for the Yarndale Sock Line will be running alongside requests for the Yarndale Creative Project which Lucy will be announcing on her blog shortly - whether you plan to take part in just one or both of these, we're asking for everything to be sent to the same address to help to reduce postage costs.  To be sure that I will have enough time to photograph the socks and get them up on the Yarndale Sock Line Pinterest board (this is last year's, you can find 2015's here) then I need your socks to arrive by Saturday 26 August 2017 please.  Here's the address:

Yarndale Sock Line
c/o Attic24
PO Box 97
Skipton
North Yorkshire
BD23 9EN

If you've got both socks and the Creative Project item in your envelope, please write on the envelope somewhere that you've done that so Lucy knows to take her item out!

If you're coming to Yarndale and want to bring your socks with you to hang on the Sock Line yourself, then please do so - I'll bring plenty of spare pegs.  I'll still make sure that your socks are shown on the Pinterest board so don't worry that you'll miss out if you bring them on the day.

What to do if you live abroad.  I am well aware that Yarndale is a UK-based festival and that to take part might involve a hefty expense with postage.  So, instead of sending me your socks from around the world - although you are very welcome to do so if you'd like to - I thought that you might prefer to gift your socks locally.  All of the Yarndale Sock Line socks are sent to UK organisations and you might know of somewhere near you where they would be equally appreciated.  So that you can still join in with the Yarndale Sock Line, just follow the steps above and take a picture of your finished socks, complete with the label so we know who you are, and email it to me at winwickmum(at)gmail(dot)com.  I'll print out your picture and hang that on the Sock Line alongside the other pairs so if you can let me know whereabouts in the world you are and where you will be gifting your socks, I'll add that information so that we can see socks being gifted all over the world!

What if I've got a suggestion of where the socks can go?  Please tell me!  Remember that we send our socks to UK-based organisations and we want to gift them to the people who need to put them on their feet, not sell them on.  Send me your suggestions at winwickmum(at)gmail(dot)com or drop me a note when you post your socks and I'll get in touch with the places you suggest when we know how many pairs of socks we can give.

Where can I get those Yarndale sock labels that you mentioned?  Right here!  They've been specially designed just for the Yarndale Sock Line and have space for all the information that you need to add.  We've got them in three different colours so that you can choose the one you like the best, and feel free to add your own decorations too if you want to.  We also have labels without the Yarndale logo if you prefer to use those (these are also ideal for general socky gifts!).  Just click on the picture of the labels that you want to go to the download page.



Yarndale Sock Line orange

Yarndale Sock Line blue/green

Sock label blue/green
Sock label orange
And that's it.  There's not really much to it but I know that the socks we have gifted so far have been very much appreciated so the effort that you make to get involved is more than worthwhile.

Do ask if you've got any questions - and thank you if you are getting involved this year.  Your bit of knitted love goes a long way! xx