Friday, 30 September 2016

Monthly Musing - September 2016 - Just keep talking

I will be the first to admit that I have rather a lot to say for myself.  I go off at tangents, usually waving my hands in the air, and often forget what I started saying in the first place.  The discipline of working to a (loose!) word count in my blog posts is good for me, so you can rest easy that I’m not going to be podcasting any time soon!

All joking aside, talking is good for us.  I spent last weekend at the Yarndale festival talking socks (and other subjects) to so many people who made my weekend full of joy and completely topped up my well-being tanks.  I think that we underestimate how much we need the physical presence of other people so that we can share views, learn new things and even just pass the time of day.  When I’m out with the dog, I say hello to everyone we meet because you never know – I might be the only person they speak to in their whole day.  Loneliness is one of the biggest killers in our world and conversation, however brief, is one of the ways to reduce it.

It’s too easy to be wrapped up in our own business – and busy-ness – and not think about how it’s affecting us.  Sometimes we are too busy to speak to anybody, rushing from one task to the next, but we need different conversations in our day as much as we need to eat five fruit and vegetable portions.  We need to talk office talk, to discuss the weather, to share a joke or criticise last night’s television schedule.  We need to learn, to teach, to sing … we need to keep talking.  I think it’s as vital to our health and well-being as air, food or sleep.

I remembered a quotation by Stephen Hawking this morning.   It was used in a BT advert in 1994 and I think it sums up everything that is important about the power that we have in our ability to use words to communicate.  Words can be used positively or negatively, often without much thought for the consequences when we speak.  Wars have been started over misunderstandings in our communication and peace treaties have been brokered by conversation between the injured parties. 

So yes, I do have a lot to say for myself (and maybe sometimes I should say less!) but I would rather try to say something positive and brighten someone’s day than not speak at all and pass my hours in silence.  Words can be like sunshine through the clouds, and you can never have too much of that.

"For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking."

- Stephen Hawking

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Yarndale 2016 - from dawn till dusk

One of the things that I like best about being involved with Yarndale is the "outside" bits.  Not just physically outside the Auction Mart (and that certainly looked stunning this year with the yarnbombing - more about that in a minute), but everything that goes into pulling the festival together.  It feels like helping a performer into their costume, making sure that the clothes fit just right and the hair and make up are perfect before they step out into the glare of the footlights.

This year, Yarndale was the busiest that it had ever been and I'm sure you've seen lots and lots of photographs already of the beautiful yarns, clothes, accessories and animals that were on sale at this year's festival.  It's just as well, because the photos that I'm going to show you are from around the edges; from backstage as we set the scene, adjust the lighting and tune up the orchestra.  These are the outside edges of Yarndale that you don't normally see, and I feel very privileged to be able to share them with you.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ... Yarndale, From Dawn till Dusk!

By the time I arrived at the Auction Mart on the Friday morning, there had already been a huge amount of work done.  I'm not just talking about the planning, the preparation, the writing of the brochures, photographing the calendars, liaising with printers and suppliers, making deliveries and collections and making sure that local transport, health and safety and security people are booked and ready.  This is the final part, the transformation of the Auction Mart into a yarnporium for the weekend.  The bunting is up in the main entrance hall, the tables have started to be delivered to the pens and the stands are ready to be decorated.


I always forget the sheer size of the Auction Mart until I arrive again.  It's a huge place to fill with exhibitors and visitors, and it's good that there's always a floor plan available in the brochures so that you can work out exactly which stands you want to visit as it's easy to get overwhelmed.

The exhibition hall, which becomes the Yarndale Hub, is always a-buzz with activity.  This year, the creative project was knitted and crocheted sheep which were to be sold to raise funds for local hospice, Martin House.  There are nearly 700 sheep on these bales, all ready to go to new forever homes in exchange for much-needed pennies to fund the work the hospice does with families with children with life-limiting conditions.


The sheep were so very popular that most of them were sold on the first day.  This was disappointing for many people who came on the Sunday wanting to see them, but as over £3,000 was raised for the hospice over the weekend then the aim of the event was realised and will hopefully be celebrated despite any disappointment.

Yarndale - sheep creative project

Yarndale - sheep creative project

Outside the Auction Mart, the sun was shining and the wind was blowing gustily.  Lucy and I had gone out to hang up the mandalas in the trees which proved to be quite a challenge with the wind blowing them out of our hands on a regular basis!

Yarndale mandalas

The Thirsk yarn bombers arrived with covers for the bollards surrounding the entrance - the detail and the time that has gone into knitting these is amazing!  My favourite is this one of a beehive - you almost expected it to buzz!

Yarndale yarn bombing

Yarndale yarn bombing

 Counting sheep ...

Yarndale yarn bombing

Fishing in the local canal ...

Yarndale yarn bombing

A Yorkshire farm ...

Yarndale yarn bombing

Nora Batty with Compo, characters from the TV series Last of the Summer Wine, perhaps! 

Yarndale yarn bombing

No self-respecting yarn festival could be without Shaun the Sheep!

Yarndale yarn bombing

We did feel a little sorry for this lady as she was rather under-dressed for the time of year ...

Yarndale yarn bombing

Yorkshire weather ...

Yarndale yarn bombing

Rabbits!  They were popping in and out of this post in all directions!

Yarndale yarn bombing

And last but not least, a hat-full of flowers to brighten up anyone's day.

Yarndale yarn bombing

This fabulous creation by another yarn bombing group represents the Leeds and Liverpool Canal which passes through Skipton.  The knitted canal is full of interesting textures and shape and lots of fish!  Visitors were welcome to walk on it as long as they took their shoes off - but unfortunately it rained overnight on Saturday so anyone who tried it the next day would get very soggy socks!

First impressions are always important, and as you approach the entrance past all of the yarn bombing, you can't fail to know that you're going to be seeing something special!

Yarndale yarn bombing

Back inside, the bunting was going up all over the Auction Mart.  This is blogger Kathryn from Crafternoon Treats who came to lend a hand and was certainly kept busy!

Yarndale - Kathryn from Crafternoon TreatsThe mandalas that were the creative project in 2014 are now permanently attached to boards so that they can be displayed every year.  This year, they were in the cafe area and it's still fabulous to see them.  I think it's similar to the pleasure that you get from unpacking Christmas ornaments every year; it's a bit like greeting old friends.

Yarndale mandalas

The day passed in a bit of a blur of setting up, fetching and carrying.  I hung all the socks up on the Yarndale Sock Line and set up my table ready to talk to people about socks over the weekend.  I'm going to write a separate post about the Yarndale Sock Line which will I'll be posting very soon.

The night before Yarndale starts is always quite a late night.  Some of the exhibitors have travelled hundreds of miles and for anything up to six or seven hours (the joys of our motorway network on a Friday!) - some have even travelled from abroad - and they are often still setting up in the hour or so before Yarndale opens on the Saturday morning.  We wait until the cut-off time when the security team come in to keep the building and the contents safe before heading off.  

Although it's approaching the end of a long day, I do enjoy the time before we leave the Auction Mart for the evening.  There's time to sit and chat and eat some dinner ...  

and chance for a last look around before the flurry of activity the next morning.  There's something about being in the building when it's quiet and seeing the stands in the overhead light that makes you tingle with anticipation.  Everything is more or less ready.

Yarndale - Toft alpacas

The show is about to begin.


It's another early start.  The sun's just coming around the trees when I leave my hotel and go to meet Lucy who's putting up the last of the yarn bombing in the park.  

Yarndale - Skipton

This isn't a bad view for first thing in the morning, is it?

Yarndale - Skipton

And the neighbours aren't too bad either!

Yarndale - Skipton

Up at the Auction Mart, Yarndale was waking up.  Exhibitors were uncovering their stands which, once set up, slept safely under sheets overnight so that nothing could disturb them.  



Here's my little space ...

Yarndale - Winwick Mum

with the sock display that small daughter and I made over the summer holidays.  We're really quite proud of our efforts!

Yarndale - Winwick Mum

There was just time for a quick scoot around the stands before opening time - a chance to take a few photos and make a few purchases (which I'll show you in another post).  I loved these animal heads.  

Yarndale - Sincerely Louise

I mean, seriously, who doesn't need a unicorn head on their wall?

Yarndale - Sincerely Louise unicorn

No yarn festival post from me would be complete without a couple of sheep pictures and I would hate to disappoint anybody J.

These are Hebridean sheep at the Daughter of a Shepherd stand.  I do have a soft spot for Hebridean sheep now after their yarn worked so well for big daughter's Peru socks and who could fail to be charmed by these little woolly wonders?

Yarndale - Daughter of a Shepherd Hebridean sheep

What a cheeky face!

Yarndale - Daughter of a Shepherd Hebridean sheep

I headed back to the Knit n Natter lounge.  Ten o'clock was approaching fast and we could see the queues building up outside.  The anticipation inside was tangible.


There was a brief quiet moment in the Knit n Natter lounge before the day started.  Lucy caught up on some social media work and I sat on the benches for a minute or two, breathing it all in.  The smell, the atmosphere, the excitement of the days to come ...

Yarndale - Knit n natter lounge

And wow!  What a busy two days it was!  I never expected to talk socks with so many people, and it was amazing!  Thank you again if you came to say hello to me, it was great to put so many faces to names after conversations online and to help start people off on their sock obsessions adventures and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

We were even visited by a sheep!  I missed the big sheep last year so it was great to see them close up.

Yarndale - giant sheep puppets

All of a sudden, it seemed, it was Sunday evening.  Where had the time gone?  The Auction Mart was once again a hive of activity but this time all the exhibitors were heading out of the building - with far less stock than they brought in!  The Yarndale team are on a tight timescale on Sunday evening as there is usually an auction the next day so there's a rush to get everywhere cleared out and cleaned up before the animals arrive.

And then there were just a few of us left.  The tables and chairs were being picked up by a tractor and trailer, the pens were being closed off again ready for the sheep the next day, and floors were being brushed and rubbish picked up so that it was safe for livestock to enter. 

Yarndale was over for another year.



The date is already set for next year - 23 and 24 September 2017.  Are you ready to do it all again?  I am! J


Monday, 26 September 2016

And ... relax!

Phew!  What an amazingly yarny, friendly, chatty, busy Yarndale weekend it's been.  Thank you so much to everyone who came to say hello to me, I loved talking to each and every one of you, admiring your socks big and small and basically spending a whole weekend indulging my sock obsession!

Today has been a day of alternately resting and trying to catch up with washing and housework. I've still got the unpacking from the weekend to do and the Yarndale socks that arrived over the weekend and weren't photographed beforehand will all be logged and the photos uploaded onto Pinterest some time during the week.  I've had a chance today to have a quick look around at Yarndale photos and blog posts which has been lovely as I didn't get a lot of opportunity to look around myself (although I have managed to come home with a fair bit of yarn!).  I'll be writing up my own experience to add to the collective Blogland reviews later this week too.

Right now, though, I'm going to put my feet up and do a bit of knitting.  It doesn't happen often, but I think I'm all talked out!  Catch you later! J

Friday, 23 September 2016

Yarndale countdown

Happy Friday to you!  First of all, let me say thank you very much for all the lovely comments that you've left on my last post (and also in the Facebook groups) about the British Knitting Awards.  I appreciate each and every one of them and the time you took to leave them.  Thank you!

I usually try to answer all the comments on the blog but must apologise that I haven't been able to this time because even as you read this, I'll be speeding up the motorway towards Skipton!  In case you didn't know - and if you didn't, where have you been? - this weekend is YARNDALE WEEKEND!  Boy, am I excited that it's here at last!  My car's loaded up and I'm on my way!

It's been a week of manic preparation and a rather large surprise last weekend as big daughter, who had been planning to commute to university, landed herself accommodation and announced that she would be moving into her new room in two days' time.  There's nothing like having time to prepare - and this was nothing like it!  

 There was frantic shopping, rooting in cupboards, delving into boxes of kitchen stuff that we'd saved from Dad's house specially for this occasion and general rushing about as we gathered up our girl and her belongings and deposited her in her student digs.  Perhaps it was better this way, as there was no time to work up to being worried or sad about her leaving - and of course we've waved her off at an airport to travel 6,000 miles away from us so a half hour drive up the road doesn't seem quite so bad.  Anyway, there she is.  An Official Student.  So far, we've managed to keep small daughter from moving into her bedroom (why is a big sister's bedroom always so much more exciting than your own?) but it's tough going!  Big daughter has announced that she will be coming home on a regular basis to make sure that no small lodgers have taken over - whether this will happen or not remains to be seen, but it's nice to think that we might still see quite a bit of her.

Thank you for all the good wishes for her when I shared this picture on Instagram last weekend - I hope that everyone who's been waving their student sons and daughters off over the last couple of weeks (and next couple of weeks) is managing to get used to a house that's quieter, tidier ... and emptier.  It's funny; you might not see your teenager from one hour to the next as they hole up in their bedrooms but suddenly the house feels different when you know that they're away.  I guess it's something that we'll get used to. 

I've got a few things to share with you to keep myself up to date ... firstly, I must show you the sock that I made from the new Stylecraft yarn.  I was able to give you a sneak peek but nothing more until the official launch.  That day has arrived now, and you may well have seen the yarn in the various colourways now - there are six altogether - and very nice it is too.  If you're a fan of Opal yarn, this one feels very similar and is definitely worth considering for your socks - and shawls too as the yarn is intended for making both.  In fact, it's called Head Over Heels so you should definitely get the message!  Here's the sock that I made - only one sock so far so I will have to get on and make the other one as hopping is exhausting.  This colourway is called Kilimanjaro and is one of three striped colours; the others are gradient yarns which I won't be choosing to make socks from.  I have decided to embrace my stripe OCD and don't plan to use gradient yarn for socks in the future if I can possibly help it! J

Stylecraft Head Over Heels - Kilimanjaro

Luckily, the yarn that Blacker Yarns sent me to try out wasn't a gradient yarn but is a very lovely limited edition mix of British fibres blended together in celebration of Blacker Yarns' 11th birthday.  It's called Cornish Tin 2 and each shade is named after a tin mine - you can read more about the yarn and the fibre blend here.  They very kindly sent me a mini skein and a small ball of yarn to try out - 25g in total - and I decided quite quickly that I didn't just want to knit a square swatch, I wanted to do something with it.

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin 2

I decided to see if I could make a pair of wristwarmers from the amount of yarn that I had - and I could!  It probably helps that I don't have huge hands, but I split the yarn into two balls, then split those two balls again so that I had four balls of yarn (two in each colour) for each wristwarmer to work with.  I cast on 40 stitches on a 3mm needle, knitted until I used up all of the first two balls (one grey, one blue) and then reversed the pattern to use up all of the second two balls.  There's really not much to them at all!

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin 2
You can see here that my pattern is really quite simple, but I like the way that the colours work together.  They feel very traditional and I felt that I had to use a Fair Isle-style pattern to get the best out of them.  

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin 2

It also gave me another chance to practice my two-handed colourwork which I discovered how to do earlier this year at the Arne and Carlos workshop that I attended.  If only I had known how to do this years ago when I used to knit Kaffe Fassett sample jumpers for my local yarn store - it would have been so much quicker!

So having been sent the yarn to review - what did I think?  I liked it very much.  It's definitely on my 'to-buy' list at Yarndale because I'd love to see how it works as socks.  It's softer and less hairy than the Hebridean Mohair that I used for big daughter's Peru socks but even that softened nicely with washing and wear, so I think this yarn would definitely get nicer with age.  There's no nylon in it so it but the fibres that have been chosen (including mohair) should work in the same way so the socks should be sturdy enough to withstand walking the dog every day.  There's only one way to find out - and I plan to do just that!  I'd even go so far as to say that I'd use the yarn for a cardigan or a jumper (this from someone who used to run a mile from wool jumpers when she was little!); what stops me is that I know that I don't have the time (or the patience) for such big projects these days but I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures that will be around on social media of other people's projects.  A word of warning though - this yarn is a limited edition and when it's gone, it's gone, so if you want some then you'll need to buy it quickly!

My final finished off knitting project is my Yarndale sheep.  Oh dear.  She does look rather sad (and not particularly sheep-like, I don't think either!), but I'm hoping that she'll cheer up when she meets the rest of the flock at Yarndale!

Have I mentioned that it's Yarndale this weekend?  Yippee!  You'll find me in the knit n natter lounge surrounded by socks!  These are all the pairs that I'll be bringing with me for the Yarndale Sock Line - if you've ever wondered what 97 pairs of socks looks like altogether, then wonder no more because you're looking at it!  

Yarndale Sock Line

I'll be writing more about this year's Sock Line after Yarndale but in the meantime, I've photographed them all and they're all up on the Pinterest board now so do go and have a look - they look wonderful!  You'll notice that we have 101 pairs on the Pinterest board and there will be 101 pairs hanging up on the Sock Line - this is because four pairs have already been gifted so I'll be hanging up photographs of them so that they are still included.  I can't believe that we have over 100 pairs already and I know that Lucy has more pairs waiting for me in Skipton and I also know that more pairs will be being hand-delivered over the weekend.  Isn't that amazing?  Thank you so much to everyone who's got involved this year - what a lot of knitted love we'll be able to give away!  It's not too late to add your suggestions for where you think they should go - have a look at last year's list if you need some inspiration!

I had intended this to be a short and sweet post, but I think we both know by now that short and sweet isn't really my style!  Have a wonderful weekend, whatever you are doing.  If you're coming up to Yarndale, do come and say hello - if you've got socks to show off, I'd love to see them, and if you've got questions about your socks or getting started, then ask away - it'll be lovely to see you!

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