It’s a strange sort of day today.
Across the world from me in the US, elections have taken place that will affect not just that country but the whole world. People are either happy or sad about the result, but just like the UK vote to leave the European Union, it’s done now. I think whatever your political leanings, our job now is to focus on a brighter future and hope that our positive thoughts will influence the world’s energy, support those in decision-making positions and help to make it a better place.
Here in the UK, the snow has arrived. In November! It’s been getting colder for a few days now, so I’m not surprised. It’s been a long time since we had snow this early in the year and it’s not quite made it to Winwick (only soggy leaves here!) but across Yorkshire and further north into Scotland, the white stuff was on the ground this morning. It feels like Winter is rushing towards us at a great rate of knots and woe betide anyone who isn’t ready!
I’ve decided to spend the day planning. Planning for the rest of the year and planning for next year too. Family stuff, blog stuff, knitting stuff … I’m always happy Making a List and it seems like a good thing to do on a strange sort of day. The fire’s crackling, my mug is full and I’m on a roll!
One of the things that I want to do next year is to continue to write tutorials. They’re a lot of work and pretty slow to create too as you have to keep stopping to take photos and write up notes, but I do get a huge sense of satisfaction from seeing the finished tutorial – and hearing that they have helped other people to create something too. So next year will be more socks – I want to build on the basic Sockalong sock and look at more techniques which will help beginners to expand their horizons – and hopefully some other projects too which are at the moment no more than vague ideas but may push themselves to the front of the queue as the year moves on.
One of the tutorials that I am really glad that I created was for Split Mittens. The pair that I knitted for the pattern tutorial got their first outing yesterday because it was blooming cold and I have decided that the time has come for hat and mitts whilst walking the dog. I wore my prototype mittens for a couple of years before I finally got round to writing the pattern up, but I’m glad I did as I know that I’ll be making more of these – they’re so practical as well as warm! You can find the pattern and tutorial here – they’re quick to knit with chunky yarn and perfect for this time of year! (Incidentally, you can find all of my patterns on the free patterns page which is listed in the tabs at the top of the page, or you can click here.)
I’ve made a start on my next sock tutorial which I’m planning to publish early in the New Year. I thought it might be wise to get a head start as Christmas and New Year always arrive in a rush and suddenly it’s February, but also because I am still practising my Continental knit and purl and it’s sooo slow! I have been sorely tempted to switch back to my usual method but I’m never going to get any better if I don’t practise so I am sticking with it. These socks may take me a while!
The yarn is a new yarn called Northern Yarn that I have found which comes from Lancashire. Kate, who owns a yarn shop also called Northern Yarn, sourced the fleeces from a pedigree herd of Poll Dorset sheep which live on a farm close to her home in Lancaster and are Bioenergetically raised. Bioenergetics is a modern form of Homeopathy which is used with fleece and milk-producing animals to ensure that they are as healthy as they can be, and to me, this shows what commitment the farmers have to caring for their flock. Kate knows the farmers, has met the sheep and wants to ensure that the farmers get a fair price for their fleeces to reflect their hard work and expertise – the Wool Marketing Board currently offers £1 per kilo which isn’t much at all. Kate had the fleeces spun into 4ply Poll Dorset lambswool and Poll Dorset/Blue Faced Leicester DK – you can read more about it here. It comes undyed so if you’re a hand-dyer it’s another source for blank canvases, but I’m going to knit it in it’s undyed state because the world – and our house – isn’t ready for me to be let loose with permanent dyes!
Now, if you’ve been following the blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’ve bought quite a few skeins of British yarn this year and I’m really taken by the idea of knowing where the yarn comes from. This isn’t because I’ve turned into some kind of yarn snob (I’ve more than a few balls of commercial sock yarn waiting for my attention!) …
but because there are so many yarns to discover and now that I know more about them, I want to keep learning! However, there’s another reason. I’ve seen a great deal in the media over the last few years about the damage that plastics and manufacturing processes are causing to the earth – even recently there was a ban on plastic microbeads in moisturisers and toothpastes – and who knows what legislation is going to be passed in the future? I think that we owe it to ourselves and to the environment to look at the alternatives. The yarn industry has come so far since the years when I was small and a woolly jumper was just that – woolly, itchy and not always particularly pleasant to wear – and some of that is due in no small part to the development of synthetic processes which have allowed us to have softer and softer yarns. Now, I’m not for one minute suggesting that we should go back to the days of itchy jumpers, but technology has also moved on with spinning, and the quality of the natural fibre yarns has also moved on as breeding, diet and husbandry practises has altered the nature of the fleeces we get from wool and fibre-producing flocks, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t get a second look.
Think about it like this – if you go to a Premier Inn, or a Travelodge, or a Best Western, a Marriott – any one of a hundred popular hotel chains – you know what you’re going to get. The same with chain restaurants, chain stores and supermarkets. But every now and again, we find a charming B&B, or an independent cafe or a gift shop and it offers us something different to that. We now have the choice between the chain store/hotel/restaurant and the independent store/hotel/ restaurant. We can make an informed choice depending on our needs at that particular time, and that’s how I see it with the yarn. I can pick out any one of my balls of commercial yarn and know exactly how it will knit, how it will feel and how it will wear. By testing out new yarns, I’m expanding my knowledge, because you’re reading my blog then you’re expanding yours because I like to share what I know (J) and we can make informed choices for our next projects. It doesn’t matter what type of yarn you buy in the end, but the more you know about what’s available, the more you can look around and see what suits you, your project and your budget. Life is all about choices and I’m a firm believer that we should find out the facts as best we can to help us make the best decisions that we can at the time. And in the process who knows? One more farmer might be able to buy a few more sheep, one more yarn shop might be able to stock a new yarn and we all help to make our yarn industry one of variety and sustainability. Magic, eh?
Phew! I wasn’t intending this post to be a rant and if you’re still with me, then thank you! It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while, and I expect that what’s going on in the world has brought it to my keyboard. Let’s talk about something fun instead before I go and finish my planning.
I’ve got a few projects on my needles at the moment, along with the new tutorial sock. I’ve been itching to try out the West Yorkshire Spinners Blue Lagoon stripes as a Neat Ripple sock. I had a feeling that the narrow stripes would be just perfect as the type of waves that remind you of summer days at the seaside, and I’ve not been disappointed. It’s been quite a while since I’ve knitted the Neat Ripple pattern – can you believe it’s been nearly two years since I posted the tutorial?! – and it’s really nice to re-visit it. West Yorkshire Spinners yarn knits up slightly looser to the yarn that I used in the original tutorial so I’ve used a 2.5mm needle for this sock, but it’s always a good idea to swatch before you start, particularly with this sock as the pattern can get quite tight on smaller needles.
I also cast this on last night. Following on from the workshop I went to the other weekend, it’s a colourwork project which, all being well, will end up being a skirt. It’s already good fun to knit and I’m hoping that it stays that way – the pattern is from the 1960s (it’s the same age as I me which I think is very funny) and it’s full of bright colours and happy patterns. I’m not entirely keen on the original shape so I’ve already fudged it by starting it from the opposite end of the skirt to the pattern – I’m keeping my fingers crossed it still works out! It’s been a while since I knitted something Just for Fun (it was this car seatbelt cover, in case you’re wondering, and even that was crocheted and not knitted!) and I think that it’s important to do that every now and again. After all, we knit for pleasure, don’t we?
Whatever sort of day you’re having, happy or sad, I hope that you can find something fun and positive to remind you that the world isn’t always a gloomy place. As people who surround ourselves with bright yarn, we should know that better than most!