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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Yarndale Sock Line at Yarndale 2015

I still find it quite amazing that it was only five months ago that the Winwick Mum Sockalong started and since then so many people have started knitting socks who felt that for whatever reason they never could before.

Knowing that I would be going to Yarndale this year, the idea of sock bunting was raised back in June.  It seemed like such a lovely idea – after all, one of the delights of Yarndale is walking through the entrance hall and seeing all the crocheted triangle bunting hanging there to welcome visitors.  Why not sock bunting to show off everyone’s socky achievements?

One thing niggled at me, though.  What would we do with the sock bunting afterwards?  It seemed a shame to ask people to knit one sock to go on a line and then after a weekend of admiration, hide them away for another eleven months.  And then there’s that thing that sock yarn comes in balls big enough to knit two socks.  It seemed like a bit of a waste not to have two socks – and then the idea struck me.  What if anybody who wanted to could knit two socks and then they could be given away after Yarndale?

Lucy thought this was a wonderful idea and so the Yarndale Sock Line was born.  After the original post in July, the socks started to arrive.  I would get updates from Lucy in Skipton telling me that more parcels had been delivered by the postman, and I would get more and more excited – but also more and more frustrated knowing that I had wait over the long school summer holidays before I could get back to Skipton to pick them up!

At last, the pick up day arrived and I headed excitedly up the motorway to Skipton, fingers firmly crossed that there would be no major traffic queues or tractor convoys that I would get stuck in.  I really love my visits to Skipton; I am greeted like an old friend now at Coopers Café Bar (which, considering that I only tend to go every 5 weeks or so, makes me feel very special) and the pleasure of being able to sit and chat to my lovely friend Lucy and other yarny folk at the knit n natter sessions is immeasurable.  You can read about our Parcel Opening Day here.

Back home, it was time to start photographing and cataloguing the socks.  This is all done now, but I’ve not quite got round to uploading all the pictures to Pinterest – another job for later this week if I can. 

Just a few short weeks later and it was the end of September and the Yarndale weekend had arrived.  Leaves were starting to turn brown and the smell of autumn was in the air.  It was certainly a beautiful time to be in Yorkshire.  Inside the Auction Mart, there was more of the smell of sheep, but that just added to the authenticity of the yarn festival.  I’m going to tell you more about what goes in setting up the Yarndale festival in a couple of days.

It was quite emotional to be standing there in what would become the Knit n Natter Lounge with my big bag of socks.  Months of excitement, preparation and knitting had finally come to the point where the Yarndale Sock Line would become a reality.   Have you ever had that feeling where you’re in a car park with lots of spaces to choose from and you don’t know which one to pick?  It’s crazy, isn’t it?  Given only one space, you’d take it without thinking, but with space to change your mind, you become indecisive.  This was me looking around and trying to decide where to hang up the socks.  “Just make sure you don’t garrote anybody with the washing line,” Lucy said.  “You don’t want to be upsetting the Health & Safety team!”  Having met the Health & Safety team and concluded that you didn’t mess with them, that pretty much decided where the socks were going to go.  

There was space above the seating where I could safely hang the line and space at the bottom by the handrail where more socks could be displayed.  It's actually to the left of the photo above - for some reason I didn't take a picture facing that way.  I strung the line up (in an appropriately Health & Safety-conscious kind of way, in case you were worried) and started to peg out the socks.

At first, I thought they would all fit on one section of the line, just above where people could walk up the steps to sit down.  I knew there were over 60 pairs of socks in my bag, but the space looked so big that I thought they would be swallowed up.  Very quickly, they filled up the space and I realised that all of the socks together were heavier than I thought and the line started to hang lower and lower.   The risk of inadvertent sock-garroting had returned, so some more line was strung up along the next section of the seating area and the socks moved along to fill that space too.   

And then they filled up the space at the bottom by the hand rail ...

where I put the information on what the Sock Line was, and all the names of the contributors and the picture of Lissie’s socks that were gifted in France.  

If I had felt emotional before, it was nothing compared to seeing all of these socks hanging in all their woolly glory in the Auction Mart, each pair complete with their own message of lovely words and kind thoughts for their new owners.  I had imagined what it would be like, but this was so much better.

There were more socks to come too, with Yarndale visitors bringing another ten pairs during the weekend.

For those of you who didn’t get to Yarndale, I am sorry that the photos don’t really seem to do the display justice.  (Although I do love this one with Lucy all a-blur in the background - that's pretty much how she was all weekend!)

Being so high up it was difficult to get good pictures of the Line, and the light was never very good in the Knit n Natter lounge, but I hope you can get a feel of just how many socks there were and how lovely they all looked together, wafting gently in woolly splendour just as I had imagined them doing.  

It was everything that I hoped for, and I was so proud to be able to tell everyone who admired them that they had been knitted by sock knitters – some new and some not so new – all over the world.  

Some of these socks are the first pairs that someone ever knitted, and to give them away is a special gift indeed.  Many times I was asked if the socks were for sale, but again I was very proud to be able to say that they are going to be given away and this was always met with nods and words of approval.  We’re a generous lot, us crafters.  We like to give.  And there are 75 pairs of socks to give away.  Isn’t that just wonderful?  A wonderful, generous gift because a pair of socks isn’t just something that you whizz up over the weekend (although I know some people do!); it takes time and effort and expense, as sock yarn isn’t cheap.  I am very grateful to everyone who has been involved.  Thank you.

So what now?  Well, I have made a start on making sure that a proper record is kept of each of the socks and where they are going to go.  I thought it would be nice to say where they have been sent so that the knitter can imagine who might be wearing their socks.  You can see the list of contributors here.  I will be doing my best to get the photos on Pinterest this week so that you can see all of the socks and who created them and will let you know as soon as I have done that.  I will be contacting the organisations that have been suggested as possible recipients for the socks over the next couple of weeks.  I’m not in any rush – I want to know that they will be going to places where they will be appreciated and used.  I have contacts for homeless shelters, women’s crisis centres, hospices, old peoples’ homes and refugee centres, and am still open to suggestions if you would like to make any.  I would like them to go to as many places as they possibly can – maybe only a couple of pairs to each place but because people from so many parts of the world have knitted them, I feel that the socks should be given to more than just one or two organisations.

I can't tell you how wonderful it has been to be involved in Yarndale this year and to be able to create the Yarndale Sock Line with your help.  I'm very excited now to see where all the socks are going to go - having felt like Christmas opening all the parcels, it feels like Christmas all over again being able to send the socks on as the gifts they are intended to be.  How lucky am I to be able to do this?

I hope that we'll be able to do this again next year - the experience of passing the socks on will tell whether it's a good idea or not, but I know that it's been something that people have enjoyed being part of so I really hope that it is.  There will be more to tell you over the coming weeks but I hope you have enjoyed looking at the socks on the Sock Line as much as I did over the Yarndale weekend - I was very sad to take them down, but happy to know that with each peg removed, the socks were one step closer to their new homes.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Monthly Musing - October 2015 - Resilience

It’s often said that in times of despair we are able to draw upon a reserve of strength that will carry us through the darker days.  Recently we have seen news articles showing just that – people who are prepared to leave their homes and families to try to find a better, safer life.  We’ve seen TV footage of refugees fighting for their places on trains taking them to places that they don’t know simply because the idea of staying where they are is too awful to contemplate.  

However, for “despair” you can also read illness, bereavement, fear or any one of those situations which make you feel as if the sunlight has been eclipsed from life and will never return.   We’ve all had times like these in our lives and yet to a greater or lesser extent we have all picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and faced the world again, sometimes more wary and sometimes braver and stronger.  So where does this reserve of strength come from? What is it that makes some people get out of bed and carry on whilst others go into a decline?  Who chooses who has that strength and for whom the circumstances of their lives become too much?

For some, it’s unquestionably a gift from God, but what about those who don’t believe?  A lack of faith doesn’t preclude them from being as strong as anybody else, and whilst they may not have the same belief that they are not alone in facing their dark days, it doesn’t necessarily stop them from turning their faces to find the sun.  Perhaps it’s our determination not to let our families or ourselves down.  Perhaps it’s an unshakeable feeling that there is something better just over the horizon.  Perhaps, no matter how pessimistic the outlook, we are all hard-wired with an optimism that doesn’t allow us to believe that we can fail.  Perhaps it’s just how some families are.

My husband was talking to someone recently who said that we all “create the weather for our children”, meaning that our outlook on life helps to form their outlook on life.  Isn’t that a lovely expression?  I look at my own parents and I see people who stood up to fight personal adversity, not hide away in a corner.   I see people who would not be stopped by what life threw at them, and were determined to make the best of the time that they had.  I see people who were brave at times when I don’t know if I would be so brave myself.  For them, the outlook might have been gloomy from time to time, but they were the type of people who didn’t avoid the showers but learned to dance in the rain.

It’s not until we come to reflect on our personal weather forecast that we realise that we have a choice, for our families and ourselves.  Who chooses who has the strength to get up and carry on?  We do.

In memory of my Dad, 1936-2015

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Two more sleeps before Yarndale!

Yarndale is getting closer!

I’m going up to Skipton tomorrow to put up the Yarndale Sock Line socks and help out generally – it’ll be fascinating to see “behind the scenes” and I’ll be sure to take photos for a future blog post. 

I’m really looking forward to seeing lots and lots of you over the weekend – don’t forget there’s a Sock Clinic and Social in the Knit n Natter Lounge from 12pm-2pm each day, so do come and say hello.  I’ll have some copies of my book for sale too, in case anyone wants one on the day.  Bring your socks to show off, your questions which I’ll attempt to answer and your pennies for some lovely yarn – you’re going to be spoilt for choice!  Sock brooches will be a fun way to recognise each other but are not essential J

Yarndale is a happy celebration of all things yarny and although I’ve had a sad week, I intend to join in with the celebrations and forget about “real life” for a while.  I won’t be offended at all if you don’t ask me how I am, just come and chat as you would do if we met for a coffee (or tea, as I don’t drink coffee J).  

See you there! xx

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

More socks!

Thank you so much to everyone who continues to send socks for the Yarndale Sock Line.  I've collected another six pairs from Black Sheep Wools this morning and I think that there are some more waiting for me in Skipton too.

I haven't forgotten my promise to put them all up on Pinterest so that everyone can see them, but an unexpected family death last week has disrupted all of our plans as we try to come to terms with what has happened.  I hope you will understand.

I will put the pictures up as soon as I can and will do it this week if I am able to, but it might be after Yarndale now (yes, I will still be going and I hope to see lots of you and your socks there!).  Rest assured that all of the socks will be documented and a careful note made of them and where they eventually go.

Here are the pairs I picked up at Black Sheep this morning.  All of the socks are so lovely, and I know each pair is going to be a very special gift.

It's only four sleeps now until Yarndale so the countdown has begun!  

Monday, 14 September 2015

Monthly Musing - September 2015 - Belonging

We’re very sociable creatures, us humans.  We like to fit in, we like to belong, and it’s good for our wellbeing.   I hadn’t really thought too much about this in recent years, and certainly not from my own point of view.  My girls have variously belonged to youth clubs and forums, Brownies, sports clubs and music groups and that’s something that we actively encourage our children to do so that they broaden our horizons, meet new friends and develop their skills.

For too many adults, though, that’s something that gets forgotten as we get older.  It wasn’t until over the last year when I’ve got involved with a couple of knit ‘n’ natter groups that I’ve been reminded of just how powerful the act of belonging actually is.  We spend time with like-minded people, we become involved in a communal activity, and we have the opportunity to have conversations outside of those that we would normally have.  Our horizons are broadened once more and our well-being tanks are topped up.

I don’t think that it matters what sort of group you belong to (although one that lifts people up rather than pulling them down is obviously the most beneficial); I think it is the act of belonging that is the important thing.  So what if you aren’t the best golfer in the club?  If you enjoy being on the course in the fresh air in the company of other golfers, that’s the main thing.  Your skill level at whatever you do is largely irrelevant, in my opinion.  As long as you are doing something that you love to do then your wellbeing is automatically improved.  And that is where I think the magic happens.  Once our wellbeing improves, suddenly it opens up other doors in our lives.  I know of people who found the courage to return to studying years after they left school, fulfilling a life-long ambition.  I know of people who, after spending too much time on their own and afraid to socialize, became able to hold conversations with people they would never have dreamed of talking to - and just because they felt that they belonged.

We never like to think that our children are being left out at school and yet we seem to be happy in our older years being on our own.  Left to our own devices or left out?  I’m sure that sometimes the answer is both, and only we can decide whether that makes us happy or not.  From my own experience, being in the company of others who enjoy doing something that I also like to do, and have experience, knowledge and passion for the activity to share is something that I had not realised I was missing until it became a part of my life.  Our wellbeing tanks can never be too full, but they can be too empty and I believe it’s important to do something about that while we can.