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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Winwick Mum Sockalong 1st birthday

Goodness, can you believe that it's been a whole year since the very first socks were cast on in the Winwick Mum Sockalong?  And wow, what a year it's been!

It's been quite amazing, and quite emotional too, to know that the Sockalong has helped so many people all around the world to knit a pair of socks.  There are so many reasons why it's been important to people to produce their own pair of hand-knits, and I can't tell you what a privilege it feels to have been involved in making this to happen.  There's something very special about knitting your own socks, whether they're for you or for a gift, and I know there have been a lot of happy feet this year.  I also know that there's been a shortage of short circular needles, a rise in sock yarn sales and an increase in international friendships through our Facebook groups.  Magic of all kinds through the pointy sticks!

So what happens now?  More of the same, of course!  The tutorials are staying on the blog, the book is staying on Amazon and the Sockalong is still running.  It's never too late to jump in and start a pair of socks, and my hope is that more people who have always wanted to knit socks but never managed it for whatever reason will find the tutorials and be able to join in.

We do need a celebration though, so feel free to sing "Happy Birthday" at the top of your voice whilst doing your happy dance in your socks - and if they're still on the needles you can sing anyway.  If the materials for knitting your socks are still in the bag, now's your chance to get them started! J

I also thought that a giveaway might be in order so with the help of a few friends I have gathered together some lovely treats and here's what you can win ...

There's a signed copy of Super Socks so that you can follow the tutorials wherever you are.  The information is the same as the blog tutorials but split by needle type rather than by sock section. It's a good size to prop open whilst you work and there are just as many pictures to help you get to grips with knitting your sock.

There is a set of very cute tea and cakes stitch markers which have kindly been donated by Rachel Horton.  They're perfect for a birthday party and will help you to keep track of your decreases very easily.  You can see more of her stitch markers here.

A skein of very gorgeous Peak District Yarns merino 4ply sock yarn in the colourway "Azalea Walk", which is the generous gift of Carrie Warr, the talent behind all of the Peak District Yarns. 

A year's subscription to adopt an alpaca at Charnwood Forest Alpacas.  If you've ever fancied owning your very own alpaca, this is as close as you can get without needing a paddock!  You'll get a choice of alpaca to adopt, an adoption certificate and photo of your chosen alpaca and information about the herd at Charnwood Forest.

And last but by no means least, this very beautiful Harris Tweed knitting bag with a matching accessory bag and DPN/circular needle roll with 16 compartments.  This has been specially made for the Sockalong 1st birthday and gifted by Hilary of The Fabulous Mr G and is just the thing for transporting your socks (or any other project) in style.  Harris Tweed is rather special material and Hilary's attention to detail is superb.  You know you'll be the talk of your knitting group with these bags - and that's before they see your knitting!

If you would like to enter the giveaway, it's very easy.  I'd love to get an idea of how many socks have been made through the Sockalong over the last year, so if you've knitted socks, please tell me how many pairs you've knitted.  If you haven't knitted any socks yet but would still like to enter the giveaway, just tell me who your second pair of socks is going to be knitted for - because your first pair will be for yourself! 

I'll be drawing the winner on Sunday 8 May to give as many people as possible chance to see the post, so please do share it if you can.  Won't it be wonderful to have some idea how many pairs of socks are out in the world?  I'm very excited just thinking about it!

Good luck - and here's to many more Winwick Mum Sockalong birthdays!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Yarn Shop Day 2016

It was Yarn Shop Day on Saturday and after the fun of last year, I was really looking forward to being part of the celebrations at Black Sheep Wools.  This is the third Yarn Shop Day event that's been organised by Let's Knit magazine, and even more yarn shops up and down the country got involved which is brilliant news for the shop side of the yarn industry.

I arrived early to set my table up.  It might look a bit bare at the moment (especially when you see some of the other photos coming up); in fact you can see how calm it was as I even had time for a cup of tea - but within the hour the shop was very busy and most people stopped to have a look at what was going on as they made their way through (it was difficult not to, really, as I was right by the door and pounced on unsuspecting knitters as they approached!) and it wasn't long before the table was covered with balls of yarn, packets of needles, sock samples being knitted and pairs of socks which people had brought in. 

That's always my favourite bit - seeing the socks that people have knitted.  I saw them on feet, on needles, in bags and even tipped out across the table.  Lots and lots of socks!  What always makes me smile is the way that people tell me how addictive socks are - I blame the yarn designers and manufacturers for that as it's so easy to do "just one more round" to see how the next colour is going to come out of the ball!

I did like these clear wellies that Black Sheep Wools had found for displaying their yarn.  I even saw a pair of clear boots being worn with fabulous pink hand-knits being shown off inside them!  

It wasn't just me at Yarn Shop Day (which would be very boring for those people who don't want to knit socks!).  Sue Pinner, who designs for Stylecraft, was there with her books of granny squares and some of her blankets.  They're very colourful and in a range of different yarns too - I always forget that Stylecraft make more than just the Special DK which I've crocheted with! 

Look how pretty these flowers are in these colours.  This is Stylecraft Life DK which has a wool content and feels very different to my Special DK blanket.  

Here's Sue during a quiet moment.  We had lunch together and she told me that she produces 3-4 patterns a month for Stylecraft (a month?!) which is quite a hefty workload.  There's certainly no shortage of choice if you're looking for a crochet project though! 

In the back room was Beryl Weir who was doing weaving demonstrations.  She had brought all kinds of clothing samples with her, from scarves to jackets, and they all looked stunning.  

What I liked was that the weave is often irregular and might look quite rustic but the combinations of colours and fibres give it a modern flavour.  There were certainly lots of people trying the clothes on, so I can't have been the only who thought that!

You can see here the combination of colours and textures - I would never think of putting chenille yarn through a piece of woven fabric but it looked amazing.

There was an opportunity to have a go for yourself too - there was quite a queue to try out the looms at one point.  Beryl regularly holds weaving workshops at Black Sheep so anybody can go along and learn how to produce fabric for themselves.

Here's Beryl on the left.  She's chatting to Fay Dashper-Hughes who, with her friend Lynne Rowe were at Black Sheep to record a podcast for their new crochet podcast called The Crochet Circle.  I first met Fay when she came to one of my sock workshops, and Lynne at the Arne and Carlos workshop held at Black Sheep Wools in February; they're lovely people and I hope their new venture does very well.  (Don't you just love photos of people in conversation?  I took a lot of pictures of Beryl and Fay and this was the only one where their facial expressions were fit to post!)

This is Kathryn from Crafternoon Treats surrounded by just a few of the bags that she's created with her Bagalong.  I'd only met her briefly at Yarndale last year so it was nice to spend a bit more time chatting with her - especially as she's on a mission to create a crochet sock pattern.  Sara at Black Sheep asked if that meant we were now rivals, but I don't see it like that at all.  I think it's more important to get a handmade sock on your foot, to feel the achievement and to enjoy the fabulous range of socks yarns and whilst I am never going to give up my passion for knitted socks, for those who really feel they can't knit, it's good to have other options.

There were some lovely bags on display - it just shows how the designs have come on since the 1970s when crochet bags were in fashion the first time round!

What a great day it was.  It was the perfect opportunity for yarn squishing, pattern perusing and seeing a couple of impromptu knit n natter sessions set up around the shop.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting the chance to catch up with other crafters too.  And eat lemon cake.  Why would you not want to support your local yarn shop? J

With many thanks to Black Sheep Wools for inviting me back to their Yarn Shop Day celebrations and keeping me fed and watered J

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Monthly Musing - May 2016 - Home

I’ve thinking a lot recently about “home” and what “home” actually represents.  There’s the bricks and mortar concept of home, and that’s where my thoughts started, in a conversation with big daughter as we walked around (yet another) university to see whether she thought she would like to go there.  She doesn’t want to be too far from home, and that has been a big part of her choice; although she is keen to spread her wings, she wants to know that she can come home whenever she wants to.  I’ve also been thinking about my Dad’s house this week and I think of that as home too, even though I’ve lived with my husband for longer than I lived with my parents now.  It still doesn’t stop that feeling of familiarity as I pull onto the drive and walk into the house, which smells as it always has done and looks pretty much as I remember it from being a child.

The dictionary definition of “home” is “the place where one lives permanently, especially as part of the household”, but I believe there’s more to “home” than that.  For some people, that never represents home at all, so there must be something else that provides that same feeling of security and comfort – for surely that is what “home” really means to us.  It’s our anchor, our safe place, the place where we can lock the (even metaphorical) door and keep the outside world at bay.  It’s not always something physical, either.  For me, doing some work in the garden or sitting down to knit after a long day also feels like home.  I can feel myself relaxing and know that everything’s right with the world, and it helps me to feel ready to face whatever the next day has in store.

It seems to me that “home” is actually created in our minds.  It’s a place of comfortable memories, a place where we don’t have to try too hard to be someone that we’re not.  We slip into regular routines but we are also free to try out new things, safe in the knowledge that we can always return to the starting point and (for the most part) it will be unchanged.  I think that means that we can also have more than one “home”, which is an interesting thought.  Mine is certainly where my family is, and wherever we chose to live, as long as that is the case then anywhere could be home.  That’s not quite the same as the line in the song “wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home”, but more along the lines of “home is where the heart is”.  Our heads and hearts are closely intertwined; sometimes too closely as we allow our heads to rule our hearts or vice versa, but it just goes to show what complicated beings we are – and how “home” is less easy to define sometimes than you might imagine.  How lovely though, to feel that we can be at home anywhere, as long as we choose to think that way.  We are all anchored and free at the same time, and that’s a powerfully liberating thing.