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Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Planning

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!



18 comments:

  1. I shall definitely have to have a look at your split mitten pattern, the snow arrived here today and it's so cold. That's the great thing about hand knitted socks, at least my feet are nice and warm.

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    1. You can't beat hand-knitted socks in cold weather! xx

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  2. You are so right. We are surrounded by negativity and that helps no one. Just to say that you are still inspiring me. Just taken delivery of 4 balls of 8 ply sock wool. I made a pair recently using your new 8 ply pattern for my son. They were a huge success so I'm now making 4 more pairs for my men for Christmas. Thank you. Barbara xx

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    1. That's lovely to hear, Barbara, I'm glad the pattern worked for you! You're going to have lots of cosy-footed men in your house this Christmas! xx

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  3. I'm glad you created your split mitten tutorial as well! I've made one pair for myself and I'm so pleased with them that I'm making two pairs as Christmas presents.
    And thanks for the positive start to your blog. I managed to get into that frame of mind after Brexit but it's not been as easy today.

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    1. Hi Heather, thanks for your comment, I'm really glad you liked the split mitten pattern! I don't know how I ever existed without my pair :-) xx

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  4. Greetings Christine. I think you said it perfectly in your opening paragraph about us being positive to make the world a better place. It's always a joy to read your blog as I learn so much about sock knitting. Not just the basics but I loved learning about the natural yarns vs commercial. I'm making a quick shawl from some commercial yarn and I must say, it's not fun to work with. Your ripple socks are coming along beautifully. I'll send you some warm weather; the Santa Ana winds were blowing fiercely today and it was in the high 90's! Another hot day forecast for tmmorrow. I wish you all the best dear friend. Pat xx

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    1. Hi Pat, I hope you're keeping well and your shawl is progressing nicely. I recently made on with some Stylecraft Head over Heels sock yarn and it was very nice - I think it depends so often on the brand, the blend and even what the sheep ate whether we get nice yarn or not! :-) xx

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  5. I am a crocheter from Florida, I have followed Attic 24, for several years, we do not have a variety of sock yarn in the USA. I bought the needles, and tried to follow along, I gave up on the heel. Please suggest a Basic Beginning Tutorial..I am not one to give up....but....
    Thanks
    Carol

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    1. Hi Carol, I'm sorry you're having trouble with the heel. I wrote the Sockalong tutorials as beginner tutorials, so I can only suggest that you either search for a video tutorial that might help you, or you can email me with some pictures of what was going wrong so that I can try to help you out from here. My email is winwickmum@gmail.com xx

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  6. I totally agree with your first paragraph Christine. It can be difficult with all that is going on in the world but if you can make a positive difference to the people around you hopefully the ripples will grow like a pebble in a pond. I love your ripple socks and think I shall make them a challenge for 2017. Looking forward to seeing how your skirt develops.

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    1. Thank you! The skirt's going well so far, and I'm really enjoying knitting it because it's quite different to anything I've knitted for such a long time! xx

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  7. Thanks for the post Christine. It really cheered me up and helped put everything in perspective. The World has gone mad methinks! I loved what you said about learning about new yarns as opposed to "old favourites" but my only problem with that is I've often found independent yarns that I've wanted to try but so often by the time I hear about them they're out of stock or no longer doing the colourway that I want. It's very frustrating as I can't always buy them when I see them due to finance constraints. Anyway, just thought I'd throw in my 2p worth! Have a fabulous day/week! xxx

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    1. Yes, I know what you mean about yarns not being available - I guess that's the downside of truly limited editions because of the limited size of flocks. I'm hoping that the more people know about different breed yarns and possibly want to try for themselves, the more stock will be produced so that it will be easier to find them in the future xx

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  8. Hi, I just found your site from referral of knitting paradise forum. I am a novice still in sock knitting and I find your tutorial easy to understand. THANK you. I am using two 16inch circulars, looking forward to your other tutorials. Mw

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    1. Hello Marywallis, it's lovely to see you! I'm glad you're finding the tutorials helpful! xx

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  9. Love, love, love your posts!
    I'm a new sock knitter and will be ordering your book soon. We used to live in Cornwall when we were on exchange with the RAF. We LOVE England and get back when we can. We hope to be there some time next year for a wedding.
    I am seeing the sheep mug in lots of your posts. It is adorable. Where can I find one of those?

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    1. Hello Alice, it's lovely to see you and thanks for your kind comments! A wedding is a wonderful reason to visit Cornwall, I hope you have a fabulous time when you get back here. The mug is from a company called Herdy which is based in the Lake District and all their products feature "Herdy" who is a Herdwick sheep, one of the best-known Cumbrian breeds. Their website is www.herdy.co.uk and you'll find a few versions of the mug there, along with lots of other products which are all equally as nice! :-) xx

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