Shinybees

Ep 116 – Return to Shetland with Susan Crawford

Susan Crawford of Susan Crawford Vintage joins me this week and we take a journey through the past three years since Ep55. In that episode, Susan talked about the Pubslush (crowdfunded publishing) campaign she was undertaking to print pre-orders of the book. She also described at length, the painstaking process she had been through the research and create the Vintage Shetland Project.

Podcast Episode Trailer

Vintage Shetland Project book cover. Image Copyright Susan Crawford.

This involved researching at length pieces in the Shetland Museum archives, along with the stories of the people behind the pieces. It is a social and historical exploration of the Shetland Islands and beyond, as the stories stretch far away from those shores. A computer program was written to record each stitch of each project meticulously, and these details were used to create patterns to recreate these pieces in the modern day, in a range of sizes, for men and women. You can hear the full story of this here, along with more about Susan and her journey to becoming a knitting historian, writer and knitwear designer.

On location at the Vintage Shetland Project photoshoot on Vaila, Shetland Islands.
Image Copyright Susan Crawford.

The Vintage Shetland Project

The Vintage Shetland Project was officially published in February 2018. The culmination of 8 years of painstaking work, the book is an absolute triumph, both as an academic work, but also as Susan was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer just prior to the original planned publication date.

To quote from the blurb on the Vintage Shetland Project book:

Fashion & social history intertwine in the Vintage Shetland Project as Susan Crawford recreates & explores cherished pieces from Shetland’s rich knitting heritage.

The Vintage Shetland Project, is the culmination of eight years of hard work and personal determination. Inspired by the patterns and colours of Shetland knitting, the fashion historian, author, designer and publisher Susan Crawford began a journey into the rich heritage of Shetland knitwear, and in particular the pieces held in the Shetland Museum archive. With the help of Dr Carol Christiansen, the museum’s curator, Susan undertook the task of carefully selecting the most stunning and original designs from the 1920s to the 1950s, transcribed them stitch by stitch, and has here recreated them for the modern knitter, in stunning detail and a range of sizes for women and men. In combination with the collection of 27 comprehensive patterns for garments and accessories are carefully researched essays exploring the stories behind each piece and honouring their creators – some famous, some forgotten. Photographed by Susan on the island of Vaila, situated off the west coast of Shetland, this book also celebrates the untameable beauty of Shetland itself. Compiled with Susan’s trademark attention to detail, this book is a fabulous treasury of Shetland knitting design and a valuable insight into its textile traditions. It offers you the chance to delve into a fascinating era for knitwear design and to bring it to life in stitch-perfect vintage style.

The meticulously written patterns showcase Susan’s new yarn range, Fenella, created specifically to enable you, the knitter, to perfectly recreate these unique museum pieces. Made using 100% British wool, grown, spun and dyed in Britain, in a range of 26 colours carefully chosen to emulate the shades found in the original vintage pieces.
The Vintage Shetland Project is a celebration of stunning design, beautiful knitting and the people of Shetland themselves, during a time of local change, international conflict and revolution in the knitting industry.

Yule – Vintage Shetland Project. Image Copyright Susan Crawford.

In this episode we talk about the realisation of the Vintage Shetland Project into its paper form, and discuss a few of the amazing stories that have come out as a result of this research. This includes a hitherto forgotten knitting historian from 1930, whose work was destined to be lost forever until this project and a daring WW2 pilot, who believed the Fair Isle sweaters knitted by his doting Aunt kept him safe from the Luftwaffe.

Inside the Knocker Jotter. Image Copyright Susan Crawford.

The Knocker Jotter

Next, Susan talked about another project, connected to her diagnosis: The Knocker Jotter. Susan was very open about the details of her journey through cancer. The Knocker Jotter was a creative project, that came about with members of her cancer support group, and was very empowering for the women involved. It involved a photoshoot of all the women, as they are following cancer; all the way from undergoing chemotherapy to a full, double mastectomy without reconstruction. These images were combined in The Knocker Jotter.

FUBC Shawl in the Victoria and Natural colour combination, modelled by Victoria, who inspired the colour way.
Image Copyright Susan Crawford.

FUBC Shawl

Susan also created the FUBC kit, which is a shawl kit that was launched to celebrate the end of Susan’s breast cancer treatment. This included two skeins of Ghyll yarn, one of which was a limited edition colour by one of four of her favourite hand dyers, the other undyed, and two different shawl patterns which combined the two colour ways. £15 from the sale of each kit is donated to Cancer Care, which was the charity which helped Susan during her illness.

One of the glorious views at Monkey Ghyll Farm.

Future Plans for Monkey Ghyll Farm and Susan Crawford Vintage

Finally we return to the present, with exciting plans for Monkley Ghyll Farm. There are naughty Shetland sheep, retreats, workshops and jam and gin on the horizon. Susan has a vision for turning the farm into a creative sanctuary, and sharing this special location with others.

You can find Susan at http://www.susancrawfordvintage.com

Music for this episode is ‘I Need a Drink’ by Adam and the Walter Boys and is available on iTunes.

Ep 115 – Phone Down, Knitting Up

Where do you lose knitting time and how can you go about carving out more time to do it? In this week’s episode, I talk about the idea of cutting out mindless phone scrolling time to increase your knitting time, and the associated benefits of doing so.

News

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, it’s entirely probably that you’ve still heard about the #titsoutcollective organised by Countess Ablaze. 

This was in response to copying of the ‘If I Want Exposure’ colour way (listen to to story of this in 107) and aimed to turn around the the idea of someone ripping off a charity colour way into something far more positive. Launched on 1st July and masterminded in 13 days, 287 dyers, designers and makers from around the world have taken part. You can find all of the, in the Titty Fade Gallery.

Also, if you enjoyed meeting The Countess in 107 and 95, you should know she’s started and new vlog over on YouTube.

UK Yarn Events in July

Tickets for the annual Great London Yarn Crawl are now available. This is taking place on 1st September 2018 in various shops around London and is organised by the lovely ladies over at Yarn in the City.

Another favourite of the show is Jess of Ginger Twist Studio, who is bringing the Indie Burgh Craft Crawl to you all on 27th and 28th July 2018, 1000-1700. Expanded to include wider craft emporia, with an after-party on Saturday at Akva, it’s definitely one to get into you diary, especially given the glorious weather we’re having in the UK this July!

Fibre East is back in Bedford on 28th and 29th July 2018.

Want to Start a Podcast?

If you want to start a knitting podcast, I’m going to be sharing some of my secrets from six years of producing the show. I’m feeling the itch to get more women’s voices out there, speaking about whatever it is that is important to them – including knitting, of course. More news coming on this.

Shinybees Vlog/Video

I’m going to be sharing some of my upcoming travels along with other things like tutorials on my YouTube channel. Don’t worry I’m not ditching audio whatsoever, this is simply in addition to what I already do here. You can subscribe to my channel here.

Phone Down, Knitting Up

The main chat in the show this week centres around the idea of ending mindless scrolling of social channels on your phone to indulge in more of what you enjoy: in my case, knitting.

Do you often catch yourself saying, ‘I’m such a slow knitter?’ I used to, and when I examined whether I was actually slow or not, I made the surprising discovery that my internal and external chat was completely wrong. What was actually the case, was that I spent too little time knitting.

Even if you speed up your knitting by an extra ten or twenty stitches a minute, you’ll still get more done if you knit for one extra minute at your original speed, provided that is more than the amount of stitches you can do in a minute.

eg 60 stitches a minute sped up by 10 = 70 stitches a minute. 60 stitches a minute done for an extra minute = 120 stitches.

Therefore, given that we all have the same 24 hours in a day to spend, how can we get back some time that we are potentially wasting? Every extra minute saved means more stitches, and winter is coming, friends, so it’s time to get those needles clicking. Autumn fashion isn’t going to knit itself, after all.

Gratuitous Knitty Porn AKA Paul Rudd Knitting

Having identified that mindless phone scrolling was a terrible habit (thanks to the Moment app), I’ve decided to try and consciously pick up my knitting when bored or when I have a few extra minutes here or there during the day. Whilst I would say that I don’t have time to be bored (and this is true) I have found myself absentmindedly picking up the phone and scrolling out of habit, rather than for a purpose. To be clear, I’m not talking about all phone usage being bad here – it’s a great tool for looking things up, speaking to friends and looking after clients and business. I’m purely talking about those times where you wake up, face down and drooling, half an hour later, when you were just checking the weather.

I’m curious to hear – is this something you’ve found yourself falling victim to lately? Let me know! I want to hear your point of view and any ways you have found to try and combat the scroll.

Join the Shinybees Podcast Community

Chat about this episode and all things knitting over in the Shinybees Podcast Community on Facebook.

Ep 114 – Yarn Snob

Yarn Snob

Yarn Snob. For some it’s worn as a badge of honour and for others, it’s the worst thing in the world, but what exactly is a yarn snob? And why are we talking about it on today’s podcast? Well, it’s a word that is thrown around the bazaars quite a bit, and it’s also a word that tends to provoke strong opinions in people. That’s as good a reason as any to going into it a little deeper here.

Yarn Snob Definition

There was (unsurprisingly) no dictionary definition for yarn snob, so I looked up both words individually to arrive at the following:

Yarn Snob noun – A person who believes that their tastes in spun thread used for knitting, weaving or sewing are superior to those of other people.

Types of Yarn Snob

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all description when it comes to describing yarn snobbery – I find it can take many guises, depending upon the attitudes of the people involved. It isn’t simply a case of snooting down the nose at certain fibres or blends.

I looked far and wide to come up with 6, gusting 7 different types of yarn snob, and I’m looking for your help to get that up to a solid ten types.

In no particular order…

Fair Isle is so street these days

1) Acrylic Yarn Snob.

Would rather be found face down in a pool of their own urine than knit with acrylic yarn.

May have a point with the very cheap and squeaky acrylic, but there is some really reasonable acrylic blends out there today that are perfectly suited to certain jobs, like items for kids. Yeah, it gets a bit sweaty, but even my Mum can wash it without cocking it up, and it will survive the eventual heat death of the universe, so it has its benefits!

I know it’s terrible. I make no excuses!

2) Novelty Yarn Snob.

May or may not embrace the acrylic but would definitely not be seen working with eyelash yarn, tinsel yarn, fun fur, pom pom yarn or any other novelty type yarn.

(These people are missing out on a major joy of life – tinsel yarn. Ed.)

Box of Chocolates

3) Indie/Hand Dyed Snob.

If a real person they know hasn’t sweated on or broken their back over it, they don’t want to know. Machine dyed yarn is the work of satan himself.

I get this snob, as I am a huge fan of hand dyed yarn myself, but there are situations when hand dyed is inferior to machine dyed yarn. Case in point – knitting socks. The German machine dyed yarn brands are indestructible (Regia, Opal) whereas I have found that hand dyed yarns with the same fibre composition tend to fade faster.

Dragonfly Wings shawl by Aimee Nicholson. Image reproduced here with kind permission.

4) Luxury Fibre Snob.

They won’t even knit with a 75/25 Merino/Nylon if it is hand dyed – it’s cashmere, alpaca, baby camel and silk all the way here.

Luxury fibres don’t always make the best materials for a project, especially is they are soft and loosely spun. Case in point – pretty much any Boo Knits shawl. She uses so many beads, you need yarn that is strong enough to hold the weight.

5) The Trendy Name Snob.

This is the artist formerly known as Wollmeise circa 2012, when people would full up brawl to get their hands on it. Back then, it was the yarn to have (current comparable: La Bien Aimee). They won’t use anything that has had its jour.

6) Price Snob.

Don’t care what it’s made from as long as it’s stupidly expensive.

Wanting a cheeky discount? Gotta get past Sanimal first…

7)* The Confused Yarn Snob/ Yarn Swinger.

Likes your luxury and hand dyed but also vocal about love for tinsel yarn. Swings all ways when it comes to yarn; doesn’t like to save the love for one subset. All yarn is great yarn and all yarn has a purpose!

Which Yarn Snob Are You?

Do you identify with any of these? Any more you’d like to offer to get us to ten?

New Project

Want to join the VIP list for Jo’s new project? Go here.

Ep 113 – Woollinn Dublin

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Dublin is the destination for this week’s show, specifically Woollinn, Dublin’s Festival of Yarn. It’s a new show format, where you can join me and (lots of) friends live-ish from Woollinn in Dublin. The festival took place at the end of May and you can join us there now.

There were lots of great vendors and big name teachers attending on this inaugural festival. Standby for an influx of notable mentions and links to all the yarn goodness, just in case you couldn’t make it in person.

This episode was a definite departure from the norm, as I went and freestyled a little with some new recording kit I had. It has been lightly edited and in some places didn’t quite pick up all the sound, but overall it was pretty good for a first try!

The Countess (Understated As Usual)

The Vendors

There were a plethora of cracking vendors at this event, and sadly I couldn’t get through them all whilst recording, but you can find a full list here, if you wish to virtually peruse.

Our first stop as always was at Countess Ablaze, who was doing her first ever show at Woollinn, after the organisers caught her full of gin, with her guard down, and she agreed to exhibit. She brought a metric fktonne of yarn over from Manchester, including her new base, Blue Blooded Fingering, a Gotland and BFL blend.

Petra Undercover Otter and Sir Michael Flatlay

The Countess was aided and abetted during the weekend by Jane of Yarnison and Petra and Marnix of Undercover Otter. You’ll hear from them later in the episode and you met Jane in Episode 110.

Other mentions included Carol Feller and her Tabouli cardigan. Babbles Yarns, Easyknits, Watercolours and Lace and Truly Hooked followed in this aisle, along with Das Mondschaf, who has some awesome neon speckles and pretty solids.

Then we bumped into the ever fun Woolly Wormhead, who delivered several workshops over the weekend and told us all about her upcoming blog series, Kitchener Diaries.

After being ambushed by friend of the show Allison Thistlewood of Yarn in The City, we went and had a lovely chat with Julie of Tilly Flop Designs. I absolutely love her cards and always stock up on them whenever I see her at a show or I see them in a yarn shop. They’re awesome. I also have a framed ‘I’d Rather Be Knitting‘ tea towel I received as a gift in my office/yarn vault. As if anyone would clean actual dishes with that?

Bilum Yarns Gradients

More Yarn at Woollinn

Yes, there was more! Next up on the notable mentions was one of my faves, Travelknitter. Sadly, because her yarn is so beautiful, I couldn’t get near her stall to speak to her, but you can meet her in this interview. Tanami 4ply is the base I would recommend from her, and all her colours are extremely saturated and luxurious jewel tones. A breath of fresh air from all the speckles. *ducks*

Travelknitter Yarns

Next up we had GamerCrafting. I’ve seen Angie’s yarn on Insta before and I am a bit of a geek, so I enjoyed getting to squish the yarn in person. She’s a lot of fun and I enjoyed chatting to her over the weekend. She had an amazing set of coveralls emblazoned with various patches, including this gin one, and rather spectacular jewelled steampunk goggles. My favourite of her yearn was the Reverse Rainicorn with the sparkles. LOVE.

Gamercrafting’s Gin Patch

Bilum’s Beautiful Gradient Yarns

My favourite vendor of the weekend was Zsofi of Bilum Yarns, a dyer based in Budapest in Hungary. Although this isn’t the first time I’ve seen her work (she’s exhibited at Edinburgh Yarn Fest before), there was something about the way it was displayed here that had me going cross-eyed at the awesome and the colour.

I was quickly introduced to Zsofi and Agnes by Kate Heppell of Knit Now, who was sporting the most amazing hair dye.

Starry Stitch Markers!

Woollinn Notable Mentions

Other notable mentions go to Emerald Fibres, who was a pick of the weekend for Gemma of The Little Grey Girl (listen to her interview here). I really liked these bags as they are a lot more interesting and individual that your boring Field Bags.

Another really interesting vendor with some great products (and a lot of fun) was An Caitin Beag. I loved the starry stitch markers (and I am not a fancy stitch marker girl, I am definitely a Clover unlockable kind of girl) and the knit themed jewellery was very cool, including the Bee themed stitch marker bracelet.

Rainbow Relay Kits!

I ran into (and bantered) my dear pal, the ever delightful Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade (her episode is here) who was not only buying armfuls of yarn, but also told us about The Shawl Society III which has just been released. It’s a shawl pattern club that runs for six months and this year is based on The Secret Garden. As shawls are great for summer knits and long lazy days, I’d highly recommend checking it out. I’ve knit several of Helen’s patterns and they are super easy and satisfying.

If you want the kits, they’re now gone from A Yarn Story, but you can check out Helen’s very own colour way – Curious Handmade – by La Bien Aimee.

Other mentions included Hand Dyed Berlin, Olann, Dye Ninja.

Finally – we had a quick chat with Emma at Yarnistry about her new products and her pride and joy – the Beaver!

Yarngover

That’s all the links! There were more vendors I didn’t get to during the recording and I would recommend you have a saunter past and see what they have on offer too.

Want to continue the conversation? Come over to the podcast community on Facebook and chat with us there!

Sir Michael Flatlay sporting a Boomtown Beanie (pattern by Yarnison)

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Ep 112 – Knit Share Love with Clare Devine

Clare Devine | Knit Share Love

Clare Devine of #KnitShareLove rejoins me on the podcast this week, as we catch up with her after quite a while since her Sock Surgery days on the show.

Clare is in Australia, the country where her knitting adventure began, at that time, she was in a totally-unsuitable-for-knitting Broome. Now she’s based in Brisbane, which is pretty warm, and presents its own knitting challenges.

Broome – Image Copyright Clare Devine All Rights Reserved.

Knit Share Love Collaborations

Since her last appearance on the show, which was shortly after the adult edition of her book, Sock Anatomy, was released, she’s been involved of lots of exciting projects and collaborations. She’s designed her first cardigan pattern, as well as working with UK dyers Joy McMillan of The Knitting Goddess and Jess James of Ginger Twist Studio on both The Neighbourhood Sheep Society and The Tea Collection.

Moonlight White from The Tea Collection Vol II – Image Copyright Clare Devine

#LoveLocalWool

Recently, she’s turned her attention to working with and raising the profile of home-grown talent in Australia. We briefly digress into the development of independent designers on Ravelry and the idea of training to be a designer.

In terms of local talent, Clare recommended Circus Tonic Handmade, a former geneticist PhD turned hand dyer. She also shared a wonderful story about Tarndie, a farm around two hours west of Melbourne. She found this yarn in a project during her first stay in Oz, having been recommended it to use for a felted bag. Around seven years afterwards, she met Jools of Woollenflower, who waxed lyrical about how wonderful this yarn from Tarndie was, and how Clare must visit when she went back to Australia. After a stint working one day a week in a yarn shop in Melbourne, the owner asked if she would like to teach at an event at… you guessed it… Tarndie.

Tarndie have Polwarth sheep and have been farming for many years, The yarn is spun in New Zealand. They have also been in collaboration with Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill, which is local to them, to produce a Super Bulky yarn called The Henry. This is made from a mix of Alpaca and Wool.

There aren’t many boutique yarn spinners – a lot of the clip is merino, which is sent to China for processing. Clare talked about a Gotland sheep farmer called Cheryl, creator of Granite Haven Gotland Yarns, who is based in Victoria. She has the only flock of Gotland sheep in Australia and breeds for diversity rather than conformity. As a result, her sheep have a wide arrange of colours in the fleece.

Lanson Socks. Image Copyright Clare Devine

Australian Small Producer Yarns

Clare talked passionately about the importance of educating customers as to why local and boutique yarns can be expensive, as well as why they can make great choices. She promotes these yarns by using them in her design work, and also because it allows local knitters to access the yarns, as many people like to knit the pattern with the exact yarn. She advocated being enthusiastic about yarns and  producers, as the likes of Louise Scollay has with KnitBritish, to help share these great products and knowledge with others.

Where to find KnitShareLove Online

Clare can be found at http://www.knitsharelove.com or as @knitsharelove on Instagram.

Continue the Conversation in the Shinybees Podcast Community

Enjoyed this episode? Continue the conversation with fellow wool lovers over at Shinybees Podcast Community

Ep111 – Assmimilating New Knitters

How do we get the entire world knitting?

It’s a mission of mine to get everyone knitting. Today, we discuss the five pillars of knitter assimilation:

  • Marketing
  • Self-belief
  • Tools and Materials
  • Medium and motivation
  • Access to decent resources

Of course, this is the Shinybees Pentagon of Knitting Assimilation and I think these are the things we need to be considering if we do want knitters to take over the world. More specifically, if we want the entire world to knit. Think how awesome that would be.

No longer is it the case that we keep our knitting hidden away to ourselves.

No more hiding behind closed doors in case someone asks us a silly question, offers a flash of the blindingly obvious, or says, ‘You must have a lot of time on your hands.’

Want to hear what this Pentagon is? Sit back and grab a brew, it’s about to get technical.

Pillar 1: Marketing

Knitting has an image problem.

There you go.

I said it out loud.

Knitting has an image problem  Every man and his dog this that knitting is for Nanas and pregnant ladies, and the media and film do nothing to change that view. Everything people see is stereotyped like this and that is a big issue. Any character in a story who knits? Nana. Comparison to getting old and putting your feet up? Take up knitting! (subtext – Nana). I could go on with all the examples, but the point I make here is that this narrative has to change. This can only be achieved by changing the image of knitting, in much the same way that Skoda have managed to change their image from crap, unreliable junk car to actually pretty decent, no longer embarrassing and, arguably, maybe even a little bit rebelliously hip.

So, how do we change these Nana perceptions? Marketing.

No, it’s not just for sleazy snake oil salesmen and here’s why: marketing is all about conversations and communication. The brand of knitting at the moment is wrapped up in Nana-dom and unless more people see young, cool people doing it, that won’t change. Yes, we all know that it is cool AF, but we’re the enlightened few. We need to find better ways to get it out there that knitting is for everyone.

Knitting needs to become more relevant and desirable if we want everyone to do it.

Pillar 2 – Self belief

Sit in public and knit, and you will get an array of comments like ‘Oh, I could never do that’ and ‘I tried to learn when I was a kid and I was terrible at it’ and ‘It looks so hard!’. Curiosity is the first step to learning, but we also need to deal with the issue of self belief. In order to get people to actually try and learn the skill, instead of telling themselves repeatedly that it is too hard, they need to believe they are capable of doing it.

Pillar 3 – Materials and tools

Very often, a first foray into knitting is a cheap kit with low end acrylic (not all acrylic is created equal) and bendy plastic needles. The instructions are almost always total pants and the whole thing is set up to encourage failure.

New knitters don’t know this is a problem. Think back to when you first started. Given your time again, would you really have used the same tools and materials to get going? Yes, it is probably amusing, looking back now you know what you know. Back then though, there was probably reasonable amount fo frustration involved, and you lily wanted to give up on the whole sorry thing on more than one occasion. Did you even finish the first project?

Whilst this approach may be a cheap failure, the fact is, failure is not what is needed for assimilation (see Pillar 2). We need to be setting newbies up with better tools and nicer yarn, to encourage continuing, and to make the end product worth it (see Pillar 4). It’s mush easier to press on through the difficulties of learning a new skill, if the tools you are working with feel good in your hands, and you really want to achieve the end result.

Pillar 4 – Medium and motivation

Aka Death to the Dr Who Scarf. How many times have you seen others, or have been yourself, taught to knit using the Whovian method? Let’s just all knit a massive boring scarf that will take forever and hope they stick at it. Do you know anyone who has actually finished a Dr Who scarf?

Chances are you still have your first one, and it wasn’t even long enough to achieve neck warmer status. Mine was turned (spectacular holes and all) into a hot water bottle cover.

Yes scarves are easy and allow for (a lot) of repetition but they are so large they are insurmountable. This doesn’t help people stay motivated when the going gets a little tough. It helps them get bored and switch off.

We need to be bringing the Shinybees Trifecta of project awesome into this: a quick win + right level of complexity + desire for finished item = knitting dreams.

Pillar 5 – Access to decent resources

Most of the freebie videos on YouTube are crap. They are too fast, badly lit, too far away to see what is going on, or, lately, have an alarming array of props in there. Learning is not about perfectly styled shots; it’s about getting the information across in an accessible a way as you can. We need decent resources to point newbies towards.

This could take the form of a curated (cringe) list of good places to get started, depending upon what they are interested in making. Whilst there are a lot of really solid tutorials included in independently written books, often these are pitched at slightly more complex skills that may not be appropriate for the new knitter. Many of the mass published ‘learn to knit’ books I have read have had naff projects and unclear techniques sections – again, not exactly inspiring or motivating stuff.

What’s your experience?

What’s been your experience of learning to knit or teaching others? Whilst I talk passionately in this episode, I’d love for this to be the opener for a conversation about how we can all get better at assimilating new knitters. Head on over to the Shinybees Podcast Community on Facebook and let me know your thoughts there!

Ep 110 – An Interview with Jane Murison of Yarnison

Jane Murison of Yarnison joins the show this week, talking about knitwear design, fish and chips and the urban landscape as an inspiration.

Jane began designing a couple of years ago, and has several knitting patterns now, that are a homage to the post industrial landscape of Manchester, that she sees every day on her walk to work. A UX designer by profession, Jane enjoys bringing together design inspiration, techniques and the user (knitter) experience in her designs. Not one for ‘quiet’ yarns, she enjoys working with bold colours and neons to create striking pieces.

Her approach to design is to make things that she herself likes to wear, but struggles to find in the mainstream pattern world. This results in quite quirky and recognisable pieces that can be made as bold or as quiet as one desires, depending upon the colours chosen to make the pattern.

Manhole Socks by Yarnison.

How Jane got started designing

Jane’s first design was a pair of socks, called Manhole Socks. She was inspired by a Countess Ablaze colour way called ‘Urban’, which in itself was inspired by the steely colours of the city. Jane teamed this metallic looking yarn with another altogether unexpected muse for a knitwear design – a rusty manhole cover. A common sight around Manchester (it always rains, it isn’t just exaggeration!) the textured, non-slip pattern became the basis for showing off this particular colour way to excellent effect. It manages to pick out flecks of colour on top of the overall sock fabric, in much the same way that the texture on the grid is picked out, and can appear to be different colours due to the uneven rusting.

We discussed the juxtaposition between the large amount of conventionally pretty patterns, imagery and branding available in the hand knit world and how it is harder to find things to appeal if that isn’t your aesthetic. As a very urban loving person myself (that’d be the Geographer in me – and I studied at the University of Manchester) I’m attracted to Jane’s neon bright imagery and play on the urban landscape and the colours that can be found everywhere.

Urban Hero Shawl by Yarnison

Holy Batman!

One of my favourite of her patterns is the Urban Hero shawl, which was inspired by the neon yellow flashes of hi-vis vests on the builders working all over the city. There is almost constant construction work, and these vests pepper the (often grey, it’s Manchester) landscape with pinpricks of colour.

We discussed the juxtaposition of chevron lace, hi-vis and Batman’s cape in this pattern and Jane explained how her approach has ben reflected in other designs, such as Boomtown Beanie. This pattern was inspired by the ever changing skyline of the city, as cranes move and add more buildings and different materials. She wanted to find a way to capture and document this, whilst introducing the technique of stranded knitting for the knitter. Again it became clear how much the experience of the knitter is considered in Jane’s designs, and how playing around with the colours can create strikingly different effects in this pattern.

Boomtown Beanie by Yarnison.

Builders came up again when discussing how the domestic arts and quite traditionally male construction roles are actually very similar skills when you break them down. Plastering is, in fact, exactly the same thing as buttercream icing.

We also discussed the traditional Friday meal that is fish and chips. Eye-opening.

Favourite Indie Dyers

Jane’s favourite yarnies to work with are Countess Ablaze, The Knitting Goddess, Five Moons, Riverknits and Rainbow Heirloom.

Urban Hero Shawl by Yarnison,

How to Knit with Variegated Yarns

In terms of tips for embracing the crazy bright and variegated, Jane recommends pairing with a semi-solid or solid, and avoiding too much detail in the stitches, if you want the detail to be seen. Texture can sometimes work well if you are wanting to play with the colour and create unexpected pops, as she does with her Manhole Cover sock pattern.

In terms of designers that make good patterns that are suitable for pairing with variegated yarns, Jane recommends Curious Handmade’s Helen Stewart and Martina Behm (Strickmich).

From her own designs, Urban Festival was specifically created to work with the variegated yarns.

Rainbow Relay by Yarnison.

New Pattern!

Rainbow Relay is Jane’s latest shawl and is a fantastic pattern for using up mini skeins whilst exploring the joy that is short row shaping. Jane will be at Woollinn in Dublin this month, 25-27th May 2018. She’ll have kits on the Countess Ablaze stall which will contain yarn from both The Countess and Petra of Undercover Otter.

Want to grab a cheeky 25% discount? Head over to Ravelry and get your copy of the pattern with 25% off before midnight 9th May 2018.

Where to Find Jane

You can find everything about Jane’s patterns over on Ravelry and she is @Yarnison on Instagram.

Ep109 – Hidden Heels with Mitch of Surfing Ducks

Are you going to Woollinn?

Woollinn will be taking place in Dublin on 25th-27th May 2018. I’m venturing over there on a blue and white winged chariot for the event and I would love to meet as many listeners as possible. Please let me know if you will be attending.

Also, there is a great line up of vendors including dear friends of the podcast Countess Ablaze, Travelknitter and The Little Grey Girl.

There’s also spaces left in the workshop schedule, which has some great, big name teachers offering workshops including the likes of Woolly Wormhead, Karie Westermann, Nancy Marchant, Carol Feller, Isabel Kraemer, Justyna Lorkowska and the ever fabulous Nathan Taylor.

Kate Davies will be travelling over from Scotland to give a reading and presentation on her latest book, Handywoman.

Find out all you need to know at the Woollinn website.

#HiddenHeels – Mitch of Surfing Ducks

Mitch of Surfing Ducks is my guest on the podcast this week, where we discuss a plethora of things that spiral slightly out of control and end somewhere around knitted, transferable ‘tramp stamps.’

Yes…

Day of the Dead Socks by Surfing Ducks

 

Mitch designs sock patterns with a particular twist; every heel flap is adorned with a quirky design. This led to the brand developing into an almost secret society under the #HiddenHeels theme. The idea is you can have these socks on, and have a heel that is usually hidden from view, but then is brought out on show at exactly the right moment. This moment may well be to secure access to some underground speakeasy with a gin urn.

Mitch is several patterns in now (more have been added since this interview was recorded a few months ago) and each time a new one is released, there is a badge to go along with it. Be one of the first to finish and share pictures of your #HiddenHeels design and collect your limited edition badge.

I don’t know about you, but I want all those badges.

Balancing a day job with designing

We also discuss how Mitch balances her design work against her demanding day job. She began her foray back into socks a couple of years ago after previously finding them difficult. A chance meeting with the lovely Christine Perry of Winwick Mum at Sirdar led to her catching the bug again, thanks to Christine’s infectious enthusiasm for the medium of socks.

Mitch had also worked in customer support for a large online retailer and was the pattern support specialist. Through the experience, she was able to gather lots of knowledge and learn exactly what sort of thing trip knitters up when knitting a pattern, and has been able to bring all that to her design work. Her aim is to make knitting easy, and each of her designs adds one new technique, to ease the knitter into developing their skills in an easy feeling way.

Although her patterns look complicated, only the small heel canvas contains the colour changing. Because it is so small, it can be a great way to introduce techniques without it feeling too overwhelming. Brand new sock knitters have knit several of her patterns and had success, so if you are even a little bit intrigued, chances are you will be able to do them.

For her design work, Mitch uses Stitchmastery and Stitch Fiddle (snigger) although she also advocates Excel as useful for charts.

All of her patterns are available via Ravelry, and there are plans to produce ebooks of the collections at a later stage. Mitch is already teaching sock knitting and would love to do more of this as her business expands.

You can find Mitch at http://www.surfingducks.com and all her patterns on Ravelry.

 

Ep108 – Speckled Yarn – So Hot? Or So Not?

Speckled Yarn – So Hot Right Now? A Hot Potato?

Speckled yarn is the marmite of the knitting world right now. Outrageously popular, thanks to patronage by the likes of Stephen West and Andrea Mowry, speckles are so hot right now. Or are they?

What Do The Shinybees Community Think About Speckled Yarn?

A straw poll of hardcore Shinybees listeners suggested a 66/33 split between Hot and Not. A lot of people expressed speckles as being something you need to be in the mood for. Generally though, there was an overall mad-for-the-speckles feeling amongst respondents.

What Are Speckled Yarns?

But what are speckled yarns, I hear you cry? (Where have you been?)

These are colour ways that are dyed onto yarn that is a majority of one main colour, with random spots, splodges and flecks of other (often multiple) colours on top.

This can be achieved using a variety of different methods, and differs from variegated yarn in that the colours are more randomly spaced and generally shorter lengths.

Who are your favourite speckled yarn dyers and designers who create great patterns for these tricky to use yarns?

Also in this episode I give you a quick catch up of where I have been hiding for a year and also what you can expect from the podcast going forward.

Spoiler: I am in camp Not 🙂

Mentioned in this episode

Interview with Stephen West
Travelknitter for red yarns
Shinybees Podcast Community Group

Ep107- Sh*t Tea and Tray Bake with Countess Ablaze

Where shit tea, tray bake and exposure collide!

Lyndsey aka Countess Ablaze joins me this week for a chat about issues facing us crafters and business owners. A recent recipient of an offer of ‘exposure’ as payment, along with some fairly misogynistic stereotyping of her customer base, The Countess decided to take a stand against this (and raise some actual money for charity in her own, imitable way) by creating some new colour ways.

That she will!
Image Copyright Countess Ablaze used here with permission.

Exposure is the new currency!

In this episode we discuss the thorny issue of ‘exposure’ as a payment for our craft, time and expertise.

Is it ever acceptable?

Where does the balance lie when offering this as an exchange of value? Why does it seem to be so rife amongst the creative industries and is it a peculiarly female thing? There are definitely differing elements to this idea of exposure as an exchange of value. In some circumstances, where it is a mutually agreed thing, everyone stands to gain and everyone puts in the required work, it can be a win-win for everyone. The problem comes when it is used as a bargaining chip when you want someone to do something for free. You don’t value their contribution and therefore the idea of paying them doesn’t even cross your mind.

#Laaaaaadybusiness

Next up is misogyny as an everyday blight. Lyndsey shares some examples of when she has encountered this working in her business. This includes the entirely false notion that her husband bankrolls her little craft hobby business. Spoiler: he doesn’t.

As if any self-respecting Northerner drinks shit tea.
Image Copyright Countess Ablaze used here with permission.

Everyday sexism and the Thermidor effect

We discuss the idea of everyday sexism and the pervasive nature of little things that alone, seem inconsequential, but together, have this cumulative effect that makes you question what you actually think and know. I liken this to the Thermidor effect. Like a lobster that starts in cold water, those little, incremental temperature changes mean that the lobster never knows it is getting cooked alive, as it’s always just a little bit hotter than a moment ago. Little snide comments, off the cuff remarks become bigger and more offensive because it is only a bit more sexist than the last one, as we’ve all become so conditioned to hearing it.

We briefly cover the deeply offensive idea that anyone in the North would drink sh*t tea. This is the thing that offended me most about the whole saga, I don’t mind saying.

Charity as an afterthought

Finally, we discuss the use of charity causes to excuse bad behaviour, and as a tag on excuse for self-serving events or initiatives, rather than having them as a focus.

Image Copyright Countess Ablaze used with permission.

We wrap up with her reply and salute to this – two new colour ways called Sh*t Tea and Tray Bake and If I Want Exposure I’ll Get My T*ts Out – with £3 from the sale of each skein being donated to Womens Aid.

If you would like to preorder either of these, you can do so at Countess Ablaze. If you are on a yarn diet, or these colours aren’t your thing, then please consider making a donation to either Womens Aid or a charity of your choice that supports women’s issues.