Podcasts

Ep 126 – A Hat For Every Eventuality

Everyone needs more knitted hats in their life, and today I share seven pattern ideas for hats. I’ve been out of knitting sorts lately and attempting a new hat is just the ticket to get back into it.

I’ve gone through a tricky time recently and I wanted to find a way to order my thoughts through the yogic medium of knitting. I was inspired to look at hats as a quick and satisfying project. This would allow the thrill of an FO with minimal commitment of time and effort. Today I’ll share seven different pattern ideas for you if you need a quick and satisfying project.

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Ep 125 – Hawkshaw Sheep with Sue Horn

Sue Horn of Hawkshaw Sheep in the Scottish Borders is our guest on the show today. She shares the ups and downs of being a shepherdess, creating your own yarns and fabrics and farm life.

Ever wondered what it is like to commission your own yarns? Sue shares how she decided to produce yarn, as well as how she went about producing fabric from the yarns.

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Ep 124 – Yarnporium Fun

Yarnporium 2018 is reviewed on this episode of the podcast, where I give you a rundown of the event which took place at Westminster Central Hall in November. Hosted by the fabulous ladies of Yarn in the City, Allison Thistlewood and Rachel Brown, this was a fabulous event which brought together some of the best UK and EU vendors into a glorious venue in Central London for two days of yarny fun.

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Ep 123 – Strange Brew

This week we review the new Tin Can Knits collection – Strange Brew. It’s a knitwear collection that embraces everything colour work for the whole family. There’s some knitty news and an update on School Council gate.

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Ep 122 – Isn’t It About Time We Put a Stop to All This Nonsense?

Sometimes, when something really gets to you because of its inherent unfairness and solid foundations in utter bollocks, you need to speak out. This episode is one of those times. In a departure from the usual format, this week we share the story of a small girl who wanted to be on the school council. Unlike the boys in the class, the girls had to undergo a separate, extra selection level, because they were not boys.

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Ep 121 – Holiday Knitting

How to decide what knitting to take when travelling?

How do you decide what holiday knitting to take with you when you travel? Do you spend more time choosing what yarn to take than which clothes to pack?

This week we tackle the thorny subject of holiday/travel knitting. A source of much anguish for the average knitter, choosing what to take with you, and what to leave behind, can be like picking a favourite child. Even a short getaway can lead to stash packing that would enable you to survive a zombie apocalypse.

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Ep 120 – Rusty Ferret with Leona Jayne of Fluph

Leona Jayne Page, Rusty Ferret Dyer and owner of Fluph in Dundee

It’s a chatty and fun episode today with the enigmatic Leona Jayne Page of Rusty Ferret/Fluph. Voted back onto the show as a guest for the second time, Leona tells us about how she moved from yarn shop owner into hand dyer. You can hear the first appearance by Leona on the show in this episode, where she talks about moving from forensic psychobiology to yarn.

Rusty Ferret

Who is Rusty Ferret?

Rusty Ferret was, when we last met Leona, in the closet as a ‘local dyer’. Well, the worst kept secret in knitting was uncovered. Leona was revealed as the dyer behind Rusty Ferret. Rusty is a steampunk gentleman and Leona is kind of his handler. Inspiration for her colour ways is found everywhere. Leona has a particular love for the saturated and neon colours.

Much excitement ensued at the news of subscription boxes and new yarn lines. Polwarth is championed as one of the yarn bases Leona stocks. She described in detail how she came to decide to use this particular fibre, and its benefits for both dyeing and creating garments.

Rusty Ferret Yarn

Image Copyright Leona Jayne Page.

Since the last episode, Leona married her now husband Mark. Never one to be shy and retiring, here she is rocking the sequins on the big day.

Leona does Wedding Chic. Image Copyright Leona Jayne Page.

DPNs vs Magic Loop, Commercial Yarns vs Hand Dyed Yarns

We cover a number of other topics in this episode. Commercial yarns sparked some debate, as whilst they are affordable and uniform, I consider them to be a little bit boring. DPNs vs magic loop for knitting in the round had leona and I on opposing sides of the fence. I like DPNs! The economics of Primark clothing was another topic covered. Ever fancied getting into Art School? Leona has the scoop on that, too. Apparently it’s all about being able to do ‘mark making’, and doesn’t require the ability to actually draw.

Fluph Rusty Ferret Minis

You can find everything about Leona at http://www.fluph.co.uk

Music for this episode is used with kind permission of Adam and the Walter Boys, with ‘I Need a Drink’, available via iTunes.

Ep 119 – Yarn Shops in Shanghai

Shanghai is the destination for this week’s podcast. I take a trip to not one, but two yarn shops in Shanghai to check out the local knitting scene and the yarns on offer.

News

Podcast Theme Music

Many listeners have emailed me to ask about the theme tune for the podcast and where it can be found for download. I originally sourced the music on Music Alley, which closed its doors a few years back, so I had nowhere to send people to find it.

I have good news however!

The podcast theme music is now available on iTunes for purchase for 79p. The track is ‘I Need a Drink’ by Adam and the Walter Boys, who allow me to use it on the podcast with their kind permission. If you’ve ever wanted to listen to the whole song, go ahead and download it now.

New Project

My new project is currently being built. Some of the details have been sent to the VIP waiting list members, who have kindly agreed to help with testing of the site. If you would like to be one of the first people to get access to the site when it launches, you can join the waiting list and have advance notice ahead of the main launch.

The site helps you find the perfect yarn for your project in one place, quickly and easily, so you can spend more time knitting. If you’ve ever been in the situation where you need a certain colour of yarn on a certain fibre blend base yarn and struggled to find it, this one’s for you. No more needing to go and search through multiple websites or take a chance at Etsy roulette when trying to find that perfect match. I’ve built the site to have specific search algorithms. These will only serve you the yarn and colours you want, instead of a load of random tat a la Etsy. 

I’ll give you more details and the name of the site in the coming week or two. For now, if you want to get in there early, you can request access here.

Heng Yang Xiang Yarn Shop Shanghai

Yarn Shops in Shanghai

First up, I declare my undying love for the efficiency of the CRH railway system. 
I visited two yarn shops in Shanghai this weekend, one at either end of the market. This was a fascinating experience and I would highly recommend checking both out if you find yourself in the area. Both are under 15 minutes from the Bund are easily reached via a Didi or the Metro.

Heng Yuan Xiang Yarn Shop

Address: 358 Jinling East Road, Huangpu, Shanghai.

The company was founded in 1927 in Shanghai, as a silky yarns company, and produces a variety of goods including wools, knitting yarns, knitted apparel and home textiles. It is the largest annual seller of wool sweaters in China and has more than 100 factories. More than 90% of the municipal market in China is covered by the brand, which became a state-owned enterprise in 1956.

The knitting wool brand started in 1991 and in 1997 the brand expanded into sweaters, wool underwear and other knitted products. 

The company has 5800 sales outlets which run as franchises, with 375 million products available through these franchises.

This shop is definitely on the bijou end of the scale, although it is easily identifiable from the street. Some yarn shops can appear to be ladies wear shops from the street, until you actually go inside. It is an Aladdin’s cave, literally full from floor to ceiling with bags and boxes of yarns.

 Yarns in these shops are usually displayed in boxes with clear plastic covers, which I assume are there to protect the yarn from dust or atmospheric pollution.

Raccoon, anyone?

Local Chinese Yarns

The yarns store carries a wide variety of blends, including merino, cashmere, yak, cotton, raccoon(!) and man made blends.

The Beast selected a 70% cottony viscose and 30% wool in a fetching spearmint shade, at RMB48 or around £5.49 for 300g. 

I went for a 100% Australian Merino yarn in a (guessing by eye) DK weight at RMB 102 or £11.67.

Although I would be unlikely to import yarn to the UK, even at this price point, I wanted to investigate what locals are likely to use for their knitting. When in China it is rude not to try their yarns. I decided to give it a bash and see how it performs for research purposes. I am planning to knit another Lush cardigan with it.

Yarn Ave Shanghai

Lotus Yarns Flagship Store (Yarn Avenue) Shanghai

Lotus Cashmere Ltd started in 2007 with the Lotus Yarns brand being established in 2009. It is the distributor for a lot of western brands including Noro, Opal, Louisa Harding, Brooklyn Tweed, KnitPro, Brittany etc.

 Lotus Yarns Flagship (Yarn Ave) yarn store was in the high end Western Joy City Mall.

Yarn Ave is a new store, which opened in January 2018 and is found on Level 6, the Creator level.

 It is set up in a very similar way to any western yarn shop, in that all the yarn is open on the shelves in hanks or skeins, in easy feeling distance. This makes sense as it is inside a climate controlled mall so it is not subject to as much risk from dust etc.

Pleasingly, good selection of samples was available to browse. Notions from familiar brands like KnitPro, Brittany, Clover etc were on sale.

 A workshop was ongoing at the time I visited, which prevented me from reaching the Lotus Yarns. Unfortunately, they were displayed behind a large table, where the workshop was taking place. Additionally, it was not obvious who were the staff in the shop. Staff didn’t appear to have a uniform or clear name badge, and nobody came to assist us.

Overall, Yarn Ave definitely worth a visit when looking for yarn shops in Shanghai. Conveniently located close tourist areas, you can expect to pay premium prices for the yarn on offer here, particularly if it is imported. To give an idea, 100g of high twist South African merino is RMB299 or around £35.

Join the Waiting List

Don’t forget to join the waiting list for the new project.

Music for this episode with kind permission: Adam and the Walter Boys with ‘I Need a Drink’ available from iTunes.

Ep 118 – British Wool, Labelling and Sourcing with Joy McMillan of The Knitting Goddess

Joy McMillan of The Knitting Goddess joins the show today to talk about how her business has moved towards sourcing solely British and some very local yarns. Topics discussed include the difference between British and British Overseas Territory when it comes to yarn, mislabelling of yarns, wanton misrepresentation of yarns as British and what you need to think about when doing a custom blend yarn.

The Knitting Goddess is one of my personal favourite dyers and has been since I began to become interested in hand dyed yarns around seven years ago. The love affair started with the Terry Pratchett themed yarns and even gifted some to Clare Devine, who later, went on to work with Joy as a designer for a number of yarn clubs.

Screen Printed Project Bag. Image Copyright The Knitting Goddess

History of The Knitting Goddess

The Knitting Goddess started around 13 years ago, and having originally been a stockist of yarns from across the world, has steadily moved to all British yarn offering. By this, Joy means mainland Britain specifically, and she works hard with UK based mills to source yarn as locally as possible even within the UK. This includes having her own, custom yarn spun, One Farm Yarn, a truly Yorkshire yarn, with a total mileage from sheep to yarn of just 72 miles.

British Overseas Territories and Yarn

Joy and I discussed the difference between British and British Overseas Territories when it comes to wool: specifically here, the Falkland Islands. Whilst I am a huge fan of Falklands Merino because it is great quality and the sheep are not dipped as there are no pests, and there is no pollution, Joy is less keen. This is not because it isn’t excellent quality, but because it has to travel so far to be processed, which is inefficient. We discussed the relative merit of opening a scouring plant in the Falklands and how, if fleece has travelled so far, then why not use Merino from Australia of New Zealand instead.

Whilst Joy is very keen to stay as local as possible, I am more liberal in my yarn tastes, but I like to know where it is from and as much of the story as possible, so I can make a good buying decision. This brought us on to marketing and labelling of yarn.

Misleading Marketing in Yarn Labelling

This was a big focus of our discussion, probably because it is a huge bugbear for a lot of people. Whilst it’s ok to make informed choices to buy yarn from further afield, it’s not ok for companies to try and pass off yarn as being from a certain place, when it isn’t. Don’t give a yarn British branding when it is spun in Peru, then be coy about it. That is not cool and devalues the British cachet.

Image Copyright The Knitting Goddess

How Do You Find Out If A Yarn Is British (or Local?)

It can be hard to know where to go to look for information on where a yarn is produced, from fleece source, to spinning and dyeing . It is definitely not a habit of yarn companies to show this sort of information, although consumers are becoming increasingly aware of it and are asking the question, thanks in no small part to people like Louise Scollay of Knit British and Felix Ford of Knitsonik and their clear labelling campaign.

Joy recommends asking the mills who produce the yarn  as a first stop, but also that dyers and sellers need to make it their business to find out where yarns are produced, if they don’t know already.

Joy has a personal preference to buy from as close to home as possible, but advocates buying Falklands Merino (or anything else that is clearly labelled) as long as you actually get what you are buying. You know where it has come from and you have an awareness of the level of treatment of the animals and labour conditions in the supply chain, which allows informed choice. Basically, if you’re buying something super cheap from the other side of the world, somebody will have paid for it somewhere down the line.

British Yarn Has Value

The number of dishonest brands trying to piggyback the British yarn label indicates clearly that British yarn has value, and that these brands need to be called out on their mislabelling. Simply putting a label on in the UK does not make it British yarn.

Support Local

Joy is such a fan of supporting local as there is a rich history of wool production in Yorkshire, which continues to this day. Although she is based in the affluent area of Harrogate, she is right next to West Yorkshire, which has a high unemployment rate and associated issues which come from that. Joy believes in making a difference to local businesses through her business, and this ambition dictates a lot of her decisions, even down to moving spinning of her yarns to Yorkshire-based Laxton’s.

How to Design a Custom Spun Yarn

Joy has a number of custom and small run yarns under her belt, and it’s an interesting subject to discuss. A lot of hand dyers buy blank yarn that is already mass-spun and has specific qualities designed for a more mass appeal product. J

Joy worked very closely with Laxton’s to develop her One Farm Yarn. Creating a custom yarn is mildly terrifying because you don’t actually know what you are going to get until the yarn comes back, at which point, it’s too late to change it. She put a lot of trust in Laxton’s to help her make the right decisions, and as the company has incredibly experienced staff, which have worked in a variety of places in the wool industry, they were perfectly placed to advise and ensure success.

Spinners have more knowledge about how certain fleeces and spins work together to produce the characteristics that a dyer wants in their yarn.

Laxton’s also assisted in the creation of Joy’s BFL and Mohair yarn, a no-nylon sock yarn with all British wool and Mohair.

Woolly Wool and Breed Yarn is the New Craft Beer

Joy and I compared the recent interest in craft beer to that of more niche breed wools and small batch yarns. What would once have been the preserve of Birkenstock wearing, bearded anoraks (real ale) is now super hipster and called craft beer (the beards remain, but are more fashionably kempt). Has the same thing happened with yarn, and now we’re moving away from the Fosters of yarn (merino) to something a bit hoppy, with bite?

Listener Discount Code

Joy very kindly has offered 10% off to listeners of the show with the code SHINYBEES10 until 17th September 2018. Only one code per order.

The Knitting Goddess Shop

Find The Knitting Goddess Online

You can find Joy at http://www.theknittinggoddess.co.uk

The Knitting Goddess on Instagram
The Knitting Goddess on Twitter

Music for this episode used with kind permission of Adam and the Walter Boys, with ‘I Need a Drink’, available from iTunes

Ep 117 – Far East Adventures

This week is a bit of a catch up as I share my Far East adventures so far. I’m in China, and I share some of the funnier/more unusual observations I’ve made so far being here, including crotchless baby clothes, sleeping in public and appreciative eating.

Also involved is a marching column of riot police.

Observations of China

I’m enjoying experiencing all the different facets of Chinese culture, whilst on my trip to the Far East. I find it fascinating how people live differently and what their customs and norms are, as well as how they deal with challenges, such as population. Once a geographer, always a geographer!

High Density Housing

Population

It’s hard to get your head around the population density of China. There are just so. Many. People. Here.

I’m staying in a city with a population of roughly 15 million people. That’s equivalent to 25% of the entire UK, or almost 4 x the population of Scotland as a whole. The figures are mind-blowing, and the challenges that come along with sustaining, feeding and transporting a population of that size are considerable.

The most obvious way this is one differently in Chinese cities is via their love of a high rise apartment block. Whilst these are found regularly in the bigger UK cities and in some rebuilt, post WW2 baby boom areas, generally, they are limited in size and area covered to maybe 5-6 in one place and under 15 storeys. In the apartment complex where I am staying here, there are approximately 20 high rise buildings, each of 32 storeys. When you do the maths on this tiny area alone, probably the size of my estate at home which has 36 houses on it.

There, you’re looking at an average of 4 people per house, so maybe a population of around 150. Here, you have 4 flats per floor, with an average rate of 4 people that puts you at around 500 per block and 10,000 on the estate.

And there is estate, after estate, after estate of these tower blocks, as far as the eye can see. I find it very reminiscent of dystopian future sci-fi films.

Chinese Mancunian Way

Crotchless child clothing/public sanitation

One of the most strikingly different things for me has been the widespread practice of entirely crotchless clothes for small children/toddlers. It is very common here for children not to wear nappies, either real or disposable, and to simply squat and pee in the street/museum/waiting room/anywhere really. This makes for some rather interesting aromas on hot days, particularly when carried out indoors, but I would wonder how a mountain of disposable nappies would be handled on the scale that would be required here.

Sleeping in Public

They absolutely love a good nap here in China, and around 1pm every day, lots of people settle down for a good old nana-nap. Now, of and by itself, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I mean, everyone loves a nana-nap! What make it different here is that the nana-nap takes place wherever one happens to be at the time. It also means that one may, indeed, decide to go and sit in Starbucks for their nap, as they have nice seating and air conditioning. It does not mean, however, that one intends to buy a coffee – in fact, one may go to the liberty of buying some Pepsi from Burger King and bringing that in with them, for their nap, in Starbucks, where they haven’t bought anything.

One place where I admire the dedication to the nap is Ikea. Go at the right time, and you’ll find lots of people actually road-testing the showroom beds by having a wee kip.

Over-enthusiastic appreciation of food

If you suffer from Mysophonia, this is not the place for you to visit. I an not as bothered by it as some, but there is definitely a cultural requirement here for noisy eating and slurping. This is because it shows you are enjoying the food and it’s considered a bit rude or a slight on your hosts’s hospitality if you do not enthusiastically chew.

Knitting in China

I’m hoping to visit some local yarn purveyors and find the yarn district where I am staying. If you have any good recommendation for yarn shops in Beijing/Shanghai then please let me know.

Yarn Snobbery revisited

On the knitting side, we revisit ep 114 (Yarn Snob) and I share some of the submitted entries for the remaining three categories of yarn snob.

Also, take a look at Anna Elliott’s blog post prompted by the original discussion of yarn snobbery. I loved her thoughtful approach to this subject and how she considered some of the wider aspects of the idea of yarn snobbery and inclusivity.

Join the Community

Want to continue the chatter? Join us over in the Shinybees Podcast Community group on Facebook.

Music for this episode used with kind permission of Adam and the Walter Boys – ‘I Need a Drink’ – available on iTunes.