Colours of Edinburgh at EYF

Following on from my earlier post, I thought you might like to see some of the beautiful knitting done in my Colours of Edinburgh workshops at EYF. This is a slightly different class from Quotidian Colourwork, as I’ve designed this workshop to speak directly to the wondrous geographic context of Edinburgh, and attendees get photos and a pre-selected palette from which to work rather than using their own inspiration sources. I designed this class firstly to help address how a vast landscape can be edited down into a manageable source of inspiration, and secondly to celebrate that EYF takes place IN EDINBURGH!

I’m really grateful to my friend Gordon Anderson for the photos we use in Colours of Edinburgh, and for introducing me to Arthur’s Seat – my favourite place to go in Edinburgh, and one of the sources of the stone used to build (and colour) that city. Thank you, Gordon!

Each class begins with looking at the photos and defining one element for exploration. In my notes for my first class on Thursday I have scribbled things like “green and orange in a triangle” “stone with a ghost in it” “speck with a particularly pleasing colour combo” “lichens with a graphic yellow line standing out” “yellow and orange speckles, BIG BLOBS” “hard shapes against soft pinks” and other details that sang from Arthur’s Seat to the knitterly instincts of the workshop group…

Nora’s “green and orange in a triangle”
“stone with a ghost in it”
“the graphic lines of shadows”
Catrin’s “reds and fades and a tiny skull”
“greenish and the dark shadow”
Fi’s “little yellow green popping out from a dark background”
“lichens with a graphic yellow line standing out”
Vicky’s “yellow and orange speckled BIG BLOBS”
“lichens with a graphic yellow line standing out”
Maria’s “graphic pattern of shadows and a speckly texture”

For the second workshop, I have written “moss light shade” “skyline and shadows” “graded shading” “GREEN plants” “spikiness of grass gingerbread to green transition” “geometric form” and “lichen circle and black gashes” among other notes…

Vera’s “skyline and shadows”
Deb’s “spikiness of grass gingerbread to green transition”

(keen-eyed spotters will note that this is a very different interpretation of the same grassy inspiration source shown from the earlier class)

Rachel’s “texture of grass and shape”
Yvonne’s “green plants”

(I love the refinement of Yvonne’s design here; she was drawn to the glowing orange tips of the moss… in her first design the shading evoked the colours of this, but the shape felt too straight and blocky… in her second iteration, the pattern has a more slender, diagonal shape that more accurately communicates the delicacy of the original inspiration)

“geometric form”
Julie’s “leaves then pink”
“diagonal lines”
“lichen circles and black gashes”
Lesley’s “strata”
“mustard and greys and dots”
“rounded shadows”

I really, really love the ways in which comrades at Colours of Edinburgh classes parsed the textures, surfaces and details of Arthur’s Seat into stranded colourwork, and the different ways in which knitters have individually transposed lichens, rocks, geology and light into unique designs… I think this class in particular shows how differently each of us views the world. Thanks for your willingness to adventure into knitting the landscape together, and for bringing such a variety of knitterly perspectives to this special place. Apologies for the sometimes blurry photos but hopefully the collection here gives a tiny glimpse of the joy we had exploring THE COLOURS OF EDINBURGH!

YOURS IN ROCKS AND MOSS, FX

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Quotidian Colourwork at EYF

For me the best thing about EYF is getting to teach my classes there: Quotidian Colourwork and Colours of Edinburgh. I *love* seeing what people bring as inspiration sources, and the many various and unique ways in which comrades translate these into stranded colourwork. This morning I thought I would share some of them with you in two posts; one featuring Quotidian Colourwork and one featuring Colours of Edinburgh! I’ve tried to be brief but there is lots of glorious creativity to enjoy in the photos, so I suggest getting a cuppa before you dive in! Thanks so much to everyone who knitted with me at the awesome Edinburgh Yarn Festival and for blowing my mind all over again about how much fun it is to swatch the world around us into stranded colourwork.

Anna’s beautiful hostas

Sometimes the way a photograph captures or enhances the colours of nature can be a great starting point for knitting stranded colourwork, as for Anna here with her photo inspiration source of hostas, and the beauteous blue green palette that she extrapolated from it…

Geraldine’s special Indian fabric

…for folk like Geraldine, it is the sumptuous materials of physical things that provide inspiration, like this gorgeous embroidered fabric found on a recent trip to India…

Louise’s landscape

…landscapes are a time-honoured and popular inspiration source, but I especially loved the contrast in Louise’s photo between the lilac bushes and the deep red sand…

Jesse’s suburban rail ticket

…a palette that resonates, too, in Jesse’s beautiful suburban rail ticket, with its peaches, purples and deep coral hues…

Tabea’s new shoes!

…you can’t beat stuff that’s just ON YOUR PERSON for an instant inspiration source, and I love the enthusiasm with which Tabea set about translating her new sneakers into stranded colourwork, and the way that knitting the shoes inspired a discussion about their distinctively bold, high-contrast aesthetic…

Alex’s amazing roof tiles

…and there is something deeply satisfying about transposing the grid-like structure of the built environment into the grid-like structure of charted knitting, as in Alex’s translation of the roof tiles of the Matyas Templom in Budapest, shown here!

Angela’s moss on rocks

…I believe every knitter has a secret stash of lichen photos, documented for future repurposing in knitting… is it the way the soft texture and beauteous colours sing to our knitterly instincts? or the way that heathery yarns so perfectly resemble the semi-solid (often pastel) tones of lichens? I’m not sure, but there is always lichen in my classes, and it’s always a treat to see. I think Angela has done a beautiful job here of drawing out the subtleties of her pastel-dotted rock picture…

Johanna’s salad

…Johanna’s salad is another reminder of the inspiration that daily tasks such as cooking can provide, and it was great fun working out how to shade from green to purple as in the radicchio leaves pictured here…

Joanne’s magazine page

…I love how Joanne drew specific shading schemes and ideas for her knitting from this magazine page, and how in trying to describe the fiddly pattern on the bag pictured in the scene we coined the verb “to specklise” – i.e. to change colours very frequently across your stranded colourwork in order to produce a “speckly” or “detailed” effect…

Dominique’s Abbey

…Dominique bought in this photo of an Abbey in her hometown, from which she drew together a calm and subtle palette of greys, blues and golds, reflecting the light in the sky and glinting off the architecture…

Jannike’s Iceland sky

…while Jannike found some similar (but darker) tones in the beautiful grey blue skies from her photos in Iceland…

Sabine’s lipstick tin

…everyday things are a wondrous source of inspiration, and I was really made up that Sabine brought in this bright, jolly lipstick tin from which to experiment with high contrast, acid bright shades of stranded colourwork…

Andrea’s yarn truck

…and who can argue with the charms of Andrea’s beautiful yarn truck – the itinerant home of Laines & Co.? The found stripes, the restrained reds, the greys and the brick lines behind…

Rhiannon’s picture

…someone always brings a big THING to my Quotidian Colourwork classes – it’s one of the highlights for me to see what it will be each time! – and this year at EYF it was an amazing painting that Rhiannon brought along as her material inspiration source for knitting glorious turquoise and gold ideas…

Rhiannon’s painting translated into stranded colourwork

…the natural world is a popular source of inspiration and I really enjoyed watching the progress of Lene’s ferns, so perfectly matched to her famous cherry blossom yoke cardigan

Lene’s fern bag, charts and knitting
Lene’s fern swatch and cherry blossom cardigan

…I fancy you can really see Lene’s distinctive style when you see the cherry blossoms and the ferns together, and it really is magical to see how every knitter’s different approach distinguishes their ideas from that of their comrades. In Verity’s swatch – also botanical in nature – daffodils are not literally translated into stranded colourwork: instead, they provide the basis for a gloriously bold, striped design. I love how she has reversed the motif to create a kind of symmetry and rhythm…

Verity’s daffodil design
Loret’s Dutch hats

Similarly, I love how Loret has simplified the shapes of these traditional Dutch hats, and found ways to shade the background that reflect the colours in traditional National dress.

Thank you so much to everyone who came and who knitted, who swatched, who took risks, who tried different inspiration sources and who brought so much colour and flair and creativity to QUOTIDIAN COLOURWORK classes at EYF! If you would like to continue your swatches and the conversations we started in Edinburgh, please visit the KNITSONIK Ravelry group, where you’ll find experienced KNITSONIK swatchers happy to help and share ideas. YOURS IN SWATCHING! XF

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Preparing for EYF 2017

Greetings, Comrades!

I, like many other knitting comrades, am in the throes of preparing for the wonderful Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I am so excited to be teaching classes on Thursday and Friday and if you’re coming to one of those classes, hurrah and welcome: I’m really looking forward to it.

Colours of Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in 2016

I always like to bring examples of the KNITSONIK System in action to my classes for comrades to see and this year, in addition to the swatches from my book and several mitts-a-long mitts, I will be bringing – in all its magnifient glory – the wondrous swatch-bunting made by comrades everywhere for our Wedding. Liz is an immensely kind and practical person and, true to form, the amazing bunting that she co-ordinated is colourful and joyous and a fantastically useful tool for demonstrating the KNITSONIK system in action. I love this photo of Liz putting the bunting up around the staircase at our Wedding!

Liz hanging the KNITSONIK bunting up the staircase at our Wedding, photo © Catherine Hadler and used with kind permission

Here are some of the flags in closeup:

Deborah Gray’s “Traces” in swatch form

I especially love this flag knitted by Deborah Gray, who was working on this idea for willow-pattern inspired stranded colourwork at the very first every Quotidian Colourwork Class. Deborah also knitted an amazing sweater for Monkl based on bananas, the creation of which clearly inspired this flag!

BANANA BUNTING!!!

Of course, Monkl wore his 100% WOOL KNITSONIK sweater from Deborah to our wedding as you can see in these photos…

Monkl and his confetti cone! Ably assisted by Dorrie. Photo © Catherine Hadler and used with kind permission
Monkl on the top table, photo © Catherine Hadler and used with kind permission
Naughty Monkl in Lara’s pocket while she puts the finishing touches to the amazing giant woolly cross stitch MARK + FELIX sign! Photo © Catherine Hadler and used with kind permission

…other flags were also full of precious memories such as this one from Hazel, celebrating an amazing day we had together a couple of years ago in Shetland

Sunsets and whalebones – a beautiful bunting flag from my friend Hazel

…this one from the wondrous Mel (whom all of you will know from Kate’s blog) that I immediately recognised as an interpretation of our two Keith Moon sweaters together in Edinburgh when I was there for the EYF several years ago…

KEITH MOON LOVE FROM MEL!
Sorry for the crappity quality, but look! KEITH MOONS spotted together in 2015!

…DUCKS from my lovely friend Mandy, who endures much talk of Honey & Pretzel at weekly knit nights…

TWO NAUGHTY DUCKS!

…sewing notions including machine, pins and zippers, from Gabrielle who is also a regular Sticks’n’Strings-er…

SEWING INSPIRED STRANDED COLOURWORK BY GABRIELLE!

…waves in beautiful blues and aquas from Hannah…

Hannah’s swatch for the bunting – beautiful waves

…a tribute to extreme the joyous and merry time we shared together in Shetland in 2013 from my dear friend Tom of Holland, complete with resplendent tassel…

Tom’s woolly contribution to the bunting, in handspun Shetland yarn no less!
TASSEL!!!

…and many examples of BEAUTIFUL stranded colourwork from lovely Cecilia, whom I feel has an extra specially deep and rich connection with the Plants chapter of my book, having proof-read and discussed several aspects of it with me when I was working on it. I especially love that she made some bunting flags based on fruitcake, ensuring there were two kinds of KNITTED CAKE at our wedding!

Knitted fruitcake bunting flag by Cecilia
Knitted wedding cake icing by Vic and Lou, covering fruitcake from KNITSONIK book inside

…to go with the cake, my friend Mikal made this wondrous tea and biscuits flag, recalling the Huntley & Palmers biscuit tin gallery we admired together in Reading Museum one day when she visited here…

TEA AND COFFEE AND BISKITS!!!

…like Liz, Mikal is one of the Oxford Bluestockings knitters. That’s the group I joined when I revisited knitting in my early twenties, while I was living in Oxford. It’s amazing to think how central knitting has become to my life thanks to the initial inspiration and important friendship I found in that group. I adore all the bunting flags but I confess to having a particular soft spot for Liz’s witty and elegant interpretation of hot pot in stranded colourwork:

Knitted hot-pot – check out the slices of onions and neat rounds of potato!!!

There are many, many flags on the amazing bunting – far more than I can show here, this is just a glimpse of the splendour – so I will be very happy to show this to comrades at my classes, and may bring it to the EYF Podcast Lounge on Saturday where I intend to spend at least some of the day with my EDIROL and podcast buddies!

Louise and her magnificent podcast lounge will be at EYF!

…keen-eyed spotters will also see some KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork in action on Lilith’s stand as she very kindly invited me to contribute a design to her BEAUTIFUL book, Coming Home. Wild Mountain Time is my design celebrating good times had on the West Highland Way with Mark, and Lilith’s magnificent and distinctive palette.

Wild Mountain Time mitts and swatch

Working on the book was a fantastic experience and I felt really honoured to be asked, and to be able to develop my design in the company of amazing women – many of whom will be at EYF this year, hurrah! Lilith has come up with a very fun game of designer bingo, the idea for which as as follows:

‘if you’re coming to EYF, get ready to play Coming Home bingo!!!! everyone except for Kirsten Kapur, Clara Parkes, and our marvellous book designer Nic Vowles will be at EYF; working on stands, teaching, or just drifting about being fabulous. the aim of the game is to get EVERY contributor who’s at EYF to sign your copy of Coming Home (you can collect all the signatures on the “contributors” page at the back of the book, or anywhere else in the book you fancy – although it’s probably best to get them all on the same page or two). then, instagram or tweet a photo of your signature collection with the hashtag #OMAcominghome – and don’t forget to tag me in the photo (i’m @oldmaidenaunt)! if you get a full house, i’ll add you to the draw to win one of a few fab prizes – there’ll be yarn to knit one or more of the projects in the book, a notions pouch kit from lorna (aka stitchbirdie), and possibly more!’

– Lilith, AKA Old Maiden Aunt

I SHALL BUY A MAGIC SHARPIE JUST TO PLAY!!!

KNITSONIK swatch in Lilith’s magnificent yarns

I am bringing no copies of my book to sell at EYF this year, but two of my favourite businesses will be carrying the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook on their stands: Purlescence and Ysolda. Do pop over to see them!

Jonathan and Sarah of Purlescence
Ysolda wearing my Missy Elliott sweater last year at EYF

A little bit of housekeeping

I will be closing the KNITSONIK shop tomorrow and doing what I can towards celebrating International Women’s Day to support this. The shop will reopen on 9th March and I’ll post orders out again following my return home from Edinburgh; thank you for your understanding.

#DayWithoutAWoman

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY FOR TOMORROW; I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU AT EYF!

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Looking in Japan 1: snow

Two reasons we chose Japan for our honeymoon are SNOW and OPPORTUNITIES FOR SNOWBOARDING we knew we’d find there in February. Before you ask, dear comrades, I do not snowboard*. However, I married a man who does.

Happily, I’ve learnt through our Japanese adventures that there are many other ways to enjoy SNOW and I thought I’d share some of them with you! Be warned I got very excited with our travel photos so you might want a mug of tea before settling in to read this!

We traveled from Tokyo to Sapporo for its famous snow festival. This festival mainly takes place in Odori Park throughout which you can see the most amazing giant snow sculptures…

…we saw snow Star Wars…

…a snow knitter with snow yarn balls and a snowy garment on her snowy needles…

…a brilliantly unflattering snow Donald Trump holding the big apple in his tiny snowy hands…

…a snow moomin…

…a snow heart…

…and a beautiful snow Japanese house, complete with tiny snow tassels at each corner.

As you can see, the sculptures are all beautifully lit at night and range from professional sculptures the size of buildings to smaller pieces made by local snow sculptors. Some of our most magical evenings were spent wandering through the park, watching laser shows projected onto the big snow sculptures, enjoying the ingenuity and beauty of some of the smaller pieces, sipping hot sake from little glass jars and feeling the snow coming down in drifts around us.

Snowy Sapporo is also lovely in the daytime; we loved looking at the city and its encircling mountains from the wondrous T38 Observatory deck of the JR Tower; from 38 floors up you get a fantastic perspective.

We headed east of Sapporo on our adventures in search of Crane sanctuaries and Ainu culture. On our way a mix up about where we were meeting our host meant that, on the down side, we were temporarily stranded at the smallest, snowiest most isolated train station I’ve ever seen… but that, on the up side, we traveled around Lake Akan on a tiny train seeing deer and snow and long tracts of a completely mesmerising landscape of snow, trees and mountains…

…we arrived by the shores of Lake Akan in time to see an amazing fire festival down on the frozen lake. The evening began with a moving performance by folks wearing traditional Ainu costume on a snowy, owl-shaped stage, after which there were fireworks on the deeply frozen lake. I wished I could understand more of what was taking place but I got enough of it to comprehend that Ainu culture lives on in modern Japan through ceremonies, performances, dance and representations like this one: it was a privilege to be there to see it.

Shops in which descendants of the Ainu people make and sell traditional wood-carvings line the main street on the shores of Lake Akan and the distinctive patterns and carvings can be seen everywhere – even on boats and buildings – and there were ice-lanterns there as well, to light the way at night…

…by daylight the cats of Lake Akan seek and gather round warm manhole covers…

…and the forests and mountains are clad in mist and snow…

…and sometimes people do a little dance on the lake because the snow makes them a bit giddy.

On our way back to Sapporo we stopped to see and hear the Cranes at Akan International Crane Sanctuary; this was magic. We had watched Japanese Cranes on various nature programmes but nothing beats seeing them with your own eyes, all elegant and tall with a majestic, trumpeting call.

From Kushiro station we traveled back to Sapporo to fly down to Nagano, where we had a date with yet more snow and snowy creatures. I took about ten million photos from the plane because it was so amazing to see the snowy, mountainous landscape come into focus as we began our descent.

A ponderous train ride took us across further snowscapes to our destination of Yudanaka – a destination that I heartily recommend to anyone contemplating a February jaunt to Japan. This is an onsen town, which is to say that while the whole place is blanketed in snow, hot volcanic water courses through its veins and is channeled by ingenious piping into many delicious public and private bathing contexts. It’s a beautiful place in which the sound of flowing water is a constant accompaniment, and where gorgeous old Japanese buildings can be seen everywhere.

We stayed in a wonderful old Ryokan with paper dividing walls, tatami mats, mattresses on the floor and this view.

In Yudanaka we discovered there are few pleasures greater than feeling the deep freshness of snowy air on your face whilst simultaneously luxuriating in blisteringly hot volcanic water… and nobody knows this better than the star attraction of the area: THE SNOW MONKEYS. I forgive you if you scrolled through this whole post just to see these guys for they are, by far, THE BEST THING EVER WHEN IT COMES TO SNOW AND WAYS THAT SNOW CAN BE TRULY AWESOME.

Here they luxuriate in their natural spa…

…here they do important MONKEY STUFF in the snow…

…warming up again…

…climbing trees.

Meeting the snow monkeys was absolutely amazing – it was everything we had hoped it would be and more. However, I am also blown away by all the other ways in which SNOWY Japan is beautiful; by the loveliness of lines of trees and mountains standing out starkly against so much crystalline white; by the restrained palette that results from blanketing everything in snow; by how inky shadows appear against such a bright background; and by just how fricking magical the world looks when it is covered in snow.

There is so much for the knitter’s eye to pick up on… so many special palettes, patterns, and shading schemes that seem particular to snow. More generally, the different festivals and celebrations of snow that we felt and experienced in all the snowy places we visited were really inspiring in terms of aligning oneself to, and living with, the rhythm of the seasons. I feel so inspired by having this new perspective on winter and by my memories of how snow looks in different kinds of light… most of all, I keep thinking of the special way a forest sounds when all its trees are covered in snow, of tracks that lead off and away into the snowy distance, and of one magical evening spent recording water flowing beneath the streets of Yudanaka while the snow fell silently all around us and the lights of the buildings lay in glowing circles on the white ground.

I LOVE THE SNOW!!!

YOURS IN SNOW,
FX

*like never in a million years.

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Listening in Japan 1: bells

Thank you all so much for your kind wishes and lovely comments on my last post! It was so nice reading them together and so nice to share that special day with you a little bit on here.

I have been sorting through some of my sound files from the trip and thought you might enjoy hearing one or two of them. As long-term SONIK buddies will know, I am very fond of the aporee sound project run by my friend Udo Noll, and I generally upload my sounds there. I love that you can pinpoint exactly where in time and space each sound was recorded, and find recordings made by other people, too. The aporee sound maps are a fantastically collective undertaking: I think there are 1,000+ aporisti currently uploading sounds there, and I love following the adventures of the community of listeners that build the site. If you would like to hear a very general impression of Japan (not only including my sounds) I heartily recommend searching for “Japan” under places, then pressing play to hear the map play itself and all the sounds uploaded in that amazing country. You could also look up your own postcode there and see whether anyone has been uploading sounds to the map to aporee that you recognise…

…although I am a huge fan of aporee, I upload sounds to soundcloud from time to time as well, because sounds are slightly easier to embed in blog posts and across social media if they are hosted there.

Today I uploaded two special sounds to soundcloud and it is these that I shall share with you today. I’d read about both of these sounds before visiting Japan when I came across an amazing project called 100 Soundscape of Japan. This was set up in 1996 by the Ministry of the Environment to combat noise pollution and to foster greater awareness of, and engagement with, local sounds. 738 submissions were received from all over the country from which a shortlist of 100 was derived by the Japan Soundscape Study Group. The final soundscapes chosen are intended to function as symbols for local people and to promote the rediscovery of sounds in everyday life.

This first sound is that of the Sapporo Clock Tower striking twelve.

The clock tower was designed and built by some of the Americans who helped establish modern-day Sapporo in the late 1800s, bringing their farming skills and knowledge. The clock tower was built in 1878 and still chimes on the hour and keeps time for the city. I like listening to the combination of the newer sounds of the city (such as the electronic sounds at pedestrian crossings that can be heard in this recording) along with this older, mechanical sound that has been part of the soundscape there for a little over a hundred years.

The Sapporo Clock Tower is a celebrated local symbol and features on the rubber stamp at the JR rail station (there are rubber stamps at many attractions in Japan, and at the railway stations too!) as well as having its own handsome stamp!

The second sound I want to share is also a bell, but this one is much older; it is the Bell of the Zenkō-ji Temple.

Zenkō-ji is a Buddhist Temple in Nagano and its special bell was cast in 1667 and, according to this sign, the Nagano Olympic Games were commenced with “its solemn peal”.

My recording is of the bell being struck several times at around 1pm. The bell-ringer approached the tower, untied a special beam held in ropes, and then gently used the beam to strike the bell. The sound is amazing, listen with headphones so you can hear all the amazing harmonics in the sound… it was a sunny day and the snow all around me was melting, which is what you can hear in the recording, as well as the bell and the bell-ringer.

As with the Clock Tower, the Temple is a celebrated local symbol and features on the rubber stamp for the local train station of Nagano.

I love bells as objects with enormous sonic and cultural fields. This sign in the Sapporo Clock Tower Museum shows “how far the sound of the Clock Tower bell could be heard in olden days” and long-term listeners of the KNITSONIK Podcast may remember me speaking a few years ago about “Of This Parish” – a sound project that explores the range of bells as a way of defining the territory of a particular church or religious building.

Foundries in different places favour different casting techniques and harmonics, so that bells from different places offer a kind of signature timbre and song.

All of this reminded me of a happy time I spent in Leuven several years ago in Belgium, recording a carillon there after a blog-post reader kindly let me know that this is a signature sound of that city.

I’m curious to know: what bells ring or are rung or struck where you live? Are they an important part of your sense of place? And do you feel there ought to be a rubber stamp that comrades who visit and listen to your special bell(s) might be able to use to commemorate that sonic occasion?

YOURS IN BELLS,
XF

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A KNITSONIK Wedding

Greetings, Comrades!

Things have been quiet round here because in January myself and Mark got married! I’ve always found January a tricky time of year – the grey light, the short days, the cold. Though I have one of those SAD light box thingies (which definitely helps) I felt January could be fixed forever by turning it into an annual celebration of epic, wonderful LOVE: the kind of LOVE you want to celebrate for the rest of your life. Plus, getting married in January enabled us and our guests to enjoy the benefits of wearing WOOL!

Those of you who know us won’t be surprised to learn that our wedding was pretty big on WOOL as well as featuring FRUITCAKE and BEER, and many things made by ourselves, our friends, and our families. I thought you might enjoy reading a bit about them.

Mark’s suit and my dress are made from 100% wool fabric, purchased at Cotswold Woollen Weavers. Mark’s suit was bought in their shop, where I got several metres of fabric that my awesome, gifted friend Emmylou turned into The Wedding Dress Of My Dreams. My bridesmaids all had woolly tabards made by my friends at Tall Yarns’n Tales in the same dotty fabric as my bolero.

I’ve loved Cotswold Woollen Weavers since I interviewed Richard Martin there for a radio feature aired on BBC Oxford in 2009 and it was fantastic to be able to use their distinctive cloth; likewise, Tall Yarns’n Tales are one of my favourite local businesses whose distinctive workwear plays an important part in my wardrobe. I love their style and was really happy to be able to share it with some of my closest friends.

The gorgeous herringbone tweed of which my dress was made provided inspiration for my gauntlets. Using the KNITSONIK System from (ahem!) my own book, I played with shades of Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumper Weight yarn worked with a lovely fingering weight Portland sheep yarn in a natural white from Farnell Farm. I wanted to pick up the shades in the tweed, and to make something elegant and understated to match. After swatching, I settled on an extremely simple pattern, and concentrated on exploring the subtle shifts between different beiges, creams and whites.

My dear friend Brenda turned my swatch into a ring pillow which has been stuffed with various important and special wools including fleece from my friend Caro’s flock and some Jacob wool that I gave my friend Tom some years ago from a flock I recorded in the Scottish Borders for a KNITSONIK project. My friend Gabrielle sewed it shut using J&S yarn!

The Portland breed originates from close to where Mark grew up (Weymouth) and Shetland is my spiritual home, so working the two yarns together felt very special and I felt I couldn’t get married without a little bit of KNITSONIK included in my outfit.

The KNITSONIK System was present in other ways as well; unbeknownst to me, in the lead up to our wedding, my good friend Liz had been secretly scheming with many comrades to create some very special KNITSONIK bunting. Each flag uses a different inspiration source and the whole thing features contributions from many, many friends. It is the most colourful and glorious thing I have ever seen, and really deserves its own blog post. For today I’ll just share that the bunting was there when we said our vows, and later on when we cut our cake, and that we are deeply thankful to Liz and all the other knitters who made beautiful flags for it… the whole thing brought so much love and colour to our wedding: IT IS AMAZING!

We made our cake ourselves using the recipe from the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook with a few minor adjustments (more fruit and more booze!) It felt really good and right to make it there on this counter where we have made so many other meals and cakes and feasts together over the past decade or so.

The ducks stopped laying for several weeks and a fortnight before the wedding I gave them extra food and oyster shell and a good talking to. Luckily, they busted out an emergency supply in time for us to use their eggs in the cakes, which meant they could be there in spirit if not in person (thank you Honey and Pretzel)!

Our friends Vic and Lou did a stunning job of turning our home baked cakes into The Wedding Cake Of My Dreams; using fondant in gloriously sheepy shades, they created an entire “knitted” cake, complete with a knitted heart on the top! Here I am with Vic and the insanely amazing knitted wedding cake, trying my best to express my feelings about said cake with my face.

THE CAKE! THE BUNTING!

I investigated flowers many months back and for various reasons decided I wanted to use wool. I wasn’t sure what to do for greenery until I spotted a photo on Pinterest of a bridal bouquet with ivy trailing down from it… the ivy reminded me of my friend Cecilia’s Hand Spun Yarns and she very kindly made me enough green coily yarn for us to decorate my hair and all the tables in glorious green, spirally joy.

Jo Stringer did my hair and makeup and I absolutely love her approach to our woolly theme and how she incorporated our handmade woolly flowers and Cecilia’s special yarn.

The flowers were the product of several hen-dos organised by my beautiful and lovely maid of honour: Lara. These gathering were all incredible opportunities to come together with cherished friends, and they were also very crafty, involving the production of 100% wool wrapped sheep, pompoms and bouquets for use at the wedding!

I love my woolly bouquet, and my friends at Sticks ‘n Strings clubbed together to buy me a special vase in which it now lives: a constant reminder of all the times spent with friends making the flowers, and of the happy occasion of our wedding.

The yarns used are very special and enabled absent friends and family to be represented… Kate’s Buachaille yarn was used, as was special wool left to me by my Granny Margaret, and my dear Aunty Hilary. There was also quite a bit of wool from Portugal included and some from Romania as well: after writing my series of EU sheep and wool posts for Wovember last year, I was determined to include some special wool from sheep and friends in other EU countries.

We gave all our guests Wovember badges as favours and you can see my dear Pops here, sporting his badge with pride beneath a corsage made from fabric left over from mine and Mark’s outfits. Lara made the most amazing giant cross-stitch version of the rubber stamp we used on all our invites (amazingly, I don’t seem to have a photo of this to share with you just now but do not worry: there will be one soon) and we had readings from Thomas Hardy (read by Isolde) and Kate Tempest (read by my brother Fergus).

The DJ played four tracks by Missy Elliott to which I danced my woolly boots off, and we drank beers made by me and Mark and by my brother Thaddaeus.

There were other incredible sounds for the wedding too, including sheep bells rung by my niece and nephews – a gift from my friend Josh Moll – and some wonderful live music. My brother Ned arranged some of our favourite songs for the Ford Family brass (and saxaphone and clarinet) ensemble. This meant that we were able to enjoy The Book of Love, The Floral Dance, and my all time favourite ever piece of fun music: Jazz – Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold at various points on the day… all made extra special by being played by people we love.

We had cheese from our wonderful local business – The Grumpy Goat – including a sheep’s cheese (of course!) called Fosse Way Fleece!

And we made our wedding rings together under the careful supervision of Sue Lane, who is a warm and encouraging teacher; making each others’ rings was very special and we are now really enjoying wearing them!

Everyone embraced our woolly dress code with panache… did you ever see a woollier wedding posse???

We are still landing after being on cloud 9 on this wonderful day, which felt like an amazing handmade celebration of love, and a fantastic way to begin a new chapter of our shared life. The cloud of joy was created by LOVE and by our friends and family, and after our wedding, we went on an amazing honeymoon to Japan which included yet more joy that I am looking forward to sharing with you in coming weeks. For now I just wanted to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone who made our wedding so wonderful, and to tell you about it on here. I am so happy to be married to Mark: say hello to Mr KNITSONIK!

The shop has been closed for the last three weeks but is now open again and I am hoping to be back again very soon with news of bunting and Japan! For now,

YOURS IN WOOLLY WEDDINGNESS AND LOVE,
FX

All our wedding photos shared here were taken by our lovely and talented photographer, Catherine Hadler and used with kind permission.

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KNITSONIK – what you saw in 2016

Continuing the reflective theme of yesterday, today I want to share some of the amazing inspiration sources and swatches that KNITSONIK comrades everywhere shared on instagram in 2016.

I love when people share an inspiration source; I love reading the comments others leave and seeing what treasures have been discovered in the everyday. Above all, I feel that posts like these express a collective sense of celebrating the creative possibilities lying around us all the time… and that they are richly suggestive of joyous future knitting. Most importantly of all, they are FUN!

Here are some awesome inspiration sources (and some knitting) shared by instagram buddies in 2016. Here’s hoping we find more palettes, patterns and shading schemes together next year…

…beautiful lines and patterns in the door of an art studio in Arequipa documented by @sunnelite…

Things, they are a'brewin'. #knitsonik #knitstagram #knittersofinstagram

A photo posted by Bonnie (@bonniebethc) on

…a jewel-toned flower border provides @bonniebethc with the necessary inspiration for state fair winning mittens…

All I want to do is knit. Alas, work. #knitstagram #knittersofinstagram #knitsonik

A photo posted by Bonnie (@bonniebethc) on

Second place! #knitsonik #knittingbadassery #indianastatefair

A photo posted by Bonnie (@bonniebethc) on

…a swatch inspired by Arthur’s Seat returns to its origins in a @littlelollytravels adventure…

…@dieuwkevm shares graphic #TarmacTuesdays imagery…

…the gentle influence of #TarmacTuesdays can be glimpsed in this wonderful swatch by @makermagpie…

…a more traditional inspiration source for Spring appears in these glorious blooms shared by @wendyknitsdigsbakes…

…combining the KNIT with the SONIK @labistrake translates the humble Marshall amplifier into stranded colourwork…

…while @socherryknits finds patterns and shapes in Glasgow’s Birds Eye Map project…

…at a totally different scale, @tomofholland imagines the possibilities for transposing the humble borlotti bean into stranded colourwork…

…while @knittingtastic finds ready made stranded colourwork charts on her travels in London…

…a different sort of journey provides @rovingricey with a palette, glimpsed at speed from a car window…

…while @hannapatchaesthetic finds palettes for stranded colourwork in bricks, baskets and landscapes…

{long post} How many colours in a brick wall? A Christmas project in the works meant I got to order the last 5 colours of @virtual_yarns Alice Starmore Hebridean 2-ply: now I have all 36 colours in my stash. I do knit with AS yarn, but I also regard playing with it as a legitimate leisure activity. I thought I might give my playing some direction by trying to match yarn palettes to photographs, although it is *really* hard to capture those subtle, glorious colours accurately (all knitters know this pain, right?!) and the short daylight hours don't make it any easier. But if you like them, I'll try to do some more of these, in the spirit of both the @knitsonik system and @silverpebble2's #makingwinter project – a simple way to have fun with craft and nature during the dark cold months, and to enjoy my stash even when I'm short of time for knitting. If anyone else wants to play, how about we call it #yarnimitateslife?

A photo posted by Hanna (@hannapatchaesthetic) on

I have been doing very little knitting recently, despite thinking about it multiple times a day. I think it's down to a kind of unsettled feeling when I'm in the house – the second bedroom/craft room is still such a mess, and there are lots of tasks I should be chipping away at. Even when I'm relaxing, somehow the knitting doesn't get picked up. That's why I'm enjoying playing with yarn and images when I get the chance – it scratches the creative urge and lets me pat and appreciate my stash, but it can be quickly put away again without leaving that guilty unfinished project feeling behind it. A knitterly pleasure even when I can't quite commit to knitting itself: that's how I #knitcomfort at the moment, @frenchpressknits. (picture: yesterday's post given the #yarnimitateslife treatment with @virtual_yarns Hebridean 2-ply. Top to bottom: Solan Goose, Whin, Pebble Beach, Lapwing.)

A photo posted by Hanna (@hannapatchaesthetic) on

…and @flutterbyknits finds palettes in lichen-clad cliffs…

…a bush full of berries that the birds have pecked wide open, and a wonderfully seasonal crate load of brussel sprouts suggest endless creative potential to @erickaeckles…

The lovely @vinca56 asked me earlier what I was doing…well at the time I was standing in the pub waiting to be served at the post office counter (perhaps it's a Norfolk thing having a post office in the pub)….But on the way home I couldn't help but notice this combination of brown and red…Not something I'd have thought of but thinking how beautifully it works and perfect for some seasonal inspired colourwork without making you look like a Christmas tree….but look a little closer at those berries.. tiny beak pecks all nibbled out of the berries, wee buttery gold flecks like mixed peel in a fruit cake….Can you tell I'm re-reading the awesome stranded colourwork source book by @knitsonik …. how about you @slitknits @nicolaforemanquilts @susanna.rose are you all home in the warm? #apintofbeerandapacketofstampsplease #oddplacesforapostoffice #nibbledberries #inspirationonmydoorstep #colourworkinspiration

A photo posted by erickaeckles (@erickaeckles) on

…finally, some grasses reflected in the water find their way into a swatch by @nessiesnews…

Small beginnings. This is a picture for @knitsonik Felicity Ford, to show her my gratitude. Nothing fancy, not a great picture….That was not my intention….I am far to shy to post designs of my own here on IG, but just once I want to show you, dear Felicity, how you inspired one woman in the Netherlands to knit this swatch of stranded colour work. I took this photograph on a cold winter's day last year because I was completely blown away by the contrast in colours nature magically provided. With your beautiful book "KNITSONIK stranded colourwork sourcebook" as my guide, and a lót of drawing and erasing and drawing again…I could knit my first swatch….. Thank you Felicity! 😄🌈 . . #knitsonik #knitsonikstrandedcolourworksourcebook #felicityford #grateful #smallbeginnings #bcgarn #shetlandwool #inspiration #knittersofinstagram

A photo posted by Annette Van Essen (@nessiesnews) on

…I love the diverse range of inspirations here!!! Thanks to everyone whose gorgeous images and knitting went into this post… thanks for sharing the joy and showing us your work.

And if you’re reading this, KNITSONIK wants to know: what did you see this year that you wanted to translate into stranded colourwork, and what will you celebrate in your knitting in 2017?

Check the hashtags #knitsonikinspiration, #knitsonik or #knitsoniksystem to find more images like these and to share the things that give you joy in daily life with other knitsonik buddies!

HURRAH FOR EVERYDAY LIFE INSPIRATIONS!!!
xF

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A year of KNITSONIK

Greetings, Comrades, and Happy Holidays!

One of our treasured tree ornaments – this one was made by Donna Smith!

Whatever your faith or philosophy, I sincerely hope that the depths of winter have afforded you quiet moments for reflection and joyous ones in which to party too; and that you are well and happy and enjoying a fine break with loved ones.

Another tree ornament – this one was made by my dear friend Caro

Things at KNITSONIK HQ are a little bit busy just now because in just under a month, myself and no. 1 comrade Mark are getting married.

Felix and Mark are getting married! Photo © Catherine Hadler and used with kind permission

Nevertheless, I find it is important around this time of year to take a breath to think about the year that has almost passed, the year that is to come, and the hopes, dreams and projects that lie ahead.

2016 was a good year. Best of all, Mark and I got engaged.

In other good news, I took delivery of the 3rd print run of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook and I founded the KNITSONIK YouTube channel. I also began researching and practicing the best ways to produce an amazing online school, and I produced a major project for the Charles Dickens Museum, celebrating the life and times of Catherine Dickens. Together with my good comrade Louise, I also worked on what I think turned out to be one of our finest Wovembers.

Felix & Louise plotting Wovember back in the summer

However, there were many more things I had hoped to do in 2016 that I was not able to manage. Apart from a series of extremely depressing world and political events that I won’t go into here, it was a difficult year because ill health somewhat slowed me down. If you’ve ever had a serious long-term health condition you’ll know how frustrating it is when your body can’t keep up with your mind, and I confess that at times I’ve felt rather down and frustrated – especially when arthritis has wrecked my hands, or when drugs to manage it have wrecked my head.

I’m planning a more sustainable 2017 and things are hopefully on the up with new drugs and regimes, so to kick-start a positive slide into 2017, I thought I’d do some posts that celebrate some of the good things that happened in 2016; the things I managed and the things I did.

Today’s celebration is all about stranded colourwork produced using The KNITSONIK System: a year of KNITSONIK, if you will.

January – the Silchester Mittsalong

January was the Silchester mittsalong, in which many wondrous buddies from the KNITSONIK Ravelry group took part; here are my mitts in progress!

Swatching and matching at Purlescence in 2016
Sue’s beautiful swatch plus her inspiration source, worked at the Purlescence Weekender in February 2016

February involved a wonderful weekend of teaching at Purlescence with my good friend Brenda Dayne. I taught my Quotidian Colourwork class, and Brenda taught her Bespoke Yokes class. Many amazing swatches were produced in the course of the weekend, including Sue’s beautiful Istanbul tile inspired colourwork pictured above; I just love the way that Sue has translated her inspiration source into stranded colourwork there.

Missy Elliott in March…

March was all about knitting my Missy Elliott Sweater in time to wear it to the magnificent Edinburgh Yarn Festival at which I was teaching.

As well as prancing around in my giant woolly eulogy to the amazing Missy Elliott, I launched a new class at Edinburgh Yarn Festival in 2016 called Colours of Edinburgh. Colours of Edinburgh celebrates the colours of the beautiful landscape around Arthur’s Seat, and comrades who came to this class explored how to translate rocks, moss, grass, sky and stone into glorious stranded colourwork; I am teaching it again in 2017 and am already looking forward to it.

Colours of Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in 2016
April and Ella Gordon’s Crofthoose Hat

At the Edinburgh Yarn Festival I also met up with many buddies from Shetland who were there representing Shetland Wool Week and launching Crofthoose Hat – the signature design from this year’s patron, Ella Gordon. I knitted one up in April, theming the colours to the bricks of our wee home here: The Red House.

Knitted speakers at the Charles Dickens Museum

In May my soundpieces launched at the Charles Dickens Museum, as part of their wonderful exhibition: The Other Dickens, Discovering Catherine. One of the installations featured the very tiny sounds of making and knitting, and was presented within a sewing basket. I examined some of Catherine’s needlework to pick shades of Appletons Crewel Wool from which to knit covers for the little speakers, and you had to hold them to your ears to hear the tiny sounds.

#knitsonikmittsalong

In June, many comrades (including me) finished projects produced during the spring 2016 Magnolia mittsalong. In this mittsalong, myself and other comrades knitted KNITSONIK fingerless mitts using Magnolia flowers as our inspiration source. You can see some examples in this video produced for my YouTube channel and celebrating our collective creative investigations of magnolia blossoms.

July was all about the dots

I have a bit of a *thing* about polka dots and in July, I was obsessed with knitting polka dots in natural shades of wool from a dear friend’s flock of sheep. This design is languishing but I keep looking at its pleasing dottiness and I think we are not done yet, me and the dots…

Beginning work on my design for Lilith’s forthcoming book: Coming Home

…in August I began swatching for a new design for Old Maiden Aunt’s new book: Coming Home. My design takes its inspiration from the glorious shades of the Old Maiden Aunt yarn collection, and the flora that line the paths of the West Highland Way. Its name – Wild Mountain Time – refers to a very jolly walking holiday I had there with lovely Mark in 2009. I wrote about this on Lilith’s blog and you can see how much fun I had experimenting with the new-to-me palette of her glorious 4-ply Shetland yarn in August and September 2016.

WILD MOUNTAIN TIMES!
Shetland Wool Week in the South – yet another #knitsonikmittsalong

In October, stricken with FOMO and not able to attend Shetland Wool Week, I hosted my own celebrations here in the South, of which a long-distance #knitsonikmittsalong with a Shetland-theme was a key part. Knitters bought kits from my friends at Jamieson & Smith and Purlescence and we made mitts inspired either by the Croft House Museum, or by the knitting sheaths held in the Shetland Museum and Archives.

November stranded colourwork hats

In November, some dear friends of mine got married and I made them matching his’n’his hats. I used colours inspired by the European Union – Gold and Blue – whose freedom of movement laws enabled their love to flourish, and I charted two wee figures that are extremely simplified portraits of these glorious men. The little charts top and bottom of the hats are an abstraction of their initials, and the hats are complimentary opposites – just like their wearers.

Swatching for my own Wedding…

This December I have continued on the theme of stranded colourwork for weddings, but this time the knitting is for me. It’s taken me a while to settle on a design, but in the end the gauntlets I shall wear when me and Mark are wed will be like all my other mitts: swatches that celebrate new ideas as they progress; I think that is a good omen for a marriage, no?

I hope you have enjoyed this retrospective of a year of KNITSONIK and will see you again very shortly!
YOURS IN CONTEMPLATION,
FX

Posted in KNITSONIK NEWS | 8 Comments

Shetland oo : wool , textiles , work

For some months now my friends Kate Davies and Tom Barr have been working together on an important book: Shetland oo : wool , textiles , work. Published by Kate Davies Designs, this book celebrates the people in Shetland who work with wool (or oo as it’s known there). It features essays by Kate paired with photographic portraits by Tom. I really love the monumental and textural quality of Tom’s photography and especially the way he captures the tactile qualities of wool.

WOOL! photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission
WOOL! photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission

He has a knack for capturing the atmosphere of a moment in a way that I try to do too, with sound. Therefore, when I heard that Tom was intending to document Shetland’s rich and diverse wool industry in photos, I was excited to hear more! I went to Shetland myself in 2013 to make recordings for Listening to Shetland Wool: where Tom was packing lenses and tripods into bags this summer, I’d often been before, but with microphones and wind baffles.

Recording the sea off the coast of St. Ninian's photo © Lisa Anne Auerbach and used with kind permission
Recording the sea off the coast of St. Ninian’s photo © Lisa Anne Auerbach and used with kind permission

Though taking photos and making sound recordings are different practices, they are both about perceiving and exploring the world around us. I thought it would be really interesting to talk to Tom about taking photos for this book, and to share our perspectives as comrades who have been to Shetland and fallen in love with the amazing people who work in the thriving wool industry there. I’ve also created a new video for the KNITSONIK YouTube channel that combines some of Tom’s photos from the book with my field recordings which you can watch (and hear) below.

F: Hi Tom, I’m extremely excited about yours and Kate’s forthcoming book – Shetland oo : wool , textiles , work. Some readers will be familiar with Shetland textiles through attending Shetland Wool Week. However, with your unique perspective and photographic focus, I feel that this book will offer new and enriching ways of looking at Shetland textiles. I’ve also worked on a documentary project in Shetland celebrating the wool industry there and I thought it might be interesting for us to compare notes.

T: Thanks for inviting me for this chat, Felix.

F: Many readers will know you from Kate’s blog as the talented photographer for all her amazing books and knitwear designs. However, this new book is a departure for you both as the focus is not on Kate’s knitwear designs but rather on the people and landscape behind Shetland oo. Could you say a bit about how this book came about, and what you have aimed to capture in your images?

T: I suppose there are two things that especially interest me as a photographer (as well as from a socio-political or humanist perspective): people at work (or play) and where that work (or play) takes place. Shetland is a fascinating place to think about the relationship between human labour and place, and my starting point with the project was a desire to show how a particular landscape has been shaped by the work of wool, and to illustrate the many different ways in which wool shapes humans lives in turn. I wanted to show people at work, and in the places where that work occurs, and in Shetland those spaces are very varied – from the cosy interiors of sheds and living rooms, to the drama of wind-blown hills and cliffs. My guiding principle was that the images should suggest the real dignity and beauty of the work that’s done with wool and textiles in Shetland, and hopefully capture some of those same qualities in working Shetlanders themselves.

Ella Gordon at her knitting machine, image © Tom Barr and used with kind permission
Ella Gordon at her knitting machine, image © Tom Barr and used with kind permission

F: Listening to Shetland Wool is a sound map I created in 2013 for Shetland Wool Week that year, and it features sounds from all over the islands that relate in some way to the context of Shetland Wool. I wanted to do that project because I think that sometimes when you look at a skein of yarn, you can all too easily forget the long story of its creation and – particularly in the case of Shetland – the extraordinary social history with which it is associated. In recording and amplifying different sounds related to the history of Shetland Wool and knitting, I wanted to foreground those stories and that history and to celebrate them. Did you have similar motivations for wanting to document Shetland oo?

Elizabeth Johnston hand-spinning yarn on a beautiful old Shetland wheel
Elizabeth Johnston hand-spinning yarn on a beautiful old Shetland wheel

T: Yes, absolutely. It’s interesting to hear what you say about amplification, because I suppose that is exactly how I think about the effect of different photographic media, like black and white photography, or film work (examples of both of which you’ll find throughout the book). The black and white images of many photographers I really admire (such as Sebastião Salgado) lend ordinary human actions a monumental quality, and I was particularly keen to explore how black and white photography might allow us to see Shetland wool work for the incredible and—yes—monumental thing it is—especially the kind of work that is sometimes overlooked because it is conducted by women in domestic spaces. I hope that some of my black and white images of Shetlanders engaged in skilled activities like spinning and knitting have a similarly amplified quality to the sounds on your map.

Elizabeth Johnston holding a beautiful skein of her own handspun yarn - photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission
Elizabeth Johnston holding a beautiful skein of her own handspun yarn – photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission

F: When I was recording sounds in Shetland, I started by listening to oral histories from the Tobar an Dualchais archives and emailing friends in Shetland for their views on the sounds that were important to them… I wanted to hear Shetlanders speaking about sheep and wool first-hand, and was listening out for ideas of what to record. Then when I got to Shetland, I found many more sounds through people being helpful and making suggestions, and also just through listening and the luck of being in the right place at the right time. I wonder if you could talk about the process by which you found your images for this book – research; friends; suggestions made by others; and good old fashioned luck?

T: You’ll know yourself what a welcoming place Shetland is, and I really did find kindness and generosity everywhere I went. Folk I’d never met before were keen to help with suggestions for locations and subjects, and because people allowed me to see the reality of their working lives, my eyes were genuinely opened to what work with wool involves. There were certainly several moments of good luck (or good light), but I know that what will stick in my mind about the project when I look back in years to come is the good humour and warm welcome of Shetlanders, many of whom I now count as my friends.

Jan Robertson and Sally, photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission
Jan Robertson and Sally, photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission

F: The process of pootling about and recording my sounds gave me the impression of Shetland as a very welcoming place, in which there is an extraordinary community of wool workers who have an infectious passion and pride for Shetland Wool. I especially remember a lovely afternoon with Elizabeth Johnston spinning on her gorgeous wheels; a wonderful time spent listening to Oliver Henry talking about the history of Shetland Oo; and a joyful morning with Hazel Tindall, spent recording her knitting on steel needles with a belt. What was your experience of travelling round Shetland to take photos for Shetland Oo?

Ella Gordon, Sandra Johnson and Kharis Leggate at Jamieson & Smith, photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission
Ella Gordon, Sandra Johnson and Kharis Leggate at Jamieson & Smith, photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission

T: I completely agree about Shetland’s passion for and pride in wool, and the beneficial effects of travel around the islands. There were two aspects of this I equally enjoyed: the particularly intense sociability of talking to and photographing people about their work, and the meditative solitude of being out in the Shetland landscape, and engaging in a different kind of photographic activity. I love the great Shetland outdoors, and these solitary landscape shoots often gave me time to reflect on the work I’d done, and that which was to come. Over the course of the project, I don’t think there was a single day I didn’t return to my accommodation with wet feet, or covered in mud and sheep shit. Apart from obviously needing some sort of washable boiler-suit uniform in which to conduct my photography, I couldn’t have been happier.

F: One of the reasons I like working with documentary sound is that I feel it has an almost textural quality. When I think of Shetland, I think of the sounds of Arctic Terns and Oystercatchers mingling in the air with those of sheep, and of the broad sonic vocabulary of the North Atlantic Ocean that whispers and roars, depending on where you are and what the weather’s like. To me these sounds speak to the geographic context of Shetland and help describe it as a very particular sort of wool-growing environment. Also, when I head out with my recording equipment, I nearly always pick up lots of wind. There aren’t many trees in Shetland and I think you can hear that when you listen to recordings made there. I wonder if there are equivalents or parallels between my experiences of listening to soundwaves and yours of watching the light? How do you go about capturing texture in your photographs and evoking the special tactile qualities of Shetland? Are there particular materials or textures with which you now associate the Shetland landscape, and do you think the light there has a certain quality that you really notice as a photographer?

T: Texture is something that really interests me as a photographer, and this is one of the reasons I enjoy shooting images in black and white. Sometimes colour can be distracting, and I find that without it you can have your attention drawn to the interesting specificity of rough or smooth, hairy or woolly textures. But with our without colour, I think that Shetland is full of fascinating texture. There’s so much variety in the land itself, from cliffs to sandy shorelines. Also, because there’s generally a wind, and because that wind is constantly moving the grasses and other vegetation, textures are continually being reshaped and recreated. I know the special quality of the Shetland light is something of a cliché but its completely true. There’s just a certain something about being 60 degrees north on these windswept islands under an always rapidly-moving sky.

Ronnie Eunson's dog and sheep, photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission
Ronnie Eunson’s dog and sheep, photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission

F: My first field recording in Shetland was made at Sumburgh Head. It was actually strange because, as I was approaching the lighthouse there, I noticed the colours which I had first seen in your photographs in Kate’s book, Colours of Shetland. I walked all around the lighthouse, looking at the bright sunlight striking the pale paint, and I listened to the distant surf below; the nice sounds of families walking about trying to see the Puffins; and the baas of all the sheep around the headland. There were oystercatchers and terns too, and I was filled with the joyous feeling of having really arrived. Do you remember your first ever photograph in Shetland, and what was that made you want to go back and look again with this deeper focus on Shetland Oo?

T: I first travelled with Kate to Shetland in 2010, but the first time I really went there with a photographic mission was when we shot the pictures for Colours of Shetland in 2012. For Kate’s Stevenson designs (inspired by Shetland lighthouses) we shot a set of images at the Bressay lighthouse. It was a very bright, contrasty day, and I became obsessed with getting exactly the right wide-angled shot of Kate, the lighthouse, and the bright blue Shetland sky.

The Stevenson Lighthouse and Kate's Stevenson Sweater and Gauntlets, from Colours of Shetland. Photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission
The Stevenson Lighthouse and Kate’s Stevenson Sweater and Gauntlets, from Colours of Shetland. Photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission

I’ve learned an awful lot about photography since then, but I still find myself obsessed with the Bressay lighthouse, and the dramatic arch on which it sits. On my last Shetland visit, I stayed in one of the lighthouse cottages, and spent many happy hours clambering about on the rocks beneath the buildings, trying to capture the lighthouse and its iconic arch. I found I couldn’t photograph the arch without falling in the sea, but managed to shoot a couple of nice images from both above and below.

The Bressay Lighthouse, photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission
The Bressay Lighthouse, photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission
The Bressay Lighthouse, photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission
The Bressay Lighthouse, photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission

I feel that lighthouse has still got more to show me, and I am looking forward to visiting it again in February, when I’ll have the honour of joining the jarl squad for the Bressay Up Helly Aa.

F: Finally, I think my favourite sound from Listening to Shetland Wool is the clock ticking in the Shetland Croft House Museum. I love that sound because it’s so subtle and so everyday, and yet it speaks to the many hours that Shetland women spent knitting between around the 1850s and the late 1900s. Those American mantel clocks were fashionable in Shetland at that time and when I heard one ticking away in the Shetland Croft House Museum, I recognised its sound from all the oral histories that I’d listened to, recorded in croft houses in the 1970s. It was a combination of luck, research and just noticing, but I always think of that sound as the soundtrack to all the incredible knitwear on display in the Shetland Museum and Archives. I wonder if you might tell us the story of your favourite photograph in the book?

T: I am fond of so many of the book’s images and seem to develop a new favourite every day. But top of my list has to be a photo I shot at the Shetland marts, during a particularly busy sheep auction. The photograph shows the young lad whose job it is to open and close the gates of the pens, releasing and re-penning the animals after they have been sold and painted with the identifying mark of their new owner. There are many things I like about the image. It is a portrait of someone at work, but that someone is not aware of me or my camera, and there’s nothing posed about it. This lad has got a particular job to do, and he has been caught in the momentary pause between one set of actions and another. The sunlight streams in through the open doors, and he squints against it, illuminating his face. I particularly like the textures of the image: his clothing, the metal bars, the concrete walls, the woolly sheep. I also like that you can see his cuffed left hand lightly tapping up and down on the bars of the gate—perhaps beating time to a tune playing out in his head. The photo captures a brief moment of individual distraction and quiet amidst all the bustle and noise and hard work of the marts. It’s an image of the ordinary and the everyday, but there’s just something in the way that the bright light falls on the boy and the sheep that makes it really special too —like a benediction.

photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission
photo © Tom Barr and used with kind permission

Thank you Tom for sharing your process with us here on the KNITSONIK blog and on the KNITSONIK YouTube channel! To see more of Tom’s stunning photos you can check out the beautiful gallery on Kate’s website or buy a copy of the book mentioned in this post from the KDD webshop.

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Les Coleurs d’Antibes

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Over the past week or so I’ve been on a short wee break to Antibes in the South of France with my favourite person in the world, Mark. We ate fromages, drank bieres, paddled in La Mer, snorkeled, slept and read our livres (me, Hope in the Darkness by Rebecca Solnit; Mark, More Human by Steve Hilton). I feel really lucky and grateful for this break, and filled up with the creative energies of having been somewhere different and wonderful for a short spell. Merci, d’Antibes!

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We tried to speak more Français and did lots of easy walking around the Port.

I love Antibes. We were last there in 2013 and were both very taken with its dreamy pink/gold light, the soft blue waters of the French Riviera, the wonderful market that opens each morning to sell fresh produce, the quantity of artists in the town, the bohemian flavour of many of its eateries and bars, and the splendid tones of its many different bells ringing in the hours.

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Mark has recently finished a superb project developing a device which measures the number of people and the temperature and sounds in a venue, enabling you to gauge the popularity or quietness of that venue. It’s called the Hot Spot project, and uses the Internet of Things. Mark has written all about it here. Our friend Alex has 3D printed a case for the Hot Spot device, and we had fun positioning this all over Antibes and taking its photo…

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I have been thinking lots lately about bricks and about yarns… a long-term preoccupation of mine, as well you know.
But it’s always super to revisit an old obsession in a new place.

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We visited the Picasso Museum in Antibes as well on this trip – something to which I was weirdly resistant to last time we were in Antibes – and I have come away full of ideas about how artists respond to places, to everyday textures, sounds, and inspirations.

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I took nearly 1,000 photos and discovered the pleasures of purple, as well as rediscovering those of peach, pink, gold and turquoise.

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I did a little knitting while away, and quite a bit of knotting of ends…

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…I’m slowly catching up on things I couldn’t do while away; preparing for this year’s Wovember; posting out orders; and catching up on emails and messages. I also realise I’m a little bit overdue in announcing the winner of the book giveaway from this year’s Shetland Wool Week in the South Celebrations!!! Thank you Kara for your comment – your name was picked at random using the random number generator found here – and thanks to all who so thoughtfully contributed to that rich discussion on charting.

Thanks also to those of you who have taken the time to listen to, and comment on, my latest podcast. I enjoyed doing it so much that I’m hoping to make another one shortly, so that you too can hear the wonderful bells that characterised our trip in Antibes!!!

Yours in inspirations and holidays, in breaks, in colours and, as ever, in bells.
Fx

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