Magnolia Mittsonik – your one-week Klaxon!

You may recall that towards the end of February I wrote about the beautiful swatch-mittens produced by comrades participating in the KNITSONIK Mittsalong (MITTSONIK).

In a #knitsonikmittsalong, comrades all work from the same inspiration source to produce pairs of fingerless mitts that are swatches or records of thought. By seeing each others’ designs, methods and interpretations, we learn more about the ways in which colours interact. It is a good, practical way to explore the joys of The KNITSONIK System while also producing something wearable and useful. The first MITTSONIK was themed around translating the old Roman Wall at Silchester into stranded colourwork designs, and the current MITTSONIK is themed around translating the glorious blooms of Magnolia trees into stranded colourwork. I think Magnolias are beautiful, and felt sure other knitters would also be attracted to their fresh pink blooms, brightening the early months of spring.



The arbitrary deadline of 31st May is there as an incentive to finish. I don’t know about you, but I like deadlines for getting things done. With one week to go, I thought I’d share some of the beautiful things people have knitted so far for the Spring 2016 #knitsonikmittsalong. You can also see some of these projects on instagram by searching the hashtags #knitsonikmittsalong or #magnoliamittsonik, and clicking on the photos will take you directly to the Ravelry project page of each maker :)


Some knitters used the specially produced KNITSONIK kit, but several folks have put together palettes from stash. I love the variance in whites, pinks, greens, browns and greys shown across the different projects.





It’s always interesting to see how differently people develop patterns for working stranded colourwork. Some folks like computer programmes, others prefer pencils, and Yumi (whom I interviewed here a while back) even takes the step of swatching in just two colours to clearly understand how patterns will appear as knitted stitch shapes.





It’s amazing to see what happens when palettes and patterns come together, and to see how the lovely delicate shifts of pinks and whites on Magnolia blooms have informed different knitted interpretations. I also think it’s quite fascinating how something like shifting from blues to pinks can transform the whole feeling of a design.






I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the collective knitterly creativity in the Spring 2016 #knitsonikmittsalong, I will be knitting like the wind this week to make my own deadline!

Yours in lovely springtime colours, comrades and collective imaginative play,

Posted in KNITSONIK PROCESSES | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

songs for forgetting

Those of you who listened to the last episode of the KNITSONIK podcast may recall the interview with my good friend Patrick McGinley, AKA murmer. In that episode we spoke of our mutual love of sounds and shared some of our field-recordings.

I’m really excited to tell you that Patrick has been working on an album called songs for forgetting. Gruenrekorder – an amazing record label responsible for publishing some of my favourite field-recording releases – are currently running a Kickstarter to raise the necessary production funds to put this out there as a gorgeous vinyl LP. If the glimpses of sounds shared on the campaign video are anything to go by, it’s going to be a wonderful listen.

To help spread the word on Gruenrekorder’s campaign and to continue some of the conversations started in our interview here on the KNITSONIK podcast, I sent Patrick a few questions about his working process and about his forthcoming album which I’m sharing with you here today. I hope you enjoy hearing a bit from the SONIK world; I’ll be back with more news from the KNIT in coming days.

Felix: I would like to ask you to speak a bit about slowness involved in working with sounds; I also find that my work with sounds is very slow and I wonder what it is about this medium that needs more time?

Patrick: I think for me it’s largely about achieving distance. I want to hear a piece as a first-time listener hears it, and to come close to that (although of course it’s never really entirely possible) I need long breaks. I’ll work on a piece intensely for a few days or a few weeks and then put it aside for a year, sometimes more, and then when I come back to it again (or sometimes find it accidentally!) I have a much fresher perspective on it. It’s easy to get precious about choices as an artist, it’s a dangerous trap, and time gives us the ability to forget, and forgetting gives us the ability to improve. There’s that idea with writing that the best strategy is to write something, then burn it and wait a week, and after a week write it again from memory. Anything you can’t remember wasn’t worth remembering. I suppose it’s something like that for me and composition. Once I can’t remember why I did things a certain way, I’m perfectly happy to throw them out if they don’t work.

But I think this also has to do with the type of work this is. I’m not sure the same principles would work for writing a pop song (I don’t know, maybe they would, I’ve never written a pop song; I guess it’s much harder to do than what I do). I remember an album review for a CD of mine that I was really happy to receive, that spoke about ‘the invisible hand of the composer’. I think this attempt to remove one’s own hand, to forget oneself, to let the sounds dictate their own form, also requires extra time and space, for the ear to be able to hear what the sounds want to say.


Felix: As you know I am (still!) working on my first solo release as KNITSONIK. I find that when I am planning out the album and thinking about the sounds, I am organising thematically but also sonically. For example at the moment I am thinking a lot about the different maritime sounds of Portland in Weymouth vs. the sounds I recorded at the shoreline in Shetland, and I am thinking about the differences between near and distant baas. There are several really memorable and special listening experiences that have so far gone into the work for KNITSONIK Audible Textures Resource and I am sure you have similar things… either very particular ideas about how different sonic textures work together, or very specific memories of recording some of the sounds for songs for forgetting. I wonder if you could share some of those with us here?

Patrick: Yes, the sounds on songs for forgetting are all very evocative for me, memory-wise. I think of them in two categories: there are the field recordings (the rain in old soviet-era gutters in Tõravere, the surf on the pebble beach at Étretat, the mascletā fireworks in Valencia), and there are the ‘instruments’ – which are evocative of the specific moments when I played and recorded them, but also of the people through whom they came to me, whether those people knew it or not. They are also evocative of the times in my life when I did most of the work on the individual pieces – the first song was largely composed in 2007 in response to a particular life event, which brought about the title that would hold for the whole series of works. So maybe these are more personal connections than textural, but nonetheless…

The mascletā fireworks were a surprise treat lined up for me by Rubén García Villaplana, who had invited me to Valencia to perform at the Observatori Festival in 2008. Rubén booked my travel and chose my hotel, and he booked me to arrive just before the day’s mascletā fireworks were to begin, in a hotel just around the corner from where they would be happening. He said nothing about it to me. He knew I’d just be settling in after my journey, and that the incredible noise would undoubtedly be a shocking surprise, and that’s exactly how it happened. I was out the door within minutes with my microphones, and spent the rest of the day in a raucous festival that I had had no idea existed.

The rain in Tõravere happened while I was staying in that quiet village for another festival organised by some Estonian friends. It was a warm autumn evening, I can still feel the air, with distant thunder and an amazing smell and a lovely percussive rhythm coming from the old tin rain gutters on the soviet-era block houses.

The Ētretat beach recording I remember specifically because it was such a confusing sound. Listeners often think the recording is somehow manipulated, and on location it took a while to figure out what I was hearing. It was a pebble beach, or perhaps a rocky beach, much larger than pebbles, but smooth like them. The rock cover was quite thick, so as the gentle waves broke on the shore the water filled a labyrinth of tiny caverns between the rocks, and as the tide pulled the water back out to sea, a sound like the rewinding of a cassette tape was created by the water being sucked back out from amongst the rocks, creating tiny vacuums…


Felix: I love the list of instruments that you came across, played, or found in the course of developing this work. It seems to me that you are not including them in a virtuosic way – i.e you are not “performing” on these instruments in a traditional sense; instead you seem to be exploring them as sound-producing objects. Could you say a bit about that?

Patrick: That’s entirely correct; I am not including them in a virtuosic way because I am not a virtuoso! I ‘don’t play’ any of the instruments used on the album; most of the recordings were explorations, exactly as you say, first encounters and experiments. Some of the instruments I played without having any idea of what the actual ‘technique’ might be (since I didn’t really know what the instruments were), some were played by clearly incorrect means (one by a bit of shoelace on the end of a motor) and some weren’t even ‘instruments’ in the conventional sense anyway (like the antenna on the roof of a astronomical telescope that sang when bowed). So, just like my field recordings, these instruments were also about discovery, and wonder, and accidents.

Felix: I grew up playing instruments in a very traditional sense – for example playing the flute and the piano and later attempting to play the harp. And of course I love a bit of crap accordion playing to accompany my songs.


I found that moving towards less overtly “musical” listening experiences and working with field recordings has really expanded how I think about instruments. In Brussels a few years ago, preparing for the Tuned City festival with Valeria Merlini, we found a lovely drain into which an icicle was melting. It had a beautiful sound and we listened to it for a long time, knowing that it would be gone as soon as the icicle had melted away. I sometimes think about artificially recreating the drainpipe and the ice as a kind of temporal “instrument”. And I like to “play” railings with a stick when I am walking through a city… I guess in some ways listening and making field recordings have blurred the boundaries for me between what constitutes an instrument and what constitutes playing. Does this reflect any of your own experiences in working with sounds and towards this release?

melting ice in Brussels

playing the railings in Edinburgh

Patrick: I’m glad you’ve never tried to recreate your dripping icicle. Some situations should remain ephemeral – you’d never be satisfied if you tried to own that one. The resonance wouldn’t be right, the drips would be in the wrong rhythm, the ice would melt too fast. It would pale in comparison to your memory of that moment.

I love to ‘play’ environments. In fact, my current set-up for live performance is all about playing a space. I create my echo surveys performances entirely from field recordings made in the space where the performance will take place, mixed with the ‘playing’ of materials found there – bowing furniture, or rubbing walls and windows. I think of this as field recording as well – but ‘active’ field recording as opposed to the usual ‘passive’ variety. These sounds are also site-specific and present in a space, but sometimes a space needs a little help and interaction for it’s voice to be made audible.

On songs for forgetting there are several elements that could enter into this discussion. The fourth song features the mascletā recording – which, although passive for me, was definitely active for a lot of other people, and could definitely be considered playing – mixed with a trash-improvisation created under a footbridge by myself and two friends (Lasse-Marc Riek, of Gruenrekorder, and the drawing artist Elffriede). Our instruments were rubble, tin cans, plastic and glass, but we were definitely playing.


Felix: The glimpses of the sound worlds that are in your forthcoming release are very tantalising. I often think about where or how my sounds will reach a listener when I put them out into the world; I wonder how you picture listeners enjoying songs for forgetting when it is out?

Patrick: Well, I haven’t pictured it all all really; I guess if I think about an ideal environment, I picture a quiet autumn evening, windows open, light fading, a nice drink, and some time to be able to stare into the distance. But that’s not really up to me – I’ll just be grateful for it to be heard at all!

If I think about how these sounds will be experienced I think about the decision to make this a vinyl LP, and the care going in to the design and production of the artwork. I hope that the release will be experienced that way as well, as an audio-visual whole, with textures and smells and images and sounds all playing a part. That, for someone from my generation, is a very different experience to a virtual download.

Thanks so much to Patrick for joining us here on KNITSONIK today! You can hear more of Patrick’s work at and you can read details of the Kickstarter campaign for songs for forgetting here.

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Crofthoose Hat: a Q&A with Ella Gordon

In the “EYF over breakfast with Felix” Knit British podcast episode recently recorded by Louise Scollay, and in my own post about EYF, I mentioned Ella Gordon and her fantastic Crofthoose Hat Pattern. This pattern was designed by Ella for Shetland Wool Week and you can download it here. Crofthoose Hat continues the recent tradition whereby the patron of Shetland Wool Week designs a hat pattern in honour of the celebrations. This is a super tradition; it means that knitters who are in Shetland for Wool Week are instantly recognisable to one another, and that comrades outwith Shetland can join in by knitting the design.

Ella with Crofthoose hats
Ella with Crofthoose Hats

To me, the Crofthoose Hat pattern embodies Ella’s whole approach to Shetland textiles; it is joyful and fun, and it also speaks to Shetland’s heritage. If you watched Ella and Kate’s talk at Shetland Wool Week last year then you will have a sense of how she combines a stylish and contemporary appreciation for knitwear with respect, thoughtfulness, an eye for detail, and a love of the past. In 2014, Ella also curated a beautiful exhibition for the Shetland Textile Museum that referred to knitwear in Shetland worn during the Oil Boom.

A glimpse of some of the knitwear in the exhibition curated by Ella for the Shetland Textile Museum in 2014
A glimpse of some of the knitwear in the exhibition curated by Ella for the Shetland Textile Museum in 2014

Ella’s ability to combine joy and heritage in her work feel really appropriate for Wool Week.

Ella in her Crofthoose Hat
Ella in her Crofthoose Hat

I was so jazzed by Ella’s pattern that I had to make a version of my own the very second I got home from Edinburgh Yarn Festival. There are already 70 projects listed on Ravelry so I am clearly not alone in my appreciation for Ella’s design!

My Crofthoose Hat, based on the colours of my own house (hoose?)
My Crofthoose Hat, based on the colours of my own house (hoose?)

I thought you might enjoy hearing a little bit more about Ella’s design, and so have put together a small Q&A with Ella.

Crofthoose Cushion by Ella!
Crofthoose Cushion by Ella!

F: I love the Crofthoose hat pattern that you have designed for Shetland Wool Week 2016. The design is great fun to knit and can be easily customised, but it also speaks to the history of knitting and crofting in Shetland. I know you also make amazing Crofthoose cushions like the one pictured above; can you tell us a bit about why you like working with the symbol and shape of croft houses so much, and are there any croft houses in Shetland that hold particular significance for you?

E: I’m so glad you like it! I think I love the imagery of a croft house so much because it speaks to me of a simpler time in Shetland. Historically Shetland was known for crofting, fishing and knitting. Obviously times have changed but these things are still part of many Shetlander’s lives and to me the shape of a croft house sums up my culture and connection to this place. Another reason I love them so much is probably because I haven’t lived in one. We had family friends in Ollaberry who we used to visit when I was peerie, and they lived in one of the last of a certain kind of Shetland crofthouse.

Family friends in Ollaberry - photo from Tom Kidd's book
Family friend in Ollaberry (pictured left) – photo from a book of photos by Tom Kidd

I grew up in a time of immense change and wealth in Shetland thanks to the oil, and people didn’t want to live in old, tiny houses anymore so gradually as older generations died out they began to sit empty and fall apart. Of course many are still there and occupied but I think it’s important to remember in a way where we came from and not to forget it especially since the economic climate of living in Shetland has changed so much since the 90’s when I was growing up.

Ruined crofthouse, Shetland
Ruined crofthouse, Shetland

F: There is always a balance to be struck between conveying the idea and shape of something while also making charts that are pleasant to knit. I feel you’ve managed this perfectly with your elegant Crofthoose motif. You have pared it down to its essence and got all the main features of a croft house in! Did it take a few goes to get this just right and could you tell us a bit about your design process?

E: Yes it took a few goes, I know people and especially Fair Isle purists probably don’t think much of the 7 stitch float I have on the roof, haha! But I was really pleased with how it came out. I began by just charting out some ideas for the body of the hat and knitting a few swatches (not many, unlike you I’m not a fan haha!)

A swatch!
A swatch!

I was trying to strike a balance between looking like how I pictured it but also being enjoyable to knit which I think it is. For the crown I found I just had to chart out some ideas and try them because it’s very hard to visualise how they will turn out from just looking at a chart.

F: Was it difficult to know where to start with picking shades for your design from the huge range at Jamieson & Smith where you also work? How did you narrow it down to just five colours and do you have advice to comrades wishing to pick their own colours in which to knit your magnificent design?

E: Yes it’s always quite tricky picking colours especially when you have the design first; usually I have an idea of colours first then get inspired to find a pattern. I am constantly putting colour combinations together at work for customers and orders but also sometimes just for fun. I remember I picked out about 8 colours at first and tried to do lots of complicated shading for roofs and backgrounds but it was ending up too muddy and over complicated for my liking so I got it down to a main shade; two colours for roofs and houses; and two background colours which works well. If you are struggling for colours the main thing to think about is contrast. As long as you can have that contrast it will work!

The J&S colourway I did was the first one so I’ll explain that one to show you what I mean – I chose FC58 (the dark brown) as my main shade because it’s quite dark so gives a good background for the corrugated rib. Then I chose FC39 (blue) and FC11 (green) for the two contrast colours as they’re nice and bright, and then shade 2 (mid fawn) and 202 (light fawn) as the background shades as they are nice and light. All together they balance nicely off each other. But if you’re not sure about your shades, just have a go and see. I also think taking a photo in black and white on your phone of the colours and seeing if they look different enough tonally will help you see if you’re on the right track.

Ella's design, combining 1 dark (main) shade; 2 contrast shades; and 2 light background shades
Ella’s design, combining 1 dark (main) shade; 2 contrast shades; and 2 light background shades

F: That’s really interesting! When I was thinking about the colours for my version, I looked more at the shades you used (in terms of light and dark) than the colours. I took FC55 as my main and quite dark colour (dark cherry colour) and then FC38 and 1403 as my contrast colours (burnished orange and scarlet red). I used FC45 (light toffee colour) and 61 (cinnamon brown) as my two background colours.

My Crofthoose Hat with shades chosen by looking at the lights and darks in Ella's design
My Crofthoose Hat with shades chosen by looking at the lights and darks in Ella’s design

You’ve offered a selection of four different colourways in the Crofthoose hat pattern; can you speak about how you chose the colours for each one? Were your colourways inspired by real croft houses in Shetland or by the different types of yarns you used?

Four lovely versions of the Crofthoose Hat
Four lovely versions of the Crofthoose Hat

E: No, I didn’t want to be too literal with my interpretation so I kept the houses fun and colourful. I wanted to offer colourways in 4 different kinds of Shetland Wool and rather than trying to find similar shades in each yarn range I thought it would be better to do four totally different ones so people could get ideas. The Shetland Organics yarn is undyed so that was quite easy to put together as the natural Shetland colours go so well together; the Jamieson’s colourway was chosen because I don’t knit a lot with purpley shades so wanted to try sometime in those kinds of tones; and the Naturally dyed version was made from yarn I bought at a Craft Fair long before I designed the hat. They went so well together I just had to try it!

Naturally dyed yarn
Naturally dyed yarn

I did the J&S colourway first so that came to me quite easily and although it’s quite subtle I really like it.

F: There are already 70 Crofthoose hat projects on Ravelry! It must be really exciting to see so many versions of your pattern appearing. Do you find that when you see other people’s versions you find yourself having ideas for new colourways and do you think you will knit any more Crofthoose hats before Shetland Wool Week?

E: I know, it’s crazy! I love seeing people’s different colour choices and that’s really what I wanted, of course people can follow my suggested colourways but I’m really glad people are choosing their own and personalising their hats. I did knit another one which I recently finished knit in Brooklyn Tweed Loft with a plain crown for people not wanting to do a Fair Isle crown and I am working on some other designs featuring the motif, so although I’m not making a hat at the moment, I’m sure I will before Wool Week!

The plain crown version of Ella's hat for folks not wanting a fancy crown
The plain crown version of Ella’s hat for folks not wanting a fancy crown

F: Thanks so much to Ella for joining us here on the KNITSONIK blog today to talk about the wondrous Crofthoose Hat pattern, and to you for stopping by to read!

Posted in KNITSONIK NEWS | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Thank you, EYF!

I had a truly lovely time at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and thought you might enjoy seeing some of my snaps from the weekend. If you would like a SONIK version of events, my friend Louise Scollay of the Knit British Podcast recorded us speaking about the festival just after it was all over, and you can hear that here!

Louise Scollay and the very aloof Podcat, Jeremyjean
Louise Scollay and the very aloof Podcat, Jeremyjean

My weekend began with a train journey during which I was attempting to weave in many ends on my Missy Elliott Sweater.

The Missy Elliott Sweater: flip it and reverse it
The Missy Elliott Sweater: flip it and reverse it

I was fortuitously sat opposite Kirsten Kapur who recognised my knitting from instagram! I have admired Kirsten’s designs ever since I espied the wondrous Ulmus pattern, and I truly loved her work for the Shepherd & Shearer project. How wonderful to share a journey speaking about designing and knitwear, about sheep, about creativity and art school, about colours and patterns.

By the time I got to Edinburgh, many ends were woven in on Missy. The sweater kept me REALLY HOT all weekend and came with the added bonus that whenever I was wearing it, I could hear Missy Elliott’s music in my head. The wording on the design says THIS. IS. A. MISSY. ELLIOTT. EXCLUSIVE. with each of the words repeated in its own band and I will be writing more about it in a later post. For now, let us say that I am in love with the lustrous, puffy, steekable Aragon Romney Classic Yarn in which it is worked!

The Missy Elliott  Sweater!
The Missy Elliott Sweater!


It’s no secret that I deeply love WOOL by which I mean sheepy wool with character and a sheepy smell; non-superwash wool; wool with a traceable provenance; wool that retains its links to land and to farming; wool with roots in specific places. It was the presence of MUCH WOOL LIKE THIS that blew my mind when I first stepped into the marketplace at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival on Friday.

A Shetland ram whose fleece will no doubt end up in the Jamieson & Smith yarn with which I love to knit stranded colourwork
A Shetland ram whose fleece will no doubt end up in the Jamieson & Smith yarn with which I love to knit stranded colourwork

Ten years ago ‘luxury’ yarns were mostly comprised of merino and/or cashmere, perhaps with some silk added. Those fibres certainly have their place but it is heartening and joyous to see the concept of ‘luxury’ broadened to include a more diverse range of wool and fibre types, and to be more connected with concepts of sustainability and durability rather than softness and softness alone. Many stalls at EYF proudly purveyed different sheep breeds’ wool and bespoke blends, presenting a diversity of materials that is hugely enriching from a creative point of view. So many yarns, each with their own personality and back-story; so many textures and tactile experiences for knitters; and so many more sheep breed names and fibre types appearing on ball-bands! These trends definitely point towards designers and makers having a wider variety of materials with which to work; hopefully they also point towards a greater return on labour for the shepherds whose work makes our knitting possible.

With this in mind the only knitting that I took with me to Edinburgh was some yarn from my friend Caro’s sheep, and the wool I was most intent on buying in the EYF marketplace was Rachel Atkinson’s beautiful Daughter of a Shepherd yarn. The back story of this yarn is truly inspiring – Rachel’s father received a grand total of 94p from the British Wool Marketing Board for his wool clip in 2014, prompting Rachel to seek ways of better valuing the wool. She decided to have the 2015 clip combed and spun by John Arbon and the result is a deliciously characterful, hairy, drapey, soft and precious yarn soaked in social history and smelling beautifully of sheep. I love the simplicity and clarity of Rachel’s stand; photos of her father and his sheep, surrounded by shelves covered in slinky dark skeins of joy.

Rachel Atkinson with Daughter of a Shepherd yarn
Rachel Atkinson with Daughter of a Shepherd yarn

Rachel was sharing a stand with Anna Maltz. Her PENGUIN book brilliantly uses the sheepy shades of Faroese wool to celebrate the plumage of penguins and Diagonapples is perfect for your inner colour-addict. Making use of the enormous palette of available shades of Appletons Old English Crewel Wool, you can choose 40 shades for your version. It was so lovely to see the samples in all their multicoloured glory!

Anna and Rachel
Anna and Rachel

(Anna’s stall also doubled up at times as a creche for Pinglewins and other small accomplices.)

Monkl hanging out with his Pinglewin buddies
Monkl hanging out with his Pinglewin buddies

The Shetland Wool Week stand was a joyous place to be! It was brilliant to see many friends from Shetland there, and to espy Ella Gordon – this year’s patron – in a magnificent Crofthoose Yoke sweater of her own design.

Ella Gordon in her Crofthoose Yoke!
Ella Gordon in her Crofthoose Yoke!

Ella makes Crofthoose cushions which celebrate crofting and the knitting – both central to Shetland’s heritage. Like these cushions, Ella’s stranded colourwork designs celebrate Shetland’s history and culture in a way that is engaging, unique and fun. I think Ella has a special talent for bringing historic Shetland knitting to contemporary audiences; if you read her blog, or if you saw her wonderful talk last year with Kate Davies, you will know what I mean. Ella’s Crofthoose hat pattern – designed for Shetland Wool Week – is already proving very popular with knitters and my fingers are itching to cast one on this weekend. You can knit one too!

Ella with the Crofthoose hats
Ella with her Crofthoose hats

Friday afternoon culminated in my first workshop of the weekend, The Colours of Edinburgh, for which we were using inspirational photos of Arthur’s Seat taken by Gordon Anderson (who was working on the KDD stand all weekend). I was blown away by the many inventive and glorious ways in which knitters in this class drew inspiration for stranded colourwork from Arthur’s Seat.

some of the yarns laid out for 'Colours of Edinburgh'
some of the yarns laid out for ‘Colours of Edinburgh’
A glorious transposition of rocky shapes and shades into stranded colourwork...
A glorious transposition of rocky shapes and shades into stranded colourwork…
...and here the same image translated differently, attesting to the unique and individual ways in which we each see the world...
…and here the same image translated differently, attesting to the unique and individual ways in which we each see the world… sandstone and crevices...
…pink sandstone and crevices…
...grellow lichens popping out in seams against the grey...
…grellow lichens popping out in seams against the grey…

On Friday night I went to the Ceilidh and had a glorious time catching up with friends!

Ysolda sporting the Missy Elliott sweater on Friday night!
Ysolda sporting the Missy Elliott sweater on Friday night!

To my delight I found myself also meeting many folks whom I’d previously only known online… here’s looking at you Dianna Waller, Sonya Philip, Bristol Ivy, Thea Colman and Co. It was such a joyous, fun and giddy time… let’s do it again soon!


Saturday began with more teaching; this time it was Quotidian Colourwork, with a focus on translating everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork.

Just look at these interpretations of a Parisian apartment, Birch tree bark and vintage coffee cup…

Lilacs in Paris
Lilacs in Paris
Birchtree bark
Birchtree bark
Vintage chinaware
Vintage chinaware

On Saturday afternoon I also met Mae, who showed me the first of her Magnolia Mitts, worked for the current #knitsonikmittsalong.

SyllyMae's Magnolia Mitt!!!
SyllyMae’s Magnolia Mitt

It is always very exciting to see what people have made using the KNITSONIK System and I confess to having been perhaps a little bit overexcited to see this MITTSONIK in the wild! However, one of the things that is great about EYF is that nobody bats an eyelid when folk are this happy about a piece of knitting. I can’t wait to see your other mitt, Mae!

the thrill of finding MITTSONIK in the wild!
the thrill of finding MITTSONIK in the wild!

I spent some time with Kate on Saturday. Some of you may have heard it already but I am so thrilled about the traceability, provenance and creation story of Buachaille (a 100% WOOL yarn by Kate Davies) that I have written this yarn its own celebratory song. I love what Kate says about wool in the introduction to her book and it seems particularly befitting that this wool should have had its first public show/outing in Edinburgh in Scotland!

Buachaille is the realisation of a long-held dream for me – a yarn with bags of Scottish character, as hardy and beautiful as the landscape from which it hails. The yarn is “raised” in Scotland, but “made” in Yorkshire, and I am very proud that all of Buachaille’s processing was completed within a 10 mile radius of Bradford, the historic heart of the British wool industry. I feel particularly happy that, in all the work involved in Buachaille’s production, from the hill to the mill, it seems to me to embody the very best that British wool can be. I hope you love it just as much as I do.

It was stunning to see the Kate Davies Designs stand with its neat cubbyholes of Buachaille in shades representing the landscape where Kate lives, and to see her sheepy wool and glorious designs being admired and discussed with such love by so many comrades. I really enjoyed hearing all the snippets of discussions taking place about the forthcoming Haps book and meeting Roslyn Chapman and Jean Miles who are some of the folk whose stories, memories and research have informed Kate’s investigations for this forthcoming tome. I love Kate’s patterns for their colours and form, but what makes Kate’s work distinctive is the context and history with which she contextualises her designs. I just know the Haps book is going to be amazing.

Myself, Kate, Misa, Ella and Anna
Myself, Kate, Misa, Ella and Anna

Saturday evening saw more internet friendships becoming real ones; fantastic conversations over dinner with Åsa Tricosa and Melanie Berg followed by more late night chats with Woolly Wormhead and many other comrades gathered together for the festival. What a happy time! Alas, I have no photos, but thanks to everyone for that wonderful night!


Colours of Edinburgh
Colours of Edinburgh

More teaching on Sunday, beginning with Colours of Edinburgh. It was a smaller space so harder for taking lots of photos, but I think this temporary exhibit of swatches above gives some sense of the diversely creative approaches. I particularly like the way this very soft pink shades breaks up the greys in the swatch, exactly as it does in the stones…

Beautiful subtle pink grey shading in 'Colours of Edinburgh'
Beautiful subtle pink grey shading in ‘Colours of Edinburgh’

How fantastic is the range from very graphic interpretations to softly shaded ideas, and how amazing it is to see the different ways in which folk used Gordon’s photos for inspiration.

After lunch, another Quotidian Colourwork class, and some lovely translations of everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork…

The grellow bird print becoming grellow knitting...
The grellow bird print becoming grellow knitting…
...a fabric print becoming a clean-lined stranded colourwork design...
…a fabric print becoming a clean-lined stranded colourwork design…
...Jewelry translated into stranded colourwork...
…Jewelry translated into stranded colourwork…
...Soviet Space Dogs book cover transposed into stranded colourwork...
…Soviet Space Dogs book cover transposed into stranded colourwork…

I spent Sunday evening catching up with Nadine – whose piece on the Coburg Fox Sheep you may remember from Wovember; and with Mel and Gordon, whose home was a peaceful sanctuary after the amazing busyness of the weekend.

My woolly comrade, the magnificent Louise Scollay, took FANTASTIC care of me in the days after the festival. We did a lot of walking around Edinburgh looking for addresses where Catherine Hogarth (later Catherine Dickens) grew up; I recorded some sounds for my current commission; we planned towards this year’s WOVEMBER; and I had my first ever periscope experience at Ysolda’s flat! In a special episode of Louise’s Knit British podcast, we reflect on our impressions of the festival. Sitting here today, back in my house, I feel EYF this year was a festival like no other; I met so many amazing people in my classes, in the marketplace, round and about in the city, and the whole event felt brim-full of friends. I have come away feeling very lucky to be working in an industry in which there are so many fantastic people. I think Jo and Mica have done something magic with this festival and it was a total honour to be a part of it. As Clara Parkes wrote last year in her lovely review of EYF;

I’d like you to meet Jo and Mica. All year, they’ve been working to prepare this event. While there was never a moment when they didn’t seem in total control, this was not “their” event, which is to say it was not, even for a moment, about them. They weren’t promoting a book or magazine or yarn store or company, they were simply intent on producing an outstanding event. Which they have, in spades.

Thank you to everyone I met, it was so brilliant to see you and I hope we can do it all again next year.

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I am delightedly packing for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and have some news and announcements before I head off.

Firstly, congratulations to Florapie whose name was randomly drawn to win a PDF copy of Spilly Jane’s magnificent tome, SPILLY JANE KNITS MITTENS.

Under the hostas - the gnomes appear in Jane's book too!
Under the hostas by Spilly Jane

Florapie says…

SpillyJane has so many amazing mitten patterns that I could work her patterns exclusively for a couple of years and still not work my way through all of my favourites!

…with which we at KNITSONIK wholeheartedly agree. Cooperative Press will soon be in touch with you to deliver your PDF prize.

Next I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to my friend Gordon Anderson, whom many of you will know as the tourguide to Buachaille Etive Mòr in Kate Davies’s magnificent tome Buachaille. I’ve stayed with Gordon and Mel in Edinburgh on several joyous occasions and in those visits I’ve fallen in love with Arthur’s Seat, which we have climbed together. For this reason, I wished it to be the main inspiration source for my Colours of Edinburgh class. Gordon very kindly went up the mountain and took many photos of its glorious aspects for us to use in the Colours of Edinburgh classes. I can’t wait to show you the palette of yarns devised through looking at these images.

Beautiful rock faces and strata , photo © Gordon Anderson
Beautiful rock faces and strata , photo © Gordon Anderson
Lichens and volcanic rock, photo © Gordon Anderson
Lichens and volcanic rock, photo © Gordon Anderson
Arthur's Seat, photo © Gordon Anderson
Arthur’s Seat, photo © Gordon Anderson

I’d also like to give a big shout out to Sarah and Jonathan of Purlescence. I’m travelling to Edinburgh on the train this year and, because of my teaching commitments, I’ll not be selling copies of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook directly at the festival. However Sarah and Jonathan will be carrying the book on the Purlescence stand so if you are intending to buy my book at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, they are the folks to find.

Jonathan and Sarah (right) with Jane (left) at Unravel 2015
Jonathan and Sarah (right) with Jane (left) at Unravel 2015
Misa Hay on the Shetland Wool Week stall with Donna Smith's Baa-ble hat design last year at EYF!
Misa Hay on the Shetland Wool Week stall with Donna Smith’s Baa-ble hat design last year at EYF!

I can highly recommend visiting my friends from Shetland on the Shetland Wool Week stand and finding out about another truly wondrous woolly event in the calendar. Congratulations to Ella Gordon, who is this year’s patron for Wool Week!

Sandra (left) and Ella (right)  - pictured here at Jamieson & Smith
Sandra (left) and Ella (right) – pictured here at Jamieson & Smith

This year’s EYF is also going to see the unveiling of Rachel Atkinson’s Daughter of a Shepherd yarn; I have watched this unfolding story with increasing glee and we wrote about it for Wovember; I am so excited to squoosh that Hebridean wonderment for myself.

Daughter of a Shepherd - a new yarn from Rachel Atkinson
Daughter of a Shepherd – a new yarn from Rachel Atkinson

I cannot be the only knitter who is thrilled at the prospect, too, of the Kate Davies Designs stall and two glorious new designs by Kate that are launching at the festival. Kate’s posts charting the route from inspiration to finished design for Miss Rachel’s Yoke and Gauntlets and Funyin (with its backstory in Hornsea pottery) have been some of my most joyous reading so far this year; it’s going to be just lovely to see those designs in real life and of course to see KATE!

At Sonia Delaunay in 2015!
At Sonia Delaunay in 2015!

My buddies from Tall Yarns’n Tales will also be there this year which is a huge temptation if, like me, you are a fan of beautifully made epic work-wear with deep pockets. You can hear Linda and Andrea talking about their amazing work with textiles here.

Linda (left) and Andrea (right) AKA Tall Yarns'n Tales
Linda (left) and Andrea (right) AKA Tall Yarns’n Tales

There will be many buddies at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and Jo and Mica have done an incredible job of making this event a joyous one in which the forces of wool can warmly converge for one weekend. I am stuffing as many hugs and smiles into the KNITSONIK luggage as will fit, as these are the main necessities when heading to a glorious congregation of fibre and friends. When I am not teaching, it is most likely that I will be found in the Podcast Lounge with Louise Scollay, AKA my woolly comrade.

Louise and her magnificent podcast lounge will be at EYF!
Louise and her magnificent podcast lounge will be at EYF!

I am looking forward to seeing you there: it’s going to be TURBO.

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