KNITSONIK 02 – Knitting with Bells on

This is the first in a series of experiments in adapting some of the KNITSONIK concepts and recordings to a rough and ready podcast format. I am sitting on a mountain of recorded sounds from Cumbria, Estonia, and Shetland, and my brain is overflowing with ideas connecting KNITTING with SOUNDS. I wanted to see if there is a nice way I can share all of this with you, and whether I have any comrades out there who may be interested in joining me on a fortnightly basis, to explore connections between WOOL and SOUNDS. There may well be some accordion music… there will always be some knitting… and the sounds will be AMAZING! Who is up for this? Are you game? Then let me fire up my mixing desk, my sound-recordings archive, my microphones, and my SONIK devices!


This week, the KNITSONIK Podcast is all about Knitting with Bells on. (If you prefer not to use the player, you can download this episode of KNITSONIK directly from here).

[mejsaudio src=”″] – KNITSONIK 02 – Knitting with Bells on, by Felicity Ford

Here are things I mention in the show:

First of all, the song which I begin this episode with is called “KNITSONIK WITH A K” and was composed as part of my first ever stand-up set, performed in Oxford a couple of weeks ago. Please be aware that there is quite a lot of swearing in the video. I have however in the podcast bleeped out a naughty word from the song using my own sheep bells as a bleeper.

Presenting KNITSONIK at BrightClub from Felicity Ford on Vimeo.

I presented only a short version of the song in the stand-up set; this podcast includes a more extensive statement on the KNITSONIK mission, set to the beats of Elizabeth Johnston’s spinning wheel and looms operating at ASF, Shetland. Here are the lyrics:


My research explores the origins of woollen textiles in the land… through an experimental feminist sonic art praxis with Cagean influences, and intersections with sound studies… and… I am interested in the gendering of technology… and (there is more)… but it really sounds boring when I describe my work this way… which is why I have called my research KNITSONIK, with a K!

CHORUS: My research is in wool and sounds,
That really is my thing:
I make recordings, play with wires,
And do loads of knitting…
I dream of circuit boards and charts
When I lie down to sleep,
And my favourite thing is to record
The source of WOOL: the sheep!

There are big baas, and little baas,
Sad baas, and greetings too,
And sometimes if you get lucky,
A sheep will baa for you!
You can mix the sheep’s baas with its wool
For a great sense of place,
And celebrate having handknits
with roots that you can trace!


I do not like that we don’t know
Where our clothes all come from…
Where do the clothes that we all wear
All go to when we’re done?
What happens to the plastic clothes…
The ones they make from oil?
Unlike sheep poo and wool fibres,


What happens if you amplify
The sound of spinning wheels?
I like to think that you can hear
The origins of reels…
And spinning jennies and the mule
in factories made the beat,
That moved the clogs once powered by
Thousands of workers’ feet…



The way knitting is represented
Really makes me vexed:
It’s under-studied, under-valued
For such a rich context!
The clowns who made the Shreddies Ad
Don’t know sh*t from shinola!
You can’t knit breakfast cereals,


For anyone who is wondering, this is the offending Shreddies advertisement:

To illustrate my love of recording the source of wool, I have taken one of my own recordings from the Shetland Wool Sound Map, which features a lamb calling out to its mother on top of Sumburgh head.

[mejsaudio src=”″] – Felicity Ford’s recording of sheep grazing on Sumburgh Head, Shetland

The Shetland Wool Map was built using aporee, which is an amazing online resource created by Udo Noll and well worth exploring. Aporee is populated with sounds uploaded by field recordists from all over the world, and we are specifically endebted today to these aporisti for making sounds of shepherding from all over the world available to us to freely hear, share, and enjoy:

[mejsaudio src=”″] – Kathrin Grenzdörffer’s recording of Sheep bells in Albania

[mejsaudio src=”″] – TonyW’s recording of Sheep bells in Southern France

[mejsaudio src=”″] – Maciej Janasik’s recording of sheep bells in Poland

These are my own sheep bells, which have been used throughout the podcast at different points!


This is the sonic spindle which I refer to; it is built using bells, epoxy resin, and an old, plastic DPN. It has a slight wobble, but I can make yarn on it. I love the swooshy sound that the bells make as the spindle turns on its little point, and would really like to hear from you about the sounds of your own spinning tools. What does producing your own yarn sound like?


The project which I describe from my working life in the Sonic Art Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University is Of This Parish, by Liminal, a partnership between architect Frances Crow and sound artist and composer David Prior. The recording I share in this podcast was made when the Oxford Society of Change Ringers were practicing in Lincoln College Tower, in Oxford.

If you – like me – wish to adorn your very own knitting with bells, the place to get your jingle bell stitch markers is RifFiddlings on Etsy.



The pattern I discuss in the podcast is my own Blayter pattern. I am knitting a version of this baby jacket with DK yarn from Blacker Yarns, in different sheep breeds’ wool including Gotland, Shetland, Corriedale and Bluefaced Leicester. All these yarns are produced by Blacker Yarns, and in the podcast, you can hear the sound of wool fibres being rubbed before being woolen-spun at the mill where this yarn is produced.

[mejsaudio src=”″] – wool being prepared for woollen spinning at Blacker Yarns!

I am also experimenting with a version of Blayter knit in Jamieson & Smith Heritage yarn, in Peat, Berry Wine and Madder… I am knitting it at a tight gauge, and held double, so that I can create subtle transitions throughout the shades. You can hopefully see what I mean in this photo. The suggestion to hold the yarns double and then to change one strand at a time was Sandra Manson’s idea, and I love how changing the shades like this produces an effect reminiscent of A. a Rothko painting and B. fruitcake in progress!


While I discuss the J&S yarn, I play sounds from one of the crofts which sells their clip directly to the Shetland Woolbrokers: Burland Croft Trail, owned by the wonderful Mary and Tommy Isbister. I wanted to share with you here some sounds from one place where Shetland wool grows.

[mejsaudio src=”″] – lamb at Burland Croft Trail

Finally, I talk about the sound which Paul Whitty recorded in 2008 for our Sound Diaries Advent Calendar; you can hear that sound here on the Sound Diaries website. The sound is the sound of Angel Chimes! These are the angel chimes which I purchased because of the memories evoked by Paul Whitty’s sound recording. You can see them on the cluttered surface where the KNITSONIK podcast is recorded.


I really hope you have enjoyed this exploratory edition of the new KNITSONIK Podcast format; please leave your comments… don’t forget to tell me about the sound of your spinning wheel if you spin, and do let me know what you liked and didn’t like about KNITSONIK 02 – Knitting with Bells on!

Looking forward to hopefully hearing you again in a fortnight,


7 thoughts on “KNITSONIK 02 – Knitting with Bells on

  1. I “knew” about you podcasting (I’m a card-carrying member of the Kate Davies/Felicitiy Ford groupies / joke/ ) but hadn’t had a chance to “listen” on the computer. So – thrilling — to find that you are finally on iTunes! Yay!

    This episode had me really LISTENING hard — you had a lot in there. New vocabulary to us non-sound tech people, and of course, knitting and wool comments. It was fabulous. I will savor this and listen to it again, and then move on to the next one. PLEASE continue — it is an education on so many fronts, and it is obvious that you so enjoy your “life” work here.

    One reason why I “listened” so hard is that I (and my brothers) seem to have super-hearing. Most times this is not fun, but with nature it is truly a blessing. It was amazing to hear the sounds you and the others have been able to record. To “save” these is fabulous — otherwise, it is a fleeting moment outdoors that so many others just can’t “hear.”

  2. Thanks for your kind comments, I’m so happy you are enjoying the ‘cast and really excited looking forward to the creation of the next episode!

  3. Have just found this – how wonderful. Made for a happy afternoon with a cup of tea listening to such evocative recordings, and linked in such an interesting way – thank you!

  4. OMG, what a treasure trove!! Thank you SO much! Looking foreward to more……….in your spare time of course 🙂 Happy New Year!!

  5. Lovely sounds, so very evocative. And an interesting and personal reflection which covered a load of ground – I will look forward to more!

  6. Really enjoyed this format – the blending of the knitting and sound content worked very well for me – I think balance you got made it really accessible and interesting. Looking forward to future podcasts.

  7. As I read the words to your song, I enjoyed ‘hearing’ you sing it in my memory 🙂
    I love your podcast, even though I neither spin nor knit. Thank you for sharing your experiences and ideas 😀

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