Home from EYF

I’m home from another magnificent edition of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and am just blown away. This was a tremendous year in terms of MAXIMUM JOY FACTOR, seeing lots of my favourite people, and getting to enjoy a truly inspiring marketplace emporium. I loved the capacious marquee; the giant, well-spaced out seating area in the podcast lounge; and the beautifully curated Ysolda Wing. The slightly more spread out programming also helped regulate the intensity of the event and made it possible to be there every day and for it to never feel too much. All these elements of space and time at EYF are meticulously planned and are the product of Jo and Mica’s hard work and organisational brilliance: I take my woolly hat off to them both. They are building this festival in a truly wondrous way; it is loads of fun to attend and I always love teaching here. Thanks for having me along and for making KNITSONIK so welcome!

This year was different for me from previous years because of the massive psoriatic arthritis flare-up in which I currently find myself. My hands and especially my thumbs are badly affected and, emboldened by my friends on instagram, I decided to get a proper manicure ahead of coming so that 1. looking at my hands would cheer me up even when they were super painful and 2. I wouldn’t feel self conscious when teaching and pointing to people’s swatches or drawing in their notebooks (I am very naughty and forever doing messy drawings in other people’s notebooks to show what I mean…). I went for an amazing golden-cream gel manicure with a holographic powder on top. My idea was to go for something that would look sort of golden and cream on first glance, but which would tone with anything next to it. I can confirm that for every hurty thumbs moment experienced at the EYF, there were moments of mitigating joy and unapologetically smug feelings of THIS REALLY DOES GO WITH EVERYTHING. Hurrah for self-care and especially when it involves colours that make us feel happy!

Top of my highlights from this festival were two full days of teaching Quotidian Colourwork and Colours of Edinburgh workshops at The Risk Factory. Many items of personal significance were brilliantly translated into stranded colourwork and folk also produced many wonderful and unique interpretations of Arthur’s Seat. I truly love teaching my classes, and seeing unique ideas coming to life on the needles of the people who attend. Check out the galleries to see some of the amazing work!

Colours of Edinburgh sees moss, rock, stone, sky, cityscape and flora transformed into delicate lines, patterns and palettes…

Quotidian Colourwork celebrates people’s inspirations, from holiday photos to special tins, to paintings and favourite places…

THANK YOU TO ALL THE AMAZING COMRADES WHO CAME TO THESE CLASSES. I have really enjoyed seeing some of the swatches completed since – both in person and on instagram. I always love to see what becomes of work begun in my workshops so if you’ve still got a swatch on the needles, please let me know what it becomes.

On Friday, I met Claire of the New Hampshire Knits podcast and we had a lively interview including much talk of celebrating the everyday in knitting (KNIT) and sound (SONIK). We have been trying to meet up for a few years now and it was great that it finally happened.

Friday was also my friend Kate’s magnificent talk, in which she spoke about creativity and limitation. She read from a chapter in her forthcoming book – Handywoman – describing her glorious handmade childhood and the mood of invention and creativity that enabled her parents to thrive even when money was tight, and even as Thatcher was destroying the industrial North where Kate grew up. In the second part of her talk, Kate correlated this sense of working within limitation to having a stroke at the age of 36 and being compelled to make, for herself, new frameworks within which to knit, walk and create. Much of the content of this talk resonated very deeply with me and I found it very moving. Though mine is a very different sort of disability, I share Kate’s sense of working within a limited framework; of finding certain designs for daily use either humanising or disabling; of needing to prioritise self-care and – perhaps most importantly of all – of needing to create and amplify my own narrative. Stories of disability are often focused on “overcoming” and “not being defined” by disability – or on “miracle cures” or fixing things with diet (sigh) but I have always found these dominant narratives oppressive because of their damaging flipside, which is the implication that not overcoming, not triumphing, and feeling severely limited by disability – and failing to be miraculously cured through diets etc. – mean that one is failing at being disabled. I have much more to say on this subject but for this post let’s just say it thrilled me to the bottom of my heart to hear Kate talking about her experiences in life-affirming ways that avoided these painful cliches and which centred, instead, on her lived-experience following serious brain injury. At the end of her talk, Kate specifically said “I am not someone who has triumphed over disability” – a phrase so liberating and true to hear that it made me cry. I have no photos from this talk but it will stay with me for a long time and I cannot wait for Kate’s book: it’s going to be amazing.

I had to take a methotrexate injection on Friday which often leaves me feeling not quite right the next day. I decided the comforting joy of my Dandelion Efflorescent shawl was required for Saturday’s EYF adventures.

Efflorescent (which means “in the process of blossoming”) is one of the designs from my forthcoming book, and the sample was knit by my immensely talented friend Tom. Dandelions hold a special significance for me because when I was only able to walk at a very slow pace in my early 20s, I decided to creatively reimagine my arthritis-impeded body as being timed to a Dandelion clock. This was/is much more fun than saying “I am slow because my feet hurt” and many years ago I made a special walking-stick cover out of felt and created many field recordings to commemorate the lilting and unpredictable pace of my sore-footed steps. The Dandelion also represents precisely the sort of undercelebrated and unloved context that excites my KNITSONIK heart the most – TARMAC! BRICKS! WEEDS! – and green is one of my favourite colours to wear. I can confirm that if you are feeling wonky at the yarn festival, you NEED a giant shawl of flowers. The shawl won a special ribbon at the Stephen & Penelope booth, and every single person who came up and said “I love your shawl” helped to lift my methocarnage (methotrexate/carnage) mood. Best of all, I fancied I could feel the joy and mischief of my dear friend Tom in all the lovely stitches. THANK YOU, TOM!

A high point on my Saturday was meeting Gemma Dudley on her Little Grey Girl stand and being able to thank her in person for co-creating Tarmac Tuesdays several years ago at EYF along with Corrie Berry. Here are Gemma and myself in 2015, pictured with the tarmac photos that Gemma won following my talk/clownshow about my first book…

…and here we are now, on the cusp of the publication of my second.

Writing about Tarmac Tuesdays for one of the patterns in my forthcoming book was one of the most enjoyable parts… I will say more about this in coming days, but for now let’s just say I was thrilled to be able to give Gemma a thank you hug in person; I’m sending one to Corrie, too! THANK YOU FOR INVENTING TARMAC TUESDAYS – THEY ARE THE BEST.

On Sunday I was in the marquee at the Meet The Shepherdess event, along with all my samples for the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook + the Colouring Companion. It was really a massive treat to be able to have this little display up, and to be able to hang out there from 10 – 2 meeting comrades, talking about stranded colourwork, and catching up with friends from classes held at EYF in previous years, or at Shetland Wool Week. Also nice to be able to share the Tarmac Tuesdays bunting, and to reflect on its origins in the Edinburgh Yarn Festival itself. My corner looked very festive and I must make a big shout out to Mica’s sister, who helped me out with buying emergency safety pins and also using them, as arthritic thumbs + safety pins really don’t work well together! Look how much fun was had at the KNITSONIK marquee corner…

…loved meeting Mary Jo Bayliss, a sculptor with a knitted project/commission in mind; we talked about the places where Fair Isle knitting and Hip-Hop intersect as art-forms for making something magnificent out of nothing. She gave me one of these stickers and I am looking forward to seeing her knitting sculpture come to life as she works on it this year…

…I was blown away by how quickly this lady had worked up one of the new Shetland Wool Week hats. The pattern – Merrie Dancers Toorie – was unleashed this weekend at EYF, and is by this year’s patron, Elizabeth Johnston. Isn’t this version fantastic? Churned out on Saturday during the Rugby!

SVM came to show me her completed Colours of Edinburgh swatch (based on a triangle of gorse peeping out of the rocks under a bright blue sky) and we enjoyed seeing how nicely it played with the glorious swatches of my friends Muriel and Yumi (which were on show during the trunk show, as there is a chapter on Knitted Correspondence in the forthcoming book)…

I have long admired Pauline’s lovely football scarf made as a 30th Wedding Anniversary present for her husband using the KNITSONIK system and was thrilled to see it in person. It celebrates the Hibernian football club from Edinburgh. Isn’t it wonderful?

I was teaching in Amsterdam back in December and was sorry that my friend Yvonne couldn’t make it. I remember her swatch in last year’s Colours of Edinburgh class at EYF and her warm, encouraging words about KNITSONIK. It was great to see her and Daphne at the trunk show as you can see by our beaming grins.

The little bits of light on the moss in Yvonne’s swatch from last year…

…Daphne, me and Yvonne this year!…

…Also loved seeing my friend Jeni again and learning that the little round parts on this bunting flag that she knit for our Wedding represent THE NOSES OF SEALS…

…it was also tremendous to see Kirsten again, whom I first met on the train to EYF a few years ago. We were both admonished then for whisper-talking too loudly in the Quiet Carriage (naughty) but luckily being noisy and bouncy was completely allowed at Meet The Shepherdess so we did not get told off this time.

Finally, it was amazing to see Sonya and Tom, who were both wearing beautiful clothes they had made themselves, accessorised with mischievous smiles. There were so many friends I saw on this trip whom I failed to photograph but I hope you all know who are you and that I loved seeing you and being at EYF together. THANK YOU ALL for making it such a wonderful festival x


9 thoughts on “Home from EYF

  1. I suffer from Psoriatic Arthritis, and was taken off Enbrel due to periodic “hot spots” which could only be relieved by steroids. Changed to Humira (also a biologic, but works differently than Enbrel) which I loved. Currently on six 2.5mg tabs of Methotrexate weekly combined with a Remicaid IV bi-monthly. Pretty comfortable for the most part.

  2. Chronic pain is so exhausting, and I admire your enthusiasm and great spirits, not to mention the lovely knits. Thank you for sharing your joy- this world needs all it can get.

  3. What a great post. Arthritis cannot keep a knitter down! Looks like an amazing time was had at EYF. Someday I will get there….But I did spot my photo in many tarmac tuesdays bunting! My friends think its a riot that of all the photos…Its the dog with steaming poop!
    Love the class swatches and seeing the postcard swatches all together. Very inspiring. Huge Congrats on your two new books!

  4. My husband suffered from psoriatic arthritis, but started taking Enbrel injections about ten years ago. It has enabled him to stay active and out of a wheelchair, although he still has some constant pain.

    1. I took that for a decade and it was amazing but I have developed antibodies to it so it is no longer effective. We are trying a lot of different things and I am grateful for the ten year reprieve I enjoyed because of Enbrel. Long may it last for your husband <3

  5. What a fabulous post about EYF – I was only there for Friday, but I really got the flavour of the other days.

    So impressed with what you’re doing.

  6. so thrilled to hear of edinburgh swatches, kate’s speech, your reaction and experience, and the splendor and feel of the festival itself. i’m with miss terry above, grin on face not so easy to come by lately. knit on.

  7. What a lovely report! You’ve put a big grin on my face, and these days that’s not so easy! And it’s priceless. Knit on!

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