Of Polka Dots & Dolls

When I was planning the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook, I knew I wanted to include a project that would enable me to talk about translating printed fabric into stranded colourwork. This type of inspiration source has appeared in nearly all the classes I’ve ever taught…

…and I’ve always thought it was a wonderfully practical ideaa. Why not create wondrous stranded colourwork conceived to match things we own or have sewn that are made from woven fabric? However, printed fabric comes with its own design conundrums when we try to transpose it into stranded colourwork, and I really wanted to work on something that would let me speak to this. I knew exactly which printed fabric I’d like to use for such a project in the Playbook; a much-loved and sadly now retired-from-service coin purse, bought from a local Etsy seller (no longer trading) when I first moved to this town. I’d wanted to swatch from this for a long time… its use in daily life had given me many opportunities to admire its beauty.

I think it’s Japanese printed cotton. The little Matryoshka dolls are just so sweet, and the warm palette is so appealing. Also, look: it has DOTS! And APPLES!

…And the lining is a perfect match for J&S shade 1403.

I began swatching from the purse. I started with lots and lots of colours as per the fabric and eventually deciding to limit this in order to focus on just a few ideas from the printed fabric. There were some things to resolve on the way (as is always the case when swatching)… My doll motif looked a bit grumpy to begin with, and giving her a yellow base in my knitting meant she didn’t stand out as nicely in my fuzzy stitches as in the original, crisply-printed medium.

You can see my swatching process here… at some point with the first swatch, I realised it was going to get horribly long and be unwieldy to continue, so I started a second.

I was especially interested in two dolls from the printed fabric; one created with a series of lovely soft grey blues, yellows and greys, and the other featuring rich warm red and browns. I liked the idea of taking the dotty kerchief motif and using it as a band to separate the differently coloured dolls, and also varying the background to resemble the murky and somewhat stained patina of use on my beloved old purse. The dotty motif was something I had used in a much earlier project – in 2007, I covered my walking stick with a red and white dotted hand-knitted cosy to make it better fit my personal style! I love me some red and white polka dots and maybe the reason I like the dolls on my purse so much is that they are wearing them. I remembered the motif I’d made from this time and dug it out for the dotty element of the design…

…Anyway, as I knit on my swatches, I kept thinking about the prospect of Matryoshka dolls themselves; the idea of a large doll containing ever smaller versions of itself. And I kept thinking about the question of proportion and scale in motifs when we knit. It’s amazing to find that we have made the most beautiful design of all time… but annoying to later discover that it won’t fit into the required size of the garment or accessory we intend to make. I looked at my dolls and wondered: could this Polka Dots & Dolls project address this in some way, and explore the idea of knitted motifs retaining their style and essence across multiple sizes, just like the features painted onto wooden matryoshka dolls?

I had loved the purse as an object used in daily life; how could I recall the function of this inspiration source in knitting? Swatching is wonderful for pondering such things and, as I worked on my motifs and shading schemes, it struck me that I could design a laptop cosy; a mini-tablet cosy; and a smartphone cosy. I use these objects all the time in operating KNITSONIK LTD. and their comparative sizes would enable me to explore concepts of scale and proportion in design. I started to scale my motifs down…

…and to write the instructions for three sizes of lined, protective cosies.

Each of the cosies is closed with i-cord buttonholes and toggles and keen-eyed spotters will notice that I used small, medium and large sized toggles to match the sizing of the cosies.

Once I was into this idea of Matryoshka dolls, I really wanted to make a wooden set to match my knitted versions. You can buy wooden blanks online and I did this and painted them to match my knitted motifs. When Ferg came to do the photoshoot for the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook, we had an awful lot of fun playing with the knitted cosies and their matching dolls!

Eventually we brought things back full circle, and put my wooden dolls together with the original inspiration source; my loved and worn old printed fabric purse.

The resulting pattern in the Playbook details more closely the process of translating printed fabric into stranded colourwork, and re-sizing motifs to fit the stitch counts of your project, and there are illustrations in the Playbook Colouring Companion to enable you to experiment with different colour schemes. I think it would be amazing to do a set based on an actual set of Russian Matryoshka dolls but maybe that’s a project for another post! I was hugely helped by Melanie Patton and Judith Daykin who knitted the samples for this project; big thanks to you for bringing Polka Dots & Dolls to life. I hope you’ve enjoyed this process story; I’ll be back before too long to tell you about the last chapter in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook – Efflorescent, concluding our leisurely tour of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook and the KNITSONIK Playbook Colouring Companion.


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Just popping in to tell you about an event next weekend in Reading that’s being organised by one of our town’s amazing community leaders; Dee, AKA Doris Allimadi.

I first learned about Dee when I came across an article about how she had been distributing food parcels to homeless people here. I later discovered she’d written a book about her experience of depression, and encouraged her youngest daughter, Alyssa, to write, illustrate and self-publish an alphabet of fruit and veg. I got in touch and Dee spotted from my online presence that I could knit… I offered to show her how, and so a friendship was born! Earlier this year, Dee told me about her plan to have an amazing multicultural celebration of Reading; I remember her saying “We’re all here, together, all of us, people from all over the world, and I think that’s something we should get together to celebrate”.

The event she had in mind is called LOVE READING, or, rather…


It’s on next Saturday, 4th August 2018, from 11am TO 5pm
The address is: Battle Primary Academy, Cranbury Road, Reading, RG30 2TD
Ticket price is £1 for Adults and £0.50 for under-16s

I’m really hoping to see some of you there; I’m bringing my knitting and some records, and am hoping to play some tunes as part of my aspiring dream to be a DJ. In the meantime, I wanted to tell you more about Dee and ❤ Reading, so we did a short Q&A together.

Q: What inspired you to set up ❤ Reading?

A: I moved to Reading nearly three years ago from London and just love being here. I have met and made friends will some truly wonderful human beings. I love the diversity of it and thought that it ought to be celebrated with some of our food, fashion and music. It will be a fun family day. More than this though and, beyond Reading, I think that our world needs more love shared. There is just so much going wrong, especially with divides and intolerance… although I do not think that people should merely be tolerated! I think that we should all embrace each other with all our differences and similarities and just make this world a better place. You see, I too have a dream, to change the world one place at a time. I want Love Reading to be a huge annual success so that someone somewhere else, possibly in another country – who is equally as passionate about love and cohesiveness – will emulate it and, together, one city at a time, that dream will be realised.

Q: ❤ Reading is very much focused on food and there will be food stalls representing different, regional cuisines. Could you say a bit about what food and sharing food mean to you?

A: I love food, I love cooking. I have been known to pick a country at random and go on YouTube to research their cuisine and then attempt to make it. Food, just like love, is what brings us growth and sustains us. Sharing food is just like sharing love. It feeds us both physically and emotionally and brings people together.

Q: Who’s going to have stalls at ❤ Reading?

A: There will be food stalls from JB Catering (Caribbean Food); Maame Sika (African Food); Time 4 a Drink (Teas, Coffees, Cookies, Cakes); and Lubna (South Asian Food). There’ll also be Henna and Nail-Painting from Salma; an art stall from local artist Joe; Reading Young Labour; Alyssa selling her own range of ChooseLove clothing; and music from Ma Bessie and Real O’Rael.

Q: The posters say this event is put on by The Children and Women’s Trust, could you explain a bit about this organisation and your involvement in it?

A: The Children and Women’s Trust is a local organisation, new to Reading. The aims and objectives are to advancement of education, relief of poverty and promote good health.

We prepare food parcels for Reading’s homeless in the Town Centre and last year I was nominated for a Pride of Reading Award. Our previous projects included running parent and toddler sessions, and exercise and healthy eating workshops in London.

The next project for the CWT is to raise awareness of mental health, especially in the BAME community.

I am one of the Founders and Project Coordinator for the organisation.

Afterword: If any of you would like to have a stall, or volunteer at ❤ Reading, please get in touch with Dee at THECWT.PC (@) GMAIL.COM; otherwise please just come along. If you can’t come, please share this post on social media to help get the word out! Exactly like Dee says, there is a lot of divisiveness and intolerance in the world just now. Events which seek to heal divides, bring people together, and do so over the common language of food are things to get into, and to get behind. My friend Janine gave me a beautiful book while I was staying in the USA, called Feed the Resistance: Recipes + Ideas for Getting Involved and it feels fitting to quote from it here, in reference to the deeper message of ❤ Reading and Dee’s dream for finding shared humanity and commonality through food, fashion and music:

Food is about people, all people. It is the most democratic thing in the world, lower-case “d”, and affects all of us. All of us. It is the thing we, the entire world!, all have in common. Therefore it also has the power to inform us about where we come from, inform how we express and share ourselves, and ultimately has the power to bring us together with empathetic understanding.

In all times, but especially during uncertain ones, there is something so beautifully comforting about cooking a meal from start to finish. Peeling and slicing onions and watching them soften in hot butter might not be the answer to world peace, but it is nice to know that when I do just that I am one of millions around the world doing that exact thing at the exact same time. When we cook, we are in solidarity. There is power in that.

– Julia Turshen

See you next Saturday?
Yours in knitting, tunes and ❤ing Reading

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KNITSONIK yarn crawl in the Bay Area

As part of my forthcoming adventures in the USA, I’ll be visiting yarn stores in the Bay Area and doing two book signing events on Saturday 7th July. At each event I will give a short, informal talk about my work, and bring some samples of my work for you to see. I’ll also bring my special turbo pen and stamp for signing your books.

I really hope to see some of you there. Here are the details:

Saturday 7th July

12.30 – 13:30 at A Verb For Keeping Warm
6328 San Pablo Avenue

16:00 – 18:00 at Avenue Yarns
1325 Solano Avenue (between Pomona Avenue and Ramona Avenue)

Both shops will be stocking copies of all three KNITSONIK tomes. If you live in the Bay Area, would like to buy copies of any of my books, and do not want to pay shipping charges, this is your chance! Enormous thanks to A Verb For Keeping Warm and Avenue Yarns for agreeing to host me, and for stocking KNITSONIK. I can’t wait to meet you on the Californian yarn crawl of dreams.

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KNITSONIK is coming to America!

Greetings, comrades!

I didn’t mean to leave it so long between the last post and this one. And now, because it’s been so long, I’ve got loads to share! Pull up a chair and maybe fetch a beverage…

The headline is that I’m off to the USA on Sunday for two weeks. I’m beginning my adventures in the Bay Area, staying with my friend Janine Bajus, and ending up in Wisconsin for the legendary annual event that is Knit Camp with Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen.

Many of you will already know Janine’s work as the famed “Feral Knitter” and author of The Joy of Color – a book about designing stranded colourwork garments in your own colourways and styles or, as Janine puts it, “Fair Isle Knitting Your Way”. It contains a wealth of practical information about colours, steps in the creative process, resources for this kind of knitting, and a glorious array of case study garments designed both by Janine and those who have been lucky enough to take a class with her. The whole atmosphere of the book is inclusive, generous and celebratory, and every bit as colourful as the title promises.

It’s more a book about process than of patterns, but there is lots of useful information in it about garment construction plus a nifty appendix of templates and instructions for knitting a speed swatch; a hat; a tam; a scarf; and some fingerless mitts. There’s also an alphabet template with which you are warmly encouraged to “sign” your knitting – a fantastic detail that epitomises the rich philosophy at the heart of Janine’s work.

The Joy of Color is the culmination of many years of teaching and from Janine’s “unstoppable can-do attitude and step-by-step methods” and it was in my own workshops that I first discovered Janine’s work through students who spoke in glowing terms of “the Feral Knitter”. Although we do something quite similar, we each come to it from a different place. I feel I learn so much every time I dip into The Joy of Color and see the amazing things designed by Janine and those who have been lucky enough to take a class with her and I just love the way she writes about colours, about designing, about knitting, and about wool. I especially love this, which we shared on the Wovember blog last year:

Wear your sweater whenever you can – don’t save it for special occasions. Let it become your signature in the world, a quiet symbol of intelligence, skill, persistence, and the power of individual beauty in an over-commodified world.

Revel in its warmth, privately thanking the thousands of people who helped you bring your vision to life: the shepherds, the veterinarians, the fence builders, the shearers, the mill workers, the truck drivers, the dyers, the label printers, the shop owners, the teachers, the needle makers, the book publishers, the designers, the editors, your knitting friends – in the deepest sense your sweater is an expression of your place in an interconnected web spanning time and place whose strands are too numerous to name.

– Janine Bajus, The Joy of Color

The world of self-published authors working with the concept of “designing your own stranded colourwork based on personal inspiration sources” is pretty small, so you may imagine how super excited I am to spend some time with someone else who works with this concept professionally. Plus, I met Janine last summer and she is A WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING. Here we are with Janine’s friend Chris in London last summer, just about a year ago, at the end of a perfect day of talking and knitting and lunching. I was working on the Scabious swatch for the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook at the time.

I’m so looking forward to more time together and to seeing the Bay Area and San Francisco, where another good friend and textile talent – Sonya Phillips – lives. Sonya appears in Janine’s book, wearing Janine’s glorious Starburst Shawl of which there is a closeup above!

I love Sonya’s supportive, feminist, positive approach to fashion and, like many of you I suspect, avidly follow her instagram account which is a life-affirming palace of dreams and joyful outfits. It will be amazing to see Sonya in the beautiful place where she takes all her fantastic pictures in outfits of her own design and making. And of course I can’t wait to finally meet WILLIE THE DOG (also pictured).

The other part of my stay – Knit Camp – is quite simply the stuff of legends. These camps are run by Meg Swansen, owner of Schoolhouse Press and daughter of Elizabeth Zimmermann.

I love the air of curiosity and confidence that runs through everything produced by Schoolhouse Press and that knitting seems to run in the very veins of the family at the heart of the business. Some of the first knitting books I bought when I rediscovered knitting in my mid-twenties came from Schoolhouse Press and it’s difficult to overstate the enormous reach and impact of this publishing house when thinking about the recent history of handknitting. The influence can be felt everywhere in the contemporary knitting world. Who hasn’t knit a Baby Surprise jacket? Or used the famous EPS system to calculate stitch counts for a sweater for a loved one? My favourite design from the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork PlaybookEfflorescent – develops its basic architecture from the underlying mathematics of the Pi Shawl by Elizabeth Zimmermann, which captivated me when I first read about it in Knitter’s Almanac.

All of which is to say that I am extremely excited to be on course to Knit Camp, where I will meet Meg Swansen and the incredible knitters who gather each year for her famous knitting retreat. Speaking of the incredible knitters… I need to give a special shout out to Amy Detjen. Amy has been Meg’s assistant at Knit Camp for 20 years and is the reason I’m coming this year. In Lerwick during last Wool Week, over a wonderful dinner with Amy’s Shetland tour group (pictured below with Hazel Tindall and me) Amy gave me such a warm invitation to Knit Camp that I knew I’d have to find a way to go. I’m really grateful to have been nominated for the scholarship that is enabling it to happen and I know Amy was a big part of that. THANK YOU, AMY! I can’t wait to see you again, and to have a chance to sit and knit together with all the shades of purple. I hope you still have that gorgeous purple tweed you brought to my class in Shetland. I feel so honoured and lucky to be able to go and am very grateful to Schoolhouse Press for making it possible.

I’m going to close the KNITSONIK shop for the duration of my trip, so if you would like to buy my books before I leave please do so this week before the cutoff date which is midday on Thursday 28th June. I’ll post orders out on Friday and, after that, the only places where you’ll be able to buy my books are through my stockists or from me, after 16th July, which is when my shop will re-open.

I will do my best to share my adventures with you however I can in both KNIT and SONIK; I’ll be back in the next few days with more news and announcements but, for now, the main thing is that KNITSONIK IS COMING TO AMERICA! (4 sleeps).

Yours in Adventures,

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Bricken: a story of mental ill health and also of healing

The third chapter in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook draws on the bricks of Reading for its inspiration. An essay titled Bricks to Knit charts my design process from start to finish, and the chapter culminates in a customisable cowl and instructions and notes for designing your own cowl, based on observing the place where you live. My brick-themed chapter is the result of many countless hours spent walking and watching, and it also charts the journey from the swatch I made in my first book (based on Reading’s brickwork) to the new one, developed for this second book. I imagined – hoped – when I put the chapter together that it would speak to you in your place in the world and particularly to the act of patrolling your neighbourhood and celebrating its moods and textures in knit.

What’s not in the book is the more contextual story of how my obsession with Reading’s brickwork has uplifted me through bouts of mental ill health and that’s what I want to write about today. If you are just here for the pretty pictures and the beautiful brickwork of Reading, I have just the book for you! However, if you are interested in a wider discourse on creativity, disability, mental health and bricks, please draw up a chair and settle in. CW: suicide ideation, mental health issues.

This story does and doesn’t begin with bricks.

I have Depression and Anxiety. I manage these things quite well, thanks to experience, really essential counseling interventions when I need them, and a few cherished friends who have helped me to understand these conditions and to find my way through with them. Still, a few times in my life, the whole bottom has dropped out of my world.

The last time I really remember that happening was in late 2010/early 2011. I had freshly completed my PhD which – as anyone who has undergone that process knows – can be immensely taxing on your mental health. Newly graduated as DOKTOR FELICITY FORD, I was desperate for work and paid opportunities in which to flex my hard-won expertise in The Domestic Soundscape and beyond… presenting everyday sounds to audiences. It was difficult to say no to opportunities, because of the fear of where the next job (and income) would come from… and I was struggling with managing many projects at once. I had not taken the time I needed to recover from the enormous push required to get my PhD completed in time, and there were other problems in my life which compounded my sense of not being where I wanted to be at that point in my life. In everything I’ve read about Depression and Anxiety – and my favourite books have all been written by these amazing people – my favourite explanation is that we come to a state of Depression and Anxiety when real life wears us down and our response ceases to be useful or helpful. It’s not about being sad because something bad happened, it’s about what happens when the stress of that sadness or fear somehow move across into a broken state of mind. At least that is how I understand my own mental health problems. In 2011, I thought I was managing OK until a fateful day at the dentist. I needed a filling, for which I was asked to pay £50 up-front. I paid knowing I’d just caned the absolute limits of my overdraft. I knew I could borrow money if necessary, but I felt deeply humiliated about being in such financial peril at the age of 32. A deep and disproportionate sensation of failure began to sink in. Tears pricked at my eyes and, as I walked home over the hill, staring at my shoes, an unhelpful monologue began to run amok in my head about my terrible life choices; my stupidity in attempting to follow a career as an artist; the horrors of my overfull work schedule and extremely empty bank account; and anger at having to phone various people begging them to action invoices (there is a special place in hell for people who don’t pay freelancers on time). Mark found me in a crumpled heap in our bedroom on the floor many hours later, and all I could say was “there is no point to me and I don’t want to live anymore. I don’t know how to exist, everything is awful. I don’t know how tomorrow happens.” As I got these words out through many tears I could hear that I had lost my perspective, but I honestly did not know where to begin with trying to get it back.

The next day I went to my GP and through great gulps of tears managed to say “I. Think. I. Am. Depressed. Nobody. Pays. Me. Properly. I’m. Working. All. The. Fucking. Time. And. I. Can’t. Even. Afford. A. Fucking. Filling. For. My. Fucking. Teeth.” He smile brightly and said “That would make me depressed, too! I’m going to refer you to talking therapies.”

A couple of days later I found myself in a room in a building with a bright blue and white NHS sign outside staring at two forms. Are you Depressed? Are you Anxious? Do you feel down, depressed or hopeless Not at all, Several days, More than half the days, Nearly every day? Do you feel afraid as if something awful might happen Not at all, Several days, More than half the days, Nearly every day? Do you feel bad about yourself — or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down Not at all, Several days, More than half the days, Nearly every day? The lists were amazing.

I am excellent at lists. You cannot juggle all the things I juggle without lists. As I went down, reading and circling, the document in my hands revealed an incredible inventory of symptoms of mental suffering. Seeing it all on the page in black and white starkly clarified why I was feeling so bad: nobody could hold all that in their head and not feel terrible. I realised that nothing in my life was going to work until I could address my state of mind, before trying to tackle anything else… as long as I was thinking about work, career and existential 30-something angst from this place of pain, I would not be able to solve any of my problems at all. I realised everything that had triggered my spiral into Depression and Anxiety was fixable, but not from the vantage point of extreme mental ill-health.

I started talking to Mark more about my mental health, and trying to think about how to care for it. We came up with plans together, he asked me how I was doing, we talked a lot about certain types of thoughts and thought patterns that signalled “I had gone to the bad place”. I started to learn to read my most unhappy thoughts as symptoms of a larger problem, and not to think of them as The Truth. I tried to eat better, to knit a little bit, to spend more time with the cat and with Mark, to take things one step at a time, to get any little piece of pleasure out of each day that I could. I went to and from that NHS building many times through those months, gradually shunting pencilled circles from Nearly every day to Not at all or Several days. On the journey to and from my talking therapies sessions, I began noticing the bricks.

I’d always loved the brickwork of Reading but now, with this thirty-five minute walk and the potential to expand the journey into adjoining streets (especially if the weather was fine), I began a dedicated practice of collecting pictures.

I learnt that if all my thoughts were running towards a tellingly unhelpful monologue of self-beratement and feelings of failure, I could usually manage to gently take myself outside with my SLR and coax myself into looking up. It became a useful self-distraction to seek out a street with an unusual collection of silver grey and cream bricks; to look for diamonds, interesting diapering, Xs or Os, stripes, edges or other joy. It didn’t cost anything for me to take the pictures, to go for walks, and to upload the photos onto my computer when I returned home, later.

I wrote about the bricks on my old blog, but I never wrote about how I’d felt when I took those pictures because, at the time, I wanted to use the bricks to tell a different story. To rebuild myself. To take the comforting, age-old solidity of the buildings and use it to shore up my life at a time when everything felt like it was drifting apart.

The manageable challenge of leaving the house every day to look at bricks in the neighbouring streets helped to draw me out of my head. I stopped looking at my shoes and learnt to look up.

This got me outdoors into daylight, and moving around: helpful tonics for an ailing soul. But, at a deeper level, this simple and achievable daily creative task also started to change the stories I was telling myself about myself, and disrupted the painful loops of thinking that kept Depression and Anxiety alive. The ongoing nature of the Bricks Project was a vital antidote to an ever-changing rosta of discrete pieces of paid work. While I was doing a talk here, a small commission there, looking at this theme, looking at that theme… the bricks provided an artistic point of interest that had no stressy delivery date, or miserable end point (I am always sad when projects come to an end). I love LONG art projects, where there is enough space and opportunity to keep thinking about something richly, in as much depth as I like: there was no deadline on my bricks project and I didn’t have to go anywhere special or spend any money to do it.

Gradually, as I filled up folders with images of well-built and sturdy brick walls, I began to get excited by everything they represented. I liked their permanence and strength as structures; I liked how they represented a sort of comforting ideal of certainty and security “as safe as houses” and I liked their plentiful abundance. It was joyous to discover that nearly every street contained an unusual or inventive patterned detail, laid over a century ago by the folk who built this town and all these houses for the workers that flocked here during the Industrial Revolution.

Who were these people who built these buildings? Who had lived in them? Who else had noticed them? What could their glorious patterning inspire? As I asked and answered these questions, burrowing into the local studies section of Reading Library, and tramping around the streets taking yet more photos of bricks, I began to see myself in a more positive light, as a wonderfully creative and curious sort of person, with an irrepressible sense of wonder and enthusiasm. I no longer felt like the person crying because I could not pay for my own filling but, rather, as an amazing, maverick brick-celebrator of Reading. Traveling to Estonia in 2012 (and still not in the finest of mental health) a new-found friend christened me “the eccentric Englishwoman” – a moniker with which, I confess, I was rather taken. Reading census data about the ironworkers, biscuit factory workers and biscuit men who’d lived in these houses and finding the works of Jane Wright – a world authority on bricks who wrote several books on the subject and curated an exhibition here in the 1970s – filled my head with ideas that pushed out other, less hopeful kinds of thoughts.

I’ve learnt that there is a very strong connection between my mental health and the stories I am telling myself about me. There are some really painful and sad stories that, once I get stuck in them, will quickly spiral into full on Anxiety and Depression. The bricks and the story of the eccentric Englishwoman are happier stories which have given me a different frame and focus and a kinder way in which to view myself. Photographing the bricks was the start of finding some of that lost perspective.

As time has marched on, I’ve found other ways to nurture my mental health.

But for me, the foundation for feeling well is made of sturdy Victorian brick in glorious, cheery patterns. I’ve published two books now, each of which form part of a plan to survive as an artist in a sustainable way, financially; and it’s no coincidence that both of them feature a chapter on Reading’s magnificent brickwork. The modular way in which the cowl in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook is made speaks, in particular, to walks around this town which, it’s no exaggeration to say, have literally saved my life.

Making art is not, to me, a sort of magical action that takes place in a special setting outside of normal life; rather, it is forged in the crucible of real experience. For me, being an artist is full of resilience and resistance; I think often of an amazing poem from Alice Walker’s beautiful book, Horses make a landscape more beautiful, in which she asks “What is the point of being artists If we cannot save our own life?” What, indeed.

Other people who have had Depression and Anxiety will have found your own deeply personal and special tools for managing these conditions. I say, WHATEVER GETS YOU THROUGH! My solution, when I begin spiralling down into what I think of as “the bad place”, is to try and rebuild myself, brick by brick, walk by walk, stitch by stitch, back up to some sort of tentative joy. I make knitting, sound recordings, images and interpretations of the world around me that resist the pain I’m in; I find creative processes that focus on the joyous potential of everyday life. I use artmaking as a tool for uplift, affirmation and healing… The KNITSONIK System I teach in my classes is the same one I taught myself in order to survive the onslaught of Depression and Anxiety. Yes, it is a practical system for translating everyday life into stranded colourwork and – yes – it is also a system for learning to celebrate life creatively when it feels like there is nothing to celebrate.

I think of all these things as a set of skills that can be passed on from person to person, like candles lighting one another. I have a secret mission to teach everyone how to turn the things you love into something to wear, and a super secret mission (though less so now it’s on the blog!) to share the pleasures of cultivating a love for life, as well.

One of the happiest moments of working on the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook was bringing my brother, Ferg, to some of my favourite brick locations in order to photograph my swatch, along with its inspiration source.

His pictures made me cry because I knew he could see the bricks as I saw them, through the lens of my knitting and my little daily walks.

I was really moved by the joy of sharing the bricks with someone who appreciated them immediately, and thrilled when Ferg suggested we get some shots of me just holding my SLR and standing near some of the beautiful bricks of this town. “We need a photo of you holding your SLR, walking near the bricks. ‘Cause that is what you do.”

I felt so witnessed. And it was special to be able to show my brick documenting/knitting artistic process to someone who could really see how much it mattered. Thank you, Ferg!

With this latest book – the Playbook – I feel really happy when I look at the brick-themed chapter. It is the culmination of a creative process of many years laid out just how I wanted it. When I look at it, I feel like I was not rushed with that work at all. I feel like I can remember the mood of uplift and pleasure that attended every brick-photographing walk lying behind each photo… and the beautiful spreads that Nic did give me a feeling of calm, that I was allowed to walk myself back to walkness in my own sweet time. And comfort, because I know that whenever things stop feeling solid again, the bricks will be right here, waiting.


I’ve written a bit here and there on different platforms about the psoriatic arthritis I’ve had since I was 19, but I’ve not talked much about my mental health or its connections with physical pain. Reasons have included the shame and stigma (still) attached to mental health problems; the real fear of becoming an object of pity; the desire not to attract unwanted advice from strangers (please, please read this if you are considering leaving advice in the comments below); and – my biggest fear of all – not having the resources to properly respond to messages from other comrades who are living with The Pain. However, I’ve been so lifted up and helped by the open approach of several women* and their magnificent approach to discussing mental health that I thought I should have a go at sharing my story. In the midst of a massive flare up, I feel my world is shrinking and I need, more than ever, to remember who I am. Writing is awesome for that and I know – because of how I have felt reading other people’s things – that if I share my real stories, they will resonate with someone and be affirming. If you are reading this and thinking YES THAT’S ME TOO then have a massive hug because I am writing this for all of us who are living with The Pain – of both the mental and physical kinds.

*Shout outs to some of the most uplifting and encouraging voices I’ve found online in discussions of mental health, which include my friend Dee, who has written a beautifully frank account of her own journey with depression; my friend Corrie Berry whose instagram story about mental health the other day really pushed me to get this done; my friend Woolly Wormhead whose online presence is life affirming containing, as it does, all the best hat designs and some awesome keeping-it-real content about her mental health; and the ongoing honesty of my wonderful comdrade in wool, Louise Scollay on social media and in the Knit British Podcast. Thank you all for giving me the confidence to share my own story here.

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KNITSONIK book party launch in photos

My talented brother Fergus has sent through his photos from the KNITSONIK book launch party and I thought you might like to see them!

Friday 20th April was a really hot and sunny day and the light in the evening at South Street Arts Centre was gorgeous.

We had fruitcakes featuring printed icing in the same design as the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook…

…and the Playbook Colouring Companion (thanks for baking this one, Mum!)

My brothers Ferg and Thad organised a special selfie area set up with the Tarmac Tuesdays bunting strung up for photos…

…Coranda – who co-invented Tarmac Tuesdays – came up from Bristol to celebrate the book launch…

…And Vivienne came from Hungerford. (Her photos inspired several of the Tarmac Tuesdays bunting flags.)

I was really touched that so many members of my family were there.

My mum, Aunty Gill and honorary Aunty Sue all helped out loads with catering, setting up and managing the party food and packing up everything at the end. THANK YOU!

Many folks who couldn’t make it in person were present in your knitting, because the infamous KNITSONIK Wedding Bunting was out in full force.

It was really wonderful to celebrate the launch of my new books with old friends…

…new friends…

…and with some of the friends who made the book happen (big up yourself, amazing Nic x).

I was thrilled that Sarah and Jonathan of Purlescence were able to come, as well as comrades from my local knitting group: Sticks ‘n’ Strings, and the wonderful Berkshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. My local Labour councillor also came – Sophia

Thank you all for coming. All my books are completely inspired by, and full of photos of, my town. It was really special to do something here and to celebrate the link between where I live and what I knit, surrounded by some of my favourite people. I appreciate you!

To those of you who couldn’t make it but wanted to be there, thanks for joining us in spirit!

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Chapter 2 part 2: Deborah Gray’s Willow pattern china flags, worked two-at-a-time

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s post, today I want to reveal the other special section tucked inside chapter 2 of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook: Deborah Gray’s pattern hack for working 2 flags at a time featuring her gorgeous motifs derived from looking at Willow pattern china.

This photo was taken at the inaugural KNITSONIK Quotidian Colourwork Workshop, and my first book – the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook – happened largely because of a very encouraging conversation I had with Deborah Gray afterwards. Over a delicious curry in the Ghurkha Kitchen in Lerwick I confessed to Deborah that I felt we’d not had time in the workshop to fully explore the topic of translating everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork and asking her if she thought anyone would be interested in a book on the subject. She replied with an emphatic YES and was immensely supportive during the Kickstarter campaign that enabled me to publish the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook. Thank you, Deborah!

Deborah came to my workshop bearing a precious set of fragments of worn Willow pattern china she’d found on the beach in Shetland, and a vast soup bowl bearing the iconic design, which had belonged to her mother.

She made some self-effacing jokes at the time about the madness of bringing a huge piece of chinaware on the small plane to Shetland, but her instinct to do so immediately spoke to me. I also own some special Willow pattern china which belonged to my dearly loved Aunty Hilary, so Deborah’s wish to celebrate the everyday objects of the women in her family tree really resonated. Also, you just can’t argue with that kind of commitment to creative process! Things passed down through families hold real significance, and there is no substitute for bringing REAL THINGS from which to work when translating them into stranded colourwork.

In the months following that workshop, I was inspired to see the many ways in which Deborah creatively applied, and continued to explore, her theme. If you don’t know her work already, Deborah is a thorough and thoughtful maker and, like myself, seems to enjoy creative processes that span long distances of time and develop ideas along a theme. Her Traces series is inspired and she has written a lovely post about it here in which she ties together histories of Shetland, of her family, and the past and present of tea-drinking vessels.

A few years ago I went to Shetland for the first time, and on several beaches I found sea-worn fragments of blue and white china. Much of it I recognised as Willow Pattern – a design which links back to my childhood when my mother used to tell me the story of the two runaway lovers depicted on the plates she collected

When Liz revealed the amazing wedding KNITSONIK Bunting to me, I instantly identified Deborah’s flags with her now iconic stranded colourwork interpretations of Willow pattern china.

I was also intrigued by how this set of flags – and another one based on bananas, made for Monkl, and instantly recognisable to me as Deborah’s work – seemed to have been worked cleverly in pairs. I thought this technique was really rather nifty and asked if she would allow me to include her instructions and charts in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook. I’m so happy Deborah agreed. Her elegant designs, based on Willow pattern china will find resonance, I feel, with anyone who remembers or uses chinaware bearing this design. I also wanted to offer knitters who are less enthusiastic than myself about tarmac to see bunting flags derived from a totally different (yet still everyday) inspiration source.

As I mentioned earlier, Deborah seems to like developing nice long-term projects along a certain theme and, after making the Traces mug cosy series and a pair of beautiful flags for our wedding bunting, she went on to make a truly lovely tea-cosy using the same motif as a wedding gift for myself and Mark. It is gorgeous and very special with its many layers of memories and meanings. Thank you, Deborah!

I visited with Deborah last year after EYF and was really touched to see, in her lovely place in Oban, all the evidence of the beach-combing that continues to inspire her work.

Staying with her, in a beautiful space filled with things she has made or is making, I was filled with nostalgia. I realised I was being reminded of the beloved home of my Aunty Hilary, whose house was full of her oil-paintings and of things she had collected in her travels. When I got home with out lovely teapot and its bespoke cosy, I couldn’t wait to combine my warm memories of both these amazing women in a refreshing yet ceremonial cup of tea.

I hope that in studying Deborah’s charts and notes in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook, you may be similarly inspired.



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Chapter 2 part 1: KNITSONIK Bunting, Tarmac Tuesdays edition

Continuing from my last post, today I want to talk to you about KNITSONIK Bunting: Tarmac Tuesdays edition – which is the main focus for the second chapter of my new book, the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook.

This bunting has a lovely, long, colourful history so let’s start at the beginning (you might want to get a hot beverage, I got really into this as I was writing).

Many months ago in Reading Town Hall where my friend Lara had arranged a wondrous hen-do for me and my friends, I was completely blown away to see – draped around the room – a glorious, technicolour length of knitted bunting. At first, because I was overwhelmed and also because some of the flags use the same motifs as in my swatches from the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, I momentarily wondered what my swatches were doing there, why they were in triangle shapes and – OMG horror of horrors – whether someone had cut them up???!!! As I peeked closer I saw that each flag bore a different hand… that some of the flags had notes pinned to them… and that there were many unfamiliar motifs, shapes, patterns, palettes and colours running through the bunting. These were not my swatches; these were something else… something more.

I spotted a couple of motifs from the notebooks of knitting friends: Monkl’s special banana-themed motifs, designed by Deborah Gray…

a glorious sunset-coloured flag that instantly reminded me of Hazel Tindall

…a flag in yellows and purples reminiscent of some purple-sprouting broccoli whose colours had been admired by myself and my friend Brenda Dayne on a walk in a walled garden some years back.

Slowly it dawned on me that these magical flags had been made by people I love.

My friend Liz had diligently written to many of my buddies in secret in order to prepare some special KNITSONIK Bunting for our upcoming wedding. The instructions she’d sent with her pattern were simply to make a flag that reminded them of me, or that would remind me of them. The results are incredibly moving… Liz’s flags based on hot-pot – a recipe she shared with me once and the photo at the back of my first book…

…Cecilia’s versions of some of the motifs from it – especially from the Plants chapter with which she helped me enormously…

…Mel’s rendition of our Keith Moon jumpers side by side…

…Mikal’s ode to Huntley & Palmers biscuit tins, celebrating an afternoon we once spent in Reading Museum…

…Mandy’s glorious ducks commemorating my sadly now demised poultry…

…and a flag featuring the most outlandish and perfectly formed tassel in handspun Shetland wool from my friend Tom…

However, as well as being deeply personal and touching, the flags are also really instructive and helpful. Each one reveals different strategies for increasing in pattern and acts as a small canvas on which its designer can practice skills like centring motifs or thinking about placement and repeat-width in relation to available stitch count. They put me in mind of an oft-quoted thing said by William Morris when speaking to the values of the Arts and Crafts Movement: “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

YES! Useful and Beautiful! It is impossible to overstate the value of a gift like this.

The original KNITSONIK Bunting was proudly displayed over the mantelpiece in the room where Mark and I were married and then transferred to the stairs, where it hung as a backdrop to cutting our amazing knitted cake (iced by my friend Vic and her sister Lou!).

These magical flags accompany me on all KNITSONIK teaching adventures.

In its friendly combination of love, usefulness and beauty, the KNITSONIK Bunting reminds me of another gift Liz gave me once when I was in a deep depression: a massive, jolly mug that says BIG LOVE on it, designed by Emma Bridgewater. Both the mug and the bunting are inspiring, thoughtful and uplifting objects, but they are also eminently practical. The glorious starry mug in blue and cream has helped me through several successive bouts of poor mental health, and is an inspiring and beautifully designed thing. However, the mug is also a jolly good size for a massive half-pint of coffee, a thing of everyday use, and – naturally – dishwasher safe. Similarly, the wedding bunting is gorgeous and very touching, yet knitters in workshops always learn something technical through looking closely at the flags and thinking about how each one was made.

I kept thinking that a gift like this was too good to not share with other knitters.

Knitters know what it is to make something practical and technically accomplished, yet which is also lavished and embedded with personal meaning and intention and Liz’s pattern for KNITSONIK Bunting really speaks to this and especially to the potentials for collaborative and collective creative fun. I was completely thrilled when she agreed to let me include her wondrous pattern in my second book so that other groups of knitting friends could have her blueprint for making special, significant, symbolic and magical flags for one another.

We talked about making a sample for the book and I kept thinking about Tarmac Tuesdays – the amazing, collective online weekly celebration of tarmac that takes place each Tuesday on the Internet through the hashtag #TarmacTuesday – and how this project would make an ideal celebratory context to inspire a brand new set of flags. Established by Coranda Berry and Gemma Dudley at Edinburgh Yarn Festival in 2015, Tarmac Tuesdays are one of my favourite projects ever. For those of you new to the concept, every Tuesday, buddies around the world who know about the project take interesting photos of tarmac and upload them on Tuesdays (usually to instagram but sometimes on Twitter as well) with the hashtag #TarmacTuesday. What I love most of all about this project is that it can be done by anyone with a smartphone and an Internet connection, and that it proves – time and time again – that beauty, wonder and creativity can exist even in the dirtiest and most unloved urban spaces if viewed through the right frame. I love seeing the new uploads every week and, just like the BIG LOVE mug Liz gave me, the images remind me that stars and joy and colours and mischief and fun can be found in even the greyest places.

As well as its subversive joyousness, I knew that using Tarmac Tuesdays as the creative context for the KNITSONIK Bunting sample for the second book would mean including the photos of friends who join in with the project, using your gorgeous images as knitterly inspiration for our flags, and writing an essay expressing my appreciation for this project and its amazing community of participants. Liz and I squirreled away a folder of potential inspiration and sent flag-charts and yarn back and forth; I wrote to various Tarmac Tuesdays friends asking if it would be OK to use images for our super secret project; and Liz knitted up the sample for the book. All of this is featured in the second chapter of my new book. If you are one of the people whose photos we used, thank you so much; I hope you like what we did with your work. I wanted to include every single Tarmac Tuesdays image I could find but, if you check out the hashtag, you can see that would be a lifetime’s work! As well as working on the chapter for the Playbook, I really enjoyed deriving illustrations for the KNITSONIK Playbook Colouring Companion from the charts Liz and I made celebrating everything from flea-darts at the roadside to a DO NOT FOUL THE PAVEMENT sign spotted in Shetland by one of our contributors, Wendy Booth.

The photoshoot for the special Tarmac Tuesdays edition of KNITSONIK Bunting was one of my favourite points in the production of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook.

Mark had this idea that we should use the vast cavern of dirty concrete on a roundabout under a flyover on Reading’s Internal Distribution Road (The IDR) for our photo-shoot, and I knew of a footbridge over the same road that might also speak to our theme.

We headed out with all the bunting and Ferg set about capturing the joy of the flags and their relationship to urban space. It was magical to see how fluently KNITSONIK Bunting: Tarmac Tuesdays edition speaks to its inspiration source. I am convinced that wherever you take these flags, they will resonate with the roadscapes, the signage, the roadside weeds and the roadside markings.

Ferg was really excited by the contrast between the glorious colours of the knitted bunting and the dinge of the concrete space beneath the overpass and just for fun we took lots of photos of both the original wedding bunting and the new sample for the book wrapped around a pillar and immeasurably brightening up the roundabout.

When I look back through the photos from that day, I keep coming back to this one. It’s not the best one for showing off Liz’s spectacular knitting… but to me – and with Ferg’s insightful photographic approach – it says an awful lot about the larger idea of Tarmac Tuesdays. Just as with every local spot from which I’ve created a Tarmac Tuesdays post, the roundabout now feels a bit more magic… like it’s ordinary and grey, but also carries a magical, alternative, super vibrant version of itself within: a version dressed in wondrous knitting.

Every time I pass it I will think of the flags hung there briefly, of jumping and playing and laughing there with Liz and Ferg, and of finding ways to take a sorry looking thing and make it feel special and treasured for a moment.

That is what Tarmac Tuesdays are all about.

The beautiful thing about Liz’s pattern is that it is adaptable to many different contexts; to weddings, to birthdays, to retirement parties – to any sort of celebration, really. There is already a conversation on Ravelry about some kind of Knitted Correspondence/KNITSONIK Bunting mashup where folks would exchange flags in lieu of postcards! But when it comes to celebrating with my KNITSONIK family, I felt the sample for Liz Ashdowne’s pattern featured in the book should speak to the idea that beauty really is everywhere and to the creative vision of our wondrous online knitting community. I can’t think of a more appropriate project than Gemma and Coranda’s magnificent invention and all the cheering pictures uploaded under their genius hashtag. Thanks for reminding us to find all the colours in the greys and to everyone who joins in with this project, everywhere.

And thank you, Liz, for creating such a practical, thoughtful and brilliant canvas on which we can all inscribe and share our knitting inspirations… and for agreeing to share it with the world in my new book!


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Chapter 1: Knitted Correspondence

It’s so exciting spotting updates on Instagram and Twitter announcing the arrival of KNITSONIK books all over the world… thank you for sharing them!

わくわくする本が到着😃💕 . #knitsonik

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I thought those of you still waiting on your books might enjoy reading more about what they contain. I’ll be posting about the different chapters in coming days, and thought we’d begin at the start with Knitted Correspondence. This chapter foregrounds the beauteous work of Muriel Pensivy (France) and Yumi Shimada (Japan), who have been posting each other a stranded colourwork postcard every month or so for the past two years. Their knitted correspondence is always posted on instagram so if you use that platform, follow @labistrake and @yumiket to see their stunning knitted missives for yourself. They have just each produced a gorgeous postcard in celebration of the launch of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook so, if you have not done so already, please go and smother these wondrous posts in hearts!

Dear @yumiket, Here's my postcard for march. As yours, it is a very special one. We are celebrating @knitsonik 's amazing new books Stranded Colour Playbook and its colouring companion!! So this march postcard is a humble tribute to the gorgeous "Efflorescent" chapter of the book. We are also celebrating 2 years of #knittedcorrespondence! I couldn't imagine two years ago that it would be such an amazing adventure! I am so happy to share more about it in @knitsonik #strandedcolourworkplaybook. So THANK YOU both Yumi and Felix for your creativity, inspiration and precious friendship ! And you too wonderful knitters and knitting lovers! PS : March has been very cold with rain and even snow around here. The only flowers I spotted during a very cold sunday walk were crocus. I wish there is a bit more sun on my knitted postcard … but who knows, maybe next month ! #knitsoniksystem #colourwork #crocus #happyknitter

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This is a monthly knitted postcard to @labistrake and also a very special one to celebrate the launch of super brilliant new books by @knitsonik ! . It was in March 2016 when we started our #knittedcorrespondence . Can't believe two years have flown by. And I'm pleased to announce that our little swatches are in her new book. Many many thanks to everyone who has been traveling along with us in the wondrous journey and always cheering me up, to @labistrake who is my amazing partner, and to @knitsonik , I'm so happy to be a part of your glorious work! . This Pansy Swatch was originally inspired by a postcard (real one!) from @avaughan77 , one of my amazing penpals. Georgia O'Keeffe's pansy is so beautiful, elegant and sensual that I couldn't resist swatching it. It is spring now here in Japan. We can see so many lovely pansies everywhere. . #miniswatchoftheday #fairisleknitting #jamiesonandsmith #swatching #knittedswatch #knitswatch #pansy #pansies #georgiaokeeffe

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Each chapter of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook builds on ideas from my first book but also speaks to feedback I have received from folk using the KNITSONIK system. In teaching many classes and workshops since I began this work I’ve learnt that not everyone enjoys knitting a massive KNITSONIK swatch as much as I do… And that adventures in stranded colourwork are infinitely more fun when they are shared. Nobody has taught me more about these things than my friends Muriel and Yumi who have made their knitted postcards small and manageable enough to fit in around their busy lives, and whose small pieces of work act as rich sites of meaning and cultural exchange as well as being exquisite samplers of stranded colourwork design.

For me the project started like this. In 2015, I bought the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook and used the system in the book to knit two swatches: Lotus and Paris, Texas. I really enjoyed making these swatches and was pleased with my results. However, I also noticed that making large swatches required a lot of time and energy. In my case, it took about 3 months to finish each full-sized swatch and, though it gave me great joy to finish them, I thought it would be freeing to work on a more manageable scale: to knit small swatches inspired by my everyday life – like sketching or doodling or keeping a diary.

– Yumi Shimada

Muriel and Yumi’s knitted correspondence of the past two years speaks to something above and beyond the pure technicalities of translating everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork. Though each of their knitted postcards are technically accomplished and brilliant, they are also deeply moving tributes to commemoration and celebration. Together they map a friendship that has grown slowly, stitch-by-stitch, across the distance between France and Japan. Real moments of lived experience are crystalised into their knitted postcards and, as the body of work has expanded, their project has become as much about what it means to mark special moments in knitting as how this is practically achieved.

When I published the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, I wanted it to be a practical manual for translating everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork. However, the KNITSONIK System is also threaded through with the subversive, life-affirming message that you really can find inspiration everywhere, including when looking at old biscuit tins, A-roads, battered digital recorders or even just the bricks of the neighbourhood. I tentatively hoped it would give people practical tools for knitting… but also that it might inspire people to find ways to more deeply treasure the overlooked and underloved contents of daily life.

What Muriel and Yumi have done with my first book has surpassed all my hopes by miles and, in their knitted correspondence, they truly take my ideas to the next level. I know I’m not the only one who eagerly awaits the next instalment of #knittedcorrespondence each month, and it’s uplifting to witness their appreciation of everything from DM boots to gingham fabrics, but also to see their ideas – and online friendship – growing through their postings. Encouraging and egging each other on, inspiring and delighting each other, they remind us how much joy is to be found in appreciating ordinary things and how important it is to create in community and within friendship. Their knitted postcards, shared on instagram, reveal how creativity is fed when we share what we know with people we love in a spirit of fun and wonder.

In the winter of 2016 I wrote to Muriel and Yumi to see if we might be able to create a chapter together in my new book exploring some of the nuances and richness of their knitted correspondence and to my delight, they agreed that we could. I had magical encounters with Muriel and Yumi in the course of working on the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook and it is truly a massive honour to be able to share their work with you! Together we produced an 18-page chapter filled with glorious photos, wondrous wisdom, and tons of practical tools to set you up for your own adventures in knitted correspondence.

The chapter opens with letters between Muriel and Yumi, describing how they met online and began exchanging knitted postcards. This is edited down from a much longer conversation – really, we could have made a whole book purely on knitted correspondence!

We then each offer a knitted postcard pattern based on a view through a window. Muriel chose the view from her kitchen window; Yumi chose the view from her Tokyo apartment balcony; and I chose the view of our amazing Mulberry tree – which I can see year-round through my studio window. We talk a bit about how we went about breaking our individual inspirations down into our respective designs and the chapter closes with some grey-scale charts from daily life provided for your own adaptive purposes, should you wish to begin designing and exchanging your very own knitted correspondence. All through the chapter Nic used her incredible design instincts to lay things out in a way that makes perfect sense and which conveys the atmosphere and feeling of Muriel and Yumi’s work, as well as showing it off to best effect… and my talented brother Ferg brought maximum turbos to the photoshoot, having the brilliant idea to photograph all our postcards peeping through the letterbox of our house.

Working on this chapter was one of my favourite parts of producing the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook; I learnt lots from reading through Muriel and Yumi’s answers to the initial questions I sent them… and through consulting the amazing materiality of their lovely swatches. I really enjoyed thinking about the similes between individual knitters’ stitch-making movements and handwriting; and the different ways in which our imaginations respond to the world around us. Best of all, I enjoyed deepening my friendship with two amazing women who are making beautiful work and whose sense of magic in daily life really resonates with my own. I hope one day we will be able to get together and knit around the same table. In the meantime, we can keep in touch with knitted correspondence!

The view-through-a-window basis for our individual postcard patterns was Yumi’s idea. I loved it at once, because I felt all knitters would have, somewhere, a window with a view. I’m always looking to tempt folk into designing stranded colourwork via a really achievable starting point and if you buy the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook, I hope you will be inspired to look through your windows with fresh eyes. I know the view from my work room looked different after spending time with the glorious words and stitches of Muriel and Yumi.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to publish your knitted correspondence in my book and for sharing your inspiration with the world,


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Books books books…

It’s been a really busy week because I am preparing for this workshop on Saturday at the MERL, and because I have been shipping books! If you pre-ordered my new book(s) earlier this month, then your order shipped this week.

There are a couple of stages to posting out your books. Mark helped me last weekend with stickering books with download codes…

…and then my parents came to help with The Grand Pre-order Packing.

It’s amazing how much can be accomplished with a couple of extra pairs of hands, some good cheer, and the joy my Bam and Pops bring. We had a very jolly time involving an amazing curry, a massive roast chicken lunch, a late-night packing session and a wondrous numbered boxing system organised with unwavering enthusiasm by my Dad. Bam was the key CUSTOMS-LABEL COMPLETER (technical job description), book-stickerer, and nurturing voice of encouragement. Pops was the box rationaliser, and the main tea and refreshments overseer. He made about eight pots of tea, causing me to mentally rename the day of their visit as TEASDAY.

They both helped immeasurably, and I felt quite humble after they left realising that it doesn’t matter how old and independent I get… sometimes I just need my parents.

Thank you, wondrous Bam & Pops!

I had a rubber stamp made up so that those of you who requested a signature in your books could have one. I can still do most things with my hands but all tasks are slow and most of them are painful – especially writing old-school style with a pen. Thank you for your understanding and I hope my ingenious workaround will suffice. I wish I could use it on the customs labels too but I fear inspecting mail officials have no use for “best wishes” or “happy knitting”. However, if you are a customs label inspector and you are reading this, I would appreciate a steer on whether rubber stamps are allowed in lieu of a signature for disabled senders of mail.

The highlight of all the posting, stickering and stamping is seeing the books arriving with you. I’m loving spotting glimpses of them on social media when they land. It feels like I’ve been waiting for ages to share this book with the world and it’s really joyous to see it getting out there and appearing in your laps and on your knitting bookshelves… Thanks so much for posting the pictures.

As I’ve been packing up the orders, I confess I have been really enjoying how the Stranded Colourwork Playbook and the Playbook Colouring Companion look next to one another and also how they look next to my first book, the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook.

Nic and I spoke a lot about how to get the feeling of a sequel, and also how to show the relationship between the Playbook and its Colouring Companion and I think Nic’s triangular grid design is genius. Nic has a real gift for giving form and coherence to the ideas of different knitwear designers. Every time we work together I’m blown away by her intuitive feeling for layout and design. Thank you amazing Nic for making the books look so lovely and for being so turbo talented.

I’ve also been feeling thankful for my hands, slow and sore as they are, and for Angela’s Nails in Reading.

A shellac manicure with holographic powder and top-coat will do nothing to physically assist with psoriatic arthritis, but EVERYTHING for morale: fingernails of rainbows really help with packing parcels!

In final book-related news, I’m planning a small launch party on April 20th from 6-8pm in Reading… further details to be announced, but if you’re local and would like to eat fruitcake, play with samples and get your book, urm, STAMPED, please save the date.


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