More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Friday, 30 March 2012

Hats off to you!

I'm a hat person. I love designing, knitting and wearing hats, so no doubt there'll be at least a couple in my next book.  I've been looking at the sort of hats I've designed over the years and it's soon clear that I do love the beret. For my market research it would be great if you could let me know your faves - the sort of hats you like to both knit and wear.
Boho Hat in Artesano Inca Mist
Boho is from my second collection for Artesano, a Fair Trade yarn company who specialise in yarns from South America. It was inspired by a similar hat worn by the little girl in the film Secret GardenI've vamped it up a little with tiny bugle beads in the centre of each flower for a 1920s sort of look.
Chulo in Artesano Hummingbird
Another design for Artesano, this time inspired by the Peruvian Chulo hat.  Worn in the Andes to keep the head and ears warm and usually made from alpaca yarn, as it's both warm and a good insulator.
Aquamarine Hat in Manos Wool Clasica
Aquamarine was from my first Manos collection, featuring an easy drop stitch pattern with a couple of pompoms for added panache.
Bola from Wandering Spirits

Bolivian woman wearing a bola
This is a fave shape, inspired the Bola (or bowler) hats of Andean women. Bowler hats have been worn by Quechua and Aymara women in Peru and Bolivia since the 1920s.  A shipment was reportedly sent out from Europe to Bolivia via Peru for use by the Europeans who were working on the construction of the railroads. On arrival, the hats were found to be too small, so were distributed amongst the locals.
Shoowa Hat from World Knits
These hats are inspired by the patterns of the cut-pile raffia embroideries of the Shoowa people in the kingdom of Kuba, now known as Congo. Originally meant for seat covers, the intricate textiles were also used as dowries, currency, status symbols and sometimes even shrouds.
Maya Hat from World Knits
I'm not a great felter, mainly as I don't like the feel of the finished product, but I have been known to dabble a couple of times and the Maya hat is one of the results. Although it's called Maya, the source of the design couldn't be from further afield.  In fact it's based on the thick woollen men's hats called pakuls worn in Afghanistan.
Albion Hat from World Knits
Another beret, this time with an intarsia brim, adorned by a felted rose and leaves. Small bits of leftover felt can be made into instant embellishments with a tiny bit of tweaking, so I always have a big bag to hand.

I'm a lazy felter and usually just run up long lengths of woollen fabric on the knitting machine at the loosest tension, or I recycle old woollen sweaters. I then put the fabric in the washing machine on a hot 140F/90C cycle, with a towel for friction and a scoop of powdered detergent et voilà... when the cycle's finished your fabric will be felted and ready to use when dry. NB Only natural fibres will felt, synthetics will not. Even machine-washable wool which is coated in silicone will not felt.

Just one other thing... tomorrow is the last day to enter the draw for a free copy of Sweet Shawlettes.  All you have to do to qualify is to become a follower of my blog before midnight on the 31st March. I'll get Philip to pick the winner on Monday. Bonne chance!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Back to work!

It's been ten days since my mother died and the funeral was yesterday, somehow completing the circle.  I understand that to say this is closure would be foolish, but I do feel I can now resume my life without my mother. She'll always live on in my thoughts, like other people who've left my life before her.

Lily's funeral was a truly lovely occasion, better than I'd ever hoped for.  Sunshine, stories and songs - even the birds joined in with a sweet chorus during the contemplation - and her favourite daffodils everywhere in full bloom. I know she would have approved.

I haven't knit a stitch for nearly three weeks - this must be a record? Just getting my thoughts in order to deal with everything, both practical and emotional, has been a major achievement recently.

The yarn for the first three projects in my next book arrived from Rowan a couple of weeks ago and the first deadline looms mid April, so I've really got to pull out all the stops now and get on with it.  This has been the longest cooking time ever for me, so I just hope it's reflected in the book's contents!

The book plan's done, I know what the ingredients are, so I now have to bring each design to life with colours, textures, stitches, shapes and trimmings. I'm hoping the first design, one of the biggest knits, will be ready for the sample knitter by the end of the week, and the following two, smaller projects, hopefully ready for knitting by the end of next week - everything sorted, just need to charge up the old grey matter again.

I've put the easter tree up, much to the delight of Izzi and Ava who constantly rearrange the eggs, being the budding designers that they are. The weather is just amazing, time for coffee in the garden, then I'll be ready to pick up my needles again.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

My mother and I

Dipping in and out of all your lovely messages and wise words has been hugely comforting over the past week. To hear your stories about the loss of your own mothers has been both soothing and reassuring and I thank you all so much for sharing them. The warmth and solace that your messages bring with them might seem disproportionate to the content, but just reading them makes me know that we're never on our own.

Strange the cards we are dealt. My mother was an intelligent woman who either didn't have the right circumstances to develop her intellect or maybe she never wanted to and the curiosity was missing.  Either way I feel sad that she could have had a much happier life - on her own terms not mine. Her cup was always half empty and she was always afraid of what others might think. I remember her telling me when I was in my early teens that she would rather I went into town with rollers in my hair, plus headscarf, rather than chance any of her friends meeting me and seeing the horrendous backcombed bird's nest that sat on top of my head. I of course thought my hair was the epitome of cool!
Lily's 85th birthday
Over the years I embarrassed my mother over and over again.  She wanted a secretary married to a doctor and she got someone who gave up living out her dreams aged eleven - full stop. After that I had no interest in being a high achiever at school, after all everyone hated me for it and I'd had enough of being the one to beat. I was much more interested in colouring my world with a rich tapestry of dazzling experiences. I had no idea how to achieve this other than having an instinctive knowledge that there must be more in life and the best thing to do was to get out there and live it.

My mother loathed the path I'd chosen and felt utterly betrayed.  She had spent her life in the cotton mills of Bolton as had her sister and mother and always swore her daughter would have a better life. The only problem was I knew it too and my version of a better life was totally different to hers. I couldn't get away from the satanic mills quick enough, and it didn't matter to me where I went.
Lily on a day out with Philip and I, having tea
 at The Dutch House in the Howardian Hills
After I gave up trying to please her academically, I decided it was better to do well but never ever excel and that way I could please both of us. This was my first big mistake, my mother wanted me to be the best, like she was, at school. I was the first daughter, niece, grandchild in the family and was adored and made a huge fuss of. I was hothoused like an orchid by my grandmother and great-uncle in the evenings when my mother was on the night shift in the mill.  Uncle Denis, who was in the Great War and so learnt some French, would be teaching me pidgin French on his lap when I was three years old. In their two up two down terrace we would all sit around the table in the gas light at night, where I'd recite french, draw pictures and sing songs for them until my mother came home from the mill at 9.30. My father was never considered to be an adequate carer by the matriarchs so I was never left with him.

My mother's family sowed the seeds to create a person who ultimately none of them could recognise. I remember thinking when I was less than five years old, if I was asked to choose between my mother, my aunt and my grandmother, I just couldn't - they were all equally important to me. They all thought, as I think many before them had, that their hopes and aspirations would be achieved in the next generation. I felt the weight of this and it was my raison d'etre in my first decade to be the person they wished for. However, the swinging sixties came along with feminism following hard on its heels and from then on I started to rebel - I would lead my own life, whether they liked it or not.
Lily with Lyra, her third great grand-daughter
At the moment my head is full of the things I could or should have done for my mother. I've come full circle in the past five years, once more striving with every fibre of my being to be the daughter she always wanted, not realising by then it was too late. I always instinctively knew you can't live your life for another person and Lily's legacy to my children has been that I've always tried to give them the wings to soar, without holding them down with my expectations of how they might do that.

My emotions are pretty raw right now, examining myself as a daughter. I'm wondering what my mother would have wanted at her funeral and I'd so like to get it right for her, even though I know she won't be there and it's really an occasion for those left behind. Knowing how emotionally fragile she was, I only once asked her what she would want.  She said she would like to be buried, that she had no faith and that it should be a dignified occasion.  With this in mind Philip and I have been considering the options.

Lily and me
We've found a natural burial ground where there are no headstones and no wreaths, instead the site is planted with wild flowers, bulbs and several trees. We've ordered a willow coffin with turquoise handles and trim - the colour of peace, serenity and tranquility, and I also know this was one of her favourite colours. There'll be Lily of the Valley on top of her coffin and we'll have bunches of daffodils, her favourite flower, for each person to throw into her grave. If it can be arranged at short notice, I'm hoping that a local soprano will come and sing one of Lily's best loved arias at the graveside. I'll read a poem and I'm hoping that anyone else who feels moved to contribute will do so. We have another week for things to fall into place but my hope is that although I feel I could not live up to her expectations in life, I'll not fail her in death and somehow she'll realise how much I've loved her all my life.

And I hope when you grow up, someday you'll see
Your parents are people and that's all they can be.
Loudon Wainwright III


Wed 7 Mar Jen Arnall-Culliford Knitwear Jen Arnall-Culliford

Thurs 8 Mar Needled Kate Davies

Fri 9 Mar Rock and Purl Ruth Garcia-Alcantud

Sat 10 Mar Woolly Wormhead Woolly Wormhead

Mon 12 Mar Yarnscape Alison Barker

Tues 13 Mar Confessions of a Yarn Addict Anniken Allis

Wed 14 Mar Joli House Amanda France

Thurs 15 Mar This is Knit Lisa & Siobhan

Fri 16 Mar The Knitting Institute  Knitting Magazine

Sat 17 Mar  Life’n Knitting Carla Meijsen

Sun 18 Mar ConnieLene Connie

Mon 19 Mar  Just Call Me Ruby Susan Crawford

Tues 20 Mar Tiny Owl Knits Stephanie Dosen

Wed 21 Mar Ulla-Bella Anita Tørmoen

Thurs 22 Mar Heike Knits CANCELLED

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mum

Lily died this morning on Mothers Day. She was peaceful and I think ready to go. I don't have my own words to say how I'm feeling other than I now understand why this popular anonymous poem has become an anthem for the bereaved.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain
When you awaken in the morning hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry
Am not there, I did not die.

My thanks to you all for your kind messages and thoughts x

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Lily

I'm so very touched and comforted by everyone's kind words and thoughts - my thanks to each of you.

Lily has been battling on with palliative care only over the past couple of days and it's hard to know where she's finding the strength. I don't have much to say right now as it's too difficult for me to put complex feelings into words, but everyone at the hospital is kind and caring, trying to make my mother's last days as comfortable as possible.

It's upsetting and scary for me to see her doing what they call Cheyne stoking, but her consultant assures me it's part of the process and that it's not distressing for her. I pray he's right.

Not sure what's been happening on the blog tour, but Philip says it's all going well and that it's the lovely Carla Meijsen's stop today at Life'n Knitting in Rotterdam.  Thanks to everyone for your knowledgeable and interesting reviews, it's consoling to know that so many of you appreciate my work.


Wed 7 Mar Jen Arnall-Culliford Knitwear Jen Arnall-Culliford

Thurs 8 Mar Needled Kate Davies

Fri 9 Mar Rock and Purl Ruth Garcia-Alcantud

Sat 10 Mar Woolly Wormhead Woolly Wormhead

Mon 12 Mar Yarnscape Alison Barker

Tues 13 Mar Confessions of a Yarn Addict Anniken Allis

Wed 14 Mar Joli House Amanda France

Thurs 15 Mar This is Knit Lisa & Siobhan

Fri 16 Mar The Knitting Institute  Knitting Magazine

Sat 17 Mar  Life’n Knitting Carla Meijsen

Sun 18 Mar ConnieLene Connie

Mon 19 Mar  Just Call Me Ruby Susan Crawford

Tues 20 Mar Tiny Owl Knits Stephanie Dosen

Wed 21 Mar Ulla-Bella Anita Tørmoen

Thurs 22 Mar Heike Knits Heike Gittins

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Sad times

My mum had a massive stroke a couple of days ago. The doctors were amazed she survived it, I'm not sure it's a good thing that she has. I feel bad about thinking this, as I know her will to live is very strong, even though she has many serious health issues. However, her quality of life has been poor at best for the past couple of years, she's elderly, frail and this seems to be the final straw. The stroke has left her unable to speak or swallow and paralysed down her right side, although her doctor says she can hear. At the moment she's kept hydrated with a drip and food comes through a tube in her nose and the only other treatment seems to be time. They say the next few days will be crucial.

My fear is that she's afraid and anxious (which she is at the best of times), locked in her body and unable to communicate how she feels. Yesterday she developed a nasty infection, so was given constant oxygen, a course of antibiotics, another drug to bring her heart-rate down, and she was attached to a monitor giving out constant readings. Funny how you stare at a screen even though you have no way of interpreting the data. It doesn't actually tell me the things I really want to know like how she's feeling, is she frightened, can she hear me, will she get better? The only thing I can be relatively sure of are my feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness to help.
Lily with two of her great-granddaughters less than two weeks ago
The future seems so uncertain right now. Even though like all mothers and daughters we've had our ups and downs, the prospect of life without my mother makes me very sad. There would be no-one to share stories about growing up in the backstreets of Bolton in the 1950s, about life working in the cotton mills, about my beloved grandmother, who died when I was six. When we've seen her recently, one of the best ways of engaging her was to ask about her childhood, life in the war, other members of the family etc. Her longterm memory was still good and we both enjoyed these chats - they were one of the few things lately that could bring the old sparkle back to her eyes.

I keep telling myself it's the natural rhythm of life and everyone's got to die sometime. It's just that since she came to York to be closer to us about five years ago, whenever I've thought of her dying, I always imagined it to be in her bed at home, feeling secure with the people she loves around her. This is no criticism of the staff at the acute stroke unit, who couldn't have been more kind and caring. Yesterday she had Tristan and Rowan two of her three grandchildren at her bedside, plus Rowan's wife, Nicky and Philip and me.  Today Felix is coming from Bristol, and it's at times like these when you really appreciate your family - it's enormously comforting for me to know that Lily's surrounded by people who love her.

The doctor told me last night that if there's no visible signs of improvement by this morning then the plan is to implement the Liverpool Care Pathway. As I understand it, this means that all treatment except palliative care will be discontinued. My mother will be cared for, made comfortable but she will not be given oxygen, drugs, drips etc so that hopefully she will be able to have a peaceful and dignified death.  I'm told this is not a one-way street and that if she rallies then therapy can be resumed, but sadly at the moment this doesn't seem likely.

Lily became very ill for the first time five years ago and she moved to York to be closer to us. At the time I'd been asked to submit a shawl to the first Prayer Shawl Companion. I'll end today with the story of Lily's shawl, which is the one published in the book, I only wish it could help her once again through this difficult time.
Lily's Prayer Shawl
Strange how life throws random events at us, and it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that we see how the different pieces slot together, occasionally dovetailing as if they were meant to happen.  So it was with my prayer shawl.


At the beginning of February my family was celebrating the birth of my first grandchild, Isabella - my mother’s first great-grandchild. No one could have foreseen what would happen two weeks later. After a nasty fall, Lily was bedridden and so my partner, Philip and I brought her to our home in York, believing that some dedicated TLC would quickly put her on the road to recovery. Unfortunately neither of us realised at the time just how frail she had become. After a week I was at a very low ebb as my mother was making no progress, couldn’t get up, hardly spoke a word, didn’t read or watch television, in fact she was so weak all she could do was sleep. 

During that week I’d received an email from the Prayer Shawl Ministry asking if I would submit a shawl for their book, Prayer Shawls.  At first it seemed impossible to fit any more into an already over-stretched schedule, on top of which I had to confess I don’t subscribe to any formal religion.  So I wished Victoria and Janet well with their project but declined their offer.  Thinking that was sorted, I was surprised when they wrote back straightaway asking me to reconsider, outlining the ecumenical nature of the project. 

Over the next few days, despite myself, each time I went into Lily’s room, I started to imagine her wrapped in my unknit shawl, being healed and nurtured. I started to fantasize about its colour (always the first thing for me); it was turquoise, the colour of emotional healing, protection and strength.  The yarn had to be light as a feather, as she was so bruised and battered she couldn’t bear anyone to touch her.  For the same reason the stitches had to be transparent and open - the shawl cried out for delicate lace stitches.

Gradually each stitch took shape in my mind as the shawl asserted itself organically. It became something I had to do, both for my mother and for myself. Nursing Lily, I found that the difficult nature of our relationship was thrown into sharp focus at a time when I could least deal with it. An only child, I was never the daughter she would have chosen.  I started to hope that the shawl might make my mother understand that I don’t have to be like her in order to love her.

Lily was admitted to hospital and I snatched the moment to transform the design that existed in my head into reality. Born in January, my mother’s birthday comes in the darkest time when the year is brand new and only the knife-sharp leaves of the snowdrop dare thrust their silver-green blades through the freezing soil.  Harbingers of spring, these delicate little plants are strong in adversity, confidently flaunting themselves while all else sleeps, proclaiming the promise and excitement of the unfurling new year.  I chose snowdrops for the centre panel of Lily’s shawl in anticipation of many happy and healthy years to come.

My mother’s life, like many of her generation, has not been easy.  Duty and eking out a living have always been the lynchpins of her life, which was largely spent working in a Lancashire cotton mill.  So for the border I chose the Queen’s Edging in the hope that she’ll live every day of the rest of her life in regal fashion, feeling cherished and valued. The pressures and circumstances of her life have often denied her the time to explore and enjoy many of the simple pleasures which I take for granted. The tiny beads, knitted regularly into the edging, are a mantra for finding some delight in every day. Small because some days you have to look extra hard.  Lily likes to poke her own fire, as she puts it, but it’s so hard to be independent, elderly and alone.   When she wears her shawl, I hope the love that’s knitted into every stitch will give her the strength and support she needs to lead the life she wants and the wisdom to know what that is.

This shawl has been an emotional journey for me.  Coming at a time when I felt vulnerable and unsure myself, it helped me find a way of coping.  Whilst working on it, I found myself thinking that everything I was wishing for Lily I would wish for Izzi too.  So it’s dedicated to both my mother and my little granddaughter in the hope that the love and joy that went into its making will surround them both always.

Jean Moss
May 2007

Monday, 12 March 2012

Socks and the braid pattern

I've been meaning to feature some of the techniques I've used in Sweet Shawlettes and explain some more about them. One of my fave edgings is the braid pattern, often used in Scandinavian designs. In Sweet ShawlettesI've showcased it in Frost, where it's used as a single plait at top and bottom. An easy technique if you're OK with working with two colours and very effective for getting colour and movement into your knits. 
Frost from Sweet Shawlettes
I love wacky socks and I've designed quite a few pairs over the years, and I've just realised that the braid pattern has cropped up quite a few times.
Kuba Socks from World Knits (women's)
Similar design for men -Yoruba from VK Socks
Although seen here edging colourful fairisle and intarsia socks, it's just as useful for adding an accent to a plain pair, in fact it brings the braid more into focus, plus you can play around with the colours and make a real feature of it. If you add three layers of braid, you could keep Colour A the same and change Colour B in every repeat, or just change it in the middle repeat, or experiment by changing both colours in every repeat.  You can imagine how this might look by combining the different coloured braids from my socks.
Hausa Socks from World Knits
One of the reasons I love this edging is its versatility.  Used instead of a rib at the hem and cuffs of a sweater, it's a easy way to jazz up a simple design and make it your own.  It can be put to another good use for making your own friendship bracelets.  Cast on enough stitches to go round your wrist, work six rows back and forth, add a crocheted chain at each end et voilà... fantastic way of using up odd bits of yarn.

Dajan Slipper Socks from World Knits

In The Round
Round 1           *k1A (Colour A), k1B (Colour B);  repeat from * around.
Round 2           Bring both colours to front of work.  Keep them in the same order as on previous round.  *p1A,  p1B, always bringing the next colour to be used OVER the top of the last colour used.  Repeat from * around.
Round 3           *p1A, p1B, always bringing the next colour to be used UNDER the last colour used.    
Repeat these three rounds one more time if a double braid is required.

Back & Forth
Row 1 *k1A (Colour A), k1B (Colour B);  repeat from * around.
Row 2  Take both colours to back of work.    *k1B,  k1A, always bringing the next colour to be used     OVER the top of the last colour used.  Repeat from * around.
Row 3  Bring both colours to front of work.  *p1A, p1B, always bringing the next colour to be used OVER the last colour used.  Repeat from * around.
Row 4  *p1B, p1A ;  repeat from * around.
Row 5  Bring both colours to front of work.  *p1A, p1B, always bringing the next colour to be used UNDER the last colour used.  Repeat from * around.
Row 6  *k1B, k1A, always bringing the next colour to be used UNDER the last colour used.  Repeat from * around.

If you haven't already, check out today's lovely review of Sweet Shawlettes. I feel privileged to have such an array of top class knit bloggers on the tour and in the isolated world of knit design, it's so good to know what other knitters think about my work - both the bloggers and their readers. Now and again when you read a review, it's obvious that the author understands every drop of blood, sweat and tears spilt in creating the book. Alison Barker's informative and detailed review made me feel like that today.


Wed 7 Mar Jen Arnall-Culliford Knitwear Jen Arnall-Culliford

Thurs 8 Mar Needled Kate Davies

Fri 9 Mar Rock and Purl Ruth Garcia-Alcantud

Sat 10 Mar Woolly Wormhead Woolly Wormhead

Mon 12 Mar Yarnscape Alison Barker

Tues 13 Mar Confessions of a Yarn Addict Anniken Allis

Wed 14 Mar Joli House Amanda France

Thurs 15 Mar This is Knit Lisa & Siobhan

Fri 16 Mar The Knitting Institute  Knitting Magazine

Sat 17 Mar  Life’n Knitting Carla Meijsen

Sun 18 Mar ConnieLene Connie

Mon 19 Mar  Just Call Me Ruby Susan Crawford

Tues 20 Mar Tiny Owl Knits Stephanie Dosen

Wed 21 Mar Ulla-Bella Anita Tørmoen

Thurs 22 Mar Heike Knits Heike Gittins

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Beating the blues

Hmmm, feeling lethargic today, hope it's not some lurking lurgy, I've only just got rid of the last one.  Got back to York from our short break in Wales a couple of days ago and now it feels like I dreamt it. Even if we can only manage a long weekend I always take yarn, needles, books, guitar, laptop - my comfort blanket gets bigger all the time, whatever happened to travelling light?

However, this time despite good intentions I got no design work done, leaving me fretting about the dreaded designers' block - something that must cross many designers' minds in darker moments. However, I've banished the thought and I'm now convincing myself maybe there were just too many distractions.
Rainbow on kitchen floor
After being holed up for the winter I'm always so excited to be in the garden again, I can never get enough of the magic light you get at this time of year.

So in the few days we were there it was all Boy's Own stuff, spending as much time as possible outside - cutting paths through the bamboo, chopping down more of last years perennials, sitting around big bonfires with hearty cups of veggie bouillon in hand and watching the tadpoles grow. The garden is just waking up and once we'd refilled the feeders there were loads of birds - finches, tits, jays, siskins, robins, fieldfares, buzzards and even the odd red kite, in the sky that is, not on the feeders! Can't wait for the swallows and the cuckoos to arrive, then you know summer's definitely on the horizon.

The mystery fur
When we arrived we found a strange piece of fur on the gate. Philip thinks it's a stoat, but I'm not too sure as the scale seems too large - it's about 10cm/4in across. The colours - white, tawny brown, tipped with black - are good for stoats, but unless it's a giant version I'm guessing it's more like a fox, although a friend suggested a badger. It was trying to get through a space that was only about 15cm/6in high, so that must rule out quite a few options. Some US friends have suggested possums or skunk, but I don't think we have either in the UK. Any ideas?

The cats had a fabulous time, plundering nature's larder.  The mice, voles, shrews and rabbits must quake in their beds when they hear the thundering paws of Django and Arlo above them.
You looking at me kid?

I'm the king of the castle


I'm off to take my new Addi needles out into the garden for coffee now - see if that will kickstart the creative juices!
My new Addi circulars just begging to be cast-on
Hope you're managing to keep up with the blog tour, there are some stellar bloggers participating and there's loads of great stuff to read.

Wed 7 Mar Jen Arnall-Culliford Knitwear Jen Arnall-Culliford

Thurs 8 Mar Needled Kate Davies

Fri 9 Mar Rock and Purl Ruth Garcia-Alcantud

Sat 10 Mar Woolly Wormhead Woolly Wormhead

Mon 12 Mar Yarnscape Alison Barker

Tues 13 Mar Confessions of a Yarn Addict Anniken Allis

Wed 14 Mar Joli House Amanda France

Thurs 15 Mar This is Knit Lisa & Siobhan

Fri 16 Mar The Knitting Institute  Knitting Magazine

Sat 17 Mar  Life’n Knitting Carla Meijsen

Sun 18 Mar ConnieLene Connie

Mon 19 Mar  Just Call Me Ruby Susan Crawford

Tues 20 Mar Tiny Owl Knits Stephanie Dosen

Wed 21 Mar Ulla-Bella Anita Tørmoen

Thurs 22 Mar Heike Knits Heike Gittins

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Old friends

Met two old friends for coffee yesterday in Aberystwyth. We don't see them very often but it's always like we saw them yesterday when we do meet up.  In our twenties we all lived together in a big old house in Brixton, London - a sort of early version of Friends, with two toddlers thrown into the mix. There was Marj writing her PhD and the rest of us trying to make a name for ourselves in the music world. Strange how life knocks us into shape, taking us all in different directions, but there are some people you never lose contact with.
Anthony Griffiths
One of my all-time best memories of Anthony was when he arrived at the hospital in Aberystwyth the morning after I'd given birth to my eldest son, Tristan. I could hear the nurses telling him only husbands were allowed in, but quick as a flash he replied I'm not her husband, I'm her lover!

I'm always amazed by what other people do in their lives. Marj is training hard for the London marathon next month and Anthony is as busy as ever with his music and photography. Although an accomplished blues and ragtime guitarist, his great love is to interpret and arrange Welsh & Celtic Airs - have a listen here to Truth From Above. He recorded The Spirit of the Celtic guitar in 1998.


Yesterday Anthony was showing me pictures of his first band at fifteen, The Shadrachs. He's had many musical reincarnations since then, including the acoustic folk duo, Windfall with Paul Darby,and session work with other great musicians like Christie HennessyJohn James, and Meic Stevens, the affectionately-called  Welsh Dylan. We all served our time busking around Europe, playing around musicians like the legendary banjo picker, Derroll Adams in Antwerp.



Windfall

Anthony with Derroll and wife Danielle
Nowadays Anthony's still doing regular gigs and guesting on other people's CDs - a sort of musical well-kept secret.  He's also busy taking photos of his beloved Wales.  He and Marj are great walkers and there's always a camera to hand.
Rainbow over Morfa Mawddach from Fairbourne

Maen-y-Bardd - prehistoric burial chamber
His latest project is Elenydd - a gorgeous book of radiant images showing the beauty of  the ancient heartlands of the Cambrian mountains.


It was SO good to see Anthony and Marj and a bonus to see Roachie, another old friend I hadn't seen for years. An ace singer songwriter - I still pick up my guitar sometimes and out comes one of his songs I used to sing, Cambridge Morning.  As we were leaving Anthony was telling me his son, Dylan, plays bass in Barnum Meserve, a band playing orchestral, alternative rock in and around Nottingham.  I'll have to save that for another post - this family's got too much talent!


Don't forget to follow the blog tour, today's stop is the ever-interesting Kate Davies.

Wed 7 Mar Jen Arnall-Culliford Knitwear Jen Arnall-Culliford

Thurs 8 Mar Needled Kate Davies

Fri 9 Mar Rock and Purl Ruth Garcia-Alcantud

Sat 10 Mar Woolly Wormhead Woolly Wormhead

Mon 12 Mar Yarnscape Alison Barker

Tues 13 Mar Confessions of a Yarn Addict Anniken Allis

Wed 14 Mar Joli House Amanda France

Thurs 15 Mar This is Knit Lisa & Siobhan

Fri 16 Mar The Knitting Institute  Knitting Magazine

Sat 17 Mar  Life’n Knitting Carla Meijsen

Sun 18 Mar ConnieLene Connie

Mon 19 Mar  Just Call Me Ruby Susan Crawford

Tues 20 Mar Tiny Owl Knits Stephanie Dosen

Wed 21 Mar Ulla-Bella Anita Tørmoen

Thurs 22 Mar Heike Knits Heike Gittins

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

World blog tour kicks off...

...TOMORROW!  So excited to be introducing Sweet Shawlettes to knitters outside of North America, where it was published in January.  The US blog tour was such a success that we decided to do another one to coincide with the UK and rest of the world publication date - March 7th.
We duly went ahead and arranged the world tour to start on that date, naively thinking that the big booksellers like Amazon would stick to it.  How wrong can you be?  The book has been available on Amazon UK since the 12th January, albeit low-key, as no-one actually knows about it.

Publication dates are paramount for promotion and it makes me angry that authors are not kept in the loop and consequently made to look like fools when the book is available unbeknown to them. There must be people who've bought the book on Amazon wondering why we've waited until March to start the blog tour.

As there are so many knitting books being published these days, getting them reviewed and noticed by the knitting public is a job which increasingly falls to the author. It's not enough nowadays to be good at what you do, it's now become equally important to be able to promote what you do. Many good books flop because of lack of decent promotion and conversely some (IMO) awful books hit the high spots because the author is media savvy.  Anyway, will stop ranting before I really get into my stride and give you the dates. There'll be plenty of chances to win copies of the book, Q&As, reviews etc, and the blog stops are all stellar knitters whose work is inspiring.  Also excerpts with giveaways in several leading UK knit mags coming up in March. So get involved!

Wed 7 Mar Jen Arnall-Culliford Knitwear Jen Arnall-Culliford

Thurs 8 Mar Needled Kate Davies

Fri 9 Mar Rock and Purl Ruth Garcia-Alcantud

Sat 10 Mar Woolly Wormhead Woolly Wormhead

Mon 12 Mar Yarnscape Alison Barker

Tues 13 Mar Confessions of a Yarn Addict Anniken Allis

Wed 14 Mar Joli House Amanda France

Thurs 15 Mar This is Knit Lisa & Siobhan

Fri 16 Mar The Knitting Institute  Katy Evans

Sat 17 Mar  Life’n Knitting Carla Meijsen

Sun 18 Mar ConnieLene Connie

Mon 19 Mar  Just Call Me Ruby Susan Crawford

Tues 20 Mar Tiny Owl Knits Stephanie Dosen

Wed 21 Mar Ulla-Bella Anita Tørmoen

One final thing. I noticed a thread on Facebook yesterday about Pinterest.  It caught my eye as I'd signed up a couple of weeks ago but hadn't pinned anything until recently.  As usual there's always too much to do to read the small print, so I was interested to read the conversation, especially as it was initiated by Franklin Habit, one of the bloggers on the US tour.
Pinterest home page
As I understand it, he was complaining that he had signed up ( account entitled Don't Bother Following Me I Won't Be Posting Anything) as an academic exercise as he was writing an article. He hadn't pinned anything, but as soon as he pressed Go he found himself with 1200 followers, with no way of deleting any of them other than to make 1200 clicks.  On looking around on Pinterest, he found many of his cartoons pinned indiscriminately on other boards without permission or credits - a gross infringement of copyright. 

I signed up not to pin other people's images but to have an online repository for my own fave pics, so I could identify and access them easily. I was asked if I wanted to link to Facebook or Twitter, but being the suspicious person that I am, I declined and ended up having to agree to ten carefully chosen peeps to start following chosen by Pinterest. 

However, after reading Franklin's thread, I'm confused. It brought to my attention that contrary to Facebook, the owners of Pinterest have covered themselves in the small print for any lawsuits relating to content on their site, the buck stopping firmly in the hands of the person who posted it, leaving the one whose copyright has been infringed in the difficult position of being the person to initiate a lawsuit if necessary. The ethics of the site are brought into question and I'm not sure whether I still wish to be associated with it, but feel there's just too much going on right now for me to find the time to find out more. That's why I'm interested to know what you think about Pinterest? 

Franklin's post brought about a huge furore on said social media site - you can read the conversation here on his profile page - with many people deleting their accounts. A few stayed true and said they loved it, but obviously there is a problem here that hasn't been addressed by the peeps in charge.  What do you think? 

Meanwhile, for anyone who wants to keep their own intellectual property safe in cyberspace, here's a piece of code to paste into every page to stop images being pinned: 
<meta name="pinterest" content="nopin' /> 

Happy pinning as they say!

PS  Don't forget... if you sign up as a follower before the end of the month, you'll go into my draw for a free copy of Sweet Shawlettes.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Wedding bells and spanakopita

Congratulations to Rowan and Nicky on their wedding yesterday.  It was a lovely day enjoyed by us all, especially the two little girls who had been talking about our wedding since Xmas.  The weather held fast and the cherry blossom appeared overnight to celebrate with us - natural confetti.
Signing the register
Sealed with a kiss
The girls with great-grandmother Lily
Congratulations Mummy from Ava

Ava
Isabella

Fun in the registry office garden
The spanakopita I mentioned a few days ago is one of Nicky and Rowan's favourites - it's a great standby that I often make for Sunday lunch - so as I said I'd post the recipe soon, thought this would be a good occasion.

Quick and easy, it's the perfect dish for throwing together in a hurry to feed six generously, or eight with average portions. There are other versions which involve eggs, but I'm not a great egg-lover so I've never bothered including them and as far as I know, no-one's ever noticed. Served with a big mixed salad it makes an excellent spring/summer lunch. Enjoy a glass of ouzo in the garden beforehand, crack open a bottle of Domestica with your meal and on a sunny day I guarantee you'll be transported straight to Greece.
Spanakopita - Greek cheese and spinach pie
You'll need:
1 packet of frozen filo pastry
2 packets of feta cheese, grated
1 kg packet of frozen spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic crushed
optional sprigs of dill
salt and pepper
nutmeg
sesame seeds
Wide flat dish as in illustration
pastry brush

Defrost the pastry for a couple of hours beforehand.  Heat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F, then warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil gently in a flat saucepan. Add the frozen spinach and garlic.  Put the lid on the pan and continue with gentle heat until spinach is defrosted, then turn up the heat and cook quickly until most of the moisture has disappeared and the spinach is coated in a fine layer of oil.  

Then comes the only mildly tricky bit.  Open the filo pastry and lay flat on a tea towel on a cold surface. It's important to work fast as it dries out and becomes hard and unmalleable pretty quickly in a warm room. Don't stress though, if you do have to leave it, always cover with a tea towel. 

Then using the other tablespoon of oil, brush the inside of the dish. Cover the base and the sides of the dish with the pastry, leaving some hanging over around the top edges.  When you've covered it completely, brush with olive oil, then add second and third layers only on the bottom, brushing with olive oil between each layer. Then cover the base with half the feta cheese (1 packet), do three more layers of filo, each brushed with oil and not covering the sides, then add all the spinach.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, add dill if required (I don't always use dill, but in Greece it's usually included - tastes good with or without) then grate some nutmeg liberally over the whole layer.  Three more layers of oiled pastry as before, then another layer of feta cheese, then three more layers of oiled pastry, letting the final layer overhand at the edges.  Fold together the base and top sheets around edges and you're almost done. Sprinkle the top layer with sesame seeds, which add a delicious nutty flavour. 

Place in the heated oven for 40 minutes, where it will puff itself up into a crisp, golden concoction,  et voilà... enjoy!