I walked in to see Our Fearless Leader Sara’s happy little face. She was looking at her iPhone and beeming.
“Dude,” she said. “This lady came in earlier this week and she’s just posted us such a nice review!”
“Cool, dude!” I said as I pulled up a chair and took out my current WIP (one of…). “What did she say?”
“She said we were an Aladdin’s Cave!”
I sat there and thought about it. I know the story. Heck, I read the book to my kids and have seen a few versions of Aladddin and the Lamp including the panto in Nottingham with everyone shouting IT’S BEHIND YOUUUUUU! But I had never heard someone describing a shop in this way.
“It’s a saying,” said Resident Designer Jen. “You have never heard it before?”
So I did what any good writer and former journalist would do….
I looked it up.
The shop is small. It’s no bigger than most people’s front room. It used to be a green grocer. But now it has all the colours of a magic spectrum as well as other treasures.
It is a place of knowledge, ideas, charity and “phenoenal [knitting skills] in an itty-bitty living space.” The shop has become the regular haunt of an ecclectic mix of people who come together in community. Yankee Yarns welcomes everyone and anyone to come in, browse, chat and become part of the furniture.
Yankee Yarns supports community events and champions charities and community programmes such as the Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme.
I will say, time really does stand still when you stay at the shop to knit, crochet or just talk. All of a sudden, you look at your time piece and BOOM! Hours have flown! In the words of the Genie of the lamp (the Disney version): “Ten thousand years in the Cave of Wonders oughta chill him out!”
“The air was sultry. The day was bright. The oppressive sun seared our skin as we set out across the market town of Mansfield in search of knowledge. A challenge had been set to learn to knit the fabled Cherry Leaf Shawl. The lace shawl is an intricate, delicate design that has set many a heart on fire. This blazing day, six intrepid ladies traversed the cruel temperatures on a quest to acquire the knowledge, the skill and courage to make the mythical garment. But there would be tests of technique they would need to pass….
Pass they did.”
Woollyelly, designed the pattern expressly for the Yankee Yarns Workshop Series. June 17th was the first of three in the lace knitting series. As with any fabled quest, there were three milestones we were meant to pass. Woollyelly (who will from now on be known as the Bridgekeeper) guided us through each of them.
The Colour : The first hurdle we had to surmount was which colour we needed to choose. The price of the workshop included two 50g (210m) skeins of Superba Premium Superwash. It is a 4 Ply Yarn. It is 75% Virgin Wool, 25% Polyamide. It’s great for socks and typically you would use a needle Size of 2 – 3mm. But we used 4mm circular needles because we are working with lovely large holes. The stumbling block was really deciding on the colour. I changed my mind six times before finally using the red as is shown in the pattern. I thought I would be kicked out of the shop for vacillating between colour choices. When I jumped this first hurdle, I felt my energy level up and I was ready to tackle the next round which would be a contest of skill…
The Technique: The finished shawl is a top-down shawl design and starts at the centre where the shawl would rest on the nape of your neck. Rather than casting on in a regular way, the cast-on technique is not so much started as it is “realised”. The name of this bit of sorcery is The Garter Tab Cast On. We began at the centre back, with 3 stitches wrapped around a diaper pin stitch marker. knitting off the stitch marker, it lengthens as it grows in a rectangular shape and then morphs into a lovely curved design. This technique ensures the start blends seamlessly to form the top horizontal line of the shawl. The effort not only is worth the effort but gains you valuable XP and street cred.
The bonus skill is the Yarn Over. To make lovely big holes, we learned the most efficient way to YO. Three of us were doing it backwards making holes that were far too small and would have compromised the beauty of the finished product.
“Only three rows in and already it is so pretty,” remarked Angela as she passed that crucible. “It’s RIDICULOUS!”
The Count: Spellweavers, magic users, conjurers of lacy things… this was our destiny. But we had to be mindful of our craft. We knitted four rows that made up the foundation stitches. We set off on our course to knit rows three and four for a total of 66 times until we ended up with 70 stitches. We had to stay on the path so out came the “runes”.
Our time had been suspended in magical clicks of needles and discussions of all good things. But the sands on the glass ran out and we rambled out into the night on our individual side-quests…
… and to prepare for the next level at the second workshop.
There is no way of sugar-coating it. We dropped the ball of yarn. There is no sense in making excuses. Before you read on, know that there is a slightly inappropriate photograph coming up later in this blog. If you are an individual of delicate sensibilities, you may want to stop reading when you get to the group photo.
All others, carry on… And Carry On Knit In Public Day!
“It kind of snuck up on us,” said Resident Designer Jenny as I walked into the shop last Friday afternoon. “Worldwide Knit in Public Day. It’s tomorrow. We kind of forgot.” She giggled. I put my things down, pulled up a chair and gazed at her.
“It’s not too late, though,” I said. “It’s tomorrow. I can be there. You can be there. We can call up the troops, surely?” We both looked at each other then looked out the window across the street from the shop. We both smiled and said in unison:
Ok, so yes. It was most certainly a last-minute event for us. We basically just picked up our stuff and met at the Redgate Inn at 2pm on Saturday 10th of June. There were six of us including a newbie we wrapped up into our colourful abyss of madness.
Danielle Landes started World Wide Knit In Public Day in 2005. It always takes place on the second Saturday of June every year so how it snuck up on us, I have no idea. I mean it’s only just the greatest, knitter-run, global knitting circle EVER! The event began as a way for knitters (and hookers, ) to get together, enjoy each other’s company, ideas and hints. But it is also to show off our obsession. Knitting and crochet are usually very solitary endeavours. So it is so nice to see all the images of knitters getting together in town centres, national parks, city parks, city libraries, street parties, university campuses, restaurants and…. pubs.
For it to have been a last-minute thing, it really did turn out rather well. We came prepared with all the yarn to make poppies for our event in November. But there was a lot of wine, cider and beer. Another diversion was the strange phallic bottle opener that took us a bit by surprise. There was a fair bit of laughing over it. Afterall, we are jolly good sports and women of the world! Bottle openers come in all shapes in sizes. Who are we to judge! Mind you, it was quite a gratuitous tool and perhaps rather awkward to handle. However such things like this are rather necessary to our requirements and we made use of the wood…. to open bottles… Moving right along…
The Redgate Inn is a welcoming place. It is dog friendly so it really is a great stop after an evening walk. This has been our Knit In Public venue for two years now. Last year, we had been more prepared. There was a raffle and more people knew about it so more people came. But we thank the pub landlord and staff for making our small group feel at home!
Our Fearless Leader Sara bought the first round. I started with wine but being a newly installed member of CAMRA , I moved on to beer. It was a half pint of Prior’s Well Brewery pale ale named Incensed. Absolutely lovely!
As Yankee Yarns Resident Writer, I began to document the afternoon. As the hours merged into one another, I rather lost my way. I am not sure if there was a whole lot of knitting going on but it was a great afternoon. Had it not been for other commitments like Angela being summoned home to feed Baby Ezra (to be fair, Daddy did not have the proper tools for this, if you get my meaning), we may have all stayed on into the evening. We may have even closed the pub! I slammed down the remains of another swift half, collected my knitting de trucs, and skulked off home with my WIP poppy. I sat down to finish the poppy but instead polished off a lovely 2015 Bordeaux Blason de Montbelly whilst listening to some bluegrass music and scribbling down notes about the afternoon.
I look forward to next year’s event. It will not get lost on our radar next time. We have just had so many planned events in the diary as of late. This is great news for Yankee Yarns!
One of those events a repeat of the Sock Clinic we had a few months ago. This one will be delivered at our second site, Unique and Beautiful, at 30 Outram St, Sutton-in-Ashfield NG17 4FS.
The two-part Sock Clinic will be on 22nd July & 5th August from Noon to 2pm
It was such a successful event last time when we held it at the Yankee Yarns HQ in Mansfield.
I agreed to meet my daughter for lunch in the historic Lace Market in Nottingham. Since coming to the UK, I have been a fan of the old Victorian and Georgian architecture of this protected heritage area.
I mused over the beauty of the old brick juxtaposed by the hip and fashionable décor. I tried to imagine these buildings as warehouses and workshops when Nottingham was the centre of the world’s lace industry during the British Empire.
These renovated buildings are now luxury apartments, high-spec offices, academic buildings and restaurant/bars. This day, I was sitting in the trendy Annie’s Burger Shack. My daughter was running late but I had a nice drink and my knitting to keep me company whilst I waited.
Musing about the history of the lace and hosiery industry in the area got me to remembering my own great-grandmother working “lace” doilies out of silk yarn using only her fingers. She did it as a hobby and I marvelled at her patience with it. She could do other things but it took ages to wait for anything bigger than doilies. I loved these little things but found myself shopping for machine-manufactured items because I was impatient. This was how the lace industry changed in England. The lace machines pretty much wiped out hand-knitted lace industry. But now, the mystique of hand-made pieces of art make me want to learn lace making like my great-grandmother did— Not to sell but to create beautiful lace things for my own joy. However, the task seems daunting!
Our Fearless Leader Sara, as if by magic, came up with a most agreeable solution! Why not knit up the lace as they did before the invention of the lace machine? Yankee Yarns will host a Lace Workshop featuring local dyer, Woollyelly, who will be teaching the art of knitting her original design pattern Cherry Leaf Shawl.
Woollyelly, AKA Ellena Kirk, is an accomplished knitter. She started knitting 37 years ago as a child. As she grew older, she grew bolder venturing into the world of crochet in 1997. Then she got adventurous with her knitting. After watching a hand-spinning demo in 2007, she joined a local guild and began spinning. Her passion for dying her own yarn and weaving with it brought her to Yankee Yarns. We have some of her 144 hand-spun works of wonder in our shop.
Our Fearless Leader Sara said Woollyelly designed the Cherry Leaf Shawl special for our workshop. The pattern is on sale on Ravelry for those of you who are already accomplished or unable to make the workshop at our shop in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.
You can attend the workshop at 11 am over three Saturdays: June 17th, July 1st and July 8th. Each session costs £20 but if you block-book, the whole workshop will only cost £45. The price includes Woollyelly’s Shawl pattern, two balls of Rico Superba Superwash in your choice of 17 colours, refreshments and hours of lovely company. So join up as soon as you can as space is limited!
To learn more about the history of lace in Nottingham, please click here!
I woke up at 4:30 am on 23rd May to a message on my phone from my friend, Rita, in the States. “Are you ok. I heard there was a bombing in your area. Are you ok.” I was still half asleep and my mind raced at the thought that I might have slept through a national disaster. It’s odd how we seek news and information these days. In my morning haze, my fingers went immediately to the social media of my choice.
And there it was. A bomb wreaked havoc in the foyer of the Manchester Arena following a concert by American singer Ariana Grande. There were parents and children, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends all making their way out from what had been a most enjoyable concert. It was tragic news.
Later on my commute into work, I heard on the radio that it had been a suicide bombing. The Greater Manchester Police declared the incident as a terrorist attack. It was the deadliest attack in the United Kingdom since the 7 July 2005 London bombings. But I call it a Sad Misguided Act that senselessly killed 23 adults and children, including the suicide bomber, and injuring 116 others. It’s sad and misguided because of the people behind this all lack love and compassion. They lack beauty and happiness in themselves. They are brainwashed into thinking this life is a stop-gap to a better one. To be honest, they do not seem to see that they are actually robbing themselves of a happy and profound existence by committing these cowardly acts of violence on their fellow human beings.
But we do not retaliate. We reach out to those in pain and try to help. Yankee Yarns has come up with a pattern to support the victims and survivors of the Manchester bombing. The #HEART4MCR pattern is on sale on Ravelry for £1.20. All proceeds from the pattern will go directly to the WE[HEART]MCR Emergency fund.
You can also find a couple of video tutorials to learn new techniques and crochet along in real time. Obviously, the YouTube tutorial is free. You can get the pattern there. But the one on Ravelry is just a simple way for people to donate and show support for the people and families affected by the bombing.