Unravelling The Mystique

Every now and then we come upon something new that is based on something old. It’s like the feeling you get when you hear a re-make of an old song. The memory is there but just out of touch. Sometimes you feel yourself searching in the catacombs of your mind for that one small glimpse of times long past. All at once, you might find yourself becoming rather nostalgic and playing through long treasured memories. It’s easy to go to those lovely regular memories that forever keep you suspended in a feeling of love. But some memories are bittersweet. Even so, they are hard to let go.

I discovered two absolutely odd but wonderful yarn related treasures recently. I stumbled upon a mystically glorious puzzle platform video game called Unravel. The video game was developed by the Swedish company which lends to it’s sublime forgeign feel. It’s a story about a doll made of yarn that comes to life. The doll’s name is Yarny and the mission is to mend broken bonds. The write up states “the yarn represents the love and connection between people.” Isn’t this just what yarn does? How many times have you gone into a shop, reached out to touch a ball of yarn and instantly transported yourself into a sentimental reverie? Perhaps you think about wearing a crocheted poncho your auntie made for you in the 70s. Or you think to how you knitted your expected baby socks only to remember that baby was now having babies of their own? Or you just think of a place. A long ago time. An afternoon. Giggling and cotton candy.

This brings me to my second yarny find! When I went into the shop last weekend to speak to Resident Designer Jen, I came upon a strange and interesting donut ball of wool that lookedmystiq3 like the ribbon-like laced I used to on my rollerskates when I was nine years old. These were so pretty and flat but if you laced them right, you looked like a floaty little princess with ribbons flying off the tops of your skates at the roller rink. Mine were a strange Pepto Bismol pink with a white gradient. I longed to find some in baby blue. I never did. But that day when I walked into Yankee Yarns, there it was— and wasn’t.

mystiq4The yarn is from Stylecraft and it’s not called Mystique for nothing. It has been dubbed as “an industry first.” Unlike my rollerskate ribbons, this wool is light and airy because it is made from a polyester and viscose blend. Resident Designer Jen is making a light summer cardigan out of it.

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“It knits up so quickly, ” she said. “I could have finished it in a couple of evenings if other stuff did not keep coming up.”

Mystique comes in 50g balls in six colours it washes well and dries super quick. You only have to knit a few rows to see it’s unusual texture work it’s magic. It can be used for Knitting or Crochet. While it is unlike a regular yarn so not as easy to compare, Mystiquue generally works to a chunky/bulky or 12 ply gauge. You would need 8mm needles or hook. The yarn length is 110m (120yds). It calls for a tension of 12 stitches, 16 rows to 10cm/4″.

This is definitely one for my stash. This yarn eureka moment was a bit like Yarny lassoing an almost forgotten memory for me. Mystique reminds me of something else that I just cannot put my finger on. All I know is I would love to make a spring / summer top and maybe even dust off my rollerskates and have an afternoon on some long pavement by a beach… Lots to think about now!

Woolywood Nights, An Artful Dodger & Fame!

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By A.E. Wallace for Yankee Yarns

Sitting in a shop. Summer. The door is wide open. Three ladies talking the stuff of life as needles click-clickity click over  soft ambient music. A breeze swirls through the open door and spreads the coolness of fresh cut grass over the smell of filtered coffee. One of the ladies stops knitting puts down her work and stretches her fingers— rubs her neck— looks around. Idly, she mentions a documentary she saw the night before. It’s about art. It’s about artists. It’s about Yarn Artist!

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By A.E. Wallace for Yankee Yarns

 

Enraptured, they listen to her weave the story out of snippits from the documentary.

The film is called, Yarn! It’s about wool graffiti artists, circus performers and structural designers who use yarn to create visually striking artwork.

All of the ladies stop what they are doing. They want to hear more. See more. One thing lead to another and as quickly as a , a movie night party is in the diary complete with food, a circle of yarn addicts and alcohol. This is like no knitting circle you have ever heard about.

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By A.E. Wallace for Yankee Yarns

Yeah. This isn’t that out-dated preconception of granny knitting. This is art coming to life. This is pure rock n roll, baby. And the beauty of it is that people are starting to click that knitting and crochet are no longer done out of necessity. It is done out of love. It frees you while you work. It is the endeavour that builds and shapes you. It is the skill that keeps you sharp and engaged. You are creating. You are building. You are meditaing. You become one in the moment with every stitch. And somehow, it unites you with others. You become bonded with the recipients of your work. You become knitted to others like you.

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By A.E. Wallace for Yankee Yarns

Speaking about unity and community, Yankee Yarns is featured in the Shop Local section of Crochet Now Magazine.

 

Pom-poms and Circumstance!

Armed with all the riotous of a stash collection, he Yankee Yarners set up a stall at the Farnstock Festival last Saturday, July 22nd. The objective was to make Pompoms with kids, mums and dads who attended the event.  These pom poms were then sewn on to a huge Farnstock sign. We want to thank ALL the participants who came over and visited us at the stall!

 

Cheers!!!

Making News. Making Poppies

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This will be a short post. Basically, we are becoming rather engaged doing the knitting and the crocheting and the fundraising…

Basically, here are the haps. In November, the Mansfield District Council will create an awesome display of knitted and crocheted poppies to for Remembrance Day to honour those who gave their lives serving their country.

They are asking for help from the public in the form of knitting or crocheting poppies and sending them to us at Yankee Yarns or for the public to sponsor a poppy and pay a donation to help raise money for the Royal British Legion. The recommended donation will be £1 per participant.

We are also planning other functions but I cannot give away too much…. YET!

Spoilers!

 

Knit-Talkers- Cryptanalysts Of Yarn

Ok. So it is not that we are breaking codes at Bletchley Park penetrating the secret communications of the Axis Powers huddled up in the cold

Nor are we making sure the Marines could take Iwo Jima with Code Talking. But boy do we know how to crack codes!

Novices and Non-Knitting/crochet folk often look upon patterns with a mixture of fear and awe. There are abbreviations, symbols and charts all thrown together in some kind of alchemy to create gold out of a sheep.

It is not only the novices that get the fear when they look at a pattern. Recently, I seemed to stumble at each step of the Cherry Lace Shawl pattern we did in the recent workshop at Yankee Yarns! In an effort to make progress and understand the pattern, I enlisted the aid of one of our talented regulars, Angela.

“So,sloppy, purl, normal,normal, sloppy, purl, tight…”coached Angela in my attempt to read the chart before me and keep track of my stitches. I agree, it is an unconventional and slightly controversial approach. But we were dealing with a complicated lace design and sometimes it just comes down to this… ANARCHY.

We do need to consider, besides the runic feel of the abbreviations, how we seem to “wrap and turn” our heads around the slang we acquire along the way from other knitters, You Tubers, Ravelry and blogs. There is a brilliant list of this on Stitch & Unwind. 

We are mostly familiar with handy terms such as WIP and frog. There is also OTN (on the needles) and my favourite one (for all the wrong reasons) UFO aka an abandoned, neglected WIP!  There are some terms I have never encountered like “vanilla”. This is an easy or plain pattern. Another one is the acronym SEX. This means “Stash Enhancement Experience”, which is the act of buying more yarn.

 I need to let you know, the yarnies that attended the Cherry Leaf Shawl cracked the code and cracked on with learning how to block their lace shawls. You will be able to see this soon on the You Tube chanel.

Farnstock, Yarnstock. It’s All Good!

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When the music called… knitting answered.

It’s summertime in Old Blighty. This means it’s all about catching the glorious rays of the sun and releasing your inhibitions as you sway and sing along with a crowd. It’s about enjoying open air concerts with family or sitting outside a tent with friends getting ready to brave another three-hour stand in front of a live band. If the rain comes, it’s about sloshing about in a purple poncho and magical unicorn wellies and making friends with strangers in the queue of the communal commodes. It’s about girls sitting on boys shoulders waving a flag and crowd surfing. It’s about the music festivals! There are over 100 different festivals happening all over the UK. All these festivals feature a myriad of musical musings in a gratuitous amount of genres. The first music festival happened in the 1960s after the triumph of Woodstock in the States, according to Wikipedia.

Imagine my delight to be asked to volunteer at one. Our Fearless Leader Sara asked me if I fancied helping out at an upcoming music festival just 20 minutes away from where we live in Mansfield on the 22nd of July.

“We were there last year, ” she said. “It was so cool!”

Farnstock is an event set up initially as a great way to raise funds for St. Michael’s Primary School in Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire. It’s a day out for families to enjoy music, the festival atmosphere, food and drink.

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Courtesy of Farnstock

The Farnstock Twitter is ablaze with hints on all the haps!

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My favourite quote by Justin Hevness in an article in The Nottingham Post in 2014 sums up the general vibe of the event. Hevness said, “(The Festival) came about by a culmination of a mad idea, a fantastic school that needs money-raising for it and a headmaster who knows how to rock!” What’s not to love? Crafty ones that we are, we are on the bill as the Yankee Yarnbombers. We will be there. Come look for us. We will be the ones rocking out, using 12mm needles like drumsticks and throwing psychedelic skeins of light into the crowd…

Most likely, we will be the ones with knitted flowers in our hair and be teaching people how to knit in a tent demurely sipping cider…. and rocking out. (Freeeeeebird!!!!)

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Yarn Of Wonder

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Yankee Yarns supports community events and champions charities and community programmes such as the Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme.aladdin5

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!”

It will. It will chill you out. Come on in.

 

 

Levelling Up: Lace Workshop Session One

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“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.

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Woollelly aka Ellena Kirk

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…

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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”.

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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.

Worldwide Knit In Public Day: A Recapitulation

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WKIP with Yankee Yarns at The Redgate Inn 10/06/17

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:

“Pub?”

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Redgate Inn, Ladybrook Mansfield Notts

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.

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Left to right: Julie, Janet, Angela, Our Fearless Leader Sara & Resident Designer Jenny

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…

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The less said the better…

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.

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Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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.

 

 

 

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Middle right photo: Resident Writer Ann. (Me!) “I had every intention to get going with the poppies. Then beer happened.”
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clockwise: 1. Angela’s creation. 2. Angela smiles!  3. Janet and daughter Angela
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Remains of the day!!!!!

Cherry Leaf Lace & A Pretty Face…

 

Yvain modelling WoollyElly’s Cherry Leaf Shawl

 

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.

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Nottingham Lace Market

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. lace machineShe 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!