Curiouser & Curiouser

 

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The quote from Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat, “We are all mad here”, applies to every single knitter and crocheter I know. I realised this when I was in the shop one afternoon and we were all going about our conversations as we worked our projects. Designer Jen made some cups of coffee and placed them in front of us. She was talking about a pattern she was tweaking as she poured some milk in her coffee (and maybe sugar, I really wasn’t noticing) when all of a sudden, she took her knitting needle and stirred her coffee…

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She stirred her coffee…

She stirred her coffee with her knitting needle…

No one said anything. We just continued on and carried on with our delightful afternoon.

The thing is, I was not so surprised at the fact that she actually stirred her coffee with the needle as I was that I used needles and hooks for unconventional uses as well. I thought I was just the mad one. It turns out, EVERYONE IS MAD!

“A tool is a tool. You can find innumerable uses for any tool,” said a man who was using a butter knife as an impromptu flat head screwdriver.

“The way humans make and use tools is perhaps what sets our species apart more than anything else,” said Charles Q Choi in his contribution to Live Science website about human evolution.

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As a full-blown knitting and crochet hobbyist, I tend to buy and collect beautiful tools for my craft. However, I started with very inexpensive and basic needles and hooks when I first started on my journey. The first 4mm needles I owned were hand-me-downs, bent and felt so cold and slippery. I bought some lovely Knit Pro Symfonie wood needles and those old needles became a letter opener, to name only one of the many uses.

I became intrigued. The awareness that other people use their needles and hooks for other purposes is so odd, I began to compile a list. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Letter opener (as mentioned before)
  2. Coffee/tea stirrer (as mentioned before)
  3. Fire poker
  4. Back Scratcher
  5. Crochet hook for getting the hair our out the drain after a shower
  6. Hairpin (straight needles and Dpns are great for this!)
  7. Plant pot trellis/stake
  8. Outdoor trellis (takes a few but great for training vines)
  9. Cake tester when baking
  10. Cat and dog scratcher
  11. Pom Pom maker
  12. BBQ skewer
  13. Spool Pin
  14. Dpns used in tabletop wargaming (true fact)
  15. Jewellery! Makes a great bracelet!
  16. Chopsticks
  17. Rubbish spear for picking up stuff after BBQs in the garden
  18. A ruler to draw straight lines
  19. Hook to check if spaghetti is done
  20. Hammer them into the shed to hang stuff from them (metal needles, obs…)
  21. Grabber of things high up on a ledge or under the sofa, fridge, bookcase, crack in the pavement…
  22. “Furgle” things off a high shelf (their word. Not mine.)
  23. Eating utensil when out camping and lost the camping flatware
  24. Flip on switches (try not to use steel needles or hooks. Electrocution is not fun for most people and can result in your terminus…)
  25. 15 mm needles make good vampire stakes (this might have been said in jest but this person gave me a reason to believe this might just be true… but I digress…)
  26. Reaching deep and narrow vessels
  27. Outdoor wind chime
  28. Music baton (a music teacher told me this one)
  29. Presentation pointer (a project manager told me this one)
  30. Weed tweaker-upper (needles and hooks!)
  31. Spider Tamer (making it go outside… no spiders were hurt in the demonstration of this example)
  32. Scraper
  33. Impromptu Pick Up Sticks game for when the nieces come over and you have no toys for them to play with…
  34. Herb Garden/ Allotment Plant Label Holder

Leave your particular uses for needles and hooks in the comments below! Remember, we are all mad here!

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Courtesy Pinterest https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/466084659/were-all-mad-here-alice-in-wonderland

 

 

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Winding Roads…

roadI met the first knitter I ever knew at a bus stop in the Seattle neighbourhood of Fremont. She was working on mittens. It was 8:30 am on a crisp but dry October day. I sat there in awe as she worked her needles and spoke about all things and nothing. She had a dreamy little voice and I hung on her every word like a kitten following a key dangled by a length of yarn. She said she was going to take the bus and “just go, you know? I need to just go and see my sister in Poulsbo. And then maybe keep going. Maybe go see my brother in Vancouver. I don’t know. But I will finish these mittens on the way. I’ll need them soon.”

There was something very sad but beautiful about what she talked about. She said she had things she had to do and she had a far way to go. I nodded like I knew even though I didn’t, really. Little did know that I had a far way to go, too. But I had appointments to keep and opportunities to turn. Life was just too full of the things I needed to do to accept the lessons right away. When she boarded the bus, she gave me a a small wave. Her words wrapped around and around in my mind. The bus pulled way and the last glimpse I had of her through the window was of her bowed head. She would be working her needles again. Nothing mattered but getting those mittens done. It would be cold soon— especially where she was going. Looking back, this brings to mind a quote from one of my favourite writers, Jack Kerouac. He wrote; “But no matter, the road is life.” For her the knitting was life at that moment as she embarked on some enigmatic road trip.

Speaking of on the road, Yankee Yarns will be On The Road in September. We are away on a coach trip to Yarndale! on September 23rd. The coach will be picking us up across from the shop at the Redgate Pub at 8 am. Then we will go, W.I.P.s on our sticks to the event in Skipton where we will get a chance to look at all things yarn! This will be my first Yarndale and all I can say is that I am looking forward to it more than Christmas! We will spend the day there browsing and buying to our heart’s content until we catch the bus back to Mansfield at 4 pm. It’s £20 for the bus so if you fancy a road trip, drop into the shop and speak to Our Fearless Leader Sara at the shop and book on to the coach!

To book the admission fee for the event itself, you will need to book online at http://yarndale.co.uk/buy-tickets-2017/ Tickets cost £8. If you prefer to pay at the door, the price is £10.

20170513_101002So which W.I.P. will I be bringing with me? I believe the best kinds of projects to take on road trips are anything on a circular needle.  I have a top-down jumper that I am working on and the needles I am using are some from the new range of Knit Pro Needles we stock at Yankee Yarns. They are called Royale. They are colour-coded laminated birch wood needles. They start from 3mm (US 3) and go up to the 12mm (US17). They come in Purple Passion, Royale Blue, Aquamarine, Orange Lily, Fuchsia Fan, Grey Onyx, Cherry Blossom, Misty Green, Candy Pink and Burgundy Rose.

I first decided to try these on a whim. I was attracted to the colours like a bee is to flowers.But it is not just the aethestic design with the smooth surfaces and shiny brass tips. They are a perfect balance of form and function. I use the fixed circulars. They have a swivel mechanism that allows the cable to rotate. This helps with smooth, kink-free knitting and absolute flexibility.

Knitting with these needles feel smooth and effortless.The laminated wood holds yarn in place without sticking like bamboo but feel sturdy in my hands. They just feel more solid than my other wooden circulars. They are the best needles I have knit with so far. The cord is light but strong and it is easy to get lost in the minutes as I knit into the hours.

So I am all ready for being on the road.

 

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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!

 

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.

 

 

I Dream Of Jeanie

 

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Stitch marker found on ETSY

 

Going into the Yankee Yarn shop is a little like going over to my cousin’s house. Our Fearless Leader Sara is from Louisiana and I am from Texas. We are kindred spirits not only bound together by our birth nation or the fact that we boldly set out to make our ex-Pat existence nothing short of awesome sauce. Of course, we have the whole knitting connection and we are both Mums of crazy dual national children. But our easy friendship sparked because we recognised we were both surreptitious rebels.

 

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Resident Experimenter Nori & Resident Designer Jen

In fact, Resident Designer Jen and even our lovely, serene Resident Experimenter Nori have a maverick streak in them. Most of the ladies that come into the shop have a bit of an untamed flair about them, to be fair. The knitting shop is like an outlaw’s hangout and we are all like wild, Wild West gunslingers— only our holsters hold balls of yarn and we are armed with hooks and needles.

 

 

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Stylecraft Pattern

So when Stylecraft came out with an exciting, new yarn “that captures the spirit and heritage of the denim” that is, incidentally, the trend this season, it made all of our eyes big with wonder. Jeanie Denim Look is inspired by the timeless and classic hues of denim. It is available in 100g balls in four shades: Dixie, Memphis, Delta, and (to my heart’s joy) Texas. The colours go from the retro 70s indigos to lighter blues like the stonewashed fashions of the 80s. Imagine the pieces you can make! Whatever your denim style — country western, rocker, chic, student-look—it is all up to you!

 

It is aran weight yarn, but its cotton acrylic blend means you can throw it in the wash and tumble dry without ruining the garment. It is soft. One of our customers said it was like working with chenille. Another said it was like working with velvet.

“Fuzzy feel good to the touch,” said Yolie Hume. “I am working on a cable sweater and it just feels so lush!”

“On circulars, it doesn’t snag,” said Becca MacDougal. “It does not split either. “ The yarn keeps its integrity even after you have to pull it all back and start over.

“I wish I could blink like I Dream Of Jeanie and have a sweater,” Said Our Fearless Leader Sara.

We have the patterns in the shop and will be getting more. I am thinking of challenging Our Resident Designer Jen to whip up a western style cardigan to go with my sundress, cowboy boots and Stetson. Watch this space.

Following the Flock

One lovely June day last summer, I went for a ramble. What Can I say? I lost my way. I found myself in the most romantic of settings— A lovely little B&B in Locharbriggs, Scotland. To be honest, I did have an agenda. 

I went to commune with nature and fell into the company of some very friendly Valais Blacknose Sheep at Whitehall Farm in Dumfries and Galloway.  They were adorable and I felt like I was going to pull a Wylie Coyote and pick one up and run off with it!!! Not that I could have done! They were bigger than I imagined them to be and had minds of their own! One of them took to leaning on me and most of them nibbled my sundress. It was the funniest thing I have ever experienced. I truly did feel like Little Miss BoPeep!

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Nibbling on Bo Peep…

Aside from the obvious which was going to Whitehall Farm near Duncow and becoming pals with the dreamiest little sheep, there was a fair bit of longing for simpler joys. There was also a fair bit of port, snowballs (basically sponge cake sandwich with jam covered in coconut… a MUST when up in Scotland), good food and hot weather up in sunny Dumfries & Galloway.

The flock I met was of Valais Blacknose Sheep variety. I bought a bag of wool. I believe it’s about 200g. So now I need to learn to spin it. The sheep themselves were just the friendliest sheep I have ever known. It was as if they knew I was there just to see them. They did not disappoint. They came up to me, leant on me, nibbled and my dress and genuinely just made me happy just to be surrounded by them. The wool itself is not very soft, though. I am not sure what I will make from it when I finally wash and spin it. I may just make a little sheep toy. I do have a pattern I can use!

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Unfortunately, I did not go on the hunt for wool shops like I usually do on excursions like this. This is mainly due to me answering my more shocking desires of cake. Nevermind. Next time I will stick to business. Maybe…wp-1465825771026.jpegI got quite a bit of knitting done and finished the kitty cat hat I was working on. The fact that I finished it ON THE MOTORWAY was a bit shocking… The M6 was closed down for hours. There was not much for it. I was alone, the engine was off and I had no one to talk to. I related all this to the ladies at Yankee Yarns. They came up with an even better idea that would not involve the motorway!!!

Our Fearless Leader, Sara, organised a road trip to visit the sheep at Hooligan Yarns! This was over the May 1st Bank Holiday Monday. Resident Designer Jenny got up close and personal with the animals and is now coming up with interesting ideas inspired by the flock! Stay tuned! She will, most likely, be posting them soon!

sara sheep!!!

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May The Wool Be With You

Yesterday was May the 4th. Star Wars Day! It is a quiet little celebration for a special brand of people. I am happy to say I am aligned to this particular group. You see, one fine summer day, an 11-year-old, frizzy-haired girl entered the cinema to watch Star Wars with her cousins and emerged a full-fledged Jedi Nerd. I am that nerd. I had my mother wrap my ponytails into Princess Leia-esque twirls on the side of my head. I ran around making vvvvoom-vvvvoom noises with my makeshift light sabre that I fashioned out of the cardboard roll from the toilet paper. I rolled up light blue construction paper, stuck it into the cardboard roll and taped it into a point. Little did I know that film was my gateway into nerd-dom for the rest of my life.

From there, I quickly fell down the rabbit-hole into Dungeons and Dragons, video games, Star Trek re-runs, new Star Trek movies, Doctor Who, Firefly, painting Warhammer miniatures… and then crochet and knitting. It was only a matter of time until all of these things came together like the BIG BANG to create my multiverse of passions.

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I am not the only nerd/geek/goober out there knitting and crocheting things inspired by my hobbies and proclivities.

Our Fearless Leader, Sara and Our Resident Designer, Jenny, are past masters at it! Sara made a Minecraft Creeper hat for her son and Jenny crocheted the Yoda (featured top photo). She all of a sudden pulled out of her bag of wizardry when we were talking in the shop last week about May The Fourth. We are all geeks at Yankee Yarns!

But I noticed something recently. At some point, being a nerd/geek/goober became fashionable! TRUE FACT! Once upon a time, I actually hid my geek hoping to be seen as one of the popular kids in school. I desperately lived in fear of being ridiculed for playing D&D with a bunch of guys in my mother’s front room. Now, characters like those in The Big Bang Theory have opened up the eyes of the masses to how cool it is to hang out with a bunch of egg-heads, wearing t-shirts with DC or Marvel comic book heroes on them and spinning yarns about the troubles we’ve been having with tribbles. It is also now considered cooler than ice planet Hoth to be an absolute legend with math!

Not a day goes by in my world that I don’t thank the old gods and new for my interests and creativity. Also, I am thankful for so many who are even more talented than I am who share their ideas!

I came across Knitting for nerds on Twitter who post a plethora of awesome projects and have given me such inspiration to create my own things.

I started off small. I made Star Trek potholders. Gradually, I became more and more ambitious. My most recent effort was a baby hoodie for my daughter’s friend. Years ago, she introduced me to the Mighty Boosh Show. She was and is a huge fan. Last year, she told us She she was having a baby so I magicked this baby hoodie up for her:

Incidentally, I introduced her to D&D and agreed to be the Dungeon Master for her, my daughter and all their friends. Crazy days!

17-03-31-05-50-56-110_decoBeing a Dungeon Master means I have a lot of spare grid paper lying about. With a bit of tracing paper, you can knock up all sorts of stuff, plot it on the grid paper and make knitting charts of all sorts of things. You can make Christmas jumpers with Daleks, Space Invaders or PacMan! But if this sounds daunting, I found a handy little site called Stitchboard where you can just upload a black and white “.jpg” of the artwork you want to use and BOOM! Personal geek stuff to make for your personal pleasure! I will caution, though. These cool logos are trademarked. If you are making them for yourself or to give as a gift, that is cool. But I think it would be bad juju to try to sell these off commercially. I did the Assasin’s Creed baby hoodie for a fellow geek when he found out he was going to be a Dad! He was over the moon!

If you want to knit your own design, go for it! There are tonnes of resources out there like The Knitting SiteStitch Fiddle, Annie Bee Knits, and the rest! Everything I have done is because I stand on the shoulders of giants! Getting the knowledge is the biggest part of the battle. Being creative is all yours!

At some point I will be making a hoodie for myself! But which design? WHICH DESIGN?!

Perhaps the real challenge is finding the time to make them all especially when you have a full-time job and other commitments.

Sometimes, I use the downtime at a con or whilst playing a tabletop game. The Malifaux bag I knitted was completed when I was “Hit Points” deep in a Pathfinder role-playing game. The bag was made for a guy who showed me how to paint the Malifaux miniatures.

So when you do find the time, it is like MAGIC! (See the picture below) You nerds might see what I just did there….. if you do, post a comment and I will tell you something about this particular skein of wool…

Obviously, if I need help to make something, I always go to Ravelry first. Remember, shoulders of giants!!!!

 

But for now, I am happy planning my future projects in between preparing for my next D&D campaign:

It will be another Dice Bag which I will be knitting for myself during the campaign I will be running. Yes… I am the Dungeon Master…

But getting back to the whole you can be a nerd, a hobbyist, a writer, a knitter and an armchair physicist, check out this cool article! For me, it’s the most exciting article I think I have read in a long time. It was written for scientists called Move Over String Theory, It’s Yarn’s Turn, by Stuart Fox on Science Line. This is the part where I “squee!” and most people look at me even more blankly as they did when I started talking to them about knitting… or Dungeons and Dragons.

I hope the 4th was with you yesterday… but beware all you Jedi. Today is Revenge of the 5th.