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.

Stylecraft Mystique

“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!

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.

Though Poppies Grow…

It may seem a bit early to talk about Remembrance Day. After all, Armistice Day is in November. We have only just started to do our merry dance into spring! Oddly enough, it was in the spring of 1915 that a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in the razed fields. The poppy was one of the only plants to grow in the fields after the war ripped through it. His good friend had fallen in Ypres in WWI and the sight of the scarlet flowers waving in the breeze moved him so much that he wrote his now famous poem called ‘In Flanders Fields’. After the First World War, the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance.

The Mansfield District Council is organising a Poppy Parade for Remembrance Day. This is unlike any yarn bomb I have ever seen. The Council is calling on all local (and not so local) Knitters and Crocheters to make poppies.

REMEMBER POPPY PARADE All the knitted and crocheted poppies will be gathered in October and sewn together to create an enormous curtain in Mansfield town centre. Your poppies can be dropped off at the Mansfield Civic Centre. Alternatively, you can either drop them off or send them to us at Yankee Yarns. That’s right! We are working along side of the Council to make this happen! After the last yarn bomb to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, we are committed to making this bigger and better.

“This will be HUGE,” said Sara, our Fearless Leader. “We were approached and we are stepping up!”

You can click here to download and print the free patterns.

REMEMBER CROCHET

REMEMBER KNIT

Then again, you may have a favourite poppy pattern of your own. These are very welcome, too!!! Join us!

Go Forth And Knit!

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The days are growing longer and it is almost time for the clocks to Spring Forward in the UK. The anticipation of the extra light has us all abuzz like fantastical little buzzy bees. Although there are still the same 24 hours in the day, the perception that we will all have so much more time to go and do stuff is down to how far up we are in the hemisphere. The sun just goes on and on. Those of us lucky enough to live in Scotland will enjoy the daylight far into the wee hours of the next day! This just makes me happy. In addition, there is the promise of a plethora of social events coming up. There will be music festivals, art festivals, food festivals and car festivals. The things that all these festivals have in common is there is plenty of downtime to sit, have a natter and work on our projects. As they say, Spring has sprung!

The energy is through the roof, yo.

I’mma gonna slap me a stitch!

knit purl to do listMaking a “To-Do” list.

So here we go. There are a few things we might want to do to plan our hazy lazy days in the sun. After all, winter comes around so quickly. We need to make the best of the light we get! Now, I know what you are thinking (and you are right.) You are factoring in those days of Spring showers that always threaten us with darkness. There is one happening right now. But when the showers come, I use the time to think and make lists. Remember, all showers pass! Here is my list so far

  1. Make some chicks for charity. These are little hollow chicks that are quick to make. You can fit Cadbury Cream Eggs inside them and sell at church or school fundraising events. I bought some years ago. After Easter, I sewed them onto a Memory Quilt for my son. Every year I add on to the quilt. The idea is that it will grow with my son.
  2. Learn how to make my own patterns. Knitwear and crochet trends for this Spring are all over the fashion blogs. So many of them feature pretty lacework or loopy designs with contrasting colours. Our Resident Designer Jenny says it really is quite satisfying making your own designs and it really just takes a bit of patience. Yankee Yarns plans to deliver a workshop on patterns soon. Keep checking back!
  3. Attend a Worldwide Knit In Public Day event on Saturday, June 18th.
    Last year, Our Fearless Leader Sara organised the event at the Redgate Pub next door to the shop. There was a raffle with great prizes. This year promises to be an even bigger event as the knitting & crochet community has grown exponentially.
  4. Recruit Knitting/Crochet apostles! There is nothing like getting some newbies onboard and then taking them to the knitting in public event! Once they are in… THEY ARE REALLY IN.
  5. Hitting my steps and counting my stitches ON-THE-GO! I read a story of a runner who knitted whilst running in the New York Marathon! Now, I don’t think I could go for a run and knit at the same time but I could definitely walk and get my 10k steps a day whilst I knit. The key is to make a yarn holster that would hold my ball of wool. I need the exercise but I need to knit even more. This will be perfect for the long days!
  6. Plan a Knitting Holiday with the ladies in the circle.

You may chuckle at the last one, but is it so far-fetched? What could be better than finding a really pretty place, pouring some prosecco into a glass in the middle of the day and knitting with my gregarious posse? It is actually a thing! It could be as simple as getting our camping equipment and striking out in the Big Country with our WIPs and needles. Or it could be something more structured like the Knitting Retreat In France.

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Last year, I booked into Southpark House   in Locharbriggs. The breakfast is amazing there! I went to visit the Valais Blacknose Sheep. It was a love affair.I did get a bit distracted by other lovely activities at the time. The visit was all too short. I think the next time I will make sure I stay longer and wear comfier clothes. The sheep were super friendly at feeding time!

So, there. I’ve given you plenty to think about. Let’s get out there and knit all the things!!!!

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X-treme Knit (& Crochet )

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I had been juggling four projects: Two for duty, one for necessity and the last for love.

It was the proverbial eleventh hour and the “one for love”, a crocheted blanket, was slowing me down. All four were promised for Monday morning and I feared the worst. I started them all a month before but now I would need to work through the weekend to finish them all. To be fair, it had started out with two projects. That had been achievable. However, my time had been hijacked by the “two for duty” (knitted blankets).  They had not been planned. They had been “requested” by a family member so I found it difficult to say no. The ”one for necessity”, a set of washcloths and dishtowels,  were knitted up without flourish, unfortunately. I always like to add a wee bit of whimsy to even my most utilitarian projects. The time-crunch meant that the one for necessity was condemned to a purely functional design. I moved from project to project with focus and determination. The clock mocked me with its neutral rigidity. I had spent the weekend hopped up on black coffee, Rage Against The Machine and the determination of a caged fighter in the last round.

All four of the projects got done.

[Queue inspirational Rocky Balboa music and listen to the crowd inside my head cheer— I stand victorious with my arms up in the air and…..] OUCH!!!

A shard of pain shot down through my middle finger and exploded into my palm.Please pass me the muscle pain relief cream. It seems I have sprained my middle finger metacarpal

Sprained fingers like this happen to basketball players, rugby players, kung fu masters and boxers! I sat in my GP’s surgery looking sheepish as my doctor cocked his head and smiled at me like a parent who wants to reprimand a toddler who just fell into a mud puddle. He gently informed me I had sprained finger due to repetitive strain associated with overuse. Basically, I knitted and crocheted too long without proper breaks.

 

Other knitters and hookers I know all said they had known my pain in one form or another. Crick in the neck, back pains, eye strain, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and weight gain ( aka Yo Yarn Tuffet!!!)  are the crosses we bear for our pastime. It is a common feeling that knitters and hookers feel they cannot stop because either they want to meet a deadline or just want to get as much done before the baby/husband/kids need us. One lady told me that she feels industrious when she is knitting. If she is binge watching Netflix, “knitting helps take away the guilt of being a lazy git”. Sometimes we just want to be in on something really cool and want to hurry up and get it done to be included in on the fun! Here’s an example from our very own fearless leader:

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So with this in mind, I have collated some of the advice given to me by some of our more expert and sensible colleagues:

  • Take frequent breaks! Ten to 15 minutes is all it takes.
  • Rotate your wrists after every row.
  • Mind your posture. Keep your shoulders down and your back straight. Get a backrest pillow.
  • Avoid knitting with arms on a surface. This puts pressure on the nerves of your arms.
  • Wear a wrist brace
  • Keep a small tension ball in your knitting bag. Squeeze it ease the tension in my hands and fingers.
  • Don’t have too many projects going at once.
  • Have a timer go off after 30 minutes. Get up and move around. Stretch arms, legs and back. Rotate your neck and wrists. Wiggle your fingers. Go make a cup of tea!
  • Use a heating pad around your neck and shoulders.
  • Use fingerless craft gloves with a good supporting wrist. Keep it in your knitting bag.
  • Keep pain relief cream in your Knitting Bag. Apply it when necessary to wrists and fingers.
  • Use a quilter’s thimble on index finger
  • Use ergonomic hooks!!! Wooden needles, especially KnitPro Cubics are easier on the hands.
  • Make sure you have good lighting and a comfortable chair.
  • Do hand and wrist warm-ups before you start!!!! Make a fist (or use a tension ball) and squeeze for 3 seconds and release. 10-15 reps. Then do Finger touches. Thumb to index, thumb to middle finger, thumb to ring finger, thumb to pinky and then back again.

    Ultimately, we all love our skill, our hobby, our obsession. We want to be able to do it indefinitely. We need to be smart and protect our future by making sure we don’t hurt ourselves now. Too much of anything is not a good thing. As all the wise folk say, “Everything in moderation.”

  • My favourite quote that can apply to this (as well as to other things):

 

She Comes In Colours

It is the first week of 2017. The festive frenzy of December is all over except for the shouting and the tell-tale signs of overindulgence around the waistline. The cold and frosty weather makes me want to cuddle in with a cup of coffee, my knitting and enjoy these last few days of comfort before I hit the office grind. However, I am mindful that perhaps I need to move around a bit.17-01-05-19-57-43-970_deco.jpg Luckily, the weather has been rather dry so everyday this week I have bundled up and ventured out for a walk in the dead of winter.

Who said dead? The colours have been absolutely inspiring! The beauty of drawing inspiration for the next project is out there! I admit, the idea of studying the Colour Wheel  and creating mood boards can feel a bit overwhelming and time consuming. I already have an all consuming hobby. Creating mood boards just seems like it would take me away from all my proposed knitting and crochet projects!

Our fearless leader, Sara at Yankee Yarns, let me in on a great little secret. All the hard work has already been done for us on Pintrest. You just need to do a search, print it off and dance right on over to the shop and pick out the yarn. Or you can do what I do. I store a bunch of pallets on my phone. Check out Sara’s collection on the Yankee Yarns board. You can see the ones the I have picked for my board. I am basically planning cushions and throws for each room in my house!


A simple search for colour schemes or pallets brings up a plethora of ideas. Sara puts together project kits for her customers regularly. wp-1483645572625.jpgThe last one offered at Yankee Yarns included a pattern for a Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice Cozy Nights Ripple Afghan, the six balls of yarn and a crochet hook. Since I am more of a knitter than a “hooker”, it was great to be able to go into Yankee Yarns and get a bit of schooling in crochet. The classes are 1.5 hour blocks on Mondays 12-2:30, 7:30pm-9pm Wednesdays 10-2:30, Thursdays 10-2:30, Fridays 10-2:30, and Saturdays 11-2. Just give Sara a ring.

 

At this rate, I am actually praying for a big snow day so I can get going on my next project. Aren’t we all???dr-who-knitting-meme

Manchester Terrier Hat: aka The Mabel Hat

 

There is always something inspiring about getting together with friends to knit. I always learn something new. Sometimes what I learn is a new skill or a different technique on how to perfect a stitch. Other times I learn about people and what makes them tick. It is these little glimpses into other people that make me truly grow in my craft.

One Friday afternoon, I sat at the shop with Janet who was working on the tiniest little hat.

“Is that for a doll?” I asked.

“No, it’s for a charity,” said Janet. She went on to tell me about Gracie, her Manchester terrier who was the smallest in her litter with the biggest personality. Janet lost Gracie at 14 months to congenital renal failure that is common in the Manchester Terrier dog. Janet went on to tell me the story of the breeders, Phil and Estella. Estella gave Janet Pixie. Pixie’s pup, Mabel is on the calendar dog for January resplendent in her little hat.It is these hats Janet has almost continuously on her needles.

In the last two years, Janet has knitted up anywhere from 150 to 200 little wool hats. These are sold at the dog shows and on the Rattustrap Manchester Terriers website and all the money has gone to charity. These have been bought by loving dog owners all over the world from Finland to Florida!

These hats can be adapted to fit larger dogs and other critters around your house. Even cats (if they let you. You know what they are like!) Our fearless leader, Sara, made some for her kids and for herself. Janet wrote me out the pattern and I have a Mabel Hat on my sticks right now. Yankee Yarns’s resident designer has written it up on in our Ravelry. Get this pattern for free here!

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Sara in her Mabel Hat

The Stash Buster Challenge, 2017!

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We all do it. We all hoard wool. Like dragons guarding treasure, we are protective of our spun balls of colour. I have a friend that calls her hoard, “My Precious”. Another friend calls it her “Tangled Web”. I call mine, My Yarniverse .

Whatever you call it, it is our Stash. To some of us, the size of it is of great pride and joy. To others, it is a secret that must be kept from the man of the house.

I met up with another knitter for coffee the other day. Let’s call her “Jane”. She is a novice (she’s only been knitting since June) and already she has amassed a great hoard of yarn. Some of it was inherited from her husband’s late auntie. It was this pile of historic yarn, abandoned W.I.P.s and vintage needles that got Jane knitting.

“I can cast on, do stockinette and so far I have made a few scarves,” she said. Her eyes were ablaze as she opened up a canvas bag. Within the bag were six skeins of naturally dyed, hand spun, pure wool yarn from crossbred sheep and alpaca that she bought from a seller at a craft fair. ALPACA!

16-12-07-21-17-11-765_deco.jpgBashfully she looked up from the bag and whispered, “I am not sure how I am going to smuggle it into the wool I already got at home without him asking how much it cost.” I nodded quietly calculating there must have been about £70 pounds worth of yarn there.

“Chances are your hubby may never know,” I said. And then we Googled closed storage containers together from one of the value shops and planned her the Smuggling In Ops.

There is no way of understanding exactly how this yarn addiction begins. It almost always starts off innocently by finding a pattern that calls for a certain amount of balls for the size you want to make, and then you quite possibly buy one extra (just in case) or find that your tension was really rather tight so you are left with a bit. But ultimately, you wander around a shop looking for laundry detergent, toothpaste and bin liners and find three skeins of wool for the price of two. You see a cobalt blue looking one then remember that lovely cowl pattern you saw on Ravelry. You remember that you decided to make one at some point in the near future. But what if in the future these skeins aren’t on sale? You think to yourself you had better get them now, just in case. You think to yourself “that would look so pretty on (insert person’s name of your choice with the glorious blue eyes HERE)”. You are pleased. You put it in your cart and spot another skein in a different color. Only this one is not in the sale. But this one is even softer and the color is like autumn walked into the shop and kissed you on the forehead. So you buy four.  It begins. You store it in the boot of your car until your husband leaves the house. You run out as soon as he has turned the corner and bring the wool in and…. Stash it…. True story…

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Well, here comes 2017 and with it comes new lines of wool. That stash is starting to bulge a bit and it may be the time to get some of that old stuff out of the dark and onto your needles and hooks. The New Year is all about new beginnings so Yankee Yarns would like to throw out the dragon-scaled gauntlet!

fb.me/CosyCrochetbyMarieBy Marie King at Cosy Crochet

We challenge you to make stuff out of your stash. Only your stash!

And we would like you to send us your photos so we can put them up in our gallery. Of course we will give you props. When you send us your photo, we would like to know:

  1. Your name (alias or just first name is ok)
  2. How long you have had that wool in your stash
  3. And if there is a story attached to the yarn, then even better!
  4. Send to Yankeeyarns@gmail.com and we will showcase your work in the Stash Buster Challenge tab.

Do you just want to make squares? Check this out. A knit for Charity is a great way to stash bust.

Now a word from Sara, our fearless leader at Yankee Yarns :

“The pink vest Loxley wearing is 10 year old wool with the green stripe new wool. It was the exact colour she wanted. Mix the old and the new because I didn’t know it then but it’s exactly what I needed now. You know your own taste, so when you see something you can’t pass up trust your own taste because chances are you’ll end up (eventually) making something you love.”

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Some Stash Buster mini projects.

 

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