Knitting, Sounds, & Good Weekends continued…

I posted a few months ago about the importance of Good Weekends and so far, that is what today and tomorrow are shaping up to be. Incidentally, the grunting pigs sound which I posted from Mudchute Farm on that post is now up on the UK SoundMap (my new favourite thing!) and The London Sound Survey. I have also been uploading some sounds of Rachael spinning and ball-winding to the UK SoundMap, as I think knitting sounds must be represented! And anyone who cares to browse the map will also see that my favourite road – the A4074 – is also sonically documented by me, in sounds that range from a hoverfly buzzing in Caversham Heath, to the revving of biker engines outside the HCafe. It is very easy to upload via Audioboo, and I’ve been really enjoying listening to other people’s sounds – especially the sounds from remote places, such as the lovely recordings of time and tide bells uploaded by Vergette. If you don’t know about the UK SoundMap, Richard Ranft gave a great interview about it on Radio 4’s TODAY programme, and there is a bit more information here on the Sound:Site blog, as the British Library will be speaking at our festival about the map.

On a very different festival note, the lovely Mark is off at Reading with his boys this weekend. I confess that I do not like the crowds or – bah humbug – the Music at this event. I would brave snow, rain, hailstorms and the worst portaloos in the world for a knitting festival or some amazing sound-related celebration, but loud rock music is something I am mostly keen to avoid. I love small festivals – like the Shillingford and Warborough Festival, or the Oxford Folk Festival… but the big ones really freak me out and belong on a list of things in my head which is titled ‘Things which are meant to be SUPERFUN but are really ACTUALLYQUITESTRESSFUL.’

Although I accompanied Mark to Reading Festival in 2008, I confess I didn’t have a great time there beyond my happy discovery of Santogold and her amazing music. In fact the last ‘big’ festival I really enjoyed attending in Reading was WOMAD in 2006. I couldn’t walk very easily back then, so I hired a scooter for the day and enjoyed speeding around the site with my felt-covered walking stick and indulging in some reckless drunk-scooter-driving (which Mark captured on camera, for posterity.) From memory, it was a happy day of pies, spiced cider, laughter, and painkillers. We cruised the stalls, enjoyed looking at all the shiny-shiny, listened to a few bands, and tried on wigs. The scooter was genius, as people gave me a very wide berth – something that you don’t get when you are walking about, even when you have a walking-stick – and it meant I enjoyed the day relatively pain-free. Although my arthritis doesn’t really affect me in that way anymore, I find that what I love doing in my life remains forever changed by the experience of having been disabled… and maybe this is why the noise and the crowds of Reading Festival have me mooching about indoors for a quiet weekend, this year.

I do, however, enjoy the distant wash of bass and excitement that drifts over here from the site – which is several miles away – in the evenings, when the wind is right. It is a distinctive and regional aspect of the soundscape, and an annual sound event, and this evening I hope to record this sound and place it on the UK SoundMap. (Did I tell you already how this is my new favourite thing?)

Other than making this recording, I am hoping to catch up with friends on the telephone, (really, is there anything better than a good long chat with a girlfriend, plus a bucket of tea and a mindless knitting project?) cast on for the second sock in the pair that I making for Mark, (Rav-link) and reflect on all the things I learned at Knit Camp.

Here is the inside of Mark’s 1st sock, in all it’s woven-strandy glory. Although I agree with what Kate says about leaving long strands in her excellent post on the subject of stranded knitting, when it comes to the fabric of a sock, I find that any strands over 5 sts in length do get tangled in one’s toes, however sticky and woollen your yarn! For this reason, my other colourwork socks have used very short and simple patterns – just one or two stitches before each colour-change – so as to create a warm, snug, dense fabric with no entangling loops lying about.

My first stranded-colour socks

Look at the little strands!

However, because in the case of Mark’s socks I wanted to depict objects which would involve large swathes of one colour or the other, I decided to travel the yarn across the back and weave it in as I went. This creates rather a tweedy look in some areas – a little bit like the effect that the Armenian Knitting Technique creates Elsa Schiaparelli’s Bow Sweater.

The socks depict scenes from along Mark’s Walk 2012 walking route; the route he has been plotting over the past few months, and blogging about, here. Scenes on Sock #1 include: Seagulls, (Weymouth) Durdle Door, The Square and Compass Pub at Worth Matravers, (a truly amazing refuge) and a New Forest Pony.

The real Durdle Door

A bad photo of my dodgy, knitted version!

A real New Forest Pony

My knitted interpretation (which Mark has started calling ‘A Camel.’)

One of the things I learned at Knit Camp involved my depiction of a horse, as this was the subject of energetic debate in the car on the way home from Stirling. Ellen correctly pointed out that my first attempt at charting a design appeared rather wolf-like, and furnished me with a helpful drawing, which led to much travel-sickness inducing scribbling on my part, and the final horse-design, which I hope you will agree is more equine than the first attempt.

This was one of many instances where just informally hanging out with knitters meant that I learned loads and moved something on far more than I could have done on my own. The actual organised *classes* were also good, and I have come away with much information on how to make the perfect Aran, and about how different types of fleece and yarn can be used for creating different things. Consider for a moment the difference between the knitted fabric created by 100% Manx Yarn;

…and a fabric knitted from Castlemilk Moorit yarn, which is blended with a little silk and Alpaca, to soften it:

I hope you can see that in the bottom photo, the Castlemilk Moorit fleece gives greater definition to each of its stitches than the Manx wool? The Manx fleece makes a wonderfully dense, gingery, rich, warm fabric of joy, which makes me feel immediately that the Winter can be kept at bay. I left Knit Camp and Deb Robson’s class on knitting with rarebreed wools lusting for a simple sweater made in this wholesome stuff. However, the Castlemilk Moorit yarn is a little crisper and the mixed-fleece gives a varied, tweedy effect to the yarn, which I think would be perfect for creating an amazing Aran. I ordered 2 balls of Castlemilk Moorit from Blacker Designs, in order to start swatching for an Aran cardigan based on the theme of Sound. Like Liz, I really enjoyed steeking in Jared Flood’s Class at Knit Camp, and I left Flood’s class with all the knowledge I need to confidently swatch for, calculate yardage for, and begin, a big Aran project. For me the golden discovery re: my future Aran was the Castlemilk Moorit Yarn with its special, stitch-popping tweediness, coupled with some empowering maths regarding how to design such a masterpiece.

For the sonic-celebration-Aran, I want to use Popcorn stitch, the superimposed double wave cable, (as it reminds me of soundwaves) maybe the banjo-cable, and one I’ve seen in one of my knitting books, which reminds me of a long string of ears, because of the way the cable widens and narrows up and down its length.

I found the discussion of rare breed sheep at Knit Camp to be very interesting, especially the information about the St Kilda archipelego, and the now very rare Boreray and Soay sheep. There are less than 300 breeding ewes left of the Boreray sheep breed, and they are listed as being critically endangered by the RBST. I have written before about my obsession with the extreme North of the UK and the Hebridean islands that lie just off it but UK Knit Camp 2010 made me want – even more than before – to learn more about these places where our rarest and most endangered sheep breeds come from, and the knitting traditions therein. Deb Robson is right when she says that we have the power – as knitters – to keep the rare breeds alive, and so I spent the majority of my yarn allowance at UK Knit Camp on wool from rare breed sheep. The North Ronaldsay sheep is on the endangered list of sheep breeds; I couldn’t buy any Boreray yarn, as there was none for sale, but I did buy some natural-coloured North Ronaldsay and some hand-dyed North Ronaldsay – both from Liz Lovick’s Northern Lace stand.

Liz gave me a pattern for the ‘Cat’s Paw Scarf,’ which I might make from that second skein of dyed yarn, because I really liked Lovick’s notes in the pattern about the history of the pattern. It is apparently a traditional Shetland pattern, a lacy thing with a short repeat that is easy to remember, which can easily be picked up and worked on in between other jobs, and which is thus worked in order to be sold at the end.

I also purchased this fine hand-spun/plant-dyed yarn from Elizabeth Johnson, and I am reminded by the colour of the sea and also of the amazing recording in the British Library Archives from Harris and Lewis. This can’t be accessed without an Athens log-in unfortunately, but it is one of my favourite regional recordings of all time, especially for the section where a sheep is being sheared using old clippers, and the shearer is talking about the condition of the Rams that year.

Yarn – like sound – is for me a material that is deeply linked to ideas about places and regions. As I scour the Internet for knowledge about different sheep-breeds, I am also searching for sounds that come from the regions where those breeds are from. Somehow it helps me to plot and plan what I will knit, to picture in greater detail the places I want to visit, and to envisage terrains, ways of living, and flora/fauna that surround different knitting and sheep-keeping traditions.

Here are some sounds I have found around, which remind me either of places I’ve been to, or places I want to go to, and all the knitting projects in between.

I hope you too are enjoying some good sounds and some good yarns, this weekend.

Waves at Chesil Beach on Joe Steven’s site: – reminds me of Mark and of Weymouth, and of the Portland sheep breed

St Kilda Cultural Traditions: – webpage has embedded sound (quite high, quite loud, turn your speakers down!) reminds me of Boreray and Soay Sheep

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