Friday, 27 June 2008


When I first met Louise at college, she looked like a beautiful rainbow, and I looked like an old grey douvet cover, because that's what I wore. I had a multi coloured jumper that I wore on the weekends though. 
Well we are once more, feeling it for the acid rainbow and have just ordered this gorgeous "Parrot" roving, which as our Rosemary pointed out, it's bang on up there with Alexander McQueen' s Parrot dress. 
Parrot roving will be 80p for 10g and should be here in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, 26 June 2008


We have a very special sheep this week, the North Ronaldsay. 
Imagine it's 1832, and the North Ronaldsay flock have been happily grazing on their most northerly Scottish Isle for nearly 5000 years. They are quite small sheep, with fine bone structure, little faces, and big horns.
The owner of the Isle, which was only 5km wide, thought his garden was beginning to look a bit barren, and pointed a finger at the sheep, who were happily eating everything. 
There was a danger of the greenery dying out, so he built a wall around the whole island and the the sheep were banished to the beach. 
They didn't mind eating seaweed, but their digestive systems had to adapt to extract the sugars more efficiently. They also had to change their dinner time. Most sheep graze during the day and sleep at night, but the North Ronaldsay's had to eat with the tides, getting up in the night when the tide was low, and sleeping when the tide was up. When they get thirsty they drink from a few fresh water pools along the shore. 
North Ronaldsays are now happy living on the beach, but would probably get sick if they went back to a copper based diet, and ate grass. This makes them very unique, and rarely seen outside their 'natural' habitat.
They come in many colours and their wool is lovely for knitting.
I'm off to Orkney in a couple of weeks, when I shall try and find some fleece.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


Louise has always wished she could grow a moustache, so she made some instead, the patterns for which can now be found in the new addition of Amelia's Magazine.  
Whether you fancy yourself as  Lemmy, a ZZ Top, Freddie, or  Nietzche, the patterns have quick and easy steps for fantastic results.
Amelia has made this another viberant issue complete with a USB stick full of tunes, and a whole pot pourri of ideas. Order your copy now!


Dan popped in this morning to buy some of our 50p cotton thread, and then came back 10 minutes later with this beautiful kite, made from green and white tissue paper, with a long flowing black plastic tail. 
Dan is Brazilian, and his kite is a friendly one but he explained that in Br
azil, kites actually kill people.  Fighting kites are made by gluing broken glass onto the string and unfortunately every now and then a kite slits someone's throat. 
Anyway that didn't happen to us, but the kite did get stuck in the next door neighbours window box, and she very kindly freed it for us. 
A gust of wind came and Dan and his girlfriend skipped off to the park in the gay June windy sunshine.

Sunday, 22 June 2008


We are not technically having 'Sheep of the Week' this week, because we wanted to show you a farmer instead. The said man is Giles Maddever, from Hall Barton Farm and Wayland Farm and he delivers fleece to Cornish Organic Wool. Here he is, being rather handsome in a field with his Lynn / Mule Cross sheep which are growing 4 ply and DK. 

Cornish Organic Wool are a friendly bunch and you can hear about their good work on this Radio 4 program. 
(I take full responsibility for the rainbow over Giles, I couldn't help it) 43 mon.shtml
Cornish Organic Wool is one of the few yarns certified organic by the Soil Association and is now available from PYF in these glorious colours.


Thursday, 19 June 2008


I would like to thank Dr. David Laurence for his dedication in giving the ladies of Prick Your Finger weekly treasures.  
David's gifts are educational, inspirational, thoughtful and sweet. He was one of our first customers, and at first we thought him rather strange, but he is now literally part of the furniture, sometimes having to help us build it. Our shop would not Rock like it does without him.
This weeks prize is a picture of, we presume, a haberdashery shop in Brighton, sometime in the 1950's. If anyone remembers this shop, with a lot of cotton reels, then we would love to know about it. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


The problem with knitting and writing this blog all the time, is that my hands hurt all the time.
Well today it feels better because I am wearing Rosemary's fabulous new knitted Fruit Bracelets.
They are made with hand dyed cotton, and stuffed with foam, so they act as fresh comfortable wrist rests.
Made to order from PYF or on sale soon at Hoxton Boutique.


When I was 19, I met a fortune teller who gasped and said " Someone is coming from America!"
Well this must be who! HA HA!
On October 8th, Michael Swaine will be coming to stay at Prick Your Finger. Michael is an artist and lives in California. Michael has a treadle sewing machine, which he wheels onto the streets of San Fransisco and fixes holes in things.  Now he is coming to darn for us. 
Michael will be here for one day and one  night, so we must make the most of him.  Michael enjoys mending holes because holes, as we know, have interesting stories. If you have a hole or a darned hole with an interesting story, then please tell us and we can arrange for Michael to fix it for you in October. Michael will stay with us and then in the morning he will come to your house. He will knock on your door and you will answer and show him a hole. He will ask you how the hole came about and then he will fix it for you. 
Please tell us about your holes.
October is an important time for darning, so if there are too many holes and Michael can't fix us all, then we will have a darning meeting and put everything right.  Michael will be talking about the holes he has fixed at the Knitting and Ditching show at Alley Pally 9th-13th October.

Saturday, 14 June 2008


On 27th and 28th June, we are going to Woolfest in Cumbria. 

I will be organising knitted sheep into lots for an auction in aid of Farm Africa. I urge you to come and buy them, or knit one while you still have time.  There is a pattern for one on the Woolfest website.

In the mean time, here is a real sheep auction.


I stood in the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall gazing at the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral for quite a while last night.  It is a beautiful example of what our craft community does. We do loads!

There is still room for more. PYF will be hosting a free reef workshop in the foyer on Monday from 5.30-7pm. You don't need to bring anything, and there's lovely leather sofas to sit on.

 A gentleman called Matthew said,
"I knew it was meant to be coral before I read the sign."


A four and a quarter inch felt bunny arrived at Prick Your Finger on Easter weekend.  I loved him from the moment we met. He offered me his carrot, but never told me his name. 
I sat him on the pile of coloured felt.
He looked nervous, as anyone would when trying to find their role in a new institution. 

On Thursday, our friend Rocky came for tea. 
Rocky found the pattern for Bobby the miniature bunny. 
(Rocky usually knows what we need.) 
Bobby has come home! We now not only know his name, but we can offer you his pattern, to make Bobby lots of new friends and relations. 

Thursday, 12 June 2008


Congratulations to Collette who knitted these very sweet green boots for her new nephew Owen. 
They are Jade Green DK UK Alpacca.
Collette's work has not finished here, her sister is due a baby next week. 
Keep going Collette!


It doesn't happen all that often, but today the wind blew and we locked ourselves out of the shop. 
We urgently needed a man. 
Then we saw one.
This is Kenneth James Baker, possibly the strongest man on Globe Rd.
You might recognise Ken because he has been a stunt man in Casino Royal, in an advert with David Hasselhoff,  and a double for a Crimewatch re enactment on serial killer who killed lots of blonde women.
Ken works out every day and has a 56" chest, and he can do the splits. 
He pushed the door open with a light touch and we agreed to knit him a new vest. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2008


I got the Book Charkha working today!
The Book Charkha was designed by Mahatma Gandhi as a tool, not just for spinning cotton, but for gaining indpendance from the British Empire and the world at large. 
India had been self sefficiant with cotton fields, and nature full of dyes, providing colours we didn't have in Britian. Indian cotton industry became monopolised by the British cotton mills. Britian was selling the cotton back to the Indians.
Gandhi learned to spin and he made the  wheel the symbol of independence, even putting it on the Indian flag. 
Gandhi spun as protest through all his political meetings, and even today, there is a tradition of spinning in Indian parliament.  
The Charkha was designed as a tool for every Indian family. It is the same size and shape as a book, and was origionaly made from a cigar box. It folds away beautifully, is descrete, and easy to build.  Gandhi told every family to scatter the seeds of the cotton plant in their gardens, and spin their own fibre. 
If you can spin already the Charkha is quite easy to use and suprisingly fast. I love it because it continues to stand as a symbol of independence. You are meant to secure it with your knee as you sit in lotus position, (Which I can't do!)  The design is made with much love. It arrives wrapped in newspaper and putting it together from the simple instructions is very special. While spinning, you can't help but feel free from the rubbish heaps of cotton we still see on the high street.  See the blog 'lets clean up fashion' below. 

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


Just in case you were wondering how all the yarn was spun before the industrial revolution, it was the mice what did it.... as so beautifully depicted by Beatrix Potter.

Six little mice sat down to spin;
Pussy passed by and she peeped in.
What are you doing, my little men?
Weaving coats for gentlemen. 
Shall I come in and cut off your threads?
No, no mistress Pussy, you'd bite off our heads.
Oh, no, I'll not; I'll help you spin,
that may be so, but you don't come in.

This drawing was edited out of the Tailor of Gloucester. I found it in a biography of Beatrix Potter. The three mice, seem to be spinning flax or linen, that's why they have little distaffs.

Sunday, 8 June 2008


We are creative and want the world to be a happier and more beautiful place. It's important to know what we are up against and I've just found a brilliant website to help us.
'Let's Clean Up Fashion,' monitors all the major high street brands, and how they work within the Ethical Trading Initiative, a British NGO set up in 1998 to improve the lives of poor working people around the world.  "Lets clean up Fashion" writes to the stores to ask them how they are operating, and they put the replies up for you to read.  Primark now has an Ethical trade team, and is auditing it's factories, thanks to pressure groups like these.  However, these pictures were taken yesterday afternoon, and you can see it's still a mess.


 The Welcome Collection is showing a free exhibition of the work of the Festival Pattern Group - a project at the 1951 Festival of Britain, involving X-ray crystallographers, designers and manufacturers. Diagrams of atomic structures inspire an eclectic array of patterns on curtains, wallpapers, carpets, lace, dress fabrics, ties, plates and ashtrays. 
Here is an insulin pattern which hasn't been seen since for over 50 years. 
The Welcome Collection is at 183 Euston Rd, London NW1 2BE 
Open Tuesday- Sunday with a late night opening on Thursday.

Saturday, 7 June 2008


Thank you to Susi Joel for bringing such a delightful bunch of people to her private view at PYF, we loved meeting them all. We are finding the company of her work very peaceful and happy. 
Thank you also to Rachel Smithies for making these garlands for our birthday. That was a lovely suprise!
For those of you who asked why the cranberry cocktail was so delicious, it was because it had tonic water and lime in it. 

Friday, 6 June 2008


Shortly after we opened our shop, Susanna Edwards wrote in 'Design Week' magazine about our hand knitted sign. 

"an example in the whispering category of typography, Prick Your Finger is a contemporary haberdashery in Bethnal Green......It's signage is innovative, yet quiet in its content, process and display. Hand-spun typography has been made from the wool of Rough Fell sheep, the sturdiest mountain breed in Britain. Too rough a material to wear, it has been spun un-washed to produce typography that is full of lanolin that makes it waterproof.  It is homemade: only a spinning wheel and a crochet hook was required, and no sign writer or manufacturer was required.  Even the name "Prick Your Finger" pertains Sleeping Beauty falling asleep."

Our sign was also quiet because I knitted it the night before the opening! 
One year on and Rosemary has had the task of knitting most of the new typeface. It is knitted in Swaldale roving, and soaked in vegetable oil to replace lost lanolin.
Needing a tall man with a ladder, Louise went to our pub, the Florest,  and Bob was just knocking off sick. Fortunatly Bob wasn't that sick, and spent the next hour putting up our sign, for which we were most gratefull.
The letters were a tight fit, but as Louise handed Bob the nails, Rosemary looked on ernestly, and shouted 'left a bit, right a bit,' until we all, along with the people having their lunch in the Wild Cherry over the road, agreed it was perfect.  To thank Bob for his time, Louise darned one of his cashmere jumpers. 
We hope you like our new sign.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008


Museums Sheffield are currently hosting the Vivienne Westwood exhibition, which was originally shown at the V&A. We like Museums Sheffield, because they had the bright idea of making an exhibition about knitting to run along side the Westwood show. I'm really chuffed because Vivienne Westwood 'told' me to knit when I was a child, so I shall be goggling at those jumpers.

'Get Knitted' opens on July 10th and it will feature the Cast Off Knitting Club back catalogue of films and patterns, and some brilliant public work by brother Shane Waltner, amongst others. 

Sheffield has a heavy history of Steel, so I knitted them some knives, forks and spoons in silk for the exhibition catalogue, because silk, is of course, stronger than steel.
The pattern for this friendly cutlery will be printed in the catalogue.


Tomorrow, we would like to invite you to Susi Joel's private view at Prick Your Finger, but we are also one year old, so please come over for one of our unique cocktails served in yellow teapots.


Sheep of the week is the Ryeland, as mentioned in the Monmouth Cap post, below.  They originated in Herefordshire  and became known as Ryelands because they grew up in the rye growing areas, where they would graze over the emerging plants, thickening them up. By the early 20th C. they had almost died out, and the Ryeland Society was set up in 1903, to protect them.  They are popular for small holdings because their wool has exceptional felting qualities, and is good for hand spinning. Thank you to this Scottish farmer for his delightful video.


Fluellen, Henry V, Act IV, scene 7 reads...

"Your magesty says very true: if your majestie is remembered of it, the Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps; which, your majesty knows, to this hour is an honourable badge of service; and I do believe your majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon Saint Davey's day."

Stephen doesn't have a leek in his Monmouth cap because he is not Welsh, but Louise is Welsh, and she has just made a pattern for one in PYF Black Welsh Mountain DK.  
The Welsh town of Monmouth lies on the River Wye, not far from Archenfield, a region noted for it's Ryeland sheep. Ryeland produces wool which is great for felting.  Being near the river for easy distribution, and near the sheep for wool, Monmouth was perfectly situated to become a centre of a knitting industry. 
The industry produced several kinds of knitted goods, but became best known for it's caps, which they couldn't stop making and exported across England and Wales and the continent. The Monmouth Cap was at it's trendiest in 15th and 16th centuries, when we simply adored them. In 1488, Henry VII made the Cappers Act, which imposed a fine for the wearing of foreign- made caps. Why should we wear other caps, when we were so proud of our Monmouth knitters.
 Elizabeth I, in 1571, still loved the caps and made a statue "An Act for the Continuance of the Making of Caps," list 15 crafts related to their production, and it required that "...all males above the age of six, except some of certain state and condition, shall wear upon the Sabbath and Holydays, one cap of wool knit, thicked and dressed in England, upon the forefeiture of 3s 4d...." Wives "were constrained to wear white caps of woolen yarn, unless their husbands were of good value in the Queen's book or could prove themselves gentlemen by descent..."
the Monmouth cap was nearly always brown, with a button on top and a tag to hang it up, but there are some records of them being red.  Ryeland fleeces became much sort after and caps started to be made from other sheep breeds.  They became so fashionable that people started making them everywhere and the term 'Monmouth' refered only to the style, and not to the place of origin. This cap was made at Prick Your Finger in London, and the rest of the information on this fascinating subject, including the Monmouth caps sailing to the new World, can be found in the essay "A Short History of the Monmouth Cap" by Jennifer L.Carlson, from where this whole post was lifted.


We were delighted to discover this lovely new song "Cryptorchild" by Maralyn Manson, that seems to be about us!

Prick Your Finger, it is done, 

The Moon has now eclipsed the sun,

The angel has spread it's wings,

The time has come for bitter things.....

Except I think he meant to say 'better' things!  Oh well, anyway, thank you Maralyn, we do appreciate it!