Saturday, 31 January 2009


Thank you to Sally for her charming story, which we shall add to Kirsty Hall's collection.

'Grandmother's Diamonds'
My grandmother was born in 1881 in a mining family of north-eastern England.  She wanted to be an artist, but times were hard, and against her wishes, when she was 13, she was apprenticed to a dressmaker.  She ended up using this skill to support her two small children when her husband was killed in the last month of Great War and so spent a lifetime on creating and repairing garments.
By the time I knew her she had stopped sewing, and had no wish to ever sew again.  Whenever any part of her garments failed, she mended them with safety pins.  If they were in a visible place she wore them proudly, and when my own slightly embarrassed mother remonstrated simply replied,
"Yes, I'm wearing my diamonds today."


Apologies to patchwork quilt historians here and in the US, for creating a mystery over my patchwork bedspread,  posted below, and suggesting it might have come in 'kit form'.  If it was in 'kit form' it would change the history of patchwork, and I don't want to make a mistake in changing the course of history.
This picture shows the quilting on the back side of the piece.
It is very unusual to find two patchworks this similar to each other from this era. They have both ended up in the same county (Cumbria), but we think it was only by chance. The patchwork my mother saw in the exhibition was bought at an antiques shop in London, and my bedspread was found in Windermere at my great grandparents house. It was never used here, and it is very unlikely it was made by anyone in my family.  It was either bought, or given. 
I am so intrigued, further investigations are needed. Could there any more patchworks of this design?  

Thursday, 29 January 2009


Johanna, your drawing of Kirsty Hall's Pin Ritual at Prick Your Finger last Saturday, is very special. Everyone looks so busy and thoughtful, which indeed they were! Do come again x
Johanna's drawings are at

Tuesday, 27 January 2009


My mother lent me a wonderful book on Irish crafts, and in it I found the meanings for the traditional cable patterns.  I think it is important to know what we are knitting! They usually relate to fishermen's lives, sea, earth, sky, marriage, and sons to take his place.
Starting second from top left, the Marriage Lines, or Crooked Road is a zig zag stitch, depicting the ups and downs of married life (usually shown running from shoulder to the hem of the garment).
The Tree of Life, middle row, second from the right symbolizes a long life and sturdy sons.
The Irish Moss, (seaweed with medicinal properties, also used for making blancmange) represents wealth to fisherfolk. The Honeycomb bottom right is a tribute to the bee, which was considered a lucky omen if fishermen saw them before going out to sea.
cable and rope stitches are of all types and represent the sailor's ropes, and the Diamond, usually formed in Moss St represents wealth. 
For more information you'll have to buy the book, 'Traditional crafts of Ireland' by David Shaw Smith, Thames and Hudson.


This week, I am working from my parents' house in the Lake District.  It's lovely and quiet here and so cosy in my bed.  I thought I would write from my bed and tell you about the bedspread that I am not allowed to sleep under. It sits on a chair by the window while I am resting.
When my great aunt died, my mother was clearing out the back of a cupboard and found a patchwork bedspread. It was filthy and dusty with a few holes. She gave it a wash, patched the holes and I was delighted it ended up on my bed. It is a proper traditional piece.
Then mother was invited to a ladies lunch where they went to an exhibition about patchwork.  To her suprise she saw our new bedspread hanging in the show.  Here is the picture from the catalogue. 

The caption read, 
"A large chintz central panel of a palm tree with foliage and birds with stylised oriental leaves of 1815-1817 surrounded by a furnishing floral pattern dating from the early 1800's. This quilt is an excellent example of the original vegetable dyes. Particularly note the blue on yellow squares with green leaves. The selvedges indicate the narrow width of the material."
The curator said it was originally sold in kit form, so our bedspread would be slightly different, but it has the same panel with the birds and simular surrounding patches.

I am not allowed to sleep under the bedspread anymore, or drink tea any where near it, but it serves as a lovely welcome when I come home. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2009



Thank you to Colleen who mailed us this charming pin story to add to Kirsty's Pin Story Collection. 
It is from chapter 2 of the Borrowers by Mary Norton. The Borrowers were little people who lived under the floorboards and had to borrow everything they needed from the humans above.

" How cosy those winter evenings could be. Arrietty, her great book on her knees, sometimes reading aloud: Pod at his last (he was a shoemaker, and made button boots out of kid-glove - now alas only for his family); and Homily, quiet at last, with her knitting.
Homily knitted their jerseys and stockings on black headed pins, and, sometimes, on darning needles.  A great reel of silk or cotton would stand, table high, beside her chair, and sometimes, if she pulled too sharply, the reel would tip up and roll away out of the open door into the dusty passage beyond, and Arrietty would be sent after it, to rewind it carefully as she rolled it back."

For more pin stories, come to Prick Your Finger for tea on Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


Last Thursday, we were honored to be part of Felix's amazing day.
Thank you Felix, it was a joy to see you.
It re affirmed my hunch that you know how to make days amazing.

Saturday, 17 January 2009


Sabrina Gschwandtner, author of the brilliant book and magazine series 'Knit Knit' has asked us to help her with an investigation. 
Does anyone remember anything about the manufacture of 'Sticky Bombs' in World War 2?
These pictures and the caption below are the only material Sabrina has on this subject. Sabrina is trying to find any of the women who did this knitting. She wants to know where they did the knitting, for how long, and how they got hired (or was it a volunteer effort?). She would like to interview them about the experience. 

"Women war workers fit knitted woolen jackets onto the glass flasks of sticky bombs at a factory workshop somewhere in Britian. The women including Mrs B Colman (nearest to the camera) and Miss H Brearley (centre), fasten the jackets by means of a draw string around the neck of the flask.  The woolen jackets will soon be coated with adhesive to enable them to stick to their target before detonation."

If anyone has information could they please contact PYF or 
Sabrina Gschwandtner, 526 West 26th Street number 1022, New York NY 10001   (718)812-0446

Friday, 16 January 2009


We are pleased to announce that Kirsty Hall, textile artist from Bristol is heading our way.
Kirsty's exhibition will be at Prick Your Finger for the next month, and her work is all about pins. Kirsty has been collecting pin stories for years and will be listening to our pricked fingered anecdotes over tea and cakes on Saturday 24th January from 3-6pm. You are all welcome.  Here are some stories she has collected already.

Fairy Pin Story

"A middle -aged woman told me a story about a favourite book she'd had as a child.  She couldn't remember anything except this one image:
There was a coat so worn that nothing but the lining remained. It was pinned all over with thousands and thousands of safety pins, so many that the coat was heavy with them. And no one knew how many there were, but when you put on the coat you could hear the fairies singing."

Bent Pin Story

"Pins were dropped into sacred springs by the Celts. The pins were often bent, probably deliberately.  Sacred springs where such pins have been found are usually associated with fertility. Needles and pins have other links to fertility, Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger on a spindle springs to mind.  Occasionally whilst pinning, I find bent or blunt pins - misfits, useless for their purpose - and I think of those other sacred pins."

If you live too far away to take tea with us and you have a  pin story please send them on a postcard to Kirsty Hall, Prick Your Finger, 260 Globe Rd, London E2 0JD
or e-mail


I had a chat with Crafts Business Magazine this week, about one of my favourite subjects....
RECESSION! What I love about Craft Business is that they don't ask about my Grandmother or celebrities.  


Love Is Awesome opens on Valentine's day in Reading, Berkshire, not far from London.
Artists Felicity Ford, Rachael Matthews, Stavroula Kounadea and Emmylou Laird are opening their show on Valentine's day 2009 to offer new perspectives on the idea that LOVE IS AWESOME.
LOVE IS AWESOME promises to be a surprising antidote to the asinine syrup of Valentine's day and a marvelous tonic for the heart.
LOVE IS AWESOME is at Gallery 10, 10 Gun Street, Reading Berkshire RG1 2JR
LOVE IS AWESOME opens for cake and wine on Saturday 14th February at 6pm. 
Bring a bottle.
Show remains on until 28th February, check gallery for opening times.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


Incase anyone missed this story, here it is again, thanks to my mum who cut it out of the paper.
'hens rescued from a battery farm, sport "chicken jumpers" knitted by members of the local WI. The battery hens, which are kept on an allotment in Bilsworth, Northamptonshire, have fewer feathers than their free-range counterparts and need the sweater to adapt to outdoor life. 
I'm sure you'll agree they wear them very well.


Holes and sloppy knits are back again! Well we all know they never go away....
Here is a selection from Vogue, that we reckon could be knocked up on big needles over quite a long weekend. Non- Knitters would have to pay £2,600 for the Giles silk sweater dress, £3,500 for the Sinha - Stanic beaded sweater, and £238 for the McQueen black and white number. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2009


Yesterday we sat admiring our gorgeous yarn shop, wondering how the recession will effect us, and thought it more interesting to speculate what our lives would have been like if we had a yarn shop 500 years ago.
The 13th century was a boom time for the wool trade. There were three sheep to every person, and wool was our biggest export.  Our wool cloth was of the highest quality, thanks to the Fullers.   Fullers, possibly had one of the worst jobs there is.  They had to stand knee deep in vats of stale urine and fullers earth,  trampling on the wool cloth. The ammonium salts in urine cleanses cloth to eliminate oils like lanolin, dirt and other impurities, and locking the fibres, making it thicker and softer.  Each length of cloth needed to be trampled for about two hours before it became soft. Hopefully after a while you would get used to the smell and stop wanting to throw up.
The collection of urine has worked it's way into our modern language. Urine was collected in the cities, and taken to the mills by canal. Number 1's, the self employed narrow boatmen, would sometimes boast at carrying barrels of wine, while their peers would mock them with "You're taking the piss!"

Sunday, 11 January 2009


Louise and I went to the Science Museum today.  
We were fascinated to find this - a jumper made from the fleece of Dolly the sheep.
Dolly, a ewe (July 5, 1996 - February 14th 2003) was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell, using the process of nuclear transfer. The cell used as the donor, was taken from a mammary gland and the production of a healthy clone therefore proved that a cell taken from a specific body part could recreate a whole individual. As Dolly was cloned from part of a mammary gland, she was named after Dolly Parton. 
But the big question that Louise and I had was; "What were they thinking when they designed this jumper?" It is not easy to see the design, because of the way is is rather nervously displayed. The arms are hiding the front, and we can't see the collar, but it does make a good cover for that machine. . 
There could be a clue in the caption above, which reads, "artefacts displayed here are symbols of ambivalence. This is neither utopia nor dystopia. It is the modern world."

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


Happy New Year to you all!  We had lovely holidays and it's good to be back.

I made this massive glove. 
It's in Herdwick and it's meant to be big. 
It's going to be the glove of God in a show I have coming up with my friend Felix and others, called 'Love is Awesome'.

And love is awesome. I really felt it this Christmas. I went to the Lake District and climbed Fairfield on a clear frosty day and thought how lucky I am do be surrounded by beautiful people, materials, tools, and ideas, every day of my life.

I hope 2009 is full of joy and creativity for you all x