Thursday, 30 July 2009


Louise would like to raise the point that her vest pictured here, has a beautifully hand crocheted neckline. It was sadly purchased from the bargin bin at Primark for 50p.
PYF would like to send love to the maker of this piece, and promise that we will tell our world that crocheting for your living can make your fingers, wrists and back hurt as well as taking all your time, so we really hope you were paid properly. Keep up the good work crochet lady and we hope that the fashion world sorts it's self out soon.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009


I've come up with a solution for loosing yourself. The Post Code Sock.
By in corporating the post codes of all your loved ones into your knitting pattern, not only do you no longer need to travel with your address book, but in the un likely event of something awful happening to you, someone else can post you to a place you'd rather be.
One sock says 'Please' across the top and the other says 'Return' - not 'Ret Ase' as it looks in the picture.
They are being knitted on 2mm pins with navy and cream 4 ply Wensleydale. I can't wait to finish them.

Monday, 27 July 2009


Rosemary has made a hair band that says 'HAIR'. How cool.

Sunday, 26 July 2009


Please come and see us at Assemblage - A Festival of Contemporary Makers, at John Jones Gallery on Friday 31st July, 5.30pm- 11.30pm. We will showing a bit of knitted art, handing out our new manifesto and spinning yarns while four bands play Wayne Hemingway spins tunes, and lots of other exciting things happen.... Oh and the Kiosk Kiosk makers will be there, so be there or be square.
John Jones is at 4 Morris Place N4 3JG and the
For more information please visit

Saturday, 25 July 2009


Dear Embroiderers,
Miss Fleur Oakes of the Glass Pingle would like to invite you to embroider in the summer light, and share skills and inspired thoughts. Miss Oakes tenders a magical and slightly over grown garden, up near Cockfosters, with an open fire to experiment with making dyes from the surrounding foliage. This invitation is for anyone interested in forming a group to regularly meet 'in the light.' The first proposed meeting is on Sunday 9th August. For more information please e-mail and I will pass on your contact details.
Thank you.

Friday, 24 July 2009


Hooray for spray paint. Brick Lane looks lovely at the moment.

Thursday, 23 July 2009


I will be introducing the UK premiere of Handmade Nation at the V&A this Saturday... 2pm - 3.30 pm, Lecture Theatre Saturday, 25 July Handmade Nation documents a movement of artists, crafters, and designers that marry historical techniques with a punk and DIY (Do It Yourself) ethos. Contact the V&A Bookings Office for free tickets: or + 44 (0) 20 7942 2211


40 years ago this week, man took a first walk on the moon and last night we all went there too thanks to Rocky and Professor Nervous Stephen who played us an inter galactic selection of space songs. We floated to Rah Band, 'Clouds Across the Moon', Queen 'Flash Gordon' and Hawkwind 'Silver Machine' with The Clangers on the big screen, while Rocky lit up our lives with his cardboard box space helmet powered with christmas tree lights and waving his arms clad in those tumble dryer tubes that you stick out of the window, while Professor Nervous Stephen lined up tune after tune under a thick sweat from his tin foil strobe lit capsule. Thanks guys it's great to know that our bodies and the vinyl are all formed by the same molecules together in one universe.


Congratulations Ingrid Murnane on successfully finishing a difficult UFO and giving us much to think about in the process.  This is what Ingrid wrote about her piece....

"I was thinking about relationships and how two people can become very interdependent on one another. Also about what we bring to a relationship.  There is a geometry problem called Mrs. Miniver's Problem that is about over lapping circles. It has a basis in a story....
 is reached when the area of the two outer crescents, added together, is exactly equal to that of the leaf-shaped piece in the middle.  On paper there must be some neat mathematical formula for arriving at this; in life, none. 

The sock pattern lent itself to this idea rather well, as instead of finishing the toe, I knit another heal and up the leg, so it would be a metaphor for a relationship between two people. I interpreted the idea of the circles into knitting by making the circles 3-D, turning them on their sides and making staggered transitions rather than a venn diagram idea.  I wanted to make the transition between one sock and the other pretty obvious so I used the contrasting yarn, and also (in somewhat of a stereotype I admit) made a female sock.  Actually while I was making it, it was more about the relationship between the origional sock maker and me, si I made the second sock to be the one that I would wear (that is to say an emerald green sock with a frilly cuff).
It is perhaps a warning not to get too hung up on one another or you might not have enough of yourself left to keep adding anything to that relationship. I rather like that nobody can wear it. That it's something that is generally thought of as a practical garment, but I've been able to make into a piece of impractical art. I think it might be part of a series."

Wow...Ingrid....thank you so very much for these lovely thoughts.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


Were mentioned in the Guardian comment last week, as contributing to the new Arts and Crafts movement. We were hand spinning cashmere, and we were surprised to discover the Guardian readers commented that that was quite classist. So we went back to reading about our old friend Ghandi, who was also mentioned in Prince Charles's lecture on sustainability last week.  Ghandi loved east London just like we do.

Like a favourite pair of old cotton jeans, East London is ripped and torn and patched and loved and that is why Mahatma Ghandi chose to stay with us in 1939 rather than hanging out with other political leaders in west London.

 Ghandi had not visited London since he was a dashing law student in a suit and tie. This time he arrived, an older man, dressed in a sarong and sandles, with a beautiful goat on a string, for the Round Table Conference-to discuss India's  strained relationship with Britain.

Gandhi was also, as he put it, "doing the real round table work, getting to know the people of England". He had accepted Muriel Lester’s invitation to stay in Kingsley Hall, a community Settlement in Bow, to be "among the same sort of people to whom I have given my life" As morning light appeared, he milked the goat, had his morning prayer, followed by walks around E2, E3; he visited his neighbours in Bow; workmen on the canals; he made friends with the children. "Uncle Gandhi" became a popular figure. He explained to the children why he had chosen to stay in the East End and why he wore a funny bit of cloth.

During the day, Gandhi pleaded for an honourable and equal partnership between Britain and India, held not by force but "by the silken cord of love." He found the odds against him. There was a financial crisis and a change of government in Britain. Britian was pre-occupied with other problems and not too interested in making changes. Ghandi was laying foundations for India's independence, partly formed around his philosophy of the Spinning Wheel.

 Ghandi was concerned with India's and Britian's textile industries. He believed that if every Indian family spun their own fibres and made their own cloth, they would feel a sense of independence, lost by years of selling their textiles to Britian, and  still being out of pocket. Ghandi also visited deprived areas around the Mills of Lancashire.

On October 2, Gandhi’s birthday, the children presented him with ‘two woolly dogs, three pink birthday candles, a tin plate, a blue pencil and some jelly sweets’—gifts which he especially treasured and packed in his little briefcase, ready to take back to India.

Having met all the locals, Charlie Chaplin and the pearly Kings and Queens, Ghandi and his goat waved goodbye and left a legacy of non violence, independence and friendlyness, which can all be read about through the Ghandi foundation at Kingsley Hall in Bow, which is still a proactive community centre.


Tuesday, 21 July 2009


Our dear Matthew Robins.... If any of you are in the dark as to who he is, let me cast light on the situation. He is, of course a fantastic knitter, but I think I'm justified in calling him Britain's most innovative silhouette puppeteer. 
On 15th August at 10pm, Matthew will be doing a new show at the National Theatre and it is about dinosaurs and knitting.
He would like you to knit or crochet some dinosaurs.
You can turn up on the night by 9.45pm and the dinosaurs will be in the show and there will be prizes for the best ones.
For more information e-mail and visit and
and posted below are some illustrations of dinosaurs for inspiration.

Friday, 17 July 2009


The staff at Tatty Devine are so creative, that we are constantly raising one eyebrow to them. Except we are not, because we can't actually raise one eyebrow. So thank you Amy Tatty for showing us how to do it with a little bit of wool.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


Odd knitting needles can be useful for all sorts of things. They have given new life to this poorly, weathered bicycle basket.
If you have used a knitting needle for something other than knitting, do send us a photo! We'd love to see.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


This story relates to a post written below, about a shepherd's crook which came into my possession, and which I feel I must return to from where it came.

Carved in sheep horn, the crook says 'W.J.Brown' on one side of the handle, and 'Langleeford' on the other. I wrote a letter to W.J. Brown in Langleeford, a very remote place in Northumbria,  to ensure we could make contact and show him a photograph of the crook.

This evening I received a telephone call from a Mr. Walter Brown of Langleeford, son of W. J. Brown who died in 1978.  Walter has lived at Langleeford all his life and has no idea how his father's crook came to be in Cumbria, where I discovered it.

Walter remembers his father carving the crook, and his mother is now 91 years old and will remember it too. Walter said he'd had a busy day working with lambs and clipping, and my letter took a while to digest.

I will be visiting Walter and his mother sometime soon, to give the crook back. 
Walter said he thought I would like Langleeford because it was a very beautiful place. 


Monday, 13 July 2009


The thing is, that while everything is recessed, however sad existence is, there is melancholic pop, where we can make clothes and imagine we are wearing them, dancing on podiums with Robert Palmer, feeling beautiful. Well I will be anyway.

Friday, 10 July 2009


Yesterday's Guardian readers are going wild over Libby Brooks's column about new resurgence in craft, which features Prick Your Finger.  Libby reports on a new collection of essays from the think tank Demos exploring the idea of 'Expressive Life". 
  Guardian readers have left some interesting comments. They complain that we've heard it all before, but PYF thinks we'd better hear it again! Guardian readers seem to think knitting is for posh Londoners, for an elite set or for people waging a class war. 
In our knitting shop we seem to meet knitters from every part of society, and all of them have one thing in common; they want to knit for love, practicality, and to impose charm and comfort on the world. 


I've recently become re-aquainted with William Holman Hunt's 'Our English Coasts' (strayed sheep). I think I studied it for A-level, but it seems more relevent now.
 It was painted at 'Lovers' seat' at Fairlight Glen near Hastings in Sussex, between mid August and December of 1852.   Hunt endured rain, wind and bitter cold to master this view, and somehow despite the changeable weather, captured an elaboratly real snippit of  an illuminated summer evening.  Sheep are grazing near a rocky slope on the coastline, some of them huddling together in the background with two having a snooze in the patchy grass. In the foreground a sheep has strayed further over the edge than the others and has got caught up in the brambles. Some sheep have come to follow the tangled sheep's example; perhaps the bramble leaves were tasty. The elaborate attention to detail was typical of the Pre-Raphaelite's idea of painting out doors to be truly faithful to nature before adding a dose of political and religious satire.
Standing on the edge of an exposed cliff, the sheep are vulnerable, and wandering into trouble. It is thought Hunt was intending to mock the political and religious leaders of the time, and felt the country was vunrable to foreign invasion and the church was going astray.  However there is no text to accompany the painting so it is open to interpretation. 
'Strayed Sheep' moved me after visiting Woolfest, followed by a BAFTA award winning film 'The Lie of the Land' by Molly Dineen. 
(You might know Molly better for her fabulous documentry about Gerri Halliwell when she captures an intimate moment of her talking whilst sitting on the loo.)  
'The Lie of the Land' started out as a documentry about the ban on fox hunting, but as Molly started to investigate problems in the countryside she uncovered a harsh reality that competitive prices of the supermarkets and cheap foreign imports are killing farming.  Not caring about the origin of the food we eat, and unwillingness to confront issues about life and death in the countryside, is causing a catastrophic disaster. I will try and get a copy of the film, and you can hear this interview with Molly Dineen on Woman's Hour two years ago.
Across the Lake District you can see empty fields with farms winding down.  Our yarn industry, primarily wool production has been dangling on thin thread for the last decade. Activist gatherings at Woolfest, Wonderwool Wales, Fibrefest, and little shops like PYF are nursing the industry back to health.  It's not an easy ride, but it is working.

Some farms burn fleeces because it costs more in petrol to drive the fleeces back to the Wool Marketing Board, for the money they receive.  Shearing, a skill we have nearly lost, is necessary, very expensive, and usually carried out by freelance Australians. The Yorkshire Post explains,
"The average for all wool sold to the British Wool Marketing Board has crept back up to 72.5p per kilo, after a very bad few years, and the cost of shearing is roughly 50p per kilo. In striking comparison, Wensleydale wool is fetching close to £2.39, straight off the sheep - more when procesed and more when the wool board is not acting as middleman."
A farmer must obtain a special licence to spin the wool of his/her own flock. One example is Sussex based Wendsleydale farmer Julia Desch.   She explains,
"If you take a hogget around 18 months old, it will have yielded 6kg of wool by that stage of it's life.  Its sheepskin will have a value of around £150, and surplus male hoggets can produce up to 30kg of boned - out meat with a retail value of around £7 a kilo." Julia Desch and Sheila Leech are making farming work, so it proves it can be done!

The last remaining British mills are subsided by European grants, which won't necessarily be renewed.  There are only a handful of mills left to choose from all of which are run by die hard individuals or couples.

Campaigning for farmer's rights to farm the land the way they were brought up to do, is difficult. The government does not deal with 'Agriculture' any more. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods has become the Department for Environment, Food and 'Rural Affairs'.   

Yarn shops are coming back thanks to our hand knitting revival, but awareness of where yarn comes from is still limited.   Industrial knitwear is largely carried out abroad, and most of the yarns we use are farmed in Australia then spun in China.   British Textile and Fashion degree courses rarely encourage the study and development of yarn, and student's are rarely aware of a world shortage of wool with supplies at their lowest level for 50 years.  Wool consumers at Woofest and Prick Your Finger recognise wool's carbon footprint, and are changing the way they spend. This must surly trigger improved wool prices for farmers?

As Prince Charles pointed out in his 2009 Dimbleby lecture, nature is our biggest bank. If we over draw on her we've had it. 
"We must see that we are part of the Natural order rather than iscolated from it; to see that nature is, in fact, a profoundly beautiful world of complexity that operates according to an organic "grammar" of harmony and which is infused with an awareness of it's own being, making it anchored by consciousness. It is interconnected, interdependent function of creation with harmony existing between all things"

For hundreds of years, wool was one of our biggest industries.  That is why Britain has more breeds of sheep than anywhere else.  Our sheep breeding was designed so well, that we developed  the richest palate of colour and texture to make fabric for every type of garment or furnishing. Except we can't use it because it's dangling of the edge of a cliff, while we import wool which doesn't even smell like wool.

As Mahatma Gandhi pointed out whilst sitting at his spinning wheel one day, 
"The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems."

Please all do something, even if it's just talking about it.
And visit and follow the links at the Small Shepherd's Club, and wear more British Wool this winter. 

Thursday, 9 July 2009


As far as we know, the last major British rag rug revival was founded by Ben and Winifred Nicholson in the 1930's, at Banks Head in Cumberland.
These super cool modern painters, lived in a traditional Cumberland farmhouse with a Mondrian painting above the bookcase, and a rag rug in the hearth.

This century's Rag Rug Revival starts on Saturday 25th July between 12-5pm, when Jenni Stuart Anderson from Middleton- on-the-Hill, hosts a rag rug making workshop at Prick Your Finger. 
Jenni has written a brilliant book showing the many possibilities of this painterly textile medium. 
The workshop costs £50, and tools, materials a
nd rags will be provided, although we recommend you bring your own rags, and your relationships with them because the stories are so good to share!
Jenni is a true expert and this workshop is a good chance to start a winter project which requires clearing out your cupboards, and ends with a rug on which to curl up and be proud. Check out Jenni's Venus below; Anything is possible. Places are limited so to book, please e-mail a.s.a.p!


Here is the letter 'P', knitted by Louise.
And here is the letter 'S', knitted by Zarah. 
P and S stand for "POETRY SOCIETY".
We are delighted to be helping the Poetry Society design a pattern of the alphabet for knitters, who are joining together to knit a giant poem! 
To join in with this project, go to 
and they will send you a pattern.
All letters must be worked in DK pure wool, on 4mm needles, with a dark letter and lighter background. 
The poem is a secret. It's a terrible secret to have to keep, because it is such a beautiful poem, I'm dying to tell you, but I won't, because after knitting lots of letters, when you see them all stitched together, you will, like me,
 have little goose bumps all down your back.


Woolfest was brilliant, as ever this year. I was Bo-Peep for the Knitted Sheep Auction, which raised £1003 for Farm Africa. More about that later, but I want to write about Mr. Brown's crook, which I feel is a pressing issue. When I arrived at Woolfest, one of the organisers said "We've still got your crook from last year!"

Well I knew there was a mistake because my crook last year had a thistle carved on it and this one clearly read 'W.J. Brown on one side and Langleeford on the other.

So I looked up Langleeford on the internet and discovered it to be a tiny hamlet or farm in a remote place in the region of Berwick-Upon-Tweed in Northumbria.  I imagine W.J.Brown is a busy farmer with a loyal sheep dog and no crook. He must be kicking himself that he left it behind at Woolfest last year, and it probably wasn't his fault because the Knitted Sheep Auction is a noisy and exciting event, where it is quite possible that one could forget anything. 

So I've written W.J. Brown a letter.

The crook is so beautifully crafted, I dare not put it in the post until I have confirmation from Mr. Brown and a postcode. I will have to wait and see what happens. In the mean time, I found this video of sheep herding on Langleeford, which could be conducted by a Mr. Brown. 


'Handmade Nation, the Rise of DIY Art, Craft, and Design' (In America) by Faythe Levine and Courtney Heimerl, gives an insight into how the rise of craft happened for our American cousins.
The book features makers from every state, and holds essays about the never ending debate 'What is Craft?'
'Handmade Nation' is also a film, the premiere of which will be held at the V&A on Saturday 25th July. I will be introducing the film, which is free, but I think it might be wise to book a ticket or get there early. In spotting the similarities and the differences between the British and American craft revolutions, it should help give us a clearer idea of where we are and where we should be heading in our missions to create the new world wall of order with our tools! See you there!

Saturday, 4 July 2009


Last weekend I was delighted to go to Louise and Gavin's house where Gavin and his brother were building a table out of an old piece of stable wall. Some of the pieces they disguarded were completely rotten and very characterful, so I had to use them. 
I'd thought for a while, that if I devote my life to textiles,  it's important to grow a beautiful garden and feed the birds. My garden is a roof, with lots of pots and a strip of astro turf. A Blackbird, a Wood Pigeon and some butterflies have visited already, but I figured that if I wanted to attract the Blue Tits etc, I'd better build them a bird table. 
The wood was soft and easy to work with and somehow the bird table seems remarkably strong. I plan to give it a turf roof at some point.
The wood pigeon has tucked in, but I'll have to be patient and wait for the little birds.