Colour and Texture: Part I (Moss Love)

I realised the other day that I’d failed to share these photos of moss… Along with some other cool photos I’d taken for my blog… So I’ve decided to do a mini-series this week of a few of my favourite textures and colours, along with yarn recommendations if you like what you see. They’re a bit of a clue to forthcoming pattern releases, but in a bit of a tangental way, so don’t read too much into them, just enjoy them!

IMAG0550I’m not sure why moss is more compelling than grass or flowers, but I’ve loved it since childhood. Something about the way it pops up all over the place is enduring and a bit cheeky.

IMAG0551 I generally profess not to like the colour green, but it’s a lie. I gasp at the lush green of a springtime mountain, and the yellow-green of a drying field in the summertime; I even like the blue-green of reindeer moss with its ethereal silver-grey tones and fractal forms. There’s a whole range of green to enjoy without ever once considering emerald or teal:

CM2:7.5nmNettleCloseUpTo begin with, a trio of my favourite type of mossy green, a melange of green, brown, yellow, blue, and grey: ColourMart 3/7.5nm lambswool in Nettle (check out the full range of this yarn here), Holst Garn Supersoft in Heath (shade 021), and Jamieson and Smith 2ply Jumper Weight in FC12. These are all 100% wool yarns that work up into warm, hardwearing fabric, great for garments but not always so great for folk sensitive to the itch-factor. The J&S Jumper Weight is by far the softest, being Shetland wool, and will suit most people able to wear wool, while the ColourMart is closer to an outerwear yarn. Holst is closer to soft than coarse, especially after its first wash, and I love wearing this yarn next-to-skin during the cool winter months.

HolstHeathJSJumperFC12Moving onto the brown-tones, ColourMart have a range of enticing merino-mohair blends that includes this pale green/reddish brown shade called Pradera (which translates into English as grasslands) and is almost lichen-like in its subtly warm shade. This is a very soft yarn with a gentle mohair halo that can be knitted up at a standard gauge for its thickness or a slightly looser gauge that allows the halo to fill in the gaps. It’s very warm for its weight:
CM2:16nmMeMoPradera

At the yellow end of the spectrum is this stunning shade of yellow-green with plenty of red tones to keep it warm and natural by Brooklyn Tweed. Available in both fingering-weight LOFT and worsted-weight SHELTER, Sap is an unusual shade that I’ve not found successfully duplicated anywhere else, and is worth the price tag to get hold of. I knitted a hat from it, and find it can be worn with a whole range of outfits due to the complexity of its heathered shading:

BTLoftSap

Returning closer to home is this gem from Trefriw Woollen Mills in Conwy Bay (on the way to Snowdonia from my home in Manchester). Named Ddôl (the Welsh word for meadow), it’s a striking blend of yellow and green (with some white thrown in). I’m planning some socks in the leftovers from my Whiteleaf:

TWM4plyDdolI’m aware that I’ve glossed over the blue-greens a bit, and that’s partly because I’m not usually drawn to them when choosing yarns, but this Gorse from ColourMart probably has just enough blue tones in it to qualify. It’s currently out of stock, but there are plenty of other exciting shades in their 3/12.5nm lambswool range to make me slightly breathless. It’s a 3 ply fingering weight, which makes it a bit unusual amongst the heathered 100% wool yarns (usually 2 plies for this weight), making for a more 3-dimensional fabric. Brilliant for textured stitches!:

CM3:12.5nmGorseKoneOf course, it’s hard to think of mosses without also thinking of their cousins, the lichens, and I wanted to include just one more yarn that is almost the perfect evocation of the moss and lichen partnerships you can find on old stone buildings. It’s Olivia Tweed in ColourMart’s 2/6nm cashmere/silk/viscose/merino blend that is currently out of stock, but will probably be available again fairly soon. It’s a super-soft olive green cash/merino blend with lively nepps in a perfect lichen orange, that wears spectacularly as a result of its silk content. It’s one of my favourite gift-garment yarns for its luxurious fibre content, soft feel, and hardwearing properties, and definitely deserves inclusion in this list:

CM2:6nmCSVMOliviaTweed

All of the yarns I’ve just listed are yarns that I use and love. I have bought each one with my hard-earned money, and would buy them all again. For someone who says they don’t like green, that’s a lot of shades of green! And the thread that binds them? Their tonal affinity to this sneaky stuff that finds its way into all the cracks and crevices in town and country:

IMAG0552I think part of the reason I love moss so much is that it has always appeared in some of the places I most enjoy visiting – damp woods, caverns, and valleys – as well as the most banal pavements, tunnels, and walls of my everyday city life. It’s a common theme in my dual existence, blending the lines between horizontal and vertical, yet it always provides a contrast in some way. If not visually, then texturally, or existentially. Soft life on dead, hard materials. Not to mention that I usually love the very things moss grows on: brick, stone, rocks, trees, rich brown earth. Tactile objects steeped in history and mystery.

Many hands make light work… so what if I have only two?

The problem with blogging is that it requires me to have at least one free hand. A tall ask when my time is mostly spend knitting, spinning, cooking, cycling, and now, climbing.

I started climbing back in April when a friend asked me to come to the wall with her. Since then I’ve discovered a lot of my existing friends are climbers, too, and rekindled some friendships as well as making lots more new friends. I’ve found yet one more reason to be out on the moors (the Peak District is one of the best places for climbing in the UK), as if I needed any further encouragement!

So now I have another demand on my busy hands. The thing with climbing is that it’s very stressful for the tendons and pulleys in your fingers; as these connective tissues are don’t have the blood supply that muscles have, they take a lot longer to recover from stresses and strains so it’s easy to over-do things when first starting out and cause invisible tears that weaken them in the long term.

Tendons are the long strings running from the muscles in my forearm that control my finger movements all the way along my hand to my fingertips, and pulleys are the bands of tissue that keep these tendons running along the bones when I bend my fingers – without pulleys, the tendons would ping out from the bone into the crook of my finger when it’s bent (more info here, if you wish!). As knitters, we also rely heavily on our tendons and pulleys to work correctly as we bend our fingers to hold our yarn and needles. Likewise, as spinners, the fine tension in our tendons is crucial to drafting and controlling twist.

Given the importance of my hands to all my favourite pastimes, I’ve been researching the best way to develop my climbing abilities while keeping my hands as healthy as possible. Since healthy hands are valuable for knitters, spinners, and climbers alike, I thought I’d share some of my findings here.

1) Regular stretches

This is probably the most obvious component of my regime: using a wide range of stretches to encourage blood flow to muscles before and after exercise, gently stretching the tendons without straining them, and maintaining flexibility in my muscles leading to reduced tension in my tendons. Just like Alex Schweikart’s Alexercises! Liat has a great set of stretches for knitters here, which concentrate on the muscle fascias, while Vera has produced a relaxing video here that you can just follow along.

2) Cold compresses

Banana Fingers sell this really cool finger ice-pack that allows you to isolate individual fingers that might be carrying injuries. It’s also possible to use a small zip lock bag with some peas…

Don’t always wait until you’re injured to use cold compresses. They can be really handy immediately following a marathon knitting challenge or hard climbing session to prevent any swelling. Bear in mind that the point of cold treatment is to reduce blood flow in order to prevent inflammation, which is the opposite method required for recovery, so probably best used in partnership with either hot compresses or massage to stimulate blood flow for repair.

3) Massage

When I was in physiotherapy 4 years ago for a ruptured tendon in my dominant middle finger, I was told to do 10 minutes of intensive finger massage three times a day to break down the scar tissue that inevitably forms when bodies are recovering from tears and trauma. I was warned that failing to do this would result in the scar tissue clogging up my finger joint and limiting my range of movement – oh, and scar tissue could continue to form for a few years following the rupture.

Since I’m generally a good patient and listen to my therapists, I’ve been carrying out finger massage for several years now, sometimes more frequently than others, and I’m happy to report that the range of movement in my finger is generally no different to that of the others in spite of the gaping scar across its knuckle. I wasn’t really able to find anything good on the internet, but take it from me and my physio! This needs to be done quite hard for quite a long time in order to be effective, and can be quite painful if you do have any small ruptures.

4) Core stability

The main thing I’ve realised is that finger health doesn’t exist alone. It’s not enough to just do finger stretching or massage without also taking care of my wrists, arms, shoulders, neck, and back, as an imbalance in my shoulders can quickly lead to injury further down the chain. That’s why core stability exercises also form a key part of my finger-health programme. As well as a range of planks (great plank workout here), pilates is an excellent activity to strengthen core muscles. Ann Raber is a Pilates instructor and climber who has put together a killer programme here for core strengthening, and a few more programmes can be found here and here.

5) Yoga

Until I broke my leg 18 months ago, I was doing regular Astanga yoga with Peter Ogazi, which was challenging and rewarding, but I had to rejig my schedule a bit during rehabilitation and I’ve never made it back! It’s really useful for the same reasons as Vera’s video above and those mentioned under core stability. I use a combination of Pete’s DVD (contact him via his website) and climbing-specific programmes such as this free one on Climbing.com, but I recommend at least going to a couple of classes to begin with in order to grasp the basics of movement, breathing, and flow, as these are quite hard to learn independently.

So, there we go. Lots of activities and exercises to keep our fingers strong, flexible, and working for longer!

Bleed me dry

Today I wanted to link up to this post by Countess Ablaze on bleeding yarns/fibres.

I’m of the opinion that dyeing should be a slow process, just like knitting.

For those who don’t know Lyndsey’s work (and who clearly don’t read this blog much!), Countess Ablaze is a Manchester-based yarn and fibre dyer who produces wild, deeply saturated, and off-the-wall shades of yarn. Such as:

CASmooshBlushingTiger DarkenedScene CASWBFLBigFishNightmareMiniSkeinShe specialises in British wool (not just fibre sold by a UK distributor, like many local dyers), stocking dyed yarns and fibres from rare British breeds (more here and here), while including a broader range of fibres to suit the wide variety of knitters including (but not limited to) merino, silk, alpaca, Finn, and mohair. Really, there’s something for everyone here.

Her post is useful for everyone who works with dyed fibre, whether you’ve already experienced bleeding or crocking yet or not, if only to understand the procedures that dyers use to prepare our fibre. It’s a useful insight into the chemistry of dyeing. Enjoy!

Keeping it simple

A short post today, but one I sort of feel obliged to write. Some of yous might have noticed a few online sellers mention things like “Updated my Terms and Conditions” or “Please note new EU Distance selling Regulations”, and wondered what they meant. Others might have noticed that when you buy one of my patterns you get a new paragraph in your Thank-you message asking you to check my Terms and Conditions before clicking Download. Now I’m going to tell you why you need not worry about any of that!

Please note before I do so that I am not a legal professional; the following information is my interpretation of the legislation based on information acquired from a range of sources (legal and non-legal) and may be subject to change. If you are a legal professional and believe any of the following to be incorrect, please comment below or contact me.

First off: nothing has changed. That’s right. In spite of the kerfuffle, these are regulations that have been in place in the EU since 2011. The difference now is a) the UK has implemented them; and b) since Friday 13 June 2014 they are now considered to be EU-wide.

Secondly: these regulations are in place to protect the customer and the retailer. There’s been a bit of consternation about these rules screwing over small businesses, but most small businesses I know were already implementing the majority of the regulations under the normal conditions of providing good customer service! Essentially, they exist to ensure that customers buying goods online have the same statutory rights as customers buying goods in person. That means that all charges are made clear up-front, and there is a very obvious point of check out where the customer agrees to make the payment for goods. It also means that retailers have to be clear about any costs to the customer if they change their mind about the product, and whether the right to return goods is time-limited. Honestly, it’s just good practice!

So, I have created a brief (but hopefully clear!) Terms and Conditions that will accompany my sales, and which can be downloaded by customers wishing to keep a copy for their own records. Yes, you will be agreeing to them if you click Download, but I can assure you that nothing has changed from last week – I will still be selling via Ravelry with payment taken through Paypal with no registration to either service required (and no personal information retained by me), and providing an identical level of support and customer service (which means contact me if you have any questions or concerns about your purchase!).

It’s a pain for sellers to have to “introduce” these terms, it’s intimidating for buyers to have to “agree” to them, but to summarise: nothing has changed.

I really am sorry that we have to get all legal about these things, but the more conscientious each independent publisher tries to be, the less likely that something could go wrong and force us all down far more stringent regulatory procedures. Which is something I think most of us would like to avoid! (This is bad enough, mumble mumble…)

If you’d like to know more about the anticipated scenarios this legislation is trying to pre-empt then you can read the (UK) Implementing Guidance document here. The legalese can be read here if you’re so inclined (please note: this is the UK version of the legislation only).

Ok, so that wasn’t particularly short, was it? Sorry! Now check out my new hat!

PeterlooSelfie

(Yes, it is a selfie; no, I don’t care if you judge me – this hat couldn’t wait for me to find a model or photographer!) Knitted in Countess Ablaze’s incredible British yarn (British wool from Blueface Leicester and Masham sheep, spun in Leeds, dyed in Manchester) The English Gentleman DK, it is soft, woolly, saturated, and orange! The colourway is called You Keep Me On The Edge Of My Seat, and will be restocked soon. The pattern is Peterloo, available free here.

 

On having been away…

Over the past 2 months, I have been away from home every weekend. This has taken a heavy toll on my blogging time, and now I’m not sure where to start!

MountainMitts

I have a backlog of photographs to sort through, but nothing ready to post. I’m only writing this because I need to force myself back into my Monday morning blogging without worrying that I’ve not had time to organise my pictures from the weekend into a coherent format! However, there has been knitting going on, and there will be some photographs appearing very soon.

YunLingV1Please bear with me while I try to readjust to normal life!