When Mollie Makes came for tea...explained.

Our friend Carol McNicoll invited Mollie Makes to tea. Carol's friend Polly Eltes is a photographer, and Carol brought over Polly and their friend Jeanette, to tidy up Prick Your Finger and make it look glossy, and ask about how it works. Amazingly they liked the mess, and I didn't have to actually clean. 

Here I am pouring tea from Mrs.G - For those of you who didn't take a class at PYF and have tea,  Mrs G. is a 75% acrylic tea pot cosy lady, who once lost her head and arms in a tragic kitchen incident. Being an ethical yarn shop I re-knitted her arms and head in a mixture of pure wools, but then I forgot that as a consequence, her machine wash temperature had changed. So Mrs. G post makeover has a rather startled look.

Here she is...  Mrs. G poured 10- 20 cups of tea on average per day - more when there was a party or workshop. 

MRS. G'S Eyes didn't shrink as much as the rest of her face and hair.

MRS. G'S Eyes didn't shrink as much as the rest of her face and hair.

It was lucky that Lisa Anne Auerbach was showing her Chicken Stricken jumpers in the shop when Mollie Makes came for tea. Her protest knitting exaggerated everything that the shop was about. As Lisa left to go back to LA, I remember she said I needed to make more of an issue about the shop being a protest. It was a very freeing statement, because it actually meant that I could close the shop and do something else instead...I'll talk more about that later. 

The funny thing with a shop, is that as you are working the till,  customers often ask you if you live upstairs. There are probably hidden clues, like I am wearing pyjamas or eating cereal or something. I did live upstairs. I lived on the roof in a house I built out of scrap wood, found on the streets of east London. There were several reasons for this. Firstly, it enabled me to rent out my bedroom for some extra dough when times were tough. Secondly there was a space on the roof where the sky was open, and I was lacking the outdoors. Thirdly, I just starting building it without realising what I was doing. It started by camping on the roof in summer thinking I was sleeping in a roof garden, and then gradually it turned into a house where I lived for 6 years, all year round, in my kind of luxury. I was lucky to have such understanding neighbours. The whole thing cost me under 200 quid. More about that later too...


What they never show you in these casual visits from Magazines, is the chaos behind the scenes. This is the back room which had to hold the weight of all the projects, workshop tools, stock, dye pans, knitting machine parts, accounts, and general stuff which was important but had no where to go. It was impossible to organise, and took 3 years to clear. Carol and Polly were so inspirational they almost had a go at styling it, but we ran out of time.

One day I'd like to make a photographic collection of creative back rooms, lofts and garages called 'Guess Who's Mess' 

I think I shall stop with that pull quote

'I have to stop myself from dabbling in too much at once.'  

 Running a yarn shop gives you an enormous window on the world. It is the most fantastic education in human beings, creativity, process and materials. Inspiration would strike many times a day and I was never bored, just over dabbled.   


Yan Tan Tethera -Mandala Construction #2.


In May 2014, Prick Your Finger presented the first opportunity for a  Knitted Mandala at the 'Yan Tan Tethera' Show at Cecil Sharp House in London. The Show was curated by David Littler, who gave us a wonderful chance to go through the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Sharps and pull out songs about making textiles, which we could then sing with Aimee Leonard's Folk choir.


Last weekend we went on tour to Winbourne's Walford Mill,  to show our works and take part in the Winbourne Folk Festival. Here we all are,  at the mill, gathered like we are in a band photo, in between Freddie Robins's artworks.  We were all camping in a field down the road, and as you can see from the photo, we had kept 'it' all together.  Top left is David Littler our curator, and the one who makes everything funny and possible. In the middle is Aimee Leonard, who sings like a lark, with a soft Orkney accent, and can get any tune out of her drum, which she made herself.  Shane Waltner is crouching down at the back, and he is our master of lace dancing in the street, and on the dance floor.  He can calmly mastermind many dancers to weave fabric whilst dancing to a fiddle.   Faye McNulty with her practical boots, is a wizard in the print room, and runs the events at the English Folk Song and Dance Society. This means she can  make anything run smoothly, and give you that feeling that you are  on holiday, which is the emotion that I am expressing on the  floor on the right hand side.   Those flipflops were hopeless for barn dancing later.


walford_ytt_mcgrath1We missed our absent friends, Freddie Robins, Stewart Easton, Celia Ward and the McGrath Makers, and all our friends from Spin Cycle.  Here is a morris dancing outfit made by the McGrath Makers, the adults with learning difficulties, who would have loved to see all the other Morris Dancers at the festival.


The idea of a Mandala came about when thinking about  the communial knitting projects we had experienced before, and the singing of traditional songs to help us get through the work. Curating site specific knitting events is always strange because time has to play such a huge part in your plans.   Here is a booklet I produced for Yan Tan Tethera's knitters, showing patterns for little charms which could be added to the mandala.

Knitting is slow, so music and dance can be the key to getting a project finished.  There is a temptation for group knitting projects to produce something 'big'.  The knitted mandala was designed as an event piece having no beginning or end, and small pieces could be made and added to it at any time.


YTT MAN 2014 mandala_6

Here we are one year ago, at Cecil Sharp's with the Mandala Mark#1.  This mandala had a solid, knitted background, which we realized made the application of charms, less fluid.  Each charm had to be stitched on, which prevented it from being moved easily.  We learned that charms need to be moved so they can relate to other charms as they arrive.


The fluidity of the Mandala came with a re-build from 'string art'! Using the 'Knit by Numbers' range of Merino DK, the new background was woven in multi - shades of the same colours, giving a new depth and plenty of space to hide, gather and accentuate the charms which had been added. string-manadala1

As new groups bring new charms to the piece, we can now arrange new patterns.


It took a long time to bang in all the nails around the edges, but the work was a joy to make and it cast beautiful shadows on the floor.  It was fun hiding the sheep in between the grass, and letting the mini socks fall out of the sky.  string-manadala4Sometimes the mandala looks good with lots of yellow ducks gathered together to form the sun, (as seen above)  and sometimes it is nice to have the space in the middle just left black. string-manadala5


Here are the Winbourne knitters having a go at the Yan Tan Tethera Patterns.  Aimee taught us folk songs while we worked, and pretty soon we were all joining in.









walford_ytt_knitters2David Littler our curator, learned to knit again! He's really good when he gets going, but his little tie is still too small to wear. It really doesn't matter though - he got us all there in the first place, so we reckon he is a great knitter whatever he does.

walford_ytt_knitters7The Winbourne knitters made their contributions in acrylics, despite the free matching merino on offer. It was their choice of yarn, and as a result their work really stands out, so we will always remember them!  walford_ytt_matthews5The amount of knitted orange chickens continues to overwhelm us. They are so popular.


It's a nice vibe at Walford Mill.  If you don't want to knit you can sit and watch the YTT film in one of the arm chairs, which is asking for embroidered graffiti.  There are Shane Waltner's Bobbins from his lace dancing hanging in the window.


Shane's lace dancing was great out in the street. Ben played the fiddle and Amiee her drum and her you can see all the threads from all the dancers, taking over the street.

walford_ytt_waltener_performance_13It's a bit like maypole dancing I guess, or friendship bracelets on a rather large scale. Shane calls the finished piece a 'score'.

These were my favourite Morris Dancers, the Exmoor Borders.  I bet they wear John Arbon's teal and purple 4ply alpacca socks in winter.


Tamari at the Trinity Centre.


Adults with learning difficulties enlighten  teachers.  balls9

They require us look deeper into how things can be made.balls7

The Tamari making workshop gave each student a polystyrene ball, which they could wrap up in yarn. Pins could help them place yarns or control them if their hands were a bit shaky. The carers of our students also learned a lot.   Many of them learned to collaborate on design, helping to find the right colours and use pins to make shapes.balls8

Sheila has neatly placed direction in her winding and likes to see the colours coming through in shapes from the layer below.


Josie loves the pastel pinks and oranges, to match her hair which is strawberry blonde.  She was wearing a shirt with a purple pattern, so we added a purple stripe to the ball. Not too much though, as the pinks were important.

Our workshop was on the day of the general election. There were a lot of red flags flying at the Trinity Community Centre in East Ham where we were working. Red yarn was the most popular .  balls5

The Candidate kept popping in to the centre to pick up her papers. Every time she did, the students nabbed her for a photo and gave her another red Tamari ball. balls15

The pins allowed us to make shapes in the ball, which meant we could add letters! Here is 'L' for Labour.  balls2

Eddie really loved the work. He changed colour a lot and enjoyed making the ball change shape.  balls11

One of the carers helped make a Tamari face.balls4

Some of the tamari balls are unfinished and will keep getting bigger and bigger forever.  balls3

Together the balls make a lovely collection. We have all learned such a lot.


Pastels in Kent.

kool-aid Looking after our teeth, we try not to eat sweets during shop opening times. We can however get our fix by dying the yarn with Koolaid.  Here is the gorgeously creamy Kent 4ply, spun by Roger, with Strawberry, Tropical, Orange, Lime and Cherry streaks. We mixed them up strong and Max spent all day, filling the shop with sugary vibes while she squirted the yarn with a syringe I borrowed from my boyfriend's cat.


Knit a Tulip for 'ME'

e4fd0dbd-6449-484d-9218-264eba8af1aa Do you know a child with ME?

TEAM OF MUMS OFFICIALLY LAUNCH NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO RAISE AWARENESS OF CHILDRENS’ M.E. A team of mothers whose children suffer from M.E. are officially launching a national awareness-raising campaign, as they reach an incredible 5,000 knitted tulips for the condition. Named 'Knit a tulip for ME', the campaign has already seen over 200 knitters get on board to knit an amazing 5,000 tulips, each one measuring three inches in length. The ultimate goal is to produce 25,000 of the woolen blooms, one for every young person thought to be affected by M.E. (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, CFS) in the UK. A collection of the tulips will be displayed at the Double Tree by Hilton London - Chelsea, on Thursday 14th May to celebrate the success of the campaign so far, raise much needed awareness of M.E. and act as an official launch to recruit more knitters to the cause.

The children of the mothers behind the 'Knit a tulip for ME' campaign are all members of the Association of Young People with M.E. (AYME), the leading national charity working exclusively to support the needs of children and young people affected by M.E./CFS and those who care for them. Assisted by AYME, it is hoped the event will raise much needed awareness and support of the campaign, which, it is hoped, will also be displayed in other areas of the UK as the number of tulips grows. To make a donation to 'Knit a tulip for ME' visit http://www.justgiving.com/Knitatulip For a knitting pattern and sponsorship form, contact knitatulipforme@yahoo.co.uk To find out more about AYME, visit www.ayme.org.uk, or call its information and help line on weekdays between 10am and 2pm, 0330 2211223.


Yesterday was a difficult but productive day with  CSM Textile students. Our brief was to work in the Olympic Park, and make an interactive textile situation.

olympic park
olympic park

The Olympic Park, if you haven't been there, is exposed and quite strange.  There is great planting, but it is not matured enough to make us feel that we are in nature, and the atmosphere is not relaxed as there are major Building works still taking place.  These are all great reasons to make something happen! We gathered with bags of old fabric, and my newly made Rope Making Machine, which I had not yet tested. We were rained indoors for the Morning. Our plan was to make thick rope and then take it back to the park to see how we could use it.

yarn rope
yarn rope

The students first learned the trick of cutting fabric into one continuous thread from something 'bag like' such as a pillow case, douvet cover or t-shirt.  When the thread was made, we threaded it onto the rope making machine. 

This end of the rope making machine is made from 3 pieces of ply wood and a lazy kate mechanism, you know, the thing that makes a revolving plate of cakes move around. In the middle was a big hook.  The wooden contraption was tied onto the trolly because the ends of the rope making machine have to be free to move as the rope tension gets tighter.


The trolly is worked well because you can stand on it, using your own weight to add tension. You can also use it for carting all the equipment around.


The main part of the rope making machine has 3 hooks on cogs, which twist the tread when you crank the handle. You do this clockwise.  The mechanism was clamped to the Bench 'n' Vice.  This wasn't ideal but until I have built it a base it works very well!  The Bench 'n' Vice  is also good for adding tension as you can climb on the bench to give the machine more staying power.  When the machine gets going the two ends are under so much tension from the rope, that they get pulled towards each other. The students walked the walk with their thread, 6 times for each hook,  making 18 ply in total. I wound the main handle clockwise to give each of the 3 plys it's twist. The handle was quite stiff and made an industrial crunchy revolving sound. Everyone stopped talking.


When the plys where spun, the student at the trolly end, started to wind anti clockwise.  The student in the middle controlled the twist, as it worked it's way back up the rope walk. The twist was controlled with another tool I made, cut out of wood.


Once all our ropes were made, the sun came out and it was time to go back into the park to apply our rope to park type behavior, or design.  First we tried Cats Cradle on a large scale, and then we found a lovely space to try skipping.  Two of us held the ends of the rope , while skippers started jumping and trying to remember old skipping songs.


The skipping was thoroughly enjoyed for about 1 minute 30 seconds when suddenly security turned up to tell us that we did not have permission to skip.   You can not skip in the Olympic Park without permission.  The Olympic Park invites artists to come and make things in the park, but that does not mean you can assume that you can skip without asking. Neither can you fly kites.  We had wanted to ask security if they fancied a Tug of War, but thought it best to wait until another day.

So we set about finding other uses for our rope.

One was to protect the plants, which will look lovely later in the summer. There seem to be a lot of variety there.


The next idea was to offer our rope as a more decorative version of the rope that the cranes were using.


We were sure the builders would find our rope a lot more beautiful, and we were sure it could hold a lot of weight,  but we felt we had caused enough trouble for one day.

Angharad Thomas Displays her Sanqujar Gloves.

angharad on Friday 13th March 2015, 6-9pm

The Gloves are a museological study and not for sale, but the original patterns and yarns are.
Angharad's works are displayed to inspire the knitting of such wonders, which we still need in this chilly spring weather.
Gloves like this, are known in the trade as Sanqujar Gloves, originating in the small town of Sanqujar in Dumfriesshire.
Steve glove
Angharad is now the world's leading experts on these gloves, which are possible for us to knit, but are likely to take us all summer to produce!
Come and get started but more importantly, come for a drink and a chat, we'd love to see you.

Talented people and pants.

20141016_123107 Here are my brave knit students at Central St Martins College of Art and Design. Well actually that is only a quarter of them, I had four groups of these lovely kooks over last term.  They crammed the whole concept of hand knitting into one term with no windows or coffee breaks. We had a really good time.


Carol, who also teaches on the knit course, held an auction to raise money for a hospice.  I donated these pants from my book Knitorama, and they raised over £100.  Suprisingly they were bought by the staff to use as a teaching aid.

When I was younger I used to moan about education.  We used to say it was all pants.  Well it is, only that now pants are really great.  If you got the right pants on you can do anything.  Pants take skill to make. Pants should be more expensive. Make pants.

'Mollie Makes' Feature!

MMS48.cover_web Come and have tea at Prick Your Finger!


in the December issue of Mollie Makes Magazine!


Come and discuss the problems we face when making things, and how we can solve them..


See the yarns being made, and then make your self a felt penguin with the free patterns and all the other lovely articles!  Pictures taking by the very patient Polly Eltes and words written by the most understanding Jeanette Marshall and the whole thing held together by the most inspiring Carol McNichol.

Spreading Sunrise / Sunset.

I read that when Winifred Nicholson used to visit Mondrian,  he took ages to answer the door  because his black trousers were so tight and he had to do up his black shiny winkle pickers and make sure not a hair was out of place. piet_mondrian_foto2

I've exaggerated her description slightly , but anyway it inspired me to paint some yarns using only primary colours, and it knits up like a sunset or sunrise, that might have been in Mondrian's garden.  It feels good with tight black trousers.



It's in aran weight Blue Faced Leicester.  My jumper is in sunset colourway.  There's been hats and scarves, and now the neighbours are knitting in it.  Here is Jo in her sunrise version.



We love to say good morning and good night.

Kandy Diamond Knits with the Living and the Dead


IMG_20140917_124129-500x500 Save the date! Kandy Diamond prepares us for Halloween with her knitted Tricks and Treats. Please come to a private view of her works on Friday 17th October 2014 6-9pm.

Or for a lighter experience, you can book in for her knitted jewelry workshop the day after. Ring the shop on 020 8981 2560 to book your place. This is a really good way of getting a winning streak ahead on your Christmas presents.


Spin Cycle at Cecil Sharp House


EFDSS.CSH_spin-cycle_banner-550x113 We’d be delighted if you were able to join us Next Thursday 25th September at 7.30pm as sampler-cultureclash presents Spin Cycle as the finale event of Yan Tan Tethera at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

Help us to celebrate, toast and draw to a close a wonderful season of events – as a host of traditional musicians, Gaelic and English songs combine with beatboxers, electronics, and all manner of textile machines and sampling goodness in an exploration of all things that spin, rotate and oscillate.

Joining sampler-cultureclash regulars and previous Spin Cycle performers David Littler, Jason Singh, Hector MacInnes and Anne Martin is Aimee Leonard and the Dulwich Folk Choir, alongside textile artists Deidre Nelson; Rachael Matthews (from Prick Your Finger); and musicians Laurel Swift and Ben Moss.

After five months residency, the Graffiti Chairs will be gathered up from various sites around Camden to be displayed together for the first time. Encouraged by Mr X Stitch’s cross stitch wizardry and tutoring, locals have been busy stitching their textile song related words to transform the chairs.

Catch the final performance from Shane Waltener and his Bobbin Dancers, following the success of their Lace Tell stairwell weave-in; the film of which created by Roswitha Chesher will premier during the evening.

The 25 September will be the last chance to view the exhibition featuring new work from Freddie Robins, Prick Your Finger, Stewart Easton, Shane Waltener and the McGrath Makers; alongside printed broadsides of textile songs from the Vaughan Willians Memorial Library and the Pepys Library.

Promoted by the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS)

Spin Cycle was originally commissioned by Atlas Arts with Deirdre Nelson and performed at Skye Bike Festival 2013.

We’d love to see you there. from David and the Yan Tan Tethera artists, sampler-cultureclash collective and everyone at EFDSS.



www.textilefolksong.co.uk www.samplercultureclash.org.uk