Today is a holiday here, and the sun is shining.  In my experience these two events don’t occur at the same time as often as they should.  I am about to venture out for a walk in the woods.  Before I do, however, a very quick post to show you a pop of colour from my newest project:


This is the Koko shawl, designed by Olga Buraya-Kefelian.  The pattern photo has it knitted up in pastels, but as soon as I saw this luscious green at the Unravel festival, I imagined it in this shawl. The yarn is Northiam by Kettle Yarn Co, a fingering weight 100% wool in Samphire (green), Canvas (cream), and Blackthorn (a very dark navy). The yarn is lovely and feels great.

The fabric naturally curls quite a bit, a you can see from the above photo, and it is also pulled in – it will all relax out in the final blocking, although I will try to keep as much of the 3-D structure as I can.  Here I am stretching it out a bit side-to-side so you can have a glimpse of what the pattern will actually look like post-blocking:


And here I am stretching it out end-to-end so that you can see how much I’ve knitted up so far – about 15″/38cm:


I’m off for that walk!

A cooperative yarn venture

The yarn community is full of many small vendors who are particularly vulnerable to the current situation.  You might think that this would lead to a cut-throat approach to marketing; they are, after all, in competition for spending dollars in a time of great economic uncertainty.   What I have seen is very different, with a number of incredibly supportive and cooperative ventures that have sprung up among small vendors and producers, whose goal is not just to survive in this chaos, but to help the entire community weather the storm.  By helping the community, they help each other.

You may be aware of any number of examples of this community spirit, but I am going to point out one that has captured my attention.  iknit7 is a cooperative venture among seven small independent yarn shops in the UK and Ireland – A Yarn Story, Emily Foulds, Ginger Twist Studio, Knit with Attitude, This is Knit, Tribe Yarns, and Wild and Woolly.  They say: “We know that the best way to survive and thrive in the face of crazy unprecedented odds is to work together. When all of the madness kicked off and we were confronting circumstances beyond our wildest worst-case scenarios we banded together for support, ideas and way forward.”  They have organised an event – Virtual Yarn Extravaganza – from the 25th -30th of May, with discounts, prizes, gifts, and a chance to virtually experience these small shops, meet their owners, and discover what makes them unique.

It is this last point which really struck me – each of these shops has a personality and the collaboration so far seems to be a celebration of the unique character of each shop, presented with such good cheer and honest enthusiasm, its left me very impressed.  I especially loved their video – iknit7 Who We Are – Pass the Mic, in which they each told why they loved another’s shop.

I already know four of these shops, although only one in person.  Anna, of Wild and Wooly in Hackney, London, fielded multiple phone calls and emails and was a fantastic sounding board when she helped me to pick out the yarns for Leah’s Snow Flower.  I bought the yarn for this sweater from Knit with Attititude, who were especially helpful when I had to totally re-envision the project and introduce a second colour of yarn.  I heard Carmen, from A Yarn Story, speak at a yarn festival, and then admired her beautiful stand and bought a range of haberdashery from her.  (I am also signed up to attend a knitting retreat with her in October!)  Doug and I have visited Tribe Yarns in Richmond, London, both in their old digs and their brand new digs.  The owner, Milli, convinced me to buy the gorgeous yarn I used in my Cool Boots shawl (the neutral version).  She also gave us great advice on where to eat and shop and wander locally.  The other three shops look very cool.  I will seek them out when travelling is allowed again, and until then, I plan to enjoy this event.  (And likely buy some yarn.)

When the world gets crazy, its nice to see the yarn community getting together, supporting each other, and being creative.  I know there is a lot of virtual knitting goodness going on world-wide; I hope that you have had a chance to participate in some.  Keep knitting and stay safe.

Hanging on

I hadn’t intended to stop my Lockdown Flashback posts so suddenly, or to skip last weekend’s post.  I have been drowning in work, however, and everything else has taken a back seat.  I was supposed to be in Johannesburg the past two weeks, but since that is obviously not possible, I did all of my South African teaching while sitting in my study here in England.

News flash, Emma: Eight years after you left home, I have now taken over your room!  It’s my study now! I spent a month teaching from the kitchen table while Doug taught from the study.  It wasn’t working, and now we are teaching from adjacent studies.  Sometimes while I am in a meeting, I can hear Doug teaching about electrencephalography from the next room.  I’m thankful that we have enough space to do this.  I have one colleague – with small children – who zooms into meetings from her bathroom as it’s the only peaceful place in her house.

Along with not writing the blog, I was also not knitting, not reading, not house cleaning, and not doing anything else.  Thankfully, Doug is a good cook, and he’s been taking care of me.  I can show you a bit of progress I’ve made on my Hatcher pullover since I last photographed it.  I started off with a bang on this one, and I do think it would knit up in no time, if I had time to knit.  It is a very enjoyable project, with beautifully written instructions.  Here is the back, which only has about an inch to go before I do the shoulder shaping:


The pullover is knitted in the round up until you separate for the front and back, and then it is knitted back and forth.  Here you can see the front:


I love the yarn (Kettle Yarn Beyul DK in Yurt) which is a mix of wool, yak, and silk, and had fantastic weight and depth and sheen.  It really takes the cables beautifully.  I am definitely going to use it again.

Doug and I have been socially isolated for over two months now.  We are extremely fortunate – we are both still working, we live near open countryside, and so far, we are both healthy.  The girls are well, too, although I wonder when we might be all together again.  I can’t help but feel, however, that if one were to believe much of the narrative on the news and social media, that everyone is busy knitting up a storm, quilting, canning and preserving, refinishing furniture, painting the house, reading the works of Shakespeare, podcasting, learning to speak twelve languages, writing and directing a new cinematic masterpiece starring their children and filmed on their phone, magically gaining new editing skills on forty different platforms, and still having time to wash their hair and put on lipstick.

I find that this narrative of the lockdown is getting me down. (Not to mention the pandemic itself, which is very scary.)  I feel like I’m just hanging on, and working hard.  And all of my colleagues are reporting the same, so I know its not just me.  Rumour has it that we are going to be working from home until at least next January, possible next Easter, so maybe there is still time for me to write a great novel, or perhaps just to clean my house.

I hope that you are all keeping safe and well.  If you are knitting up a storm, please let me know and I will live vicariously!

Lockdown Flashback #17

The last flashback post was about a skirt that I knitted for Emma a good ten years ago.  Let’s continue with that theme by looking at another skirt, also for Emma.


This was featured in the post “How to end your knitting year with a bang!“, published in January 2016.  I had a lot of fun knitting this skirt, which incorporates a breezy, flirty ruffle, an even flirtier corseting feature which ties up through the back with a ribbon, and great shaping details.  In this post, I talked about making this with a more affordable yarn, and also how I got a bit of lift into the ruffle.  Looking at this post now, I am surprised at how green everything looked in the middle of January!  I’m not surprised at how good the skirt looks, as it’s a great pattern and Emma is a great model.

I hope that you are all well and managing to keep it together.  Stay safe!

Lockdown Flashback #16

Two things I’ve really noticed during this strange time, when so many of us are physically isolated and needing support, is the importance of community – including on-line communities – and the kind acts of strangers.  Both of these things are evident in this very short post, called Totally knit-worthy from June 2014.


In it, Emma tells me of an encounter with a stranger who comments on the hand-knitted skirt she is wearing.  I dare you to read it and not think “Wow, I love knitters!”

“If not for the 1918 flu, you’d be Australian!”: Family history and the 1918 flu pandemic

I’m not sure what I expected when I made the phone call, in 1991, to tell my mother that I was moving to Australia.  I think my family had already pegged me as a traveller, as the daughter most likely to end up in far away places.  But there is scarcely any place farther from New York than Australia. I expected, perhaps, some alarm, at least surprise. What I didn’t expect was the proclamation made by Mom: “This was meant to happen, Kelly.  You know, if not for the 1918 flu, you’d be Australian!”

Clearly there was a story here, and one that I had not heard before.  To tell the story now, let’s go back to January 20, 1904, to the wedding day of my great-grandmother, Theresa May Taylor, to my great-grandfather, Jesse Fremont Williamson, in the State of California.  Here they are on their wedding day:

Jesse and Theresa

Jesse and Theresa homesteaded a 3,000 acre piece of land in the coast range of California, about 200 miles south of San Francisco in the Coalinga Hills.  They were living in a dugout on the land and building a cabin when the 1906 earthquake struck. They were so isolated there, that they didn’t realise the extent of the earthquake until they took the horse and buggy into Coalinga for their monthly supplies! Sometime in 1907-8, for reasons I’m not sure of, they moved into Coalinga and ran a boardinghouse.  Jesse worked as a roustabout in the oil fields, which was dangerous but paid well.  By early 1918, they had four children, Ruth, Pauline, Lloyd, and Claude.  I love this photo, from 1913, of Theresa with Ruth Victoria Williamson, my grandmother.  Theresa looks so mischievous and happy in this photo, as does baby Ruth.

Theresa and baby Ruth

Around this time, Jesse learned that Australia was giving away ranch land to those who would come and settle and work the land: 10,000 acres was his for the taking, if he could move his family half-way across the world.

Jesse bought steerage on a ship, scheduled to leave from San Francisco to Australia in September of 1918.  Steerage for six was a huge amount of money for the family.  But the lure of a farm of his own in Australia (and no doubt, also, the lure of adventure) convinced him. They packed up all of their belongings and prepared to set off for San Francisco and a long, difficult sea voyage.  And that is when the flu struck.

Jesse and both boys – Lloyd and Claude – were felled with the flu.  They were sick for some time and were slowly nursed back to health by Theresa and the girls.  The boat left without them.  There was no such thing as travel insurance; their savings and their dreams of adventure were gone.

Is this a sad story? No, it isn’t.  All three regained their health.  Jesse went back to work in the oil fields.  Theresa had two more children, Dorothy and Jim.  Sometime in the early 20s, they bought a ranch of their own, in Riverdale, Kings County, California.  Jesse ran the ranch and continued to work as a roustabout until he broke his leg in an accident at an oil well; afterwards he became a full-time rancher/farmer.  The boys eventually all bought neighbouring ranches.  It was a good life.

Here is a photo of my mother, Marylou, at the ranch in 1940:

Mary Lou horse

And another of Jesse a few years later in 1943:

grandfather horse2

When I was a child, we would go to the ranch on holiday.  I remember helping Theresa in the kitchen and in the vegetable garden.  I would walk with Jesse, my great-grandfather, and he would show me the horses.  Here is a photo of Jesse on the ranch, taken around the time of my birth in 1961.  This is how I remember him.

Jesse color

Over the years I have heard many stories of Jesse and Theresa.  My mother grew up on the ranch, surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles, and open spaces, and farm work.  But until I prepared to move to Australia, I had never heard the story of how, except for the flu of 1918, I might have been Australian!

Some years later, when I became an Australian citizen, I wondered what Jesse and Theresa would have made of this turn of events.  I think they would have liked that their sense of adventure was passed down to their great-granddaughter.

Lockdown Flashback #15

I have to giggle at this cartoon from First Dog on the Moon, entitled “Stuck at home I am starting to miss the things that used to annoy the hell out of me”, which appeared a few weeks ago in The Guardian.  Here is one of the frames; go check out the rest!  (I love First Dog on the Moon!)

First dog on moon

Cartoon by First Dog on the Moon, published in The Guardian, April 1, 2020

This made me think of a post I wrote in May of 2016 called “Annoying things“.  I published it on the second day of May (so almost exactly four years ago today) and I was very annoyed because it was cold out and my boiler was broken, and I decided to write a post about things that I find annoying. So, I present it to you here (follow the link) in a Lockdown Flashback, so we can look back with a sense of humour (hopefully) on how naive we seem in retrospect.

In light of events of the past few months, as first dog says, I would be happy to be annoyed by many of these things again, if it meant this was over.  Except maybe mystery KALs – I still want to know what I’m knitting.

Lockdown Flashback #14

For this flashback, let’s go back to a post written in October 2013, called At least something got done around here.  The title refers to my having finally finished the  Viajante Shawl, designed by Martina Behm, and the post has lots of photos of the finished project.

I realise now that I wrote this post just two weeks after starting my Executive MBA programme (as a student).  How long ago that seems now.  Since then, I have finished the degree, become a faculty member at the business school, and spent a few years running  the MBA programme.  But this post takes me back to that time when I had just become an empty-nester, and when I was thinking about all of the studying that I should have been doing while writing a post instead!  (Shh! Don’t tell my students!)

The Viajante Shawl is lovely, but has a strange shape and can be difficult to wear.  This led to some fairly funny photos:


The shawl took a long time to knit, and I wrote quite a few posts about it at the time.  You may want to check out this one, which is about winding all of that yarn by hand while on holiday in Lebanon, or this one, which shows Emma posing in the shawl on holiday in Sicily.  Emma wears it with much more style than I ever could, so I gave the shawl to her.  Unfortunately, it’s now in the bottom of a drawer waiting for me to mend a hole.

Best wishes to all.  I hope that you are enjoying these blasts from the past.  Let me know if you are tiring of them.  Keep well!

The Earth in embroidery

I hadn’t planned on posting today, but I wanted to do a very quick post to show you these lovely embroideries by 21-year old artist Victoria Rose Richards.  These are taken from a pictorial article in the Guardian from a few days ago, which you can find here.  Aren’t they beautiful?

google earth embroidery 1

Photograph: Image copyright of Victoria Rose Richards

If you click on the link, you will find more examples, as well as a link to Ms. Richards’ Instagram account.  Do check them out; they will make you happy.

google earth embroidery 2

Photograph: Image copyright of Victoria Rose Richards

I find her work stunning.  I also think, in this time of physical distancing and upheaval, it is soul-soothing to be reminded how beautfiul our earth is.

Lockdown Flashback #13

I was speaking with Emma about how I was feeling under pressure to write a post, while at the same time distracted by a crazy amount of work.  And she said “You need to use ‘Teeny, tiny hat’ as a Lockdown Flashback!”  Maybe that is because the post starts with this diagramme:


Ha ha! It turns out that not only am I relating right now to that, but I am also really feeling the “head thunk” part of the post.  Thank you, Emma, I’ll play along: This Lockdown Flashback takes us back to Teeny, tiny hat, written in February of 2016.  The post shows what happens when you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing.  In this case: a VERY small hat.

In case you are wondering, I re-knitted the hat and it came out beautifully.  You can see it here.

Keep well everyone!