One of the best yarn shops in the UK!

The Sheep Shop is officially one of the best yarn shops in the country.  Wahay!  A British Knitting Award came our way this month at the Knitting & Stitch Show at Alexandra Palace.  Big thank you to organisers Let’s Knit and the 14,000 voters!

Can you tell they plied us with Prosecco?  Pictured are the proprietresses of the three Best Local Independent Yarn Stores in South East England: Lois ofJenny Wrens Yarns in Ipswich (1st – centre), myself of The Sheep Shop, Cambridge (2nd – left) and Sam of Sconch in Braintree (3rd – right).

Am over the moon.  Thank you for your votes!

Rhapsody in Bloom Yarnbomb

One in five UK women between the ages of 16-59 has experienced sexual violence.  As any Archers listener will know, it is a crime often hidden from sight.  Hundreds of knitters and crocheters have created a huge artwork in flowers to bring this fact to the public gaze, and raise money for the Cambridge branch of the charity Rape Crisis.

The artwork is made from over 1,000 knitted and crocheted Rhapsody clematis flowers and leaves, covering 12 square metres of fencing on Jesus Green, by the picturesque River Cam in Cambridge. They are various shades of purple, blue and green, chosen by their many different makers (some glittery!).  Four out of five flowers are purple and one in five blue, to reflect the prevalence of all the people, and it is mostly women, who are hidden among us having experienced the horror of rape or sexual violence.

The artwork has a big visual impact, you can’t miss it and it’s beautiful.  I think it is made more beautiful by the fact so many people worked together to bring it to life.  The project started because I wanted to give my customers a big project to work on together – in the last few years we took part in making jersey bunting to display when the Tour de France came through town and made the biggest beekeeper’s quilt in the world for charity, and it was time for more.  Clare Collier is a knitting group regular here and very much wanted to help organise a yarnbomb.  We knew we wanted to make an artwork which thousands of people would enjoy and the charity Rape Crisis is close to Clare’s heart.  She is a survivor and undaunted about speaking out, and together with members of The Sheep Shop knitting group came up with the idea of the Rhapsody clematis display.

Clare Collier says “I’m passionate about yarnbombing, and have been running national yarnbombing projects for the last three years.  They bring people together, form community, and can raise money, and awareness. As well as being amazing pieces of public textile art.  When Sarah said she wanted to start a yarnbomb project, I was keen to help get involved.  I’m a rape survivor, and Sarah has a Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre collection box on her till, and a light bulb moment made it obvious to me what we should be doing.  So we came up with the Rhapsody in Bloom yarn bomb project.  I feel proud to have been part of this project, and feel it highlights the significant problem that women still face in our society, from sexual violence.  The finished clematis yarnbomb is a beautiful piece of art.  And also conveys the strong message of 1 in 5 women being survivors.  I look forward to my next yarnbombing project very soon.”

Planning started early this year, and thanks go to Liz Marley and Emma Field who designed and donated the knitting and crochet patterns.  The yarnbomb took five months to bring to flower after that point: hundreds of people put their hands to work making them, with each person making anywhere between one leaf and a hundred flowers, then it took a month to assemble by a team of volunteers.

Norah is the Development Officer from Cambridge Rape Crisis, and says “Sexual violence is a hidden epidemic in our society, over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year, 70,000 are raped and it is estimated there are 4.5million adults living in the UK today who are survivors of child sexual abuse. The impact of sexual violence can often be very silencing and hidden so to see this beautiful yarnbomb being so visible and bold in a public space really helps to raise awareness about a difficult issue in a very accessible way. Those who have taken part in the making of it have so generously given time, care and thought to show that those who experience sexual violence are not alone. As a local charity providing dedicated support services to survivors of sexual violence any funds raised through the yarnbomb will make a big difference to us and will enable us to continue to deliver support services to those affected by sexual violence in Cambridgeshire. Everyone at Cambridge Rape Crisis was so touched and moved by the vision, creativity and energy of those who organised and made this amazing piece of public art possible. The yarnbomb in its beauty not only helps to raise awareness about the issue it also celebrates the courage, strength and resilience of survivors of sexual violence”.

The artwork, like real flowers, is ephemeral.  You can see it from now until the last week of October.  Many more willing hands will then be disassembling it to turn it into brooches which will be sold by Rape Crisis to raise funds.  You will be able to get hold of a brooch from Rape Crisis, the details will be on their website after it comes down.  You can donate to Cambridge Rape Crisis here.

Half-pi sunshine

When Sparkleduck Spirit miniskeins arrived, they got divebombed by eager knitters, elbowing each other aside to get to them, myself no exception!

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They cry out to be turned into something lovely and to me a half-pi shawl in the
orange was going to be a ray of sunshine.  I launched right in, knitting up a storm before stopping to think.  Here is what I did (with thanks to the invaluable Holly Chayes), and what I would do if I had stopped to think before satisfying the cast-on itch!

Yarn:  One Sparkleduck Spirit miniskein set (6 x 20g/85m merino/nylon)
Needles: 4mm, 120cm circular needle. 4mm DPNs are optional but very helpful for icord edging.
Gauge: (Postblocking) stocking stitch: 30st x 36r to 10cm
Finished size: 45 x 17” (could have been bigger if I hadn’t wasted some. Not exactly semicircular due to stretching it more sideways whilst blocking.)

Pattern knitted (with icord border)

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First stitch slipped purlwise on every row.

Changing yarn: when it comes time to end a ball and start a new one, by all
means do so in the middle of a row (either knit a few stitches in a row using
both yarns before dropping the old one, or
 Russian join them together).  I started off changing them just at the edge but ended up wasting a lot of yarn as the shawl grew.  

Using the palest yarn, cast on 7sts.
R1: Sl1, purl to end.
R2: Sl1, K1, [yo, k1] to last 2sts, k2. (10sts)
Stocking stitch 2 rows. Purl the yarnovers through the back of the loop if you want to slightly close up the eyelets (as I did).  Purl them normally if you want big eyelets.  If you want no eyelets, substitute all yo with m1 on the previous row.
R5: Sl1, P1, [yo, p1] to last 2sts, p2. (16sts)
Stocking stitch 4 rows. Knit the yarn overs through the back of the loop if you want to slightly close up the holes (as I did).  Knit them normally if you want big eyelets, or substitute with m1.  
R10: Sl1, K1, [yo, k1] to last 2sts, k2. (28sts)
Stocking stitch 8 rows.
R19: Sl1, P1, [yo, p1] to last 2sts, p2. (52sts)
Stocking stitch 16 rows.
R36: Sl1, K1, [yo, k1] to last 2sts, k2. (100sts)
Stocking stitch 32 rows.
R69: Sl1, P1, [yo, p1] to last 2sts, p2. (196sts)
Stocking stitch 64 rows.
R134: Sl1, K1, [yo, k1] to last 2sts, k2. (388sts)
Stocking stitch until yarn almost runs out, leaving 10g for icord edging.  If you have enough yarn, continue on for 128 rows before the next increase row.  (I stopped at 34 rows after the increase, having knitted just a couple of rows with my last miniskein, but could have done a few more).

To make the shawl even larger – next increase rows will be on purl row 263 (stitch count 772), and knit row 520 (stitch count 1540).

Cast off loosely using the Russian lace cast off (purl two stitches together, move the resulting stitch back onto the left-hand needle, purl two stitches together, continue to end).  Do this on a knit row to make the shawl curl slightly to the front.

The cast off edge after blocking (the points are due to being stretched on blocking pins).

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Applied spaced-out icord edging to the straight edge – cast on four stitches onto a DPN, pick up stitch from the rightmost corner of the shawl, RS facing (5sts).
[Slide stitches to end of DPN, knit 3, k2togtbl (4st).
Slide stitches to end of DPN, knit 4, pick up & knit next stitch of shawl
(working in towards the centre then out the other side) (5st)] repeat almost to
leftmost corner.

About to finish a pick-up row

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The icord will need to be bound off, leaving that right until the last stitch
has been picked up and worked into leads an untidy bulge over the edge of the
shawl so start decreasing a couple of rows before:

…slide stitches to end of DPN, knit 3, k2togtbl (4st).
Slide stitches to end of DPN, k2, k2tog, pick up penultimate stitch of shawl (4st)
Slide stitches to end of DPN, k2tog, k2togtbl (2st).
Slide stitches to end of DPN, k2tog, pick up last stitch of shawl (2st)
Cast off.

Wash & block, weave in ends.

Icord edging – RS view

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Pattern for next time

I’d skip the icord border in favour of a garter stitch border: easier, quicker, neater, lies flat and wastes no yarn: bigger shawl showing more gradient!

Always slip the first stitch, knit the next two. Always knit the last three stitches.

Using the palest yarn, cast on 7sts.
R1: Sl1, k2, p1, k3.
R2: Sl1, k1, [k1, yo] to last 3 sts, k3. (10sts)
Stocking stitch 2 rows. Purl the yarnovers through the back of the loop if you want to slightly close up the eyelets (as I did).  Purl them normally if you want big eyelets.  If you want no eyelets, substitute all yo with m1 on the previous row.
R5: Sl1, k2, [p1, yo] to last 3 sts, k3. (16sts)
Stocking stitch 4 rows. Knit the yarn overs through the back of the loop if you want to slightly close up the holes (as I did).  Knit them normally if you want big eyelets.   If you want no eyelets, substitute all yo with m1 on the previous row.
R10: Sl1, k1, [k1, yo] to last 3 sts, k3. (28sts)
Stocking stitch 8 rows.
R19: Sl1, k2, [p1, yo] to last 3 sts, k3. (52sts)
Stocking stitch 16 rows.
R36: Sl1, k1, [k1, yo] to last 3 sts, k3. (100sts)
Stocking stitch 32 rows.
R69: Sl1, k2, [p1, yo] to last 3 sts, k3. (196sts)
Stocking stitch 64 rows.
R134: Sl1, k1, [k1, yo] to last 3 st, k3. (388sts)
Stocking stitch until yarn almost runs out.  If you have enough yarn, continue on for 128 rows before the next increase row.

To make the shawl even larger – next increase rows will be on purl row 263 (stitch count 772), and knit row 520 (stitch count 1540).

Cast off loosely using the Russian lace cast off (purl two stitches together, put the resulting stitch back onto the left-hand needle, purl two stitches together, continue to end).  Do this on a knit row to make the shawl curl slightly to the front.

Wash and block, weave in ends. Bask in compliments.

Radio interview with Jeremy Sallis

Norah Al-Ani from Rape Crisis, Pamela Hutton from yarnbomb group and myself were on BBC Radio Cambridgshire yesterday talking about the flower power yarnbomb.  Norah’s statistics are shocking and as she says, we’re bringing something normally hidden into the light to be discussed.  You can listen in from 33 minutes in here: http://bbc.in/2abxVCA

Ravellenics 2016

It’s Ravellenics time! Challenge yourself by starting and finishing one or more projects during the 2016 Summer Olympics (5th – 21st August Rio time). There’s loads of events, choose whichever you like and join Team Sheep Shop. We’ll be holding extra Saturday knitting groups here for Team Sheep Shoppers and awarding prizes to the people who make the most Rhapsody in Bloom yarnbombs in the Household Heptathlon + Charity Laurel. Find out all and join the team here.

Visual styling with Emma Mitchell

“I first started following the jeweller Emma Mitchell, (aka silverpebble2) because I was drawn to the beautiful images she posts. There is a lightness of touch and attention to detail in her approach that is very calming” says designer and author Sarah Hazell.  You can learn what makes Emma’s Instagram account so followable (she has over 45,000 followers!) with Emma herself here on July 23rd, then apply it to your own webshops, blogs and media feeds. Book online here.