Now, this really is the shortest newsletter I have ever written, my husband will heave a sigh of relief, he's my chief proof reader, and rather than pointing out catastrophic errors and ambiguities in grammar and spelling, he normally gives a snort and mutters under his breathe "you do go on rather a lot"!
Anyway, all I want to say is a huge thank you for your amazing and continuous support throughout this year. Myself, Marya and Olivia wish you all a very merry Christmas and a safe and restful holiday. We will be closing mid afternoon on Christmas Eve and reopen on Thursday 3rd January. In true 'shop keeper fashion' may I gently nudge you to call by the store this coming week and pick up a few last minute knitting necessities, and in true 'middle aged and slightly tired wife and mum fashion' may I remind you to go easy on yourself, forget being superwoman, and leave clear instructions for the rest of the family on how to load (and unload) the dishwasher.
Thank you all again,
Fran, Marya and Olivia.
plastic on our beaches and I'm so sad.
Now the second reason for this photograph is to showcase a rather lovely knitted linen T.shirt, and of course I want to tempt you into purchasing the yarn and pattern. Made from recycled linen, this classic garment is exceptionally easy to knit, its just a front and a back. Dare I say, long after the 'latest Summer must have' from Zara, Glassons, or Country Road has been tossed out, this gloriously simple garment will remain faithful, like a true friend, reliable, comfortable and a pleasure to have around.
Please take a peek at the rather lovely range of shades available. I can very safely say that there's a shade to suit everyone, from the gentle chalky hues to the colour saturated high impact colours. Our sample garment uses shade Kanoko, which is a gentle powder blue. Along with this shade, my 'pick of the pops' would have to include the gorgeous green based shades of Shallow, Shrub, and Cirrus, and for those of you 'blue girls', there's Pyjama, and a classic navy called Pigment.
At this stage of the newsletter I am just going to press 'copy' and 'paste' and a new section will instantly pop up. It takes thought and energy to write my newsletters and, as I am a little tired, I'm relieved to pad it out with some older ramblings. Some weeks ago I was asked to give my opinion on the unsavory subject of plastic on our beaches, for the local publication, Channel Magazine. Below are my thoughts.
You might know Fran Stafford as the driving force behind Milford’s Wild and Woolly Yarns, where she has created a haven for knitters with a shop full of natural yarns. But there’s more to Fran than knitting. With summer coming up, and the amount of plastic on our beaches showing little sign of diminishing, Channel Magazine talked to this passionate environmentalist who cares deeply about keeping plastic off our beaches and out of our coastal waters.
Channel Magazine: How would you describe the problem of plastic on North Shore beaches?
Fran Stafford: Plastic is twice daily washed up by the incoming tide, relentless and ceaseless; an unwelcome and inconvenient reminder that we are not as clean or green as we may think. On the North Shore we are ‘fortunate’ that our currents do not wash up the huge waves of rubbish found in many coastal areas world worldwide. However, this is more due to the sea’s currents than a society that is committed to reducing ocean waste. Perhaps if we experienced the waves of plastic commonplace in Kenya and the Pacific Islands, we might be more inclined to act to reduce our impact.
Just walking the length of Takapuna beach with my dog I can easily fill a “doggie bag” with a vast amount and range of plastic: balloons, coffee cup lids, straws, ice cream spoons, drink bottle lids, polystyrene beads, syringes, condoms and of course plastic bags and packaging! Most of the time, it’s hard to distinguish what it began life as, as by the time I pick it up is it already broken down into smaller pieces, the rest floating around in our ocean, or worse….
CM: How did your concern about plastics (and other environmental issues) develop?
FS: It probably started in a small way and grew to become habit. I used a coffee keep-cup and my daughter vowed to not use plastic carrier bags for a year (this was loooong before they were ‘banned’ by supermarkets). These actions became habit and with this, awareness of other environmental issues grew. Soon our whole household was engaged in a game of one-up-manship in terms of who was doing something else to reduce their impact on the planet.
CM: Why is plastic on the beaches a concern?
FS: At a high level, plastic reduces our and other animals’ (that’s right, we are one of many species entitled to a clean environment) ability to enjoy our beaches and oceans. At a deeper level, everyday plastic items carelessly disposed of are the tip of society’s throwaway-nature iceberg. We purchase cheap items which break easily, and then dispose of them irresponsibly. They end up in our waterways and oceans, and begin to break down – not disappear, just break down into smaller and smaller pieces. These pieces, no matter how microscopic they get, never go away (there is not such place as away); instead, they affect ecosystems and food chains. The long term effects of this are still unknown, but they won’t be good.
CM: What kinds of plastic are found on the beaches, and are some more of an issue than others?
FS: In terms of its effect on the environment, plastic is plastic, and nature is as incapable of dealing with PET as it is HDPE or LDPE. I suppose bigger pieces have a lower chance of ending up in a bird’s stomach than balloons do, or up a turtle’s nose like a straw on that infamous video.
CM: Where does the plastic come from?
FS: People. It’s a simple as that. When you look at the negative impact plastic pollution is having not only on our beaches and oceans, but on the health of our entire planet, we only have ourselves to blame. Plastic has horrific impacts on our planet, from the extraction of crude oil through to its disposal (or lack of) through to its afterlife; our total over-dependence on ‘convenient’, cheap and disposable plastic products is anything but convenient for every other species with which we share this planet.
CM: What have you been doing about it?
FS: On a miniscule scale, I pick it up. Once you become aware of the problem, it becomes impossible to walk past a piece of plastic litter. I haven’t yet figured out if it is a habit or addiction…. Picking up plastic on the beach can make for an extremely slow walk but the constant bending down is beneficial to the bottom and thighs! I also collect all manner of rubbish on our streets; there’s so much in the vicinity of McDonalds in Belmont and on a Tuesday in my area there’s a steady stream of orange refuse tags to be collected that have been ripped off bins and tossed from the street collection. This system is aimed as a replacement for our orange refuse sacks, but has created a whole new problem.
CM: Apart from beach clean-ups, what do you think we can do collectively and individually to help reduce the problem?
FS: Beach clean ups last for 12 hours. A much more impactful method is not to drop rubbish, or better yet, not buy it. Living by the waste hierarchy of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot (i.e. let the rubbish rot in the environment or landfill) is by far the best way to collectively reduce the problem of plastic pollution. Put simply, think before you purchase – is there a plastic-free option? Do you REALLY need it? Can it be reused or repurposed? Let others know your stance on plastic, and make your views known to retailers (we really do listen). The more we make our beliefs known and acted upon, the greater the ‘crusade’ becomes.
CM: Do you think this is a problem that can be solved – or are plastic-free beaches no more than a dream?
FS: Absolutely the problem of plastic pollution can be solved, through a combination of technology and consumer behaviour. Technological advances to clean up our oceans are fantastic, but they are the ambulance at the bottom of the hill. Changes in behaviour, by comparison, will present a long-term, sustainable solution. I firmly believe that one day the only place for single use plastic will be in a museum, and I will take my grandchildren to visit!
CM: Finally, are there materials other than plastics that are a concern?
FS: Clothing is another interesting one. The fashion industry is one of the most wasteful industries in the world. Fuelled by social media, trivial trends, and manipulative advertising, the fashion industry has selfishly created a mindset in people that they need to constantly buy new ‘stuff’ to be accepted. Workers are forced to work to ever-tightening timelines, the quality of materials does not need to be high, the environment is abused through the growing of cheap cotton or the extraction of oil to produce man-made fibre, not to mention the other end of the life cycle when it ends up carelessly thrown away.
In summary, I believe we can collectively change the world through our purchasing decisions. Buy once, buy well, buy to last. Repair rather than dispose, and when absolutely necessary, dispose of thoughtfully. We created this problem, and collectively we can solve it.
Word's fail me. Oh the irony of a New World bag dumped on the beach!
And finally, the sad bit...
I frequently ramble on in my newsletters, about my wonderful childhood in England, my love of all things British and how much I miss my elderly, adorable parents. I recently returned from a wonderful trip 'home', it was my best visit ever. The weather was glorious, I caught up with old friends and my parents put on a good show. Mum still mothered me and Dad was as lovely as ever. Dad likes a simple life, his garden, his shed , the sport on TV and a bottle of whisky. Unfortunately Dad did appear to be struggling and shortly after my return to to New Zealand it became apparent that he was not at all well. The last few weeks have all being rather stressful and upsetting and all rather a blur. My siblings flew 'home' from their homes in Sydney and Perth, my brother certainly drew the short straw and had to make extremely tough decisions. I am so sad... Dad passed away a couple of days ago, peacefully and at home. There won't be an obituary or death notice in the newspaper (mum and dad are extremely frugal and that would be an unnecessary expense) however, if there were such a notification it would say 'passed away peacefully, at home, after a short illness, and surrounded by his family.' You couldn't wish for more, but the fact that he was extremely elderly, had led a good life and was pottering in the garden just a few weeks ago, does not make it easier. My grief is so strong and goes to the very core of me. I'm useless at expressing my feelings, so I won't go on any longer. Needless to say, I am so sad.
I am heading back to England at the end of next week. Mum and Dad were married for 63 years and Mum will need all the comfort and support I can give. I am unsure how long I will be away. Marya and Olivia will be running the shop for me, I believe I am indispensable, but I have to admit that my 'girls' are super capable, they will ensure the shop runs smoothly and the till keeps ringing. Joking aside, small businesses, like mine, cannot survive in today's tough retail environment without the loyalty and support of all of you. Our relocation to Milford, some twelve months ago has really invigorated both myself and the business. and I would like to give a heartfelt THANK YOU for your custom this last year.
Patty, a rep' from the Naturally yarn company,(I would rather call her a Pal) gave me a poignantly named, and beautiful rose bush, which is now flowering profusely and giving gentle drifts of delicate perfume.
If I don't inflict another newsletter on you before the end of the year, may I wish you a peaceful Christmas, and a safe relaxing holiday period. (Don't forget to pack some knitting into your holiday luggage!)
Happy Knitting, Fran, Marya and Olivia.
My Dog Has A Drink Problem and Rowan Summer Instore
This super cute photograph is of Harry my adorable Labrador. Many of you will have spotted him in his basket under the counter. Harry is a hit with young children and happy to be cuddled and patted, he is better than any toy box. Harry is an extremely special little fella. You see, Harry started off life as Jager, born on 1st May, 2014, at the Auckland Guide Dog Breeding Center. For the first year of his life he was in a programme called Puppy Walking. A wonderful volunteer family gave him lots of love, attention. and introduced him to a whole host of sights, smells and experiences, aimed at developing obedience, social skills and most importantly a whole lot of confidence. Jager went on ferries, trains and buses, he bravely ventured up and down escalators and lifts, and with extreme will power resisted the urge to chase cats and to not gobble his dinner down until he had been given the command "ok". Jager tried so hard, he always wanted to please. He was certainly sociable, affectionate and wanted to be everyone's friend. However, knowing what I know now, I can look at his adorable puppy photograph and read exactly what is going through his mind...He's thinking "I'm standing as straight as I can and trying to stay still, I want to be brave, to wear my red coat and be a super Guide Dog, but I just want my mummy and I am so nervous and want to cry." Jager somehow managed to get through his Puppy Walking Phase and enter into the really serious second year of training. The dogs in his group were constantly tested at locations throughout Auckland. As Jager jumped into the smart Guide Dog branded van, he shook and held his head down, as his harness was placed on his shoulders his legs wobbled and he tucked his tail between his legs. He did his absolute best, he wanted to please and excel, he wanted to be a real Guide Dog and wear his handsome red Jacket with pride but if the truth be known, little sensitive Harry just wasn't Guide Dog material. After a tough year my darling boy was withdrawn from the programme and placed in foster care, awaiting a new 'forever home'.
This is where my side of the story begins. My previous Lab,' Winston (Churchill, not Peters) had passed away and after a cathartic grieving period, I applied to adopt a 'withdrawn' guide dog. This was not a smooth process. Somehow over the Christmas of 2015 I managed to contract Legionnaires Disease through mishandling potting compost (not a nice illness to have so always wear gloves and a mask when handling commercially purchased compost.) While in hospital my mobile phone and lap top languished at home, completely ignored and way, way down on the priority list. Towards the end of my hospital stay, and with the pressure off, my husband flicked through my missed calls and chanced upon a message from Fiona, the head honcho in charge of Guide Dog Adoption. My neglected missed message was to inform me that a 2 year old black Lab' named Kurt was needing a new home. Kurt had medical problems, and was potentially a great liability. Apparently he swam like a fish (not all Lab's swim and our previous one, much to our consternation refused to get anything more than his paws wet), he was extremely energetic and most importantly he was black. Winston was a yellow Lab and I felt a change of colour would be for the best. The huge downside was that Kurt would require a special diet, regular medical checks, and no doubt like all dogs, get crook just before a long public holiday weekend. Kurt was potentially, a ticking time bomb, Blimey, how can you fall totally in love with a dog from a short voice massage, he had all the attributes I wanted in my next hound? Without telling me, my husband decided that Kurt was not the dog for us (he did find a home if you were wondering) and our wait continued. Some 3 months later, and now fully recovered my mobile phone rang. I remember the call well..."Hello Fran, it's Fiona here from the Guide Dog Breeding Center. In an instant I uttered the words."is this the call I have been waiting for? Have you got a dog for me?" Fiona laughed and said that she had a two year old yellow Labrador available for adoption and both he, and us would be given a two week trial. I asked could he swim and Fiona assured me that he was a superb swimmer. Jager was duly dropped off, unbeknownst to him he just had his last ride in the terrifying Guide Dog Van. I was shocked when I first saw Jager. He was incredibly tall and extremely skinny. His face was so slender and he appeared to be very skittish and nervous. He certainly was not the sturdy, confident black Lab that I had on my mental wish list and we subsequently found out that he was terrified of swimming! HE WAS ADORABLE and within a matter of minutes we had all fallen in love with him. As you can guess the rest is history and Jager became Harry.
Each guide dog litter is named after a letter of the alphabet and Jager, was born into the J litter. We couldn't come to terms with this name, it didn't trip of the tongue, no disrespect to anyone called Jager, but we felt a dog should have a 'proper' name. We trialed a few options, Geoffrey after my Dad who is an adorable gent but may have taken offence having a dog named after him. Paxton was also a candidate. Joseph Paxton was the English 19th century distinguished gardener, architect and member of Parliament, but this was a rather powerful name that didn't really suit such a 'weedy' dog. Borak was on our list, remember - I had originally wanted to adopt a black Labrador. Maybe the name wasn't the best for our handsome fella with his yellow coat! We finally settled on Harry, not after Prince Harry, although my Harry does have a gingerish face, but after my uncle Harry, who from memory was quite tall and skinny in his youth, and was quiet, humble and kind. Harry very quickly got used to his new name, although we occasionally tease him, rather cruelly I think, and shout out "Jager Come" . Ever obedient, and wanting so hard to please, he dashes up to us, but I know in his head he associates that name with a rather anxious part of his past that he would rather forget.
Harry has been a total joy. We are mindful that on his adoption papers the reason for withdrawal was given as 'general anxiety and lacks confidence'. It wouldn't enter our heads to shout, to chastise, or to punish him, he rarely puts a foot, or should I say paw, wrong. I do however,have a bit of a problem at the moment. We have had an awful lot of 'coming and going' in our house this year. My daughter has moved to Melbourne, Harry adored her and can't understand why she has vanished. She regularly re appears but after only a few magical walks and tummy tickles she has gone again. My husband travels overseas, Neil is super organised and plans his trips with military precision. The packing process would start days out, clothes laid out, lists compiled and worked through, and bags and cases lined up. Harry would eye all this up and internally start to quiver. Neil now ensures all packing is done at the very last minute, the suitcases are well hidden and as he leaves on a 3 week trip he fondly calls out, "home soon Harry, be a good boy".
All this upheaval is enough to turn a dog to drink! Well actually it has turned Harry to drink. Harry has developed Doggie OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) No this is not a joke. Harry is showing his anxiety by excessive drinking, as in three times more than the recommended amount. This is potentially not a good thing. My vet did explain all the associated problems but I tried to hurry him along, as I firmly believe the longer he talks then the higher his fee will be. Needless to say, his condition was explained at great length and I was offered a seat as my bill was totted up! Anyway, having carefully monitoring Harry's water intake and trying, and thoroughly failing to monitor Harry's mental health, I have started a gradual and measured reduction in the water available to him. Hopefully this technique will work and all his kidney functions will right themselves without any trips to a canine psychologist. If his medical treatment is lengthy and costly, rest assured the price of my wool is going up and my lovely staff are taking a pay cut.
On a much lighter front, Harry, always eager to please, played an important part in the recent appeal on behalf of the Blind foundation. Along with his pals, Vossy, Orson and Orbit, he sat on the main street in Devonport whilst myself and other volunteers shook collection buckets enthusiastically and got everyone who failed to avoid us, to part with their hard earned cash. Whether collecting for Guide Dogs, or the Blind Foundation I know we are able to raise far more money if we have a few beautiful Labradors with us. Last Saturday morning, accompanied by our four magnificent dogs, we did rather well. We had to laugh though as none of the four dogs, sitting obediently, and happy to take all manner of pats and cuddles were real Guide Dogs. Our hounds were all failed Guide Dogs, although the politically correctly termed is 'change of career dog' As you know, Harry failed on his sensitivity, Vossy has a food obsession, Orbit dislikes men wearing hats and Orson loved to chase cats. Actually Orson did get through to his very final walking assessment which was performed around the streets of Devonport. The infamously aggressive library cat proved just too much of a temptation for Orson and he got his card marked with a BIG FAT FAIL! Thankfully the dratted moggie met a sticky end on Victoria Road and all the North Shore Puppy Walkers heaved a huge sigh of relief. Vossy (food addiction failure) came to stay with Harry this last weekend. I hid the cats bowls, ensured no food was left out on the bench and removed all secret stashes of chocolate. Vossy, has in the past, consumed rather large amounts of chocolate, left lying around by a house guest. Although Vossy made a full recovery the consequences for Helen, Vossy's owner were not in the slightest bit amusing and Helen's vet now has a shiny new car, a jet ski and a holiday home in Wanaka!
Now I suppose I had better let you know what's happening at Wild and Woolly Yarns. After an extremely lengthy and impatient wait all our Summer yarns have arrived. I have to say, the displays on the shelf look rather marvelous, the pattern books are fabulous, whoever said knitting shops were daggy, boring and dusty needs to take a peek in my store, its absolutely delicious. We just need the summer sunshine to arrive and then we really will be in business!
Here's just a taster...
Rowan Summerlite DK, $10.50. Made from 100% Egyptian Cotton, this yarn is beautifully soft and comes in an array of wonderfully chalky shades. 'Rowan Summerlite DK' pattern book 'Little Rowan Explorers', 'Little Rowan Cherish', and Magazines 61 and 63 are bursting with pattern ideas for this quality cotton.
Rowan Baby Merino Silk DK, a luxurious yarn developed with babies and young children in mind. This is a machine washable blend that is wonderfully soft and perfect for the special 'littlies' in your life. Give it a big cuddle, it's $14.99 per ball. We have the most amazing pattern books for babies, toddlers and children to accompany this luxury yarn. Choose from 'Modern Mini Knits', 'Baby Knits' or 'Little Rowan Kids'.
Rowan Handknit Cotton, $10.50. Our slightly more weighty cotton that has been part of the Rowan stable for many years. We have chosen summery seaside shades to reflect our relaxed North Shore lifestyle and to complement the designs featured in Rowan Magazine 63.
Rowan Softyak DK, $19.99. A blend of cotton and yak results in a trans-seasonal yarn with a stunning soft handle and luxurious finish. The yarn has a slight melange effect due to the yak fibres remaining undyed. 'Rowan Softyak DK', 'Simple Shapes in Softyak' this is a compliamentary publication with a purchase of Softyak, 'Little Dudes' and 'Little Rowan Explorers' will give you plenty of inspiration for modern and exciting designs.
Rowan Big Wool. Yes I know it seems crazy having stock of this super chunky merino wool as we head into the warmer weather. However, so many of you have called into the shop especially to purchase a garment amount of this iconic Rowan Yarn and were dissapointed that we only had the dregs (but nice dregs) of our winter stock. I am expecting a very large box of Big Wool to arrive in the shop by Wednesday of next week. I also have the complimentary pattern books Big Wool-4 projects, which is your s with a purchase of a Big Wool. We will pop a post on Facebook for those of you wanting to grab a few balls of this super quick knitting wool the moment it arrives.
And finally for those of you who are collectors of the Rowan magazines I have managed to 'acquire' a few copies of the hardback coffee table book 'Rowan 40 iconic hand-knit designs', This book celebrates the 40 year history of, probably, the very best wool company in the world..If you wish to grab a slice of knitting history they are $60 per book, that's just 12 coffee's or a flash new lipstick. You choose!
That's your lot for now, so happy knitting from Fran, Marya and Olivia.
I'm back from Blighty... great parents, great pals and a fantastic bottle of Dubonnet!
Isn’t Jet Lag a wonderful thing? I've been back from my trip ‘home’ to England a couple of weeks now. I landed back in Auckland at 4 O' clock in the morning. Given the ungodly hour my husband had instructed me to get an Uber. To my surprise, and immense gratitude, Neil was waiting for me in the arrivals hall. I guess, that after nearly 30 years of marriage,that's his way of saying 'I have missed you'.
That first day back I just kept going. I was due in work at 10 am but I had penciled Olivia on the roster to work along side me and give me a sharp nudge if I showed signs of dropping off. I expected to be confronted with a whole list of knitting related problems, queries and things to sort out. You see, I am indispensable and the store simply cannot run smoothly without me. There were no problems, no customer grumbles, pattern issues or wool shortages. The shop had run for 3 weeks with slick precision and professionalism. I'd like to believe that was because I worked so damn hard in the run up to my trip, getting the shop well stocked and organised with military precision, however I suspect Olivia and Marya heaved a sigh of relief, their meddling and controlling boss was out of the way and they could simply get on with their job!
That first day I found myself nodding off mid evening and the moment my head hit the pillow I was fast asleep. At 3 am I was wide awake, my husband didn’t love me enough to wake up and have a chat, Harry, my Labrador, expected his breakfast and there were a few noisy youths walking up the street after a good night out! What’s a meddling, control freak wool shop owner expected to do? Well, go to work of course! The drive up to Milford was traffic free and I managed to get a park right outside the shop, funny eh? As the first delivery of our Summer yarns had arrived that week I did actually have some legitimate work to do. By the time the sun rose the shelves were immaculate, the windows cleaned, the floor vacuumed and I had drunk far too many cups of tea. In my opinion it was a great use of the time. My husband did make rather a valid comment...he felt that last years jet lag activity was far better for my health and helped to combat my ever increasing middle aged spread. You see, Takapuna Swimming Pool opens at 5.30 in the morning and for a fair few mornings I was the first through the doors and had thrashed out forty lengths before most people were even awake. It didn't last long and the waistline has expanded a little more!
As many of you know, my annual trip home is to check up on my very elderly parents. All was well, their morning role call still amounted to the pair of them being all present and correct. They have a wicked sense of humour and are both amazed and astounded to be both ‘around’ each morning. Every day spent with them was magical, we gardened, did some gentle walks and drank endless cups of tea…It’s a British thing! Anyway, I will save our antics for another newsletter. I worry constantly, I am so far away, and know they miss me, and do need additional family help and support. Fortunately I only hear of any 'mishaps' after the event. Dad spent a sudden and exhausting day in hospital last week, The National Health Service was not performing at its best. Mum and dad spent the entire day being pushed from pillar to post and asked the same questions countless times from a whole assortment of doctors and nurses. Eventually late into the evening, he was given a few pints of donated blood and sent home. He said it was the worst day of his life, and he was extremely agitated and upset. I only found out a couple of days after the event and I have to admit my selfish first thoughts were 'oh no, I can't face another flight home so soon after the last one'. Dad is a little better, he's managed to get out to his shed, his Dahlias are still flowering and his tomatoes fruiting furiously.
Picnic lunch, my parents are posh…even though they are eating outdoors mum packed napkins, cutlery and crockery in her shopping bag! Dad is actually grimacing, he still firmly believes that meals should be eaten at a table!
The highlight of my trip was a weekend away with my friend Rachel. Rachel and I have been best pals for 26 years, we met at antenatal classes and our eldest children were born 24 hours apart. Rachel's baby, Alex was so placid. Rachel was able to make cakes, keep her house tidy, carry a sleeping baby in a backpack over hills and dales and have leisurely lie ins. My daughter Francesca, screamed and refused to sleep for the first 2 years. I was shattered, I bought cake from Tesco and my house was a mess. I relished the times I sat in Rachel's front room eating home made cake, drinking hot cups of tea and talking until the cows came home. Our children are all grown up now and we finally have the time and the energy to do exactly what we want to do. Unfortunately I only get to enjoy her company once a year.
Anyway, Rachel has recently taken early retirement having worked for National Health Service all her adult life. Still too young and active to put her feet up, she hatched a plan to purchase a seaside holiday cottage in Llandudno (North Wales) Despite having a lovely family, the holiday cottage became known as Rachel's Cottage and was predominantly used as a retreat for herself and her Collie Dog, Gwen. I didn't quite invite myself, but, when the offer was made of a few days away, I jumped at the chance and had my bags packed before you could say 'Jack Robinson'! (a term used to describe an action done at great speed)
Now Llandudno is a place very dear to my heart, but to give a true portrayal of this majestic town I will quote from Bill Bryson's hilarious book 'Notes From A Small Island'
'It is truly a fine and handsome place, built on a generously proportioned bay and lined along its front with a huddle of prim but gracious nineteenth century hotels that reminded me of a line up of Victorian nannies. Llandudno was purpose built as a resort in the mid 1800's, and it cultivates a nice old fashioned air.
Unfortunately, Bill chose not to stay in one of the grand hotels on 'the front' opting for an indistinguishable guest house, that filled him with a sense of unease and doom the moment he set foot in the door.
'My room was everything I had expected it to be - cold and cheerless
, with melamine furniture, grubbily matted carpet and those mysterious ceiling stains that bring to mind a neglected corpse in the room above.There was a tray of coffee things but the cups were- let me be charitable- disgusting and the spoon was stuck to the tray. The bathroom, faintly illuminated by a distant light activated by a length of string, had curling floor tiles and years of accumulated dirt in every crevice and corner'.
My husband had to laugh as I read this description out loud. You see, both Neil and I spent many childhood holidays in Llandudno but our experiences were vastly different. I clearly remember, as a young child squeezing into the back of Dad’s Ford Cortina. Our flimsy suitcases were safely in the boot, the air smelt of mum's egg sandwiches and us three children groaned as Dad constantly turned off the engine as we went downhill in an attempt to save petrol. It seemed to take all day to cover the seventy or so miles to the North Wales coast. We stayed in a smart bed, breakfast and evening meal establishment very close to 'the front'. The proprietor, in her twin set and pearls had a kindly disposition, snowy bed sheets and sparkling bathroom porcelain. Our evening meal, taken in the grand dining room overlooking the bay, would commence with a slice of melon topped off with a maraschino cherry, mum would have a small sherry and I struggled to eat my dessert with the highly polished spoon and fork. By the mid 1970's our holidays in North Wales, requiring windbreaks and cagoules, were replaced by package holidays to Spain. Sangria replaced the sherry and holiday pocket money was spent on a sombrero rather than a stick of rock. I was the first in my primary school class to travel on an aircraft and prior to the 1976 British heatwave, also the first to flaunt a suntan.
Neil's childhood memories are a little different. His family did not own a car, so the train was their mode of transport. Holiday accommodation was a boarding house well 'off the front', their proprietor kept her pinny on and wore grubby slippers. All guests had to vacate their rooms between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm and tea (dinner) was served at 5.30. Neil can't remember what was served up on the mismatched crockery, I'm certain it wasn't melon, pate, chicken Kiev or fresh trifle. I am a little envious though...I had to participate in family walks on the Great Orme (a giant rocky outcrop, similar to The Mount at Mount Maunganui. I had to search for and identify fauna, flora and wildlife and then fill in a holiday note book. Neil was allowed to wander around town, visiting the amusements, purchasing candyfloss and hot dogs and stay out past 8 o'clock. Maybe Neil was attempting to put his holiday memories behind him, when, in the mid 1990's, we spent a weekend in Llandudno with our two young daughters. We stayed at The Empire Hotel, undoubtedly, the towns most expensive and exclusive hotel. It had an indoor swimming pool and guests were invited to pre dinner drinks in the residents bar each evening.We did have a fine time, and my girls have secreted away their own memories of this trip which include donkey rides on the beach, watching violent Punch and Judy shows on the sweeping promenade and rubbing the back of their legs raw sliding down the heltah skeltah on the majestic Victorian pier.
Now I have been rambling on as usual about childhood memories and told you nothing about my wonderful weekend away with my old pal. Rachel's cottage is perched high up on the Great Orme. You have to be incredibly fit to walk up the breathtakingly steep road that rises from the town center to the top of the enormous outcrop. An ornate restored Victorian tram carries the less able bodied up the hill and 'locals' use it like a bus service, they are charged the paltry fee of 80 pence. After a long day of walking Rachel confessed she normally took the scenic tram ride back to her cottage. Now 80 pence was the charge for residents, for tourists the rate was in the region of 8 pounds. On the Saturday, after a full day of activity I had stayed in town, I needed a coffee and wanted to revisit some of my old haunts and refresh childhood memories. As exhaustion swept over me I accepted I would have to take a ride on the tram, there was no way I could undertake the monumental hike up the hill. To my dismay, as I proffered the exorbitant amount of money to the snowy haired gent in the ticket office,I was informed that the last tram of the day had just left and shanks's pony (using ones own legs and the action of walking as a means of conveyance) was my only option. It took a good 15 minutes to haul myself up the, in some places, 30 degree incline. I was a gibbering wreck but soon came round after a strong cup of tea and a sweet biscuit. AND I had saved myself 8 pounds ($16).
My time spent in Llandudno with Rachel was incredibly special and will form more precious memories. We have supported each other through all the trials and tribulations of raising our children had always hankered for spending some quality time together, without family, work or time constraints. Well, we took our knitting, we walked for miles and miles, we played scrabble and we ate an awful lot. We did not shut up talking for three solid days and we drank rather a lot of that incredibly dated and kitsch fortified wine, Dubbonet mixed with lemonade. Rachel produced the bottle from her bag, blimey I had not seen Dubonnet since 1979. I seem to remember it was trundled out on the drinks trolley that Christmas, clattering along next to a bottle of Advocaat and some tiny bottles of Babysham. We actually didn't drink too much but maybe our age, the fact that we had been on the go all day, and were totally unaccustomed to this retro fortified wine, made us rather merry. Our knitting had to be put aside, our scrabble skills went incredibly down hill and we both admitted we slept rather well that night. As we packed up our bags, and headed off to the station for our train journey home we had to admit that we were utterly senseless with exhaustion and realized that we hadn't stopped talking for three solid days.
Rachel has just had eye surgery, hence the Stevie Wonder dark glasses!
When I am faced with the task of writing a newsletter I groan and procrastinate. It takes me ages to get going but once started on the subject of childhood memories, elderly parents, my fondness for the British countryside and all things British I can't seem to contain myself. The ideas flow and my fingers tap furiously at my keyboard. My husband frequently remarks, 'You do go on rather a lot!' HOWEVER, when I have to do a bit of a 'hard sell' and promote my business (which actually is the main purpose of my newsletter) I simply cannot think of the words to write. How many times should I mention the words 'gorgeous, lovely to knit, beautifully soft, wonderfully warm'? Can we just come to an agreement?... all the yarns I sell are pretty damn good, and their quality and integrity should speak for themselves. I won't think you are strange if you bury your nose in my yarn, if you rub a hank gently against you neck or sink your fingers deep into the center of a ball. These are exactly the things I do when purchasing yarns for the store. So, I won't wax lyrical about soft, gorgeous, luxurious yarn, there's no 'hard sell' but below you will find a brief description of our latest Summer Yarns.
Erika Knight Studio Linen... We have a whole tempting pallet of intensely rich colour saturated shades to accompany our current range of delicate pastel and easy to wear neutrals. If I could just tempt you a little...Shrub, Shallow, Velvet and Cirrus are the poetic and evocative names given to these new shades. The Stunning range of new ladies garment patterns are on our web site. Take a peek.
Erika Knight Gossypium Cotton... Again, we have new shades to accompany this premium double knit range of cotton. The colours are a little retro, but also edgy and totally on trend for the a Summer of stylish knitting. The names given to these yarns are super cute and make you smile: Bobcat, Paddle, Dance, Porpoise, and last but not least, Monster! We have patterns for all the family, from babies to blokes. These super stylish patterns prove that projects do not need to be old fashioned and boring.
Sesia Organic Cottons... We have a tasteful range of delicate Summer shades in this, oh so soft pure organic cotton. Spun in Italy, so it's a bit posh, and absolutely georgeous for precious babies garments. These yarns only come with shade numbers, very boring, so Olivia and I got our heads together and chose some rather suitable colour names... pretty, True, Day Dream and Easy, just to name a few.
Sesia Baby Cashmere and Cotton... I have made a couple of babies garments from this luxury 4 ply yarn. I can only describe the experience as totally sublime, it definitely put me in my happy place. We have on offer Ballet, Snow, Blueberry and Pebble.
Rowan Summer Yarns... NOW DON'T GET TOO EXCITED TOO SOON...Some time next month we are expecting a HUGE delivery of Rowan summer yarns and a whole pile of pattern books and Rowan Magazines(knitters pornography) We have on order Baby Merino Silk DK, Softyak DK, Handknit Cotton, Cotton Denim and Summerlite DK. I will let you know the moment the courier driver staggers through the door with the boxes.
Olivia has expertly photographed and put all our new yarns and shades on our website. Pop the kettle on, put your feet up and take some time to peruse our latest collection of loveliness. Hey, why don't you try a Dubonnet and Lemonade, it will loosen your will power immediately, I have a feeling the online orders will come flooding in!
Finally, for those of you unfamiliar with our physical store I have taken a pretty good snap of one of our displays. Photography is not really my forte and I was amazed at this composition. There will definitely be no staff portraits, Marya and Olivia have refused to pose and I always have my eyes closed and look gormless.
Well that's all for now, happy knitting and thank you for reading all the way to the end. Neil did comment that this was an incredibly long (winded) newsletter!
Fran and the Woolly Girls
I’m packing my bags and leaving for England...
My parents certainly taught all three of us to spread our wings. However, unlike my husband, I do miss my homeland terribly. England is firmly embedded in my heart and has shaped who I am and what I hold dear. I miss my parents; the yearning is strong and pulls at my heart constantly. The older I get, and the very much more elderly my parents become, the more the dull nagging pain is felt. I know, as a family, we did the right thing, leaving England. We initially moved to Sri Lanka for my husband’s three-year work contract, this stretched out to five years. Living on a tropical island in the mists of a civil war, with very young children, was certainly exciting and exhilarating, it was an experience I would not have missed for the world. Our daily life in Sri Lanka was definitely ‘lived in the fast lane.’ We heard and avoided regular suicide bombings, road blocks and political tension. This was counterbalanced by the colorful hustle and bustle of daily Colombo life… elephants in full regalia outside the many temples, the crazy tuk tuk rides we took each day to get too and from school, the street vendors selling deliciously spicy snacks for just a few rupees and the fish market displaying the days catch, fresh from the Indian Ocean. If you are a little sensitive, easily get an upset tummy or are super paranoid about hygiene the local market was definitely a place to avoid!
At least from Sri Lanka it was only a 12-hour flight home and we did make the trip several times a year. My parents were still in their 60’s and were able to visit us (they kept their thoughts of Colombo life to themselves). Back home in England they kept busy and sociable. They counted down the years, months, weeks and days to our return home. However, we had other ideas, we were young and adventurous and rather than return to what we felt was the hum drum of our life in England, we decided to head south…an awful long way south to be exact!
New Zealand has been kind to us. I do not regret our last 16 years in Gods Own Land, and my children have thanked me for giving them a fabulous, traditional upbringing, with freedom, safety and security. I know my husband and I made the correct decision.
Oh, but it is so hard now. I am middle aged, I am reasonably healthy, I am comfortable and content with ‘my lot’. My two daughters are all grown up, the eldest has spread her wings and now lives in Australia (thank goodness she is still ‘local’. I would have been heartbroken if she had gone any further away, and thankfully she has no desire to go and live in England) Oh, how I must have crucified my parents with the decisions I made all those years ago.
So, I am sure you can see by now, how very special and how emotional my annual trips to England are.
Mum is 83 and is pretty active. Dad is a ‘different kettle of fish’ At 88 he is not terribly mobile, his legs play up and he cannot walk more than 100 yards without pain. His eyesight is pretty poor, and he has a permanent cough. His diet is appalling, he eats no fruit or vegetables, living predominantly on cheese, Jammy Dodger biscuits and Polo Mints. He adores a wee tipple of whisky, we are amazed that he has reached such a grand old age and jokingly agree that he has probably pickled and preserved himself in Johnny Walker Red Label! Dad is extremely laid back, like me, he is an introvert, and adores his own company. He spends all day, every day either two feet from the TV screen (his sight is terrible) or in his garden shed, listening to sport on the radio, staying out of my mum’s way, and planting and potting up to his heart’s content. Dad also has a bizarre, but highly amusing sense of humour. He knows he is old and decrepit, he sincerely hopes God will have the TV tuned to the sport channel and that he will have his own veggie plot all ready and waiting when he arrives at The Pearly Gates. Dad isn’t ready to depart yet and sets himself goals. His long-term plans were to live from one Olympic Games to the next. Ill health has dogged him for the last decade but he gleefully glued himself to the television screen for the Beijing, London and Rio games. His goals are a little shorter term now, he realizes that surviving from the last Olympic Games to the next may be a little over ambitious. He managed to watch the televised coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show, the Tour De France and Wimbledon. His beautiful Granddaughter, Alexandra, recently popped over from her home in Perth, her visit coincided with the Football World Cup and the pair of them watched every game, Alex pointing out the important stuff, like which team has the ball, and ensured the whisky was close to hand. Dad sincerely hopes his winning streak will hold a little longer, he feels confident that he will last until at least the middle of September, and, as I leave, the football season will be in full swing, and Christmas with its promise of multiple bottles of whisky will only be a few months away.
Dad did have a bit of a hiccup earlier this year. He managed to catch a particularly bad dose of flu and took to his bed for several weeks. I had a number of ‘last conversations’ on the telephone with him and was prepared to do an extremely short notice, and heart-breaking flight home. Dad pulled through, he had been given some dahlia tubers for Christmas along with some packets of seeds. He was determined to get the tubers in the ground and the seeds into potting compost. He certainly was not ready to ‘Meet His Maker’.
Mum is still rather active and has an equally bizarre sense of humour. Each morning they take a ‘role call’, Mum pipes up “I’m here” and Dad says exactly the same. I asked her what she would do, if, one morning there was no “I’m here’’ from my Dad. She replied, “well, I will pop the kettle on and make a cup of tea, then I suppose I will have to rearrange my plans for the day.”
Mum adores hiking, we call it tramping here. Over the last 50 years she has covered many thousands of miles of the British Countryside. She has now slowed down and restricts herself to flatter and shorter walks. During my last telephone conversation, she relayed a walk she had just done around Hartington, a beautiful area of the Peak District. It was pretty warm day (30 degrees for goodness sake!) and a little hilly, but she coped admirably. The highlight of her 12-mile walk (she is 83 years old for goodness sake!) was coming across an adventure playground, not a small and tame playground but one more suited to older children, a playground that presented an element of danger: a broken arm or a light concussion were all part of the parcel with such a playground. Mum couldn’t resist the Flying Fox. Her walking pal Ann egged her on and shrieked with laughter as mum hurtled at great speed, airborne, from one length of the playground to the other.
Mum returned home safely after an energetic days walking, laced with the added excitement of a dare devil ride on a Flying Fox. Dad was glad to see her, he had discovered a problem. A wasp’s nest had appeared just under the roof of the house by their back door. Dad is slightly more sensible than mum, he knew that wasp extermination at height was beyond him. Mum immediately went to the garage to retrieve the step ladder. She extended the contraption to its full height, then, armed with proprietary wasp killer she tottered up and sprayed the little blighters into oblivion. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I do know that when my husband utters those words…" You are just like your mother” I give a little chuckle and his intended derogatory comment falls on deaf ears. I love being like my mother!
I have planned a belated Mother’s Day event for Mum, I have booked us both on a half day floristry course, held at Chatsworth House, which happens to be my very favourite English Stately Home. The idea is that as a group, we are allowed to wander around the Kitchen Gardens, plucking and picking flowers, fruits and foliage, then retire to the Old Stables where one of the Chatsworth’s florists will guide and assist us in our genteel and leisurely art of flower arranging (this will be a pretty tame afternoon by mum’s standards!). Mum jokingly said that this will be the first time she has visited Chatsworth and been legally allowed to pick the flowers… she is a devil for taking cuttings, surreptitiously digging up plants, and plucking and gorging on plumbs, tomatoes and raspberries, all, probably under the beady eyes of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire!
A bit about ‘Woolly’ now.
Now while I am away, please be aware that we will literally be one woman down. If the shop is extremely busy and we can’t help you immediately, please just chat amongst yourselves, swap knitting stories, and maybe pop a few more balls of wool into your basket! Olivia is manning the web site and helping out in the shop. She is not an advanced knitter, so, if you do find yourself in a tangle and need some help please call ahead and we can let you know when Marya will be available and hopefully she will be able to sort you out.
Now, just before I draw this epic newsletter to a close I will just do a bit of a hard sell. Winter is not over yet and babies’ heads and toes need be kept cosy and warm. I have no babies to knit for, however I am totally addicted to knitting our adorable cabled bootees and beanie sets. Those of you who call into the shop will notice that they are on display all around the place, I have no need for multiple samples, I just can’t stop knitting them! Our kits feature a pair of super soft New Zealand sheepskin soles and the locally designed pattern. Our photograph shows a Peony Pink New Zealand Merino set, flanked on either side by sophisticated Italian Merino in the ever so popular shades of Dove and Charcoal Grey.
So, if you just want to do a little knitting, nothing too onerous, complicated or expensive then pop over to our web site to take a look at this gorgeous pattern (not too mention those delightful pom-poms!)
So, when I next tap out my next newsletter I will be back from my trip, with plenty of new stories, Mum will have been up to all sorts of tricks and Dad… well lets just hope Dad’s winning streak holds out!
Fran, Marya and Olivia.
Crazy Wool Lady Abandons Dog At Devonport New World!
Back to our walk on Takapuna Beach…It was an extremely high tide, but, in my wellington, boots I was able to wade the last stretch that normally cuts off The Takapuna Beach Café. I know I can appear and act eccentric, and yesterday was no exception. I waded through the water in my boots, clutching my coffee Keep Cup, sporting a handknitted beanie and feverishly gathering up all manner of plastic rubbish, adorable Harry gayly scampered alongside me. I am aware other beachgoers can give me a wide berth…’there’s Crazy Lady’ I loudly hear them think, ‘shame, she has such an adorable dog with her!’ I’m thick skinned and hell bent on saving the planet, and I own the cutest dog ever, he loves me unconditionally. Amongst my largish haul of planet endangering plastic was a tatty and torn New World single use carrier bag. Well you do have to laugh (or cry) at the irony of it. There is not a ‘New World’ available to move to once we have trashed this wonderful old world, there is no ‘plan B’. Yet to most beachgoers yesterday, I was the Crazy Lady taking a photograph of a New World plastic carrier bag.
By total coincidence I had to call in at Devonport New World for some fish. This particular supermarket has allegedly made huge headway in reducing its single use plastic bag usage, and in encouraging locals to bring their own reusable bags. Prominent signs at the entrance, posters around the store and plenty of publicity in the local free newspaper leads us to believe this is the case. Such a stalwart pillar of the community certainly deserves my custom; however, all is not quite as it seems. I tied Harry up at the supermarket entrance and he immediately attracted a fan club of young children who pat and tickle him. He was a little apprehensive as I disappeared from sight, but I know he can cope with the impending five minutes of separation. I head directly to the fish counter, totally blinkered and determined. I only want fish and will not fall for any enticing offers and clever marketing. A young staff member asks me what I would like and I reply 500g of Tarakhi, and please pop it in my own Tupperware container as I do not want it sold to me in a plastic bag. WELL, you would have thought I had asked him to slaughter my first-born child, he was dumb struck and horrified. I could read his thoughts…’this is more than my jobs worth, why did I get the Crazy Lady, she’s not going to give up quietly.’ Dead right I wasn’t. I could see no reason why I could not have my fish in my own container, but the guy refused. He shook open a blue plastic bag and prepared to slither far more than 500 g of fish into the planet polluting blue plastic. (Just as an aside, why, when you ask for 500g do you always end up with 660 g of fish, cooked meat, olives or whatever. Call me cynical but I guarantee most of us would nod our heads and say ‘that’s fine’, clever marketing eh? Maybe I should try that old trick with balls of wool!) Anyway, by this time I had gathered quite a crowd around me. I know what they were thinking…who’s this Crazy Lady with a Tupperware container, threatening to throttle the poor guy on the fish counter. This is the part that really saddens me, not one person voiced their support for me, their astonished and inquisitive faces just said ‘Crazy Lady’ loud and clear. Anyway, I am unsure of what actually transpired as by this time I was shaking with indignation and rage and also realized that I was not going to get my way. As the fish slithered into the blue plastic bag I heard myself shriek “if you dare give me a plastic bag I will tip my fish out and stuff your insidious packaging back over the counter.” The rubberneckers behind me audibly gasped, they hadn’t reckoned that a quick dash around the supermarket on a Tuesday morning would turn into such a spectacular event. Time seemed to stand still, blood was rushing around my head and I started to feel extremely overwhelmed. I was way out of my depth, and I wasn’t having fish for dinner. I had made a complete prat of myself and the ‘plastic bag guy’ had won. Then, another deli’ staff member sidled up to ‘fish guy’ and whispered something in his ear. Instantly my long-fought battle was over, the fish was carefully placed in my container and handed it to me. I can’t lip read but it doesn’t take Einstein to work out what the woman said. I am sure the words ‘Crazy Lady’, ‘fanatic’ and ‘JUST GET RID OF HER’ were whispered into the poor, fish guys ear.
Golly, who would have thought doing the right thing would be so difficult, bordering on damn right traumatic. I needed fresh air and a few minutes of peace to pull myself together. I headed down to Devonport’s beautiful waterfront and soon felt calmer and lighter. It became apparent that not only was I mentally lighter but also lighter physically. I had my precious Tupperware container of fish but I did not have my dog, he was securely tied up outside the dratted supermarket! I was amazed at how fast, in my middle aged, slightly chubby state that I could run so fast! Harrys face was a picture, and a pat and a tummy tickle soon reassured him that he had not been abandoned. It has since been pointed out to me that supermarket customers must ‘remember their bags’ but also remember their dogs!
As an aside, I am saddened to learn that Devonport New World are promoting the fact that they have managed to reduce their single plastic bag usage from 10,000 to JUST 6,500 A WEEK. I am not sure those are the sort of figures I would be proud to publish. 15 years ago, when I took over ownership of Wild and Woolly Yarns I decided to only provide paper bags. We do have a couple of crumpled plastic bags tucked away somewhere, we save them for a really rainy day. So far this year I have handed out the grand total of one plastic bag. New World 6,500 plastic bags per week versus Crazy Ladies one bag in 7 months! Well you decide, but I love being a Crazy Lady!
I forwarded a rough draft of this newsletter to my daughter Francesca. Some of you may remember her, during her university days working alongside me in the store. She now lives in Melbourne and is a Sustainability Coordinator for Veolia, a waste management company. Her job is extremely varied, one day she is sat in front of a class of primary school students explaining the principles of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot, and the next she is doing a waste audit at a big corporation, literally going through bins as a means to educate and improve their waste management systems. She adores her job, she is literally a ‘pig in muck’. Francesca thought my portrayal of my day hilarious, I know she was proud of me. She made an incredibly poignant comment. For her age group it is becoming increasingly ‘cool’ to pick up litter, to cause a scene and to voice an opinion, however my actions, at my age, are still labelled the behaviour of a Crazy Lady. My husband was not quite so congratulatory and supportive, he muttered something like “you didn’t cause a scene, did you?” and “I could report you for your negligence to our dog”
From left to right
Back: Concrete - Mallard - Golden Olive - Normandy
Front: Smoky - Vintage - Linen - Surf
You may be aware that our plan for the imminent future is to be a leading New Zealand Rowan Yarns Stockist. The Rowan Brand began in Yorkshire 40 years ago, not a million miles from the small village where I was born. I have not met a single knitter whose eyes do not light up in delight at the mention of Rowan. Well…we are starting out slowly, very slowly, with just the Rowan Big Wool. Big Wool is the major player in the range it knits super quickly, is fabulously thick, yet soft and light and it is used knit fabulous garments and accessories in next to no time. At Wild and Woolly Yarns, we have managed to snag ourselves the very, very latest in Big Wool shades, shades intended the British Autumn Winter Season, so just for once we are actually ahead of the game! Just today we received a shipment of four brand new shades, Vintage, Normandy, Golden Olive and Mallard. We also have replacement stock of shade Smoky, the colour we used for our oversized ‘sloppy joe’ sweater that features in our window display. Oversized chunky sweaters ‘are all the rage’ (doesn’t my terminology sound middle aged?) Many stores source their sweater range from ‘overseas’ and cut costs in creative ways. These garments are cheap in every respect. At the other end of the extreme are a number of New Zealand retailers offering the real deal, handknitted with skill and care and in glorious pure fibres. If you can’t knit then I advise you to go and purchase an exquisite and enviable garment, the price will be in the region of $750 to $900. As this is a newsletter that goes to all my lovely knitting customers I expect you will wish to have the enjoyment of making your own garment and for a fraction of the above cost. Our Big Wool retails for $22 per ball and somewhere in the region of 8 balls are required for a garment. We have two fabulous pattern books Big Wool Knits and Big Wool Archive Collection and a selection of the highly sought-after Rowan Knitting Magazines. (We call these magazines ‘knitters pornography’) We are well stocked in The Rowan Knitting and Crochet Magazine numbers 56, 58, 60 and 62. and they retail for $27 each.
Next month I am leaving the care of the shop to Marya and Olivia, I am off on my annual trip to visit my elderly parents in England. My parents live in a tiny village on the edge of the Peak District and my visits home are incredibly special. Luckily for me a ‘barrow’ sets up in the neighbouring village three days a week selling fish brought from the fishing port of Fleetwood. The barrow is a sight to behold, whelks, winkles, sardines, mackerel, cod and potted shrimps. Glossy, salty and crunchy samphire replaces the ubiquitous curly parsley, it feeds the sole as well as the belly. The fishmonger is a very cheerful chap, he waxes lyrical about his produce, calls me ‘dearie’ (beats Crazy Lady) and is delighted to fill my container. He would find my supermarket experience hilarious, but maybe I won’t tell him, I will just chat about the many wonderful aspects of living in ‘Clean Green New Zealand’
Well that’s all my rambling for now and I will leave you in peace.
Happy knitting, from Crazy Lady, Marya and Olivia.
Prince Philip has been off the scene for some time, his hip replacement has been a success and he plans to be at his wife’s side this Saturday. He has assured her he will not make any derogatory remarks about race, class or skin colour, he will all that leave that to Princess Michael of Kent! She is under strict orders to behave and to leave her blackamoor brooch in the jewellery box at Kensington Palace.
Charles has fallen out with Camilla. She wants to spend the day fox hunting with Princess Anne. Charles mumbled something about not letting the family down. Camilla gave him a clip around the ear and Anne told him to “naff orf.” Charles has scuttled down to Highgrove where he plans to turn his compost heap and have an upper-class conversation with his herbaceous borders.
Prince Andrew has asked all overseas guests to ‘gift’ their air points to him and Fergie. After such a hectic weekend a little skiing in the alps is in order, closely followed by a trip with Pippa Middleton to a tropical Island to top up the sun tan.
Fergie has faithfully promised not to ‘put her foot in it,’ she will leave that to Prince Philip and Princess Michael of Kent. There is absolutely no way she will be enticed to grace the cover of next week’s Woman’s Weekly, Hello Magazine or appear on the Oprah Winfrey show…well maybe she could impart some Royal gossip for just a nominal amount of money, may one suggest a couple of million… it helps pay down the overdraft you know!
The footmen at Kensington Palace are guarding all the Royal Loos. Princess’s Beatrice and Eugenie are planning to nick a couple of toilet seats to wear as hats. That would be most inconvenient. To huge relief, Kate’s mum has kindly offered to dig out two of her old navy-blue bonnets. The kind gesture was ever so politely declined, but according to The Daily Mail, the Princesses are believed to have remarked that having British Airways emblazoned across one’s forehead was considered rather common. Fergie, never wanting to miss out, said she would be frightfully delighted to relieve Carol of one of her hats.
Harry and Camilla are under strict orders not to light a sneaky fag at Windsor Castle. The Queen hasn’t kept up her insurance payments and doesn’t want to risk any more Rembrandt’s and Turner’s going up in flames. Philip has suggested that Camilla takes Harry out onto Windsor High Street and have a few drags with the local riff raff.
Megan’s busy swotting up on family history and practicing her upper class English accent. She is trying to tone down her Californian drawl, her gushiness and her desire to hug everyone she meets. She could not contain her excitement when she learns that she was not the first American to marry a Windsor. The Queen gave one of her rare, but unmistakable frosty glares and Prince Philip uttered something unrepeatable in German. Megan was rather perplexed, she mustn’t have given this Wallis woman the respect she deserves, she made a mental note that maybe Harry should consider calling their first-born daughter Wallis, that would put a smile on Grannies face.
Fergie’s just shown her true colours. She’s heard Megan’s Pop won’t be attending the wedding and put her hand up to bags the redundant invitation. The vulgar Duchess planned to sell the invite to her pal Steve Bryant (he’s in the pedicure business, you know) Fergie, Andrew and Steve would make a spiffing threesome, and they faithfully promise to ‘toe the line’.
Fergie’s money-making enterprise has been foiled. Rumour has it that Megan’s Pop has covered his recent and unforeseen medical bills by selling his invitation to some trumped up old geezer, goes by the name of Donald, I believe. Donald says he is all good to go, the Missis is in hospital so he is as free as a bird for the weekend and will be able to tweet to his heart’s content.
Prince Phillip’s got wind of the Trump rumour and he is not amused. Like Mr Markle he has started to feel decidedly unwell, he fears his bladder infection has returned and he will be unable to attend the impending nuptials. To Her Majesties horror Phillip is also in a foul mood, he’s discovered that two of the toilet seats are missing from the Buckingham Palace Loos!
ONE IS NOT AMUSED!
Now if you could please excuse me, an urgent online order has just come in from a Mrs. Elizabeth Windsor. Apparently, she needs a whole lot of wool putting on an immediate Fed Ex flight to Balmoral Castle. She says she is cutting her losses and heading up to the Highlands this weekend. If I value my head I’d best do as she says. First things first though, I’ll just text Fergie and let her know there’s another empty seat up for grabs!
I do feel for Her Majesty, but never one to miss a sales opportunity, my latest design is titled ‘The Balmoral Throw’. Using super chunky wool, this luxurious blanket is cocooning, comforting and cosy, perfect for Queen in a draughty castle, a Corgi in a royal dog basket (that’s a joke) or a humble Kiwi residing in the far reaches of Her Majesties Realm.
Have a peek at the yarn and free pattern Her Majesty has selected.
We'll pop the needles in for free with every order for the yarn and blanket pattern!
Charlie's Angels, ABBA, & All Things Groovy
Classic 70's.... Cork platformed sandals,
flared jeans and twisted ankles
The 1970’s spanned most of my primary school education and some of my secondary school years. The 1970’s was a decade like no other, it was packed with innovation and excitement and for ‘most’ children it was simply fabulous. Groups would gather in the playground to listen to some affluent (spoilt) kid play David Bowies Space Oddity on a Stylaphone. Promoted by the bubbly and extremely out going Rolf Harris, any child who managed to have this bestselling early 1970’s electronic organ went right to the top of the playground popularity stakes. Girls would have Clacker competitions. Clackers, also known as Klinkies or Ker-knockers were two hard plastic balls on short strings and joined by a small plastic handle. The sound of the furious clacking as the balls bounced against each other was frequently interrupted by a howl of pain as the missiles became tangled and inflicted a great deal of pain on hands and wrists. I was incredibly relieved when my primary school banned them due to the high injury rate. As I was not part of the Clacker Group, I hoped that any new group that formed may just include me.
In my final year of primary school, I had my moment of glory. It was 1974, Abba had just swept to victory at the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo. Abbamania had just begun. As myself, and my classmates were just about to leave Peacefield Primary School and head off to secondary school, we had to perform on the school stage, in the obligatory leavers assemble. I wasn’t expecting too much. Always being the last to be picked for the netball team, never getting a part in the Christmas Nativity and sitting alone on the school bus did not instill me with great confidence in my popularity and performing skills. I could not have been more wrong! The two most popular boys in the class asked myself and my best (only) friend, Lydia Massey, to perform Waterloo, dressed up as Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid. I was so excited, especially as Lydia was a cool kid and would be able to loan me the platform shoes, boob tube and bell bottomed shiny trousers. I would look amazing and would soar into the stratosphere on the popularity scale. Actually, I didn’t reach the stratosphere, and was brought down to earth with an almighty bump. Us two girls were to dress as Benny and Bjorn, the boys were to be Agnetha and Anni-Frid. I was so upset, I looked an absolute twit. In my brother’s old corduroy waistcoat, grey school trousers and with painted on beard and moustache, I was finally part of a group, but it certainly was not one I wanted any part of. Incidentally in adult life both myself and my daughters have become avid Abba fans, and adore playing our collection of Abba Vinyl or discussing lyrics and instrumentals.
What’s all this got to do with a knitting newsletter, I hear you ask. Well I firmly lay the blame for my exclusion from all the excitement the 1970’s had to offer on my mum’s hand knitting. The cool kids went to C and A for their clothes, or at least the hipster market stall that had the latest styles in flared jeans. They bought their platform shoes from Dolcis and had their hair styled at a salon. My pudding bowl cut was courtesy of the lady who worked from her front room and specialised in shampoos and sets. I stood out like a sore thumb. My sensible shoes, my purple crimplene pinafore dress, my dodgy haircut and my blasted hand knitted polo neck jumpers. I hated my polo neck jumpers. Mum always cast off to tightly, and, as they were made of acrylic, I swear they squeaked as I tugged them over my head. Her colour choice was, however, right on trend. One was purple, another brown and then I had an orange hand me down from my sister. What child in their right mind would want to include me in their incredible groovy 1970’s experience? It’s a damn good job I didn’t really mind been alone. I enjoyed solitary skateboarding, I bounced to my heart’s content on my orange Space Hopper, I listened, alone, to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Tubular Bells and Disco Hits 1975. I was addicted to the hit TV show, Charlies Angels and of course I wanted to look like Farrah Fawcett. Judging by the mass appearance of Farrah hairstyles at my new secondary school, so did every other impressionable twelve-year-old girl. Even had my mum allowed it, and been willing to pay a large sum of money to some posh hair salon, there was not a ‘cat in hells chance’ my short brown hair could be transformed into Farrah’s flowing, flicked back locks. I bet Farrah didn’t have to suffer the humiliation of wearing knitted acrylic sweaters as a child. YES, I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT MY OSTRACISATION FROM THAT FABULOUS DECADE, THE 1970’S, IS ENTIRELY DOWN TO MY MOTHERS INSISTENCE THAT SHE SENDS HER YOUNGEST AMD MOST INSECURE DAUGHTER OFF TO SCHOOL LOOKING LIKE A COMPLETE LOOSER.
My mum’s hand knitting did come into its own as the 1970’s was drawing to an end. I had become more confident, had miraculously gained a great group of school friends and my dodgy short haircut had grown into something resembling the style worn by Lady Diana in the early 1980’s. This reversal was, I believe due to my mum’s ability to knit a shapeless and prickly mohair sweater in less than a week. Mohair sweaters were all the rage and I was one of the first kids in the class to own such an important trend setting item of clothing. I felt amazing as I bopped (danced) away to The Bee Gees and the Bay City Rollers at the school Youth Club. I had suddenly become one of the Popular’s. Who would have thought that a few balls of mohair and a mother who could knit at lightening speed would manage to turn an ugly duckling into a confident, and most importantly, a popular swan?
I hope I raised a bit of a giggle with my mohair sweater memories. I frequently spend time in the shop swapping ‘mohair jumper memories’. Those of us in our late 40’s and early 50’s will remember our fluffy and itchy mohair sweaters and cardigans with great fondness, and you know what?... we looked and felt absolutely fabulous and them.
I have just completed a sweater and it is on display in the shop. It’s made from brushed Baby Alpaca, which is way softer than those incredibly scratchy and prickly mohair yarns. My new design features ‘dolman sleeves’, which some of you may know as ‘bat wing’ sleeves (Dolman sounds way more sophisticated). As you may have guessed I got my inspiration from the memorable and extremely stylish mohair sweaters from my mid teens. As I have been knitting away at the shop, I have found customers comments highly amusing. The young and lovely girls comment on how trendy my design is and how they are going to pester their mums to make them one. Ladies similar in age to myself, after having a good giggle, show interest and enthusiasm. They realise my design is rather lovely and incredibly wearable. I know there’s a saying ‘if you wore it first time around then you shouldn’t wear it when it comes around again’, well I will disagree. I will certainly be wearing this sweater when it goes a little cooler. You may find me bopping around the shop to the sound of Abba, Fleetwood Mac or the Bee Gees. If any of you have any special Charlies Angels memories I will turn the music down, pop the kettle on, make a us a cup of tea. We can swap Farrah Fawcett stories and if any of you had a successful Farrah hairstyle I would love to see some photo’s!
No hot date this evening, no plans to get down and boogie?
Feast your eyes on our fab free pattern... right on.
Follow this link to get this groovy jumper pattern, free with purchase of wool!
Fran, Marya and Olivia.
As I said, our new Touch Yarns Pure New Zealand merino wool is probably the most glorious of all merino wool available worldwide. It is extremely hard to describe in words…buttery soft, rich colour saturated shades, full bodied, gutsy and honest. This is what I call a ‘cradle to the grave wool’. This isn’t a morbid observation, I certainly wouldn’t mind finding myself in my grave with a whole pile of this wool, a few bottles of wine and some gardening books, I would be in Heaven, pun intended! What I mean is that this yarn is perfect for all ages. It’s soft and extremely warm, yet durable and hard wearing, When I say durable and hard wearing I do not mean rough and scratchy. Rather this yarn has integrity, class and longevity. Your hand knits will develop a patina, a history, memories, a story of love and caring. Its softness makes it ideal for special new babies (see our free pattern at the bottom of this newsletter), its durability perfect for busy toddlers and grubby kids, (my mum always said the dirtiest kids were the healthiest). As your offspring leave home they should have a merino hand knit sweater or at least a scarf and beanie, although I guarantee any lovingly hand knitted item will be instantly lost or borrowed by a mate and a replacement will have to be speedily produced. Blokes will wear a merino sweater for fishing, sailing and pottering in the shed, it will have to be prized off their backs, it will remain a favourite for many years. For the elderly, who may want and need little of a material nature, a handmade blanket or shawl is just a means of showing you care, you are wrapping them in your love.
or come into the shop to cuddle and stroke them yourself!
There’s a saying in knitting circles, ‘never knit a man a sweater until you have a ring on your finger, otherwise he will leave you’. I can certainly vouch for this. As an impoverished university student in the early 1980’s I made the love of my life a blue wool sweater, it cost me a large proportion of my student grant and took up many hours of my valuable study time. Sure enough, as I lovingly handed over the masterpiece, the horror was written all over his face. Short of wearing a long white dress, stuffing a piece of wedding cake in my mouth and whistling ‘Here comes the bride’ I could not have made my intentions more obvious he was ‘The One’. He thought otherwise, and as he ‘ran a mile’ he tossed the sweater back in my direction. Thirty-six years later my father is still wearing the sweater. My parents live in England, dad has just turned 88. He has been unwell having been struck down with a particularly serious dose of flu. He has remained in bed pretty much since Christmas. His condition was extremely serious, and my mum has handed him the telephone on numerous occasions so he can have a ‘final’ conversation with me. This is quite a surreal situation to find oneself in, however after three ‘final conversations’ he is still hanging on and fully intent on making a miraculous recovery so he can see out the end of the football season on TV, and get his dahlia tubers in the ground. A thought did cross my mind…should I ask him if he still needs his blue sweater? If not, I could unravel it and re knit it into a lovely dog blanket for my Labrador, Harry! My dad’s sense of humour is quite unique, but maybe even he would not find my request too amusing.
With my dad been so unwell I have found it hard to concentrate on my knitting. I woke early this morning and picked up my needles, only to discover I had made yet another mistake in my supposedly simple baby blanket. I ditched the knitting and headed into the garden. Yes, I know I looked hilarious wielding a spade and watering can, complete with pink pyjamas and sun hat! I turned over the compost heap, deadheaded some flowers and swept the deck. My neighbours don’t bat an eyelid, they are used to my eccentricity. I have been known to take a morning tour of the garden in my underwear so I suppose they thought I was a little overdressed in my pink pyjamas! When my mind is a little more settled I will return to knitting, but for now my garden is definitely my happy place.
Fran, Marya and Olivia.
Size: baby, toddler, young child (approx. 4 years)
Wool: Touch Yarns Pure Merino Wool 8ply
Needles: a pair of 3.25 and 4.00mm needles.
Tension: approximately 22sts to 10cm, in st st stitch, on 4mm needles
garter st garter stitch (every row knit)
st st stocking stitch (1 row knit, 1 row purl)
rs right side
ws wrong side
skpo slip 1, knit 1, pass slipped stitch over (decreasing by one)
k2tog knit 2 stitches together (decreasing by one)
inc increase (knit into the front and the back of the stitch to increase by one)
nr next row
With 3.25mm needles cast on 69, (78 ,87) sts.
Work in st st for 10 rows.
Change to 4.00mm needles, and starting with a knit row work in stst until work measures 10 (12, 14) cm from cast on, ending after a purl row.
nr(rs) k4 (6,5), skpo, k2, k2tog, *k5 (6,8), skpo, k2, k2tog. rep from * 5 times, k4(6,6). you should now have 57 (66,75) sts.
work 3 rows in st st starting with a p row.
nr(rs)k3(5,4),skpo, k2, k2tog, *k3 (4,6), skp, k2, k2tog. rep from *5 times, k3(5,5). you should now have 45(54, 63) sts.
work 3 rows in stst(starting with a purl row.
nr (rs) k2(4,3), skpo, k2, k2 tog *k1 (2,4), skp, k2 k2tog. rep from * 5 times, k2(4,4). you should now have 33(42,51) sts.
nr(ws) purl one row.
nr(rs)k2tog across the row, k1(0,1).
you should now have 17(21,26) sts.
nr(ws)purl one row.
nr(rs)k2tog across the row, k1(1,0).
you should now have 9(11,13) sts.
Change to 3.25mm needles and work on these remaining sts to form the tie top, for 8(9,10) cm.
Break off the wool leaving a reasonable end to sew up the beanie. Using the wool needle, thread the wool through the remaining stitches, to draw together, then secure. Sew up your beanie. Reverse the seam for the rolled edge.
Well, I hope I will be starting a new project this weekend BUT I do have to complete 'Capri': a linen loose fit sweater which I actually started last summer. I completed the front, back and one sleeve. I only had a couple of hours work on the final sleeve, and of course, the dreaded sewing up. I made a bit of an arrangement in store of my knitted pieces along side the yarn, a sort of 'work in progress' display' Well blow me... the back of the garment went 'walk about' I hunted high and low, I suspected I had popped it down somewhere stupid, (I expect that raised a giggle from all of you over 50!) Well the dratted knitted piece could not be found. Even when I boxed up the entire shop an moved up to Milford it failed to reveal itself. Well, the final piece of my garment is almost complete. Tonight I plan to catch up on a recorded Gardeners World and if I am not drooling over Monty Don, and his beautiful Golden Retriever, Nigel, I will speedily cast off and sew the damn thing up!
I am extremely thankful that I am around this week. An emergency trip to England was on the cards for last week, as my elderly parents we struck down with Aussie Flu, a particular strain of the illness that was not anticipated and not covered by the vaccination given to those on the susceptible. My father was particularly unwell, and even now, two weeks later he is only emerging from his sick bed for soup, Jammy Dodger biscuits and to check the football results. The fact that he has not had a shave since New Year is extremely alarming, Dad has shaved religiously every day of his adult life. His silvery whiskers are the most accurate indicator of how serious his condition is. I spoke to him briefly this week. Mum handed the phone to him, I suspect she was wanting to make sure I have a 'last few words' with him. Ever the optimist, he dismissed his life threatening condition, He had no intention of 'popping his clogs as he had received some dahlia tubers for Christmas, and come hell or high water he was going to get them planted in the garden! I have just booked my annual flight home for June, I sincerely hope those dahlias are about three feet tall and about to flower.
My beautiful Husqvarna sewing machine has attracted a bit of a following. A number of you have called into the store to chat on the subject of 'all things vintage' one lady asked me what name have I given my machine. Crikey, I hadn't thought of a name what an oversight! Victoria or Grace immediately spring to mind but I'm going to throw it open to all of you to choose a suitably lovely name. Click here to take a look at my lovely sewing machine and give yourself some inspiration. E mail in your suggestions and I will make a special poppy print needle roll for whoever's name is pulled out of the knitting bag next Friday.
And finally, Valentines day is fast approaching, may we suggest that chocolates and flowers are outdated...knitted pantaloons will be all the Vogue for February 2018!
Happy Knitting from the Woolly Girls