Vintage Knitting, Retro Dressmaking, Make do and Mend, Original and Vintage Inspired Knitting Patterns, Vintage Inspired books

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Love Letter to Lancashire

When we began our mammoth move from the North West coastline, up the M6 and higher and higher from sea level to 400 feet above sea level, I don't think either Gavin or I really fully appreciated exactly what lay in store for us. We spent a week driving backwards and forwards in a 7.5 ton lorry transporting our home, our business, our sheds and our small holding to the lancashire hill farm that has become our new home.

Parts of the house have been on this spot since the 1600s with evidence of a farm or dwelling here since before 1066. The land is ancient, the views majestic and the legacy and responsibility enormous.

 The property had been empty for almost five years when we moved in three weeks ago.

The owners of the estate have spent a significant amount of time renovating the farmhouse and doing what they could to clear up the land and the outbuildings. Whilst the farmhouse is in immaculate condition the land and these other buildings need an enormous amount of work to bring them back to life and production.

In between the moving, the unpacking and the rebuilding, Gavin and I have taken whatever moments we can to walk around the farm getting to know 'our land' and get to grips with what needs to be done.

Unfortunately there is currently no electric to the outbuildings so much of the work that needs to be done on these is in the pending tray. Another outbuilding blew done shortly before we moved in and another small shed needs to be knocked down before it does the same.

The previous occupant had amassed over 50 years of  'stuff' much of which has been removed, but there is still debris and rubbish to be found everywhere. The dry stone walls and ancient buildings have been allowed to crumble and decay but the stone remains scattered about the land.

The most significant problem for us though has been the absence of a telephone line, broadband, mobile phone signal or 3G connection. Every now and again for about 20 minutes twice a day, we randomly seem to pick up a 3G signal but other than that we are currently in the hands of the BT engineers who after 3 weeks have not yet repaired the faulty line to the farm.  This makes so very, many things very, very difficult and others - like blogging - impossible. With neither landline or mobile phone signal even ordering supplies from builders merchants becomes a major task. So everything, absolutely everything, takes much longer than it should and some things can't happen at all. I am having to learn patience - not a trait I am blessed with as a rule - as things slowly get done.

This all sounds horrendous, so why do it? you may well ask. Having a farm of our own which works with the business has been a long time goal for both of us, but this farm is so much more. Regardless of the debris and the neglect it is an awe inspiring, spirit lifting place.

As you walk the land, your worries depart and the beauty envelops you. To be the custodians of this glorious place is an honour we never thought we would obtain. Nature surrounds us as was truly revealed a few days ago when the fields all around us were filled with the bleating of new born lambs.

We are privileged to live right here.


for now,

Ruby xxx

Friday, February 28, 2014

Gavin and Susan's Excellent Adventure

Tomorrow sees the start of our big adventure, when Gavin and I commence our move to our farm in the North Lancashire hills, with Cumbria just to the North and the Pennines stretching out in front of us to the East.

We are both so very, very excited and have many people to thank who helped us both achieve our life long ambition to have a farm.

I still have the plastic farm animals that I played with almost daily throughout my childhood. My wonderful Albert granddad who had kept animals for much of his life on a tiny plot of land had instilled in me a love of all things farm. We built minature wooden farm houses and pig styes together. I painted cabbages and lettuces onto a piece of hardboard to represent my kitchen garden. My favourite plastic farm yard character was a girl in a red dress with white apron over who was carrying a bucket laden with milk. Things did get confused occasionally, such as when I introduced figurines from my brother’s medieval fort and suddenly several of the farm horses were walking round the farm in full protective armour!

I will have much to share over the forthcoming months and years but over the next couple of weeks I will be very quiet online as there is so, so very much to do. Not only are we moving two hoarders accumulated lifetimes of stuff but also the entire business plus chickens, plants, greenhouses, sheds etc. So there is a lot to do and we are keen to get straight as quickly as possible so work can begin on all our plans. We therefore plan to work solidly on the move for the next 9 days. I will have very limited internet access at the farm for the first couple of weeks whilst new services are provided but I will keep a check on emails whenever possible. However if I’m not able to reply immediately please don’t fret. I will be in touch as soon as I can.

The movement of the business side of things has been very carefully planned to create minimum disruption so despatching of orders will continue pretty much as normal from the end of next week. Again so many exciting things to share design and yarn wise, so I’m very keen to get back to normal as soon as we can!

In the meantime if you want to see what’s happening do take a look at my instagram page where whenever I get the chance or the internet, I’ll be posting pictures of what’s happening down on the farm.

Speak very soon but
for now,
Ruby xx

Monday, February 17, 2014

Knitting Terminology

I had a collection of fascinating conversations on twitter and facebook earlier today about the use of certain knitting terms. Specifically these were yfwd, yrn and yo.

Traditionally in the UK, the terms yfwd and yrn were used to describe particular actions, which tend to now be replaced with yo or even wyif.

Having grown up using vintage patterns and being taught to knit by two grandmothers who both only ever knitted from a narrow selection of UK patterns I began my knitting life familiar and comfortable with the terms yfwd and yrn. As terminology has changed these two terms seem to have become less familiar and sometimes confusing to knitters not brought up on these types of patterns.

In fact to add further confusion to the whole terminology complications, what has become known as yo was previously also known by M1. M1 now means make 1 by picking up the loop between stitches and knitting into it to create an additional stitch. In the 1930s and 1940s when it was used it actually meant to perform a yfwd, a yrn or a yo as was appropriate. Like 'inc' 1 it was a way of using a generic instruction without having to be precise.

The main reason for this is that yfwd was used when the stitch just worked and the stitch to be worked next was a knit stitch and a yrn was used either if the stitch just worked was a purl and was to be followed by a purl OR if working a knit stitch followed by another knit stitch but a bigger loop was required between them than what a yfwd would create, the yarn would be wrapped around the needle - from the back, over the top of the needle, then back round to the back. By avoiding saying which to use, by simply saying M1, it left the interpretation to the knitter.

If you try using a 'modern' M1 on lacy knitting patterns from the 1940s however, you'll find your lace has no holes! But by using M1 back then it didn't matter whether knit or purl sts where preceding or following, one term would fit all. I guess this is what YO does now?

So back to yfwd and yrn. I am currently using a stitch pattern that I have reworked from a 'vintage' book. This 6 stitch, 10 row, lace pattern uses both yfwd and yrn in its instruction. Yfwd between two knit stitches and yrn between purl stitches.  My interpretation of these is as follows:

yfwd - bring yarn to the front of the needle. As you prepare to knit the next stitch you will lift the yarn over the top of the needle to the back of the work then knit the next stitch. Also known as YO or possibly, wyif.

yrn - wrap yarn around the needle from position at front of needle, over the top of the needle and back round to the front again before purling the next stitch.

Obviously within the pattern, a distinction between the two types of yarn 'movement' is needed - or is it? What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from both vintage knitters, who I would imagine know exactly where I'm coming from, but also from knitters who use more contemporary patterns and let me know what these terms mean to you.

And one last little gem. What do you think 'N' means in a lace pattern instruction?

for now
Ruby xx

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Limited Edition Excelana Colours are now available!

Some of you may have already heard me excitedly shouting about this on Twitter, but the three fabulous colours of Excelana 4 ply that I shared with you a couple of weeks ago are now available to purchase.  The yarns have all been wound into 50g skeins in the garden studio, wrapped in their special skein bands and are waiting to meet their new owners!

The yarns can be purchased from my new look online shop! This has been a long time coming I know, but the shop is now Its not yet perfect but its a lot better than before! If you already have a knitonthenet shop account you can still log in with the same details but at long last the styling is all beginning to match.

My website is also getting an overhaul and within a few days the shop and website should be flowing 'seamlessly' together with far less duplication and variation.

A lovely retailer of my books and yarns based in Sweden, sent me this wonderful image from a Swedish childrens story called " Tant Brun, Tant Grön och Tant Gredelin" or "Aunt Brown,  Aunt Green and Aunt Lavender" by Elsa Beskow.

I could pretend that I had carefully matched my colours to the illustrations from the story but it has happened quite by chance, although I am a lover of the books and was thrilled when the subliminal inspiration was pointed out to me. The story book was first published in 1918 and you can still get hold of english language versions as well as the original Swedish. Her books are published in the UK by Floris Books.

Elsa Beskow was an author and illustrator born in Stockholm in 1874 and published her first book, Tale of the Little Old Woman in 1897. During her lifetime she had 40 books published. Her love of fairy tales throughout her life is very close to my own heart and her illustrations and in particular the colours that she uses are a constant source of inspiration. You can read more about Elsa and purchase her books on the Floris website.

Anyhow, back to the yarns! Although they have only been for sale for a couple of days they are selling very quickly and I unfortunately do only have a limited supply so please click on the links below if you would like to purchase.

Each 50g skein retails at £6.60 including VAT (If you are entitled to VAT deduction, the shop will automatically take the VAT off before you go through checkout).

 I'm off to read about Aunt Brown's birthday and do some knitting!

so for now,
Ruby xx

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Very Personal Kickstarter Appeal

My daughter Charlie, is very familiar to many knitters both in the UK and around the world. She has been modelling for me since I first started in this business and she was a wee, slip of a thing. She has been amazed over the years when people have spoken to her or even contacted her via social media to ask her if she is the model they have seen wearing such-an-such a pattern. She has never declined to be a model and has also been my photographic assistant on more shoots than I can remember, often producing just the right shot that we need.

In fact, Charlie had always been interested in photography, going to a local junior photographers club from around the age of 8. Coupled with an inherited obsession with film, it was really no surprise when she chose to move to Edinburgh to study Film at Edinburgh College of Art. The four years are passing in a blur and she is now working on her graduation film which will hopefully provide her with the results she is aiming for to move onto the Masters programme at the same college. Her chosen area is documentary and she has already produced some beautiful short films about people around her.

Charlie has also modelled for my very good friend Woolly Wormhead and stayed with Woolly and her family along with me when I have visited but also by herself, becoming good friends with Woolly independently of me and also forming a wonderfully close bond with Woolly's son, Aran.

Charlie's plan for some time has been to feature the Mutoid camp where Woolly and Aran live in her graduation film, and gradually after discussions with myself, her tutors and particularly Woolly, the project began to take shape. Charlie's film will look at life in the Mutoid camp through the eyes and imagination of 6 year old Aran. It promises to be a beautiful film, but to be able to make it, Charlie will need to travel to Italy two or three times in relatively quick succession over the next couple of months to get all the footage she needs and therefore needs funding to help her fund travel and production costs.

So yesterday, she launched her first ever Kickstarter appeal to raise £800 (£850 including kickstarter fees). You can find out a lot more about the film and Charlie's approach on her Kickstarter page.

If you are able to pledge even the smallest amount, or spread the word about her appeal that would be simply wonderful!

When Charlie launched the appeal yesterday, she genuinely didn't believe anyone would find her project interesting enough to pledge, but people have already been incredibly generous and I really can't thank you all enough. Charlie really has to fight a lack of self confidence but I, both as her mother and as a former art teacher, can see her developing almost daily, turning into the Director and Artist that she could and should be.  I am so very, very proud of my little girl.

for now
Ruby xx

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Posture, Exercise & RSI

Posture is the way we sit, or stand, or walk, you know.
Good posture or bad posture can change the way I grow!
It also makes a difference in how I work and play,
Good posture is important, so I use it every day!

A very good friend of mine is the latest in a long list of crafters I know to have been hit with RSI related problems brought on by a combination of computing and knitting. Its one of those things that tends to plague knitters and in particular knitwear designers as when we're not knitting, we are on the computer typing up patterns and running numbers through spreadsheets. And much of the time these activities are undertaken in less than ideal situations and a lot of the time, poor posture and incorrect seating is contributory to the problems we experience.

I promised my friend that I would try and find amd re-publish a blog post I wrote several years ago that included information about RSI and also the simple exercises that I undertake each day to try and alleviate the problems. So here it is and I do hope it is of use to anyone suffering from any form of RSI:

We all hear and talk about RSI but exactly what as knitters are we vunerable to?

The chief forms of RSI which affect knitters are:

Carpal tunnel syndrome
Tennis elbow
Golfers elbow
de Quervain’s disease
Trigger finger
Cubital tunnel syndrome

What is RSI? It is classified as a neurovascular syndrome and is identified as chronic or prolonged pain in the hands, shoulders, back or neck, caused by the constant repetition of a series of movements. Its onset can be insidious, its diagnosis problematic and its results irreversible.

It affects the soft tissues, nerves, tendons, muscle and cartilage. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent disability.

The truth is, that as knitters, we spend hours repeating a small number of motions, so therefore are at risk of RSI; as is anyone who sews, crochets, plays a musical instrument or works on a computer.

RSI develops over time and its symptoms often come on gradually. Once you become aware of the symptoms there is another catch. Diagnosing RSI is difficult.
Therefore we needs defensive tactics whether already a sufferer or just a concerned knitter.

You can do many things to keep your symptoms in check or to prevent RSI.




Knitters can be at risk the moment they sit down. Many of us slouch, shoulders drooping and head bowed. Manipulating the needles forces the hands and elbows into an unnatural fixed position for long periods of time. The wrists are flexed up, stretching the tendons. The fingers and thumb exert pressure to hold needles and yarn. Passing the yarn over the needle involves repeated finger movements and the weight of the work in progress also drags on the wrists. Over time the rhythmic sequence of knitting and purling can pinch nerves and other soft tissues.

Sitting properly can spare your aching hands. The back supports your entire body, and proper spinal alignment is needed. Sit up straight without hunching your shoulders and neck. Your feet should be squarely planted with legs bent at a right angle – NOT CROSSED. Keep your elbows close to the body, bent at a comfortable angle, not sticking out from the body. Hold needles in your hands, and if possible not tucked under your arms as this can cause additional shoulder problems.

There is no correct or wrong way to grip the needles but try not to bend the wrist back too much. Circular needles are better than straights as they spread the weight of the knitting and wooden are better than metal or plastic as they flex with the hand rather than resist.

If you are having problems thicker needles are better than thin as you are not gripping as tightly. With crochet hooks you can make a handle out of sponge rollers to prevent you having to grip the hook so tightly.

In addition tight knitters put extra strain on their hands, so try and loosen up and relax your tension slightly – use a bigger needle.


CTS is probably the best known RSI. More than 8 million Americans alone have this condition in which the hands’ median nerve is trapped inside the carpal (wrist) tunnel. This cavity is formed by the transverse carpal ligament, an elastic tissue that surrounds the eight bones in the wrist. When repetitive movements irritate the slippery protective lining of the flexor tendons, they become swollen inside the carpal tunnel, compressing the median nerve. This leads to pain, tingling, loss of strength and reduced range of motion.


Also know as Ulnar Neuropathy. Caused by leaning on elbows, holding the telephone, knitting, typing – anything that requires repeated bending and straightening of the elbow. This can lead to inflammation of the ulnar nerve, which travels from the neck to the elbow then to the fingers. Symptoms are similar to CTS except the pain is felt in the ring and little fingers.


Also known as Epicondylitis, results in small ruptures in muscles and tendons located in the inside of the elbow. The muscles and tendons that bend the wrist start in this region. Wrist and hand movements create small tears and scarring in the muscle and tendon fibres. Symtoms are the same as tennis elbow but felt on the inside of the elbow. Tennis elbow is felt on the outside of the elbow, travelling down the forearm to the middle and ring fingers. Bending the wrist back or turning the palm upwards makes it more painful.


This is a condition where an irritated tendon cannot slide easily through a cavity. A knot forms blocking the space leaving the finger bent.

 I try and do at least some of the following warm up exercises every morning.


1) Warm up soaks and stretches

Perform the stretches in a basin large enough for you to immerse your hand, forearm and if possible, elbow. The water should be as hot as you can stand.

Finger stretch: Stretch out your fingers as wide as you can and hold for a slow count of 10 to 20 seconds. Bend your fingers and hold for a count of 5. Repeat up to 10 times.

Wrist stretch 1: Pull your hand backwards gently with your fingers and hold for a slow count of 10. Repeat with the other hand.

Wrist stretch 2: Make a fist. With your other hand, push down on the fist and flex it forwards towards the wrist. Hold for a slow count of 10. Repeat with the other hand.

2) Quick stretches during the day

Wrist tendon stretch

Place your hands together in the prayer position. Raise your elbows out to the side, keeping the palms together. Spread your fingers wide and bring them together again, slowly, five times. Repeat.

Chin tuck

Good for in a car with a head rest, or lying down with a cushion under your head. Tuck your chin down toward your chest and push your head against the headrest or cushion. Hold for a count of twenty then relax. Repeat 3 times.

Shoulder shrugs

Stand or sit up straight. Shrug your shoulders as high and tight as you can and hold for 10. Relax. Repeat 3 times. Then shrug your shoulders back as far as you can and hold for 10. Relax. Repeat 3 times.

These are the things we probably all do much of the time!

Don’t keep wrists bent towards you for long periods (flexion) as irritates the nerves and tendons in the wrist.

Don’t tilt your hand in the direction of the little finger (Ulnar deviation) - this position folds the tendons over the wrist bone putting needle strain on the tendons.

Don’t grip or grasp an object for long periods of time. This contracts forearm muscles, pull tendons and creates pressure and rubbing in the carpal tunnel.

Don’t pinch (grasping with only the fingers) – causes additional pressure in the carpal tunnel.

Don’t keep elbows bent forward (as in at a keyboard) for long periods – causes compression of the nerves causing irritation.

Don’t slouch.

Don’t lean over your work. Strains neck and shoulders. Also can impinge on nerve roots.

Don’t keep your arms in a work position for a long period of time, the constant stress of supporting the weight of your arms and your work can irritate the shoulder.

I also go for regular sports massage to relax the muscles and to remove the built up toxins found in them and this helps a great deal. But if you haven't got time for exercising or massages, just change your position regularly, let go of the needles or stop typing, stand up, walk around, move your shoulders, but remember to treat your body gently and with respect. 

I do hope some of the information may be of help

for now,
Ruby xx

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Stunning New Excelana Shades

A few months ago I took my first direct foray into the commercial manufacture of yarn, purchasing spun undyed wool on the cone from John Arbon and then working with a commercial dyer based in the Scottish Borders to create new Excelana colours to complement the existing colour palette and offer an instantly broader choice. I have learnt a heck of a lot on this journey - its a steep learning curve believe me - but the most significant of these is the time it takes from idea to fruition.

However earlier this week the wait was finally over, and along with another huge order which I'll share next time, I received three beautiful new colours of Excelana 4ply which all look exactly like I had planned!

The yarns are currently still on cones so there is one final step in their production before they are ready for sale which is of course the balling and banding. We don't have our own balling machine - as yet! - so we have to take the yarn on a trip to nearby West Yorkshire to be wound off into 50 gram balls ready for selling. The yarn should be ready before the Unravel show in Farnham in late February, however there is a limited amount of the yarn so I hope to make it available for pre-order on the online shop early next week so that you can be sure of getting some. If you like them as much as you like Dark Mandarin they're not going to last very long that's for sure!

All three colours are only available in Excelana 4 ply for the forseeable future. They are the same composition as the existing Excelana, being 100% pure British wool, 70% Exmoor Blueface, 30% Bluefaced Leicester and each 50 gram ball has a meterage of 159 metres. These three colours will be available exclusively from my online shop due to the limited stock levels.

The first colour is Sweet Chestnut

On my ravelry forum this warm brown shade has been repeatedly asked for and I have been desperate for a rich brown in the range for a long time. It works perfectly with the other new colours in the range as well as the existing palette. I desperately 'need' the Lady's Jumper Cardigan from A Stitch in Time volume 2 in Sweet Chestnut.

The next is Damson Wine

This one took a lot of getting right. It is based on a shade I found on a 1930s shade card and manages to be vibrant yet soft at the same time, blending beautifully with the other colours. The Fair Isle twinset from A Stitch in Time combining the three new colours along with Dark Mandarin, Saharan Sand and Alabaster will create a wonderful autumnal outfit.

And finally, the one that I and so many of you have been waiting for, 
Land Army Green.

I toyed with calling this so many other names but at the end of the day, it was the Land Army jumpers that inspired me to create this colour, so really their was no other name that would do. I plan to knit the Warm Jumper also from A Stitch in Time volume 2 in this colour at the earliest opportunity, as it will make a fabulous 'workwear' style jumper with my dungarees!

So which is your favourite? And what would you knit with them?

for now,
Ruby xx