Tag Archives: knitting

Camp Bestival 2014, Knitting Tent

8 Aug

Every year, Gerrard Allt (of iKnit fame) takes a team of volunteer knitters to Camp Bestival (a child friendly music festival) to teach knitting. He asked if I was interested. I said yes, obviously.

The three day festival takes place in Lulworth Castle. It is beautiful. Leaving London affects a lot of its inmates quite profoundly. Battery chickens probably feel the same way. Seeing a horizon, a horizon carved by glaciers and not “investment”, is affecting.  It was odd to see the graveyard used as a chill-out area though.

IMG_1020 IMG_1013 IMG_1042 IMG_1043 IMG_1065

Teaching children to knit is a joy. So many children do not know that their hands can be clever, so many children think that they are stupid. Teaching children to craft is revelatory to them. I am moved by it. So much of the job is making parents shut up, alas. So many children were encouraged away from the colours they wanted to use. I heard parents stage whispering “they’ll never do it” or putting their fingers round their child’s hand, interfering with the skill they were trying to learn. Without ever making it a formal thing, all of the volunteers seemed to fall upon the same, revolutionary ideas. Trust children. Allow them to make mistakes. Smile.

IMG_1047 IMG_1048 IMG_1049 IMG_1052 IMG_1051 IMG_1055 IMG_1057 IMG_1061 IMG_1074

We had a finger knitting competition to end the weekend. There were some very, very long pieces of knitting made… by suprisingly small children. My lens is fairly small, but I think even a wide-angle camera would have taken several shots to take in the length of some of these pieces.

IMG_1077 IMG_1078 IMG_1080 IMG_1081 IMG_1082 IMG_1084 IMG_1085 IMG_1086

Of the several hundred children who came through the tent, not one left without being taught a craft. We taught two year olds to finger knit or make friendship bracelets. Buzzy, “unteachable” kids made themselves pom-pom garlands. Kids aren’t stupid! They are industrious, curious and observant. Every single child who was allowed to try craft left with a new skill. This teaches me two things: 1) Children are amazing and 2)More grown-ups could learn new things if they weren’t so afraid of making mistakes.

Free Pattern: Dominant Dog Cowl

3 Dec Chris Party and Dominant Dog Cowl 065

I’m in the middle of writing a bigger post, so in the meantime I thought I’d put out a pattern I’ve been holding onto for a while. It’s a simple knit which makes a feature of common tension issues and my willingness to sprinkle glitter on a hunchback.

Chris Party and Dominant Dog Cowl 064

I don’t know what was going on with the action man eagle eye action.  Here’s one of me smiling like I’ve stolen something.

Chris Party and Dominant Dog Cowl 058

I realised, fairly early on in my career, that I had a problem with stranded knitting. My dominant yarn  is very, very dominant. So dominant, in fact, that it entirely distorts any kind of interlocking but even pattern. This is a pity, because I love houndstooth.

Rather than practice, and grow as a person (urgh) I decided to just go with it. This cowl turns my problematic dominance issues into a central decorative feature. I’m hoping that the boys of London follow this cue.

The “light” and “dark” sections of this cowl are knitted from the same chart, the only difference between them being which yarn is “dominant”. If you are good at tensioning, the effect will be slight. If you are poor at tensioning, you will be rewarded with a stronger effect. It’s incredibly warm, because of the all-over stranding, and it gave me a chance to use the lovely Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester Aran. This is a quick knit which would be ideal for last minute gift knitting.

Small – 21″ around (as modelled)
Medium – 26″ around
Large – 30″ around

Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester (Pure Wool, 75m per ball): 1, (2, 2) balls each in Charcoal(a) and Mustard(b)
5mm circular needles or DPNS

18sts and 24 rows to 4×4″


  1. Read up on yarn dominance. The link at the top of the page takes you to an excellent explanation by KnittingTraditions.com
  2. CO 96 (116, 136) sts in a.
  3. Work 8 rounds of 2 x 2 rib.
  4. Knit next 16 rows according to chart. This means you’ll work through chart rows 1-4 4 times. Keep yarn a dominant throughout. I’ve not added a key to the chart, because I respect your ability understand grey=grey. (#AynRand?)Houndstooth chart
  5. Maintaining pattern as set, change your yarn dominance. Knit 16 rows with yarn b dominant.
  6. Knit 8 rounds of 2 x 2 rib in yarn b. Cast off. Wet-block. Wear.


  • Use a stretchy cast on and cast off. I used the longtail cast on and the Elizabeth Zimmerman sewn bind off.
  • Fair isle isn’t stretchy. Bear this in mind when picking a size. The small cowl is very warm, but also very snug.

Hot Turds and David Cameron

25 Nov

In an ideal world, I would blog every single day. This is not that world. I try and post when I’ve got something important to say, or when I’ve got something interesting to say. But a lot of the time, I’ve got neither. Buckowski said you shouldn’t write a novel unless it comes out like a hot turd. He’s not my model for creativity, but I get the point. When I do write something publishable, it tends to fly out of me, almost as if it’s preformed. I get these surges of clarity that pass through me onto the paper (or screen) and leave me shaking in their wake.

But that does have an unfortunate side effect. What do you do when that white-hot quality is absent? You could try and force it (ugh, so classless, so desperate) or try and write around it. Neither appeals.

My other trip-up is that I am having issues with craft-culture. I write page upon page in my journals about craft and consumerism, craft and class, craft and marketing. Most of it will never see the light of day because I already worry that this blog is turning into “Knitting Patterns For Grumpy Marxists”. But I am so reluctant to add more guff to the conversation.

(It may interest you to know that my love life works on similar lines. I have written 24 pages of love-poetry this month. I will compost it. The gentleman doesn’t know I write for him.)

But that’s all process, it’s all value. Eventually, it will turn into work. The problem with process, and being such a serious old lady generally, is that a lot of the material would be damaging to release. Or would commit me publically to ideas I am only exploring at the moment. (If I told the gentleman I was in love with him, he would almost certainly stop contacting me at all. Plus, I’d probably discover I wasn’t that interested in him.)

But, in lieu of that, here’s some things I’ve been working on.

A Sock Standing On A Human Face ForeverDavidCameron
It’s a sock, with a human face embroidered onto the sole. The low-res quality of a sock (the bottom of my foot is only 30 or so stitches wide) hides the fact that this chart started as a picture of David Cameron.
Poisoned Spindle

Whole Jumper
I want to make a little zine full of unisex patterns and fearless writing about craft and critical theory. I’ve got an illustrator. But that’s about it. Please send me essays. Also, I finished my silk jumper. Also, aren’t my mohair trousers badass?

Mollie Makes
The lovely ladies over at MM have been kind enough to publish one of my articles again. I’m on the back page, being bossy.

Aside from the above I’ve got lots of things in the “about to happen” and “might happen” pile, which I’m not talking about at the moment. But obviously, all the juicy gossip will be over on Twitter. For example, I threw up in two people’s beds this week (Greek Chorus/Reader’s sing: Isn’t he edgy? Isn’t he troubled?) and I also dressed as a sexy direwolf (Pictures to follow). So yeah, there’s a blog post for you all. Enjoy.


The Knitted Existentialist

12 Nov

Kelp - Maing Of 013I’d always thought that success was a showy affair. Life is meaningful, but I picked up on the idea that I’d find “meaning”. The difference is subtle.

I’ve always wanted to be an artist. It’s a nebulous term, and a loaded one. A definition: An artist is someone whose default mode is production rather than consumption. It’s an idiosyncratic definition, but it works to describe the shape of being I’ve been aiming for these last 14 years. (I remember taking my first concious decisions around the age of 12, I stole my cousin’s hair dye, coloured my fringe copper and told everyone my new name was “Truck”.)

Kelp - Maing Of 041

It covers many trades. I’ve trained as a dancer, an actor and as a writer. I’ve worked as a journalist, a sex-worker, a designer, a gardener and a TV presenter. My choices, and the choice to list *those* jobs rather than the equally true “call centre customer service agent”, “McDonald’s fry chef” and “barrista”, are revealing. They’ve all got a kind of big cock swagger, an artistic machismo. It’s pure Radio 6 wank fodder.

What I’ve found most difficult about all these jobs is the silence, the absence of drama, the difference between what I thought there would be  – crash, bang, camera flash – and the reality of their absence. Everything is just a job. I have struggled with silence.

Cat cushion photo shoot 005

Most of art is small things. Writing aimlessly in cafés whilst your life soaks up the sepia colour like a napkin in spilled coffee. The quality of light in the rooms where you sew alone. The long months between planting a seed and seeing a flower. Changes are slow and incremental. Each step is so small it seems almost ridiculous to celebrate.Eventually, I get to a way marker called completion. But my smile is a small one, a wry one.

Other people see the garden, the jumper, the poem.  I see absence, the thieving transformation of time into art. A jumper does not contain the fried bread I ate in cafés to excuse my knitting in them, it doesn’t show the hours given to it, the weeks spent wrestling the desire for noise and the anxiety of failure. Art is the repeated choice to slowly sandpaper your face against the rough edges of your mind. A jumper isn’t eloquent about these things.

Kelp - Maing Of 015

But then again, it is. Knitting creates artefacts. In that, there is a kind of victory. A tiny fanfare. But that is lonely, because that embodied history is only available to me. To have journeyed alone, and have the people back home more excited about the geegaws I brought back than the texture of the terrain I’ve traversed… that is very lonely. I think of the original flower hunters, who travelled the world and fought wild animals, braved mountains, watched their friends die… then returning to Victorian Europe to hear, “Oh, what lovely new geraniums!”

Kelp - Maing Of 031 Kelp - Maing Of 021

But even the loneliness isn’t dramatic. I’m no brooding knitwear Heathcliffe. It’s not even so grand as an ennui (meaningful work cures many types of sadness, ennui is one of them) just a persistent grey note, an unplaceable minor chord in an otherwise joyful composition. Silence is sorrowful, and learning to live with silence has been a struggle. Sometimes my head flares-up, I get enraptured with some desire for solidity, for something concrete and illusory. Recovering from these attacks comes mostly from reminding myself “life is only life, there are no stories, only details”. My development as an artist, and a person, always comes back to acknowledging reality, being present in this time, this place. Sometimes I feel very Zen and enlightened. More often I feel foolish, deluded and a little lost. But feelings are just things, the work continues and incorporates them. Most of being an artist is continuing despite it being slightly stupid to do so.

To look at the world, and yourself, and say “I don’t really know. My present experiences don’t have a meaning beyond themselves” is frightening. It is painfully courageous. It is painful to sing or shout at the world and know the world does not answer back. I understand why some people invent God.

Kelp - Maing Of 018

A friend of mine critiqued my writing recently. “You write like you are waiting for everyone else to feel as strongly as you do”. I laughed. It is always exhilarating to be seen. I had gone out and danced naked for a storm in the ruined monastery at the heart of my town. He said I seemed angry that no one else was there dancing. Sometimes I am angry. I used to feel guilty that I couldn’t ignite the people around me. Now I feel angry at the people who want heat from me. It hurts the wood to smoulder, how can people not know? You can’t be safe and risky. You can’t be in love with your experience and close your eyes to it at the same time.

But that anger is just a mask for loneliness. And it is an unfair anger, no one can do the work for you. We are each of us alone with the weather, the weft of the carpet, the sounds of cutlery being cleaned in a bowl of soapy water. We are each of us alone with the quiet reality that the only thing that is happening is the thing that is happening. There is a gap in the world, and artists have to keep close to it. We all have to keep a little bit of nothing in ourselves so we can have room to change.

I am beginning to lose direction in my words. I sat down to write because it seemed imperative, essential, that I communicate the intensity of these silences. But I start to feel like the words have grown up around me, and I’m running through the leaves without a trail of bread.  If I can’t communicate silence, I can at least avoid creating more noise.

It feels deceptive to end with a conclusion, as if life ever had them. As if we ever achieve “closure”. This feeling is so open ended, so grasping. So I will leave this piece open armed like my toddler heart, all need and unresolvable helplessness. I’ve dug out a little hole in the sand and water is running in. Ecclesiastes. The world is silent. I return to the page. The work continues.

The Busiest Boy In Knitting

23 Sep Poster for Knit You Next Tuesday Workshops

Exciting times here. First and foremost, I’ve started putting up flyers for my workshops. The art-work comes from my scary friend @liampauldowling who likes to draw the sort of things I like to talk about.

Poster for Knit You Next Tuesday Workshops
If you’ve not read it yet, all my workshop details are up in the right corner of the page. Go have a look. There are knitted genitals, and knitted dead people and, well, everything you probably shouldn’t knit but will anyway. Some of it is even FREE. Plus, you could come to the workshops, learn the skills and then use them to knit NICE THINGS that aren’t cocks or curses for your baby’s enemies (or your enemy’s baby, whatevs). Flowers or some shit. I dunno. You’re the crafter.

I’ve also pulled out my knitted leopard print and started on a little tank-top. Leopard print for men is everywhere at the moment, and I do try to knit the zeitgeist. If you are in London tomorrow night,  I’ll be attending the Hackney Craft Attic’s “Welcome To The Jungle” night. There are DJs! And free craft lessons! And I’ll be giving out free intarsia lessons and animal-print knitting charts. Maybe you want to come and buy me some gin? Or else just come and enjoy what looks likely to be an amazing night.


And the final piece of excitement is that I’ve finally finished the book pitch for #ProjectLinnaeus, my new menswear collection. I’ve sent it out to a publisher, let’s see if they like it.

Statements Basics
The first of the patterns has been vexing. It’s a simple st-st pattern, so I should be finished by now. Regrettably, I made some really stupid mistakes that could only be fixed by ripping out the entire front and most of the back. Some of you are thinking “I bet he could have fixed it with a crochet hook”. You are wrong. I was struggling not to fix it with a bonfire. There was a moment I had to put the whole thing in a box, under my bed, just so I didn’t have to look at it any more.

1379848674073  IMG_20130923_163500

But isn’t the silk pretty? I know that this is going to end up as one of my most worn sweaters. So easy to wear, so luxurious. So very, very decadent.

New Workshops! A Knitted Seance! More Genitals Made Out Of Wool!

9 Sep

Before anything else, I should tell you that “We All Play Synth” is now available to download. Yes9 Yes4 Yes7


Click the button if you want to send me £2 and make me some money. If you own an LYS, Ravelry will let you have it for £1.

Secondly, my workshop schedule is now live. Click up there in the right hand corner. You can learn to knit cocks. You can do a knitter’s seance. You can even learn useful finishing techniques.

Go, go, go!

Some Photos And A Free Pattern Giveaway

2 Sep


It’s been a busy week, but I’ve not got an awful lot of knitting done. I’ve spent it fine-tuning my pattern writing algorithms and sizing system. This is really valuable for me, but it doesn’t really translate well as a blog. Fuck it, I like equations. If you’d be interested in learning my tech-y approach to pattern writing, I will be holding workshops later in the year.

What does translate well to blogging is the photoshoot I did with a friend this week. It’s for my new pattern, “We All Play Synth”, which should be available some time tomorrow evening. “We All Play Synth” is  a DK weight jumper for men. It features a tapered waist, narrow “tailored” sleeves and a few suggestions for customisation.


When designing, I wanted to make a simple, no frills jumper pattern with excellent fit and a modern sillhouette. The name references both the synthetic nature of the materials (Acrylic all the way, baby.) and the region of East London me and my hipster friends live in.

If you like the pattern, you’re in luck. The first 50 downloads made tomorrow (ie Tuesday 3rd September, 2013)  will be absolutely free with the product code “SAUSAGEPARTY”.


Plastic, Penis On The Radio & Silky Sea Men

26 Aug 2012-03-15 21.56.38

It’s been just lovely this week. I finished my acrylic jumper AKA tribute to granddad AKA why is there a tit on your arm, Ben?2012-03-15 21.52.31

I’m really happy with the fit. Once I’ve got someone around to take a nicer photo I’ll be releasing this as a graded pattern, so any man chest size 34-54 can get a knitted sweater that fits. That’s like a basic human right, yeah?

I should also shout out to Toby Shannon, who attended my finishing workshop at the weekend. This piece of perfect mattress stitch was his handy-work. The tit, alas, was mine. The finished pattern will produce a garment sans tit.

2012-03-15 22.37.37

I also had my first airing on the wireless. The nice people at BBC Radio 5 interviewed me for their Men’s Hour Program. I’m quite happy with it, but that might be due to very skillful editing. If you’d like to hear me chat about knitting and being a man and genitals and things, then the show will be streaming from the BBC website for the next 30 days.

A word of warning: I start talking at 40 minutes, and the first thing I mention is a porn stars penis. The 40 minutes before that are about the porn industry and do include the words “anal penetration with a strap on”. So this is NSFW unless you actually work in a brothel.

Finally, and more on topic, I’m ready to cast on for my first #ProjectLinnaeus project. It’s wounded me, really wounded me, not to call it “Sea Men”. I hope you are all proud of the efforts I am making towards decency. The name I’ve chosen instead, Macrocystis, refers to a commercially and ecologically important species of Kelp. Salty, nutritionally rich and easy to harvest… I’ll leave you to write your own jokes.

I’m knitting it in the BEAUTIFUL Debbie Bliss Silk DK. My stupid camera won’t register the colours, but I’ve chosen an excellent ethereal silver and the most OBSCENELY decadent teal. This is the most excited I’ve ever been about using a yarn. The tension square/swatch I knitted (you do all knit your tension squares, don’t you?) has gone missing somewhere in the house. But in the mean time, here’s some shitty pictures of the yarn and my sketchbook.

2012-03-15 21.56.38 2012-03-15 21.57.56

The Most Plastic Sweater On Earth

19 Aug

People have not been nice about my acrylic jumper. A colleague remarked that “It felt smelly”. My mother, normally so good at hiding her revulsion, was only able to ask “why?”. Repeatedly.


But I like it. I chose the yarn for political and sentimental reasons (The original post, over here, was written in response to the death of my grandfather. In it, I discuss my problems with modern craft culture and it’s faux obsession with “tradition”.) but as the project has continued I’ve grown to enjoy the acrylic for itself.

How do I love it, let me count the ways.

1) The whole jumper, including the extra ball I bought for accent colours, has cost me only £4. For comparison, I expect my next project to cost closer to £80.

2) It’s indestructible. Or at least it gives the impression of indestructibility. I’m completely unconcerned with the ale, mud and blood (don’t ask) I’ve managed to spill down the front of it. If it will survive nuclear war, it will almost certainly survive the 30C wash.

Pro-tip: Protein stains (ie blood, semen, Fray Bentos pie gravy) will solidify if exposed to hot water. Wash them in cold water first.

3) The providence of acrylic, as a petrochemical derivative, is a weird and interesting thing to think about whilst you knit.

4) The super low cost of the material has made me a bit reckless with the design. I’ve felt free to play around with the placing of increases and decreases because it hasn’t felt like “important” knitting. (Yes, I can see my own snobbery there.)

That final thing was liberating. A painter friend I was talking to said acrylic yarn was “like scrap paper for knitters”. A good analogy.


On the torso, I’ve moved the increases out from the seam line so that they outline the “original” stitches above the cast-on. The effect is to subtly foreground the production process in the finished object. Without the added emphasis of M1s, the side seams become entirely invisible and the whole gets a more “couture” look. For the knitter, there is an added benefit to this technique. If the first row after the ribbing reads:

k1, m1, place marker, k to final st, place marker, m1, k1

and every following increase row reads:

k to marker, m1, k past marker, m1, k to end

then you don’t need to count your rows as often. The number of stitches between the marker and the end of the needle is equal to the number of increases you’ve already done. I love a trick.

I used the same placement for the increases on the sleeve and was happy with the effect.


The only slightly dodgy choice I made was to rearrange the decreases on the sleeve-cap. Instead of two symmetrical decreases on each decrease row (one at each end) I worked a double decrease (s1, k2tog, psso) over the central stitches. This had two very pleasing effects. Each different size would have a unique “morse-code” arrangement in the centre of the arm. This draws attention to the shoulder and further foregrounds the making process. Hot. It also draws the lines of the arm into a masculine curve that resembles muscle fibres and emphasizes the upper arm. Super hot.

It also had a less pleasing effect.


When my mother saw it she asked “Why is there a tit on the arm?”. The sudden decreasing distorts the fabric, causing a bulge opposite the armpit. I *think* this will press out but I’d be more confident if I’d been knitting in a natural fibre and I was wet-blocking. The tit-ishness of the bulge was emphasized for the sake of photography, but even so, probably won’t make it into my final designs.

I’m really happy with the fit over-all, and this basic shape is going to form the basis of my #ProjectLinaeus garments. I’ll add more ease (Not everyone is happy with the sausage-breaking-its-casing look.) but otherwise the tight armhole, narrow sleeve-cap and tapered torso all add up to the modern, tailored look I’m aiming for. This pattern will go live sometime next week, and I’ll cast on for my first Linaen garment (AKA Kelp) at around the same time.

A Different Kind Of Post (And A Plan)

12 Aug

I’ve been doing this for 4 years. I don’t mean knitting, which I’ve been doing since forever, but knitting for money. When you’re 26, 4 years is a significant portion of your life. It’s longer than a lot of prison sentences.

I’ve slogged. I’m very proud of the friends I’ve made and the things I’ve learnt. I don’t resent the effort it’s taken to get my little following. I’m flattered, every single day, that 500 or so of you choose to listen to my thoughts here or over on Twitter. 500 people! For silly little me!

But 4 years… 4 years is a long time to wait on a dream. I know we are meant to enjoy the journey, but sometimes I wonder if it would be nice to have arrived for a little bit. I feel the need to make a solid, definite push. I feel the need to do something significant.

So here is a plan and, because plans are insubstantial, here is a deadline:

By this year’s Feast Of Holy Innocents (28/12/03) I will have completed a 10 piece menswear collection. The patterns will be fully written, fully tested and fully knitted. In the early days of the new year I will shoot promotional images and produce a music video for advertising. If a publisher sees it and likes it, they can publish. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll release an e-book.

I’m going to write about the process here, and fund the test knitting through my workshops. The #hashtag to look out for (or respond with) is #ProjectLinnaeus. I’m excited. Thank you all for hanging out with me up to this point. I’ve had a lot of fun. I intend to have considerably more.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,107 other followers