It is 11 long months since I last wrote a blog post. Since I started blogging back in 2004 this is the longest I have gone without committing my thoughts to ‘paper’, and when I stopped in November of last year I had no intention of the hiatus lasting as long as it has. However the need to focus my energies over the last few months on recovery from surgery, from burns caused by radiotherapy and the general need for my body and mind to repair, and I barely thought about my blog other than in an abstract, distracted sort of way. But then over the last couple of months I have really begun to miss it. Blogging – or basically, writing – is something I love doing, I never did it because I had to, but because I like to write, but somewhere along the way I have forgotten that and like so many other things, taking that first step to start again has been hardest. Finding a good enough reason to persuade me to sit down and blog has been tough. I keep finding excuses as to why haven’t got the time, the energy, the reason, the need – but part of me needs to write just like part of me needs to knit. Take either of these two things away and I’m no longer complete and probably interfering with my own recovery. And so finally I found it good enough reason to relaunch the blog…
16 days ago I had my last anti-cancer injection and finally, just like that, my treatment is now over! It is now time to start rebuilding my life, to start rebuilding me. I wanted to mark the end of my treatment with something creative and something powerful and yet cancer had left me with so many doubts about my ability to create, to write, even to cope with anything more than fighting the disease itself. I have been filled with trepidation that I may not be able to return to my pre-cancer life. And so I began to plan a project that would ease me back into my creative life and to reassure me that I could deal with life back in the ‘fast lane’!
I have been very fortunate to be able to use the services of a local independent charity, CancerCare, which provides a huge range of complementary therapies and services to cancer patients, their families and their carers, all free of charge. An offshoot of CancerCare is a private online group called Phoenix which has been my lifeline. At any time, day or night, there is someone to talk to, someone to ask questions of, someone who’s been in the same exact place as you. I have made lifelong friends on this group and have gained so much from its tremendous support network.
So let me take you back to February of this year, when the brains behind Phoenix, my friend Andrea, told me of an idea she had had to empower women who’d been through the trauma of cancer and she explained how she wanted to give women on the group the opportunity to have their photos taken, revealing their scars and showing love for the women they had become. These photos would in turn hopefully give other sufferers a positive message that there is life after breast cancer. As many of you know, the physical changes that breast cancer has forced on me has been something I’ve been very open about and I immediately wanted to be involved in this project. Andrea’s biggest problem was where to have photos taken as she didn’t want them to be in a sterile studio environment but needed the location to be somewhere where they felt private and protected. At that moment I realised that the perfect place would be our farm. And with that settled a photo shoot was planned. 16 women at at every point on the cancer journey came to the farm to have their photos taken by a wonderful photographer who volunteered his services. His wife too had had breast cancer and had used CancerCare’s services. It was an incredible experience with so many stories shared, so many truths revealed and so much strength and positivity taken. We all came out of the experience feeling more complete than before.
These photos were put together into a journal became known ironically as the ‘Knocker Jotter‘ with the ladies taking part naming themselves the Scarletts. These journals are being sold by cancer care to raise funds to help them continue to provide incredible services that they offer.
I pondered for some time how I could do more. How I could help them in some way to raise more funds. Andrea had shared with me an interesting fact that a high percentage of women who have had breast cancer and in particular, surgery to remove the cancer, often wear shawls and scarves around their chests and torso, almost like a form of protection, and I thought how nice it would be to create a shawl design to go with the Knocker Jotter. And so a plan began to form. On instagram I have used the hashtag #fubc – bc standing for breast cancer and f.u. standing for, well, f.u! I asked my good friend Tess Young if she would also create a shawl design and I commissioned four of my favourite hand dyers, Skein Queen, Old Maiden Aunt, Knitting Goddess and Countess Ablaze to each create a custom colourway using one of the images from the Knocker Jotter as their inspiration. Each of the two shawl designs uses one skein of natural yarn and one skein of one of the gorgeous hand dyed skeins. The yarn used is my very own yarn, Ghyll, 100% Lancashire Lonk directly from the Lune Valley where I live.
I’m going to talk more about the yarn, the colourways, the dyers, the design process and the Knocker Jotter itself, but for now I want to share with you the two designs and how you can go about getting the patterns and helping CancerCare all at the same time:
The first design is #fubc shawl no 1 and has been designed by me. I wanted to create a largish shawl that I could wrap around myself and almost feel cocooned inside. It is a long time since I’ve done any designing so I didn’t want anything too complicated but I wanted to include some interesting design details and to that end I designed a garter stitch shawl with textural ‘spines’ across it and an unusual striped short row insert.
Here I am modelling the shawl as I have envisaged wearing it, wrapped around my neck and shoulders and with the design detail at the front. This wonderful colourway is Susan created by Old Maiden Aunt and is based on my photo in the Knocker Jotter which was taken in the very same field I’m standing in for this photo.
This next photo shows the short row detail beautifully and really showcases the next amazing colourway, Karen, created by Skein Queen.
The model for this next photo is the fabulous Victoria, who also appears in the Knocker Jotter, and she is wearing her very own colourway, Victoria, created by none other than the equally fabulous Countess Ablaze. The photo shows the shawl from tip to tip to really give you an idea of its size and shape.
And here’s Victoria looking fabulous and fierce once again in her very own colourway.
And now on to #fubc shawl no 2 designed by Tess Young. You can read more about Tess’s design process on her blog, but she has created a beautiful shawl again utilising garter stitch and short rows but in a very different way to the first design.
This final colourway is Jo and has been created by the Knitting Goddess. Tess’s design cleverly uses short row stripes to really highlight and make the most of this gorgeous colourway. The eyelet lace detail and single spine worked in the natural shade is knitted at the same time as the rest of the shawl and the clever technique used means there are only one or two ends to darn in once the shawl is completed.
I also took the opportunity to model this fabulous shawl again in my own colourway.
And here is #fubc shawl no 2 in Karen by Skein Queen draped elegantly but snuggly around our model’s shoulders, revealing the beautiful edging detail. I love how the shape of these shawl actually encourages the shawls to wrap around the body in a protective fashion.
And so, how do you get your #fubc shawl patterns and our stunning limited edition colourways of Ghyll? Everything is available only in our #fubc shawl kits. In the kit you get 2 x 100gm skeins of Ghyll, one skein in natural and the other in the hand dyed colourway of your choice. Just pick either Susan, Jo, Victoria or Karen on the drop down menu. You also receive a high quality 8 page printed pattern booklet including both patterns, a hand made project bag sewn from vintage fabrics, and most importantly of all, the kit includes a copy of the Knocker Jotter.
The kit costs £65 with £15 from each kit purchased being donated to CancerCare. The kits are available to purchase now.
I’ll be back several times over the next week with more about my wonderful Ghyll wool, and guest posts from dyers, designers and participants in the Knocker Jotter project. I do hope you’ve enjoyed my first blog post in almost a year. I’m excited to be back and looking forward to the relaunch of the blog, my business and most importantly, ME.
but, for now,