Monday, 27 August 2012

Sorting Wool

The wind is whistling, which is not as bad as huffing or soughing, but bad enough to make indoors look better than outdoors, and the wind has teamed up with the rain to splatter aginst the window.  A very good day for sorting out wool.

I have been given wool of all colours and shapes and sizes for Northern Loops.  With some of the wool, our merry band of knitters have made squares, triangles, flowers, hearts, and larger projects such as blankets and shawls.  Digging through the wool prompted me to reflect on all that work and the various rewards we had all received from the efforts.  Thanks again to all those who gave us the wool and to the madacap band of knitters who made it all happen.

Just as I am sorting out wool I am sorting out my own commitments. Just as I am ready to hand on the wool, I am ready also to hand on the coordination and the vision behind the wool.  A friend of mine recently reassured me that someone steps up to take on an organisation and I look forward to having that happen as Northern Loops moves into someone else's hands.

In the meantime, I have bags of wool labelled--this somehow made it more orderly in my mind--for a friend who knits like mad for charity.  The little bits of wool I might otherwise have overlooked or thought were of no use will make Swiss darned flowers atop a baby's hat, or the face on a clown puppet or the stripe in a T shirt for a Shoebox.  Thinking of that made me happy.  Seeing through someone else's vision is refreshing.

A local group of knitters, Thurso Yarnbombers (look for them on Facebook) have been invited by local museum (Caithness Horizons) to make a sea-themed project so I have a bag of creams and blues that I hope will become a part of their project.  I have said that I was too busy to knit for them, but as I sorted through the wool, I reserved for myself the green, knobbly wool that could make some lovely seaweed.  But again I am happy to be sending the wool out to play and staying home myself.

Two giant bags of squares and triangles are set aside for Northern Loops' Dunnet group, the shawl ministry.

The largest bags of all are for a woman who knits almost as much as I breathe.  Many of the squares, triangles, flowers, shawls, and blankets are her handiwork.  When she said, "I love mohair," I added that bag of wool to the one set aside of miscellaneous DK wool.  If the rain let's up, I'll deliver her wool this afternoon.  The rest of the bags will go out in their own time as I meet with my friends and listen to their projects and ideas and hear about where the wool is going. 

Monday, 21 May 2012

A New Deadline for a Good Cause

It has been a week of coincidences.  At our first Northern Loops meeting since my return, I was given some squares done by one of our occasional knitter-visitors.  I thanked her and wondered what I was going to do with them

As I was wondering I received the following email:

Just wondering if anyone in your knitting groups would be able to help with this

To cut through their rather vague website, Alzheimer Scotland are trying to break the world record for a knitted blanket.
They need 4" (10cm) squares knitted.
Any wool, any stitch.
The only snag is that they need them before 30th May, but it takes no time at all to knit one 4" square. Every little helps.
If anyone makes several squares, please can they sew them up, in to strips of ten.
If more than one strip is made, please can the strips be sewn together.

Sorry for the short deadline, I've only just found out about this myself.

Best wishes,

The squares I had received were 4 inches square, so I have a start on a few squares.

Because the time is short, I am using our online communication to reach as many loopsters as possible.  Please do a few squares for Alzheimer's Scotland in the time we have.  I'll collect them and send them on.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Volunteering Takes You Places: Estonia

Alexander Nevsky cathedral looming over old houses in Tallinn city centre

I am just back from a week in Estonia, thanks to support from the following organisations:  (Thanks also to Joanne Kaar. I pinched this notice from her blog because I am not techno savvy enough to do it on my own.)

This trip was organised and funded by:
Arch Network is a Scottish Non Government Organisation promoting learning and development in natural and cultural heritage between Scotland and other European countries..
Culture and Heritage Interpretation and Sustainable Tourism Program (CHIST

I was able to take this trip not because I am rich or well connected but because I work unpaid for something I believe in--preserving our heritage and connecting with each other. It sounds so simple, doesn't it?  But heritage often becomes the thing that everyone knows until no one knows it any more and someone says why didn't somebody do something?

So volunteering is part of that being a somebody who does something.

This is Voluntary Arts and Crafts Week, so get out and see what 2 million people in the UK alone enjoy every day. Tomorrow we are celebrating at Castlehill Heritage Centre with a wooly taster session.  The spinners and dyers will be cooking up things and we'll have felting for necklaces or snakes--to each his or her own.  There will be knitting and crochet and we expect a special guest appearance by the proper star of this wooly event--a lovely ewe and her new lamb.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Latest Addition to Shawl Ministry

I am as always running behind time. Today will be Northern Loops Dunnet and I cannot face my pals without having added at least one photo of their recent contributions--I had forgotten that I had these in my camera!
If you are a knitter, you will quickly spot that this is not knit--it is crocheted. We are not craft snobs--as in that old joke about an American cowboy celebrating his liberal tastes --"I like both types of music-- country and western."

I must confess I learned to crochet first and so sometimes even now when I want something fast or a certain shape or size, I reach for a crochet hook. Take a look at the lovely detailing in Ruan's shawl at the tip. Someone will be very happy to receive this. Tomorrow I will have a post about one of the folks who received a shawl.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Volunteering Takes You Places

OK, just a teaser here, as they say in US. You know I extol the emotional and social benefits of volunteering. Knitting and doing community work does take you to wonderful places within the church halls, but now it will be taking me abroad.

So I have talked about Northern Loops in Norway and America and our calendars have reached New Zealand and Australia, but this time I will be going to Estonia.

Just a teaser for now.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

More Pockets and Some Spring Surprises

I did not photograph the lovely pocket purse-lets that were Patreen's latest contribution to the what you can do with triangles library. Once again her creativity made me smile as much as the pockets themselves. And that's the idea. A bit of cheer with wool and a button or two. Amazing.

I have been doing the not-as-fun work of meetings and organisations and such, but if we want NL to keep itself going and to grow and realise the mission, then we gotta do the organisational things.

Things coming up to watch out for-- our anniversary celebration on Knit in Public Day with a Tea Mosey--more about that to come.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Good News about shawls and shawl ministry

The shawl ministry has been welcomed into the fabric of the church life. News of it has gone all the way to the top of the church, and as importantly all the way to the shoulders of folks in need right here in our community.

No one needs to be a member of a church to receive a shawl or to be part of the knitting of one. The stories about where these shawls (and pockets and scarves go) is enough. And we learn as we go along. A person who is ill often means an entire family in need of comfort or consideration--the pockets recently came into their own when we discovered that.

I saw the first photo of someone wearing one of the shawls--soft blues draped like a quiet smile around her shoulders--and it made me smile deep down. That's what the knitting and the ministry is all about--finding a way to smile through the hard times or celebrate the good ones.

Now as I finish the shawl on my needles, I'll be able to visualize the difference it will make.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


I'm a bit behind. I meant to have Patreen's pockets blogged before now. Once again, my photos can't capture the colour and good humour of these pockets as they came tumbling out of Patreen's bag.

She does not want her photo taken, but I don't think she'd mind that I tell you that is her elbow. Also, it seems only fair to mention that the hands are Ella's --uncharacteristically quiet. She is usually knitting up a storm. We all stopped to admire the pockets.

Now if you are new to the blog and you are wondering what these pockets are all about, here's the story on that. Some folks will have times or places when a shawl or a stole with pockets just won't work for them. If they are in the hospital and arounda lot of equipment or they just don't fancy a stole.

The pocket is a good size for attaching to a wheelchair or zimmer frame with some keepsake inside --a wee prayer or a special photo or something to remind folks that they are connected to us, to each other, to a part of a caring community. So you see, the pockets are a bit like Dr. Who's tardis--much bigger on the inside!

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Saturday, 3 March 2012

Getting Shawls on Shoulders!

Thursday in Dunnet Church Hall was one of those quiet celebrations that represents the culmination of a lot of work as we got the shawls that have been made, displayed, and blessed in packages with labels and care instructions.

Now they are ready for distribution throughout the areas covered by the Central Churches of Caithness. Thanks to our partners, Central Churches and Project Linus UK, we can concentrate on the knitting in the confidence that our knitting will go to welcome homes.

As we knit and stuffed and chatted, I was reminded that no one knew the whole history of the shawls that led to the shawl ministry for Northern Loops.

It started with a book. Angela had the book, but Ruan (being a librarian) is often the one who brings books to us, so it might have started with her. This book was about knitting for peace. That was perhaps the first thread in the shawl ministry.

Another book -- one of very few about knitting collaboratively--had a pattern for a shawl made out of triangles. Now if this were a panto, I would expect to hear boos and hisses from the crowd because we did an awful lot of triangles, and then as a consequence, an awful lot of sewing up. I might not have mentioned triangles --folks rightly are a bit twitchy on the subject--if I had not run across the original paper templates I used to try to design with in the boot of my car. No one will be surprised to hear that I find forgotten things in the boot of my car, but just to let you know that this was found because I was tidying up--honestly!

Olive and Angela are shown here working to get the shawls into the packages. As with triangles, it sounded easier than it turned out to be.

Lastly I include here a photo of the wool recently donated to Margaret. It will start the cycle all over again because the shawl ministry will keeping putting shawls on shoulders.

Oh I forgot to mention another thread of the shawl ministry. When we started down this path, I put Northern Loops on the map of the international shawl ministry from a reference in Angela's book to the ministry, the first in Scotland! So the shawl ministry is one of the ways a handful of knitters in the far north of Scotland help make a better community here in our own backyard and beyond.

It was a busy Thursday. Tomorrow I'll blog the latest in Patreen's pockets.
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Friday, 10 February 2012

Serendipity and The Red Blanket

The photo does not do justice to the warm red of this blanket which just invites you to reach out and touch it. The scarlet red is especially welcome now as we come back into the time of light and the landscape is a bit muted in its colours.

This blanket began last year --as so many of Northern Loops projects do--with good intentions, a vague idea, and donated wool.

And also as with many of our projects, it took longer than any of us had expected and after some false starts --"This red is not the same as that red" and long bouts of "moss stitch" is sooo slow" managed to exceed our expectations.

Now best of all, I received a letter that Project Eve, for whom we started this blanket last year is once again declaring March Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so the blanket and the hearts that we have been doing turn out to be right on time after all.

When we get together we can sit down and think about how we want to celebrate with our hearts, but I am confident that serendipity once again will guide us to the right place.
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Thursday, 2 February 2012

Getting Intergenerational

Northern Loops has been committed from its origins in being an all age group. One of the best ways to break down age stereotyping is to work side by side with someone of a different age.
It is not a new idea. In fact, it is a recreation of the way things used to operate a bit more naturally in a new not so easy to roll off the tongue term. "All age" seems a nicer way of saying it, but intergenerational is the word of the day, so we've incorporated it into our name as well as our way of thinking.

It takes more than rolling out the welcome mat to get folks to join in. We were lucky early on to have the help of some very talented young consultants from Space Unlimited. They took a look at our project and suggested ways to encourage young people to take part--
two of their suggestions were to

  • offer rewards for achievement (volunteer hours credited though a volunteer web site)
  • and to encourage developing their own designs.

Now we are going to take part in a program of developing intergenerational networks among organisations up here thanks to a group in Glasgow, Generations Working Together (

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Double Rainbow Luck

Giving a gift puts me in mind of this double rainbow. The gift, hopefully, brings pleasure to the person receiving it, which, in turn, is gratifying to the giver. I was reminded of this double pleasure when a Loopster emailed to say that one of her original designs for a prayer stole for a friend of hers had been well received. I then got to be triple pleased--for him, for her, and for myself. Being on the receiving end of such good news is a gift, too.

That design created with concern and affection for her friend will become a Northern Loops pattern and we will all benefit from it. With the wind howling outside and another gale forecast with snow behind it, I need all the rainbows I can get today!

Weather permitting, the Thurso group of NL will meet in United Reformed Church tomorrow (Thursday) and we'll all have news to share as we look forward to a new year together.
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Friday, 6 January 2012

The Labels Are In!

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"Many hands make light work." Stitching labels into the shawls seemed like a daunting task. With Christmas cake (thanks, Heather), coffee and tea and much talking around the table--all the shawls, including a new one from Ella, and the petits pockets from Patrine got labels. I found a pocket that I had started and forgotten til I began my New Years clean up. Now it has a label and is one step closer to being in the hands of someone who needs it.
Thanks to all the knitters and stitchers who braved the weather yesterday to gather and stitch. Thanks also to central churches ministry who will distribute our shawls throughout the county. I hope each and every one makes someone's new year just a bit brighter.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

First Session of 2012 in My House

Mother Nature is giving us a seasonal reminder of her mood, so we'll ease into the new year by having the first Dunnet session of Northern Loops meet in my house. We'll sew our labels into the shawls we made last year and catch up and have some tea and coffee.

If the weather gets worse, we'll all just stay home and stay safe and warm and dream of better days to come.

Ivy Cottage is at the corner of Loch End and Lyth Roads. For old timers, it is on the site of the former coaching inn that was said to have been held up for years by the ivy around it. If you go to the big house on the hill, you've gone too far.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Happy New Year

In that time honoured way of celebrating the turn of a new year by looking back and forward, I noted that 2011 was a year of several firsts for Northern Loops.
  • Our first product--a realisation of our intellectual assets and our mission came together in our calendar of designs--Caithness Kaleidoscope. We've sold them to raise some money and equally as important, to raise our profile. Now people have a concrete example of what we do and hopefully a few folks will see it and think of us for knitting, donating wool, or just smile to know that a handful of us are helping make our community a little better place for us all.
  • Our first new group--meeting in Dunnet Church Hall. This new group led to a new relationship with the International Shawl Ministry and a partnership with the central churches ministry who will be distributing our shawls.
  • A new connection with Business Gateway for workshops and networking and support.
In addition to those firsts, we renewed our relationship with Caithness Voluntary Group and maintained our ties with United Reformed Church where we have been meeting.

Not bad for a handful of knitters perched on the edge of Scotland! Tomorrow I'll take a look at some of the things we hope to accomplish in the coming New Year.