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Knitting in the Dark

Friday 31/8/18 03:00

I’ve been virusy lately.  I suspect I picked something up on a trip to London last week, because on Friday, mid-shift at work, I began feeling the familiar tingle in the sinuses, and flu-like symptoms descended, and they’ve been hanging around ever since. If nothing else, it’s played havoc with my sleep pattern, which is fractious as it is.  Too many late nights, sitting up knitting stock, followed by too little sleep, then the overwhelming need for an afternoon nana nap, followed by a wakeful night.  Which is what I’m experiencing right now (it’s currently a little after 2.30am).

After my shift at Hut No.13 earlier (Thursday), I dropped no.1 son off at the bus stop for his final pre-uni “Cuban Thursday” (it’s a drinking spot in Canterbury, full of students and 40 somethings, and not much in between).  I got home and the nana nap urge forced me to climb into bed for a snooze.  BIG mistake.  I usually nana nap on the sofa, with the alarm set for 40 minutes later.  Any longer than 40 minutes and it’s no longer a nap, it’s a full blown “body thinks you’ve had your night’s sleep” kind of thing, even if you’ve only slept for 90 minutes.  So, I settled in for a quick, refreshing nap, and woke up, 5 hours later, at 11pm.  Darnit.

I got up, and began my evening.  All the TV had finished, but I settled for a bit of Newsnight, followed by Romesh Ranganathan’s stand-up gig, and a programme about Coco Chanel and her collaboration with the Nazi’s in WW2 (that’s an interesting programme) and knitting commenced.  You might wonder, why on earth I would start knitting at that time of night, but I’m seriously short of stock at the hut, despite knitting at every available opportunity.  And… AND, on Monday I’m being interviewed for a magazine, and they’re sending round a photographer to photograph my wares, so I need to make some wares, and more importantly, need to either clear up or disguise the horror that working from home produces.  There’s stuff EVERYWHERE.



  1. Bag with half finished Solomon.
  2. Today’s post
  3. Spare seagull wool
  4. Another knit in progress
  5. Stuffing
  6. Kent Adult Ed lesson file
  7. Box with pompom wool for new jumbo scarves
  8. A random ball of wool, not put away
  9. A box with toadstool parts, ready for assembly.


And that’s just one corner of the lounge.  The kitchen is my makeshift office.  My bedroom is my makeshift warehouse.  When no.1 son does go to uni, his room is mine…

So!  By the time I was midway through the Coco Chanel programme, I had knitting 2 Cedric bodies, 3 baby gull bodies, 1 hand sized gull and poof.  Power went off.  I was plunged into darkness mid-gull.

Now… we have loads of power cuts in Newnham.  Powergen would probably come back with some statistics, but none that would dissuade the belief that we do, in fact, have loads in Newnham.  More in the past 5 years of living here, than I even remember from the 1970s.  Ok, slight exaggeration, but we do still get loads.  Back in the 70s at least you still had a working landline, and fewer expectations.  Newnham has no 4G or mobile reception, so once the power’s off, it’s communication by post or pigeon.  Even my landline is plugged in.

Mid-gull, rather than abandoning, I carried on and finished it in the dark.  Having successfully done that, I set myself a challenge, and decided to knit an entire gull body in the dark, so I gathered needles, scissors and 2 balls of wool (feeling wide awake and ambitious), took myself upstairs to bed.

I often knit without looking.  It’s a necessity, really.  I knit at the hut and can still keep an eye out for customers wanting my attention.  I do look down at the knitting regularly though, and I stick to knitting something I’m familiar with, that has a basic stitch.  I wouldn’t try cable for instance.  The gulls are embedded into my brain, etched forever, I suspect, so if you think I’m being all fancy, I’m not, and I do occasionally come a cropper.  I made the mistake of taking a lace stitch blanket with me recently, and that required far too much attention.

Anyway, back to last night… I like a dark room when I sleep, and perhaps the source of my lack of a proper night’s sleep is because the main phone line is in my bedroom.  It would have made perfect sense to my predecessor, who slept in the room above, but for me, I have to have a UFO level blue glow emitting from the BT Infinity modem (when I say main phone line, I should have said ONLY phone line).  The modem gets very warm too, so I’m reluctant to cover it up too much.  It has a photo of my parents leaning on it, which cuts out the main beam.  But because I’m a bit panicky about it setting fire to something, I’m a bit limited to what I cover it up with.  My neighbour’s father told me how his daughter’s bedroom had caught fire, in a bizarre and random event involving the sun shining on a bead from a necklace which acted like a magnifying glass and set the curtains alight.  That’s got me considering all kinds of random objects as potential fire hazards.  Luckily wool is non-flammable.

Anyway, I digress (again), what with the modem and blue light-emitting boiler in the hall, the entire house had been plunged into glorious blackness.

My task was set.

I picked up the needles, cast on, and knitted the seagull body.  It took constant counting, stitch after stitch, row after row.  I’ve just worked out that a gull takes 855 sts, and takes around 20 minutes which is approx. 42.75 sts per minute.   I think that’s a pretty average speed, possibly fairly fast for the English method (Continental knitting is faster on average).  The gull involves a lot of shaping, so I might time myself on something plain.  I have to knit a baby set by Sunday, so I’ll try timing that.  Cast on 45 sts, knit 45 rows (click here for the pattern).

20180831_023040Anyway (again), off I went, knit knit, increase, decrease, cast on, cast off. The hardest was knitting 2 together, at the beginning of a row, but the rest was plain sailing.  And I had myself the luxury of shutting my eyes.  I was hoping for at least some micro sleeps in that time, but I think only an electrode could have measured my consciousness, so knitting in my sleep, I suspect, still eludes me.  Here it is.  A gull body.  Knitted entirely in the dark.   Apart from the cast off being a little tight, it’s pretty much a replica of all of the other gull awaiting their wings.

The church bell, which chimes on the hour, every hour, to remind me of how little sleep I have had most nights, told me that it was 3am, and having begun to feel a little weary, decided to attempt sleep, in the vain hope that I would awaken refreshed, and there would be a little pile of seagull bodies waiting for me on the bedside table.  Alas I awoke feeling as though it was bedtime, and I hadn’t magically formed the ability to knit in my sleep.

So, I’m still very short of stock, but at least I can say, without fear of contradiction, that I can, indeed, knit without looking.

If you’d like to buy a finished gull, click here: (I can’t guarantee it’ll have been knitted in the dark however).


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Take a photo and send it to Nan and she’ll knit it for you.

Ok, so you all know that I do knitting and crochet.  I’d imagine that if you’ve liked my Facebook page, then you like my knitting and crochet, so thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.  It’s because of your kind words, that I carry on knitting and crocheting.

But it’s the others…

Those people…

The ones who think they’re being clever, or funny by being insulting, or downright rude.  The people who come into the hut, and either deliberately or carelessly just knock the wind out of your sales with their tactlessness.  To those people, here is my response.


The basic fact of the matter is this…

If you want something hand made in the UK, unique, made from quality natural materials, then you have to pay a higher price than something you might find in a high street chain.  If you’re happy with mass produced, imported, made using manmade materials, that’s easy, there’s an entire internet’s worth of goodies that can be shopped around for.  In which case, perhaps you’re not going to find an artisan market your cup of tea, but why deliberately go out of your way to be hurtful to someone who has spent time, money and passion creating something that a lot of other people like?  Who knows?

I’m not even going to bother explaining about costs associated with running a business, you know,  like:

  • Materials and equipment
  • Display items
  • Advertising
  • Leaflets and flyers
  • Rent of premises
  • Use of home as office
  • Motor expenses
  • Travel costs
  • Printing and stationery
  • Books and software
  • Telephone and internet charges
  • Repairs and renewals
  • Bank charges
  • Computer equipment
  • Office equipment
  • Insurances

Because you’re sensible people, who know that every business has associated costs, ones that aren’t as obvious as “all it costs is a bit of wool”.

Interestingly, there’s a pricing formula for hand made items, as detailed in the online marketplace, Etsy.  It is this…

Materials + Labour + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale x 2 = Retail

Tee hee!  I chortle… Materials + Labour + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale x 2 = Retail!!

HAHAHA!  I guffaw!  I can hardly contain myself…

Ok, so let’s do this.  Take one of my blankets…  It’s a baby’s pram sized blanket.

Crocheted blanket

Crocheted using 100% merino wool.  I weigh it to see how much yarn is used, and base my prices on that.  That’s the background.  Here’s the reality…

Materials: £2.80 per 50g ball x 8 = £22.40

Labour: 24 hours x £7.83 ph = £187.92

Wait… stop… £187.92?  £187.92??

Right, ok, carry on…


  • Display items
  • Advertising
  • Leaflets and flyers
  • Rent of premises
  • Use of home as office
  • Motor expenses
  • Travel costs
  • Printing and stationery
  • Telephone and internet charges
  • Repairs and renewals
  • Bank charges
  • Computer equipment
  • Office equipment
  • Insurances

Lordy! Ok, based on last year, that was iro £8k, so… erm…? About £21 per day, so we’ll scrap that bit.

Right, Profit… well, erm, right… profit… erm, profit… erm?  we’ll scrap that bit too, so!

Materials + Labour = £210.32

Total: £210.32 = Wholesale price

£420.62 = Retail price


Actual price of blanket £42

Hourly rate: (£42-22.40)/24 = £0.82 yep that’s right!  82p per hour!

Let’s try something else.

Giant seagull by The Little Songbird Knitting Co Kent

Gerald, the ginormously gargantuan gull:

Materials: £50.40

Labour: 24 hours @ £7.83 ph = £187.92

Total: £238.32 = Wholesale price

£476.64 = Retail price

Actual price of giant gull £130

Hourly rate: £3.32

There’s a pattern forming and I don’t mean of the knitted variety…

So when someone looks at the giant gull, and says, “cor, that could do you some damage”, followed by, “it would certainly damage your wallet”, what is there to say?  Explain that actually, they’re getting it at 27.27% of what the retail price ought to be?  In fact, they’re getting it at 54.55% of the wholesale price!  Or maybe I should just flip up a sign saying…


Believe me, if I just heard one thing this week, then I wouldn’t be writing a blog about how rude the general public is, but it isn’t.  I’ve had “nan would be disgusted if she saw the price of those” (cactus, £16, 2hrs labour); “now… how much would you pay for this seagull?” (Solomon £35 – 8hrs labour); “I ain’t paying THAT.” (crocheted shopping bag £15 – 4 hrs labour).  The list is endless.  Daily.  The simple answer is, “don’t buy it then”, but I’m not allowed to say that.  If it was my hut alone, I would frog march people out of the door, telling them that I only sell to the deserving, and so what about negative feedback?  I’ll give them bloody negative feedback!  But no.  I share the hut with two talented and wonderful people, so in order for my fury not to impact them, I shall keep quiet, or…

I might resort to one of these!


Hidden under my desk, so that I can deny all responsibility.

“That’s bullshit!”, it will say.

And to the general public, it would be like their conscience telling them to shut the hell up.

ITEM 2.  I’m not Pinterest.

Some of you may have heard of Pinterest, it’s a site where you “pin” your interest in something.  Great for ideas on how to do your kitchen, recipes, patterns and tutorials, a whole smorgasbord of hints, tips and ideas.  Hurrah!  There’s no need then for this…

I designed my cotton shopper.  I sell the pattern on various online sites.  I also teach people how to crochet the cotton shopper on my 4 week course through Kent Adult Education.  I’m also very accommodating when it comes to telling people how it’s made.  In fact I had a lovely chat with a lady from the Midlands, who initially had asked whether it was made using a tattling shuttle (like fishing nets).  We had a lovely chat, about how she was known as “the undoer”, in her craft group, because she was always having to undo things.  Lovely.  Just the kind of customer I love coming into the hut.

What I don’t love is the kind of customer who does this…


Young female customer:  Ooh I really like these bags, not necessarily with the rose, but I really like it.

Her mum:  Well, take a photo of it, and send it to Nan, and she’ll knit one for you.

No don’t come into a shop where everything is hand made, and take a photo of it, to send to someone else to make for you.  Just no.  Bad form.  No no no.  That’s EXACTLY what Pinterest is for, and having Googled knitted shopping bag, it took me straight to Pinterest, and a free pattern by  Marvellous.  Perfect for Nan.

The most frequently heard is…

“Can you make one of these for me?” asks one customer to another, looking at something I have made.


ITEM 3. You could make that.

This is a standing joke between me and my lovely friend.  She has always been saying that to me.  You could do that!  She’d say, pointing to the Sistene Chapel ceiling.  I love her faith in me, but half the time, it was just not based in reality.  So I understand why people say it, and after all, like my friend, she’s not saying, “this is so crap, that even you could make it” (which is precisely what the maker hears), she’s saying, “you’re really clever, you could make it”.  Well.. at least my friend is saying that to me.  The general public however, could well be insulting both myself and their friend!

My standard response is either, “she can, but she won’t”, in a smiley way, or, “she can, but could she make hundreds, and still remain this side of sane?”, and everyone laughs and laughs…

I’m not sure it’ll ever change, but if you do think that your talented friend can make something, or you think it’s so crap that EVEN your friend could make something, try not to say it within earshot of the person who actually made it….

Like on this one occasion.  Primary school Christmas fair.  Teacher and TA, standing on the other side of the table, so literally only about 2ft away from me, and 100% obvious that I’d made everything.  100%.  Teacher studying my wares, turns to TA and says, “YOU could make all of this”.


ITEM 4. General Ignorance.

“You remind me of my nan”.

Do I?  Well thank you very much.  No, no. I mean it.  Thanks a lot.  I remind you of your nan?  Well you remind me of a horse’s arse.

“Can I smoke in here?”.

Guess.  Go on, guess.  Yes or no?  Hmm… No?  Maybe?  Jeez…

ITEM 5.  Usual rules of propriety.

  • Children covered in ice cream touching things. NO
  • Children touching things in general. NO
  • Children in general (joke!  Blimey!) NO
  • Dogs weeing on display items. NO
  • Dogs eating display items. NO
  • Dogs weeing on floor. NO
  • The public smoking too close to the doorway of the hut. NO
  • The public sneering at stock. NO
  • The public sneering at prices. NO
  • The public. (I’m joking again!  Calm down!) NO
  • Lovely people. YES!
  • Lovely people who buy things. YES!
  • Lovely people who say lovely things. YES!
  • Lovely people who come in and have a nice chat, even if they don’t buy anything.  YES!
  • Children not covered in ice cream.  YES!
  • Children with their hands tied together.  YES!
  • Children who come in and have a nice chat, even if their parents don’t buy anything. YES!
  • Dogs. YES!
  • My Dogs. No

This one is one of my favourites, and not uttered by the public, but by a friend, something I will remember, and remind him of, For-Ev-Er.

Alpaca Faux Fur Pompom Hat Hut No.13

Friend: How much are your hats?

Me: £25

Friend: They’re £3 in Primark.

Me: There’s a discernible difference between my hats and Primark.

Friend: To the untrained eye they look the same.

Me: *Rant* (for weeks)


If you have nothing nice to say, shut up and bugger off.





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Crocheted Daffodil Tutorial

Crocheted daffodil

Our crocheted daffodil tutorial.

In this tutorial you will be “guided” through my pattern for a crocheted daffodil.  Now, just to warn you, I’ve not done one of these before, so it may not be exactly as you’re used to from other blogs, but maybe you’ll end up with a lovely daffodil, and maybe you won’t.  If you don’t it’s not my fault.  I just wanted to get that out there, right from the off.

Because my personality is evenly split between working really really hard, all day, into the wee hours, right up until I drop; and being really really lazy, if there are any errors or omissions in this tutorial, you’ll have to work your own way through it, because I can’t be bothered to go back upstairs and do a new step by step photographic guide, not least because the light has now changed, so the photos will be all sunshiny and have shadows and stuff.  So!  Here it is… how to crochet a daffodil.


Read the words as well as looking at the pictures…


I bought some lovely, soft, plumptious Cascade 220 100% wool Aran (worsted) weight yarn in lemon yellow (4147) and natural (8010), from Wool Warehouse.  It really is a lovely yarn, but… it comes in a 100g skein.  Boo!  Now I know that skeins make some people think it’s better quality or summink, but in my mind, it’s just a pain, because you have to turn it into a ball first, otherwise, it gets tangled and turns into a yarn spaghetti mess.  Now, I’ve already referred to my natural proclivity towards idleness, so I undid it, tied a bit of spare yarn around it, and went in for the kill, risking spending the next 2 days untangling.  My risk paid off.  No.1 son didn’t have to stand holding the yarn whilst I wound the yarn winder.  I had a moan-free evening.

cascade47057Large_d9aaOk, the pattern…


  • Oddments of Aran weight yarn in cream and yellow.
  • 4.5mm crochet hook.

Abbreviations (UK Terms):

  • ch – chain st.
  • dc – double crochet
  • hk – hook
  • htr – half treble crochet
  • sl st – slip stitch

Begin here: ROUND 1

Make a magic ring, ch4, dc into 2nd ch from hk, dc into next 2 ch, sl st into magic ring.  NB work on just one side of the chain only (round 2 requires you to work into the other side).

Daffodil 1

Daffodil 2

Repeat 5 more times.

Daffodil 3


Now working on the other side of the ch, where indicated, from the bottom up, work 1 dc, 1 htr, 1 dc into ch.

Daffodil 4

Work 1 picot as follows: 2ch, 1 dc into 2nd st from hk.

Daffodil 5

Now, into dc from round 1, work 1 dc, 1htr, 1dc.Daffodil 6

Work sl st into sl st from round 1.

Daffodil 7

Repeat around remaining 5 petals, fasten off.

Daffodil 8

Tighten magic ring, sew in loose ends.


Make a magic ring, and work 6 dc into ring.  Work a 2nd round of DC.

Trumpet 1

Trumpet 2

Then work a round of picot, by working 2 ch, dc into 2nd ch from hk.

Trumpet 3

sl st into next dc.

Trumpet 4

Continue to end.

Trumpet 5

Fasten off, sew in loose ends, ensuring both strands end up at the bottom of the trumpet.

Assembly 1

Using a large eyed needle, pass the two strands through the centre of the petals.

Assembly 2

Sew securely in place, and voila!  You have something that resembles a squashed daffodil!  NEXT!  Get that iron out and steam block the petals.  I had the iron on hot, and steamed it to death.  That’s ok with this yarn, you might want to tread carefully with other brands, (especially acrylics).  You might even want to wet block if the yarn has a high natural fibre content.

I attached brooch backs to the reverse sides of mine.  They’ll be at Hut No.13 this weekend (if we can get there).

How to crochet a daffodil

(C) The Little Songbird Knitting Co.  All rights reserved.

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Knitting is sexy. No, really… it, erm… is?

Knitting is sexy

Knitting is sexy.

No, really… it, erm… is?

Here’s the thing, I’m a single gal, looking for Mr Right.  Well I would be, if I could be arsed, which, at the moment, I can’t.

I’m too busy, my house is too small, I’m quite messy, I can’t get the dogs off the bed, I’m a bit too independent, and to date me is a little like climbing a short, but awkward mountain.  Oh, and, I’m always right, I’m a bit argumentative, and a little too forthright in my opinions.  And when I use the words “a bit” and “a little”, I mean “quite” and “a lot”.

But, you know, I would like one.  A Mr Right.  One I accidentally stumbled across.  You know, with no effort on my part, or anything.  Because, in addition to the above desirability of me as a partner, when I tell someone that I knit for a living, I might as well say, “hey man, wanna date your grandma?”.

“You remind me of my nan” is a frequent utterance from passing menfolk if I’m knitting at Hut No.13.  What I’d like to say is, “Do I?  Ha!  Well YOU remind me of …” no, I shan’t finish that sentence… instead, I simply smile sweetly, and say nothing.

So, I must conclude that men think of their grannies when they see me.  Who says knitting isn’t sexy, hey?!

A couple of years ago, I went speed dating.  As barrels go, they’d managed to find the last dozen, scraped the bottoms, and out of the dregs, had formed a dozen single men of a certain age.  The disappointment on the women’s faces was visible… the sighing audible, the lack of interest palpable.  Saying that I knitted for a living was a simple, and effective way of ensuring that they weren’t interested in me either.  Win win.  No hurt feelings, a mutual lack of desire.  I didn’t want the bottom of a barrel, they didn’t want someone who knits.

When I have been in the early stages of a relationship, I have left the knitting out of sight.  I do know that rule.  I wouldn’t expect to be spending an evening with someone, only for them to get their job out of a bag and start working.  I realise that you have to wait for complacency to set in before that can happen.  When’s that then?  Six months?  A year?  I think it’s usually sooner for men than it is for women.  That may be a sexist statement, but I think once the first bottom utterance is excreted, the death of romance quickly follows, and the relationship is on a downward spiral into him wearing trackie bottoms and not washing, and that’s when, hurrah, us ladeeez can get the crafts out.

But it’s not “in the early stages of a relationship”, it’s “on the first date”.  It’s not often that you’d have justification for keeping your profession a secret.  Unless of course you’re a spy; or you’ve signed the Official Secrets Act; or you’re a pimp, drugs lord, arms dealer etc. What do I say?  I can’t tell you what I do, because I’d have to kill you if I did.  Great!  Exotic, exciting, dangerous… But I don’t think knitting really falls into that category, you know, when he finds out the truth and all.  I can’t even say that I’m a teacher, because they’d ask what I teach, and I’d either have to lie and say astrophysics, or the game is up.

I’m going to have to compare this to writing a CV.  After all, I’m not going to write on my CV, “It’s my way or the highway.  I’m crap at working in teams.  I’m next level nuclear when under pressure, and most importantly, I never make the coffee or answer the phone” (ex-colleagues will happily concur, that all of the aforementioned is true – ah you guys!  Love you!).  What I say is, “A creative thinker, and highly motivated individual.  Able to adapt to changing priorities, quick to learn and implement new systems.  Highly numerate and literate, with a broad skill set” .  Which is also true, and I have to say, a little show-offy, but isn’t that the point?

So… I either have to convince the world that knitting is indeed sexy, which might be a toughy; tell a downright lie, or use different words to describe what I do.  When I first moved back to Kent in 2011, I worked for a kitchen and bathroom company.  My job title was “Office Manager”, they chose it, that’s what they advertised, that’s what I applied for, and that’s the position I was offered.  I dated someone during that time, who was asking questions about my job, and when he realised that office manager didn’t mean that I managed a team of people, he was disappointed… Well, imagine how disappointed he’d have been NOW!  So, Shiona, what’s involved in Ovine Fibre Construction…?  Oh, so you mean knitting… urgh.

Convince the world knitting is sexy then… I could wave photos of Marilyn Monroe knitting, or Scarlett Johansson.  And yes, their menfolk would probably be too mesmerised by their attributes to have even HEARD the word knitting.  Let’s face it, they could say they bathed in raw sewage for a living, and their beauty would still deafen the most hearing of ears.  Unfortunately though, I’m not Marilyn Monroe or Scarlett Johansson, or any other beautiful or famous person who knits, so unless I’m willing to put in some serious effort to become a Hollywood superstar, I’m going to have to start thinking outside the box.Knitting is sexy

I don’t know if you’d been able to tell so far, but I like to think of myself as not poncy.  I’m not saying I necessarily call a spade a spade, but if it’s a spade, why bother calling it a flat bladed digging tool?  So when it comes to fabricating a job title, I’m a little fazed.

I think I’ll have to try illusive instead…

Imaginary conversation 1.

Imaginary Man: So, Shiona, what do you do for a living?

Shiona: Oh, I own a business

IM:         What kind of business?

S:            Er…

Imaginary conversation 2.

IM:         Your profile says you’re a textile designer, what kind of thing do you design?


S:            Er…

Basically, illusive or imaginative, it’s a flow chart, and all answers lead to knitting.

So my choices boil down to this:

  • Find a man who likes knitting    They only exist if it’s their Nan who’s knitting.
  • Find a man who likes me enough to ignore the knitting thing  Come on, keep it real.
  • Stop knitting  No explanation required.
  • Become a Hollywood superstar  No explanation required.
  • Pretend to do something else.  Tried that, all roads lead to Rome (AKA knitting).
  • Remain single.

Ah… this may require further thought…