Thursday, 28 April 2011

Thank you to the SGS knitting club!

Tuesday was the last of this term's knitting club at school as the time has come for exams and other such things. I've had a fantastic time and it's been great to see the students' skills and confidence grow over the weeks with everyone producing at least one item (several in some cases!) over the term. I'm hoping to round up some photos of the finished projects to show you in due course but in the meantime I thought you might like to see the lovely flowers (note that the flowers match my hair!) and card I received as a thank you. Not that any thank you was necessary - I've enjoyed the course at least as much as the girls I'm sure!

We are hoping to organise more projects so I'll be putting together ideas for next term soon. If you have a teen in the family, what would appeal to them? It doesn't need to be knitting as long as it's textiles-related. Much as I love him, the DS isn't the best source of info. on what 11-16yo girls like making so all suggestions gratefully received!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

New patterns available to download!

After much procrastinating I'm finally working my way through all my designs and making them available for download via Ravelry. There are already a few available but today I've uploaded "Spirals" - a bag made of French knitted swirls. Memories of cotton reels and nails anyone? We used to call it knitting nancy or french knitting. How about you?

picture of pattern 022 'Spirals' french knitted bag by Debbie Tomkies of DT Craft and Design
p.s. It can be made in just about any 4ply yarn (or DK if you tweak the size a bit) so if you fancied a multi-coloured version it would be a cool way to use up those sock yarn leftovers. Or why not incorporate a bit of fancy fluff or sparkle? Mine uses some sparkly sewing threads that were a freebie from Classic Stitches magazine.

My second upload for today is my Helter Skelter socks. These were one of my first sock designs for Simply Knitting. Because they are knitted as a tube there are no heels to knit - great for a first sock! This is the subtle colourway "Iris" that you may have seen on our stall at shows (I'm not allowed to wear these!).

picture of 'Helter Skelter' heel-less tube socks knitted in DT Craft and Design pure wool DK in shade 'Iris'

picture of 'Helter Skelter' heel-less tube socks knitted in DT Craft and Design pure wool DK in shade 'Iris'

Instead I have a pair in the erm, less subtle "I Want Candy" shade.

image of DT Craft and Design pure wool DK sock yarn in shade 'I Want Candy'

I've been wearing mine for ages and because they are knitted as a tube they can be rolled around the foot which cunningly avoids wear at the heels and ankles. Neat!

Knit them in any DK sock yarn - I love them in my Alpaca/Wool/Nylon DK - specially designed for socks and very gentle on the feet - yum!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Spun Sock Workshop

picture of exterior of Spun shop, Byram Arcade, Huddersfield
Returning from the digression in the last post, I had a lovely visit to Spun in Huddersfield last month. Beginner's sock knitting was the order of the day and I had a lovely group of students who very quickly (amidst the laughter!) grasped all the sock essentials.

students knitting Debbies Super Simple DK socks

We worked on five dpns which was new to most of the group and we made a pair of my Super Simple DK socks (available for free download on my Ravelry pattern page in my smooshy alpaca/wool/nylon DK yarn. I have this yarn in both DK and 4ply weight specially spun for socks and it is already becoming my sock yarn of choice for my own socks!

knitted sock in progress with DT Craft and Design alpaca wool nylon DK yarn

 Lydia's shop is expanding fast and she has added some lovely new yarns since my last visit (possibly something to do with the deep discussions she was in with the trade reps when I bumped into her at the Stitches trade fair in Birmingham in February, perhaps?). The shop is located in a beautiful Victorian arcade (yes, Yorkshire had malls way before the Trafford Centre and Bluewater!) and there are some super shops in there - vintage clothes, jewellery, cookware - and not forgetting the tattoo parlour if you feel so inclined!

And here are Lisa's tiger feet in progress....

knitting in progress with DT Craft and Design alpaca wool nylon DK yarn in shade 'Gingernut'

 ---and the finished article(s) - beautifully completed (and stylishly modelled!) - thanks Lisa : )

Liz's completed socks knitted in DT Craft and Design alpaca wool nylon DK yarn in shade 'Gingernut'

Friday, 22 April 2011

London Road Fire Station (a digression, sorry)

London Road Fire Station in Manchester seen from platform 14 at Piccadilly train station
Another early start, this time headed for Spun in Huddersfield. Platforms 13 and 14 at Piccadilly station are highly recommended for a view of one of my favourite Manchester buildings, the London Road Fire Station. It has never been in operation as a fire station in my time in Manchester but manages to remain majestic and impressive despite being somewhat neglected. Given all the development in Manchester over the last few years it has always amazed me that someone can't find a good use for this outstanding building. As I wrote this post, I thought perhaps I should do a bit of research at some point and find out more. So I hit google and this is what I found....

Firstly, some fascinating pictures of the fire station in its heyday, what went on there, some lovely old fire engines (and don't those policemen look pretty serious in their exercise shorts and vests?!). Then some rather sad photos showing what is happening inside the building today. I know we can't preserve buildings in glass cabinets but surely we can do better than this with an English Heritage at risk building? Fortunately, further research indicates that things may be moving and I found the latest news about a possible CPO and new development of the site and a hearing that is ongoing as of just last week! A timely bit of googling if ever there was one! I so wish I could buy the building - imagine what an awesome craft/studio/arts village it would make!

(ETA. The fire station has its own Wiki page! Apparently, not only did the firemen live on site, but their families too - which may explain some of the flowery 70's wallpaper! Not sure what the rationale is for the taxidermied animals and the fairground horse tho').

Sorry, major digression there, even by my standards. I promise to write up the workshop next - no going off piste!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Footloose and fancy free(form)

Just going through the blog and realised I haven't shared any pics from my recent workshops! Shame on me!

I'm sure many of you will have seen the lovely Paula's knitting breaks at the Westcliffe Hotel in Blackpool. If you haven't they are just lovely. Good food, great company, trips out to lovely knitting shops (oh, and of course knitting and crochet!). I've been fortunate to teach two workshops for Paula so far this year and both have been such a pleasure.

Freeform Crochet in February began with an early start from Manchester....

which improved as we got nearer to Blackpool.....

and I was just in time for by the full-cooked brekky on arrival (yum!).

Freeform crochet was the order of the day and after a bit of ice-breaking "crochet-a-bit then pass it on" the group got into the swing of crochet without boundaries. There was lots of interesting colour and texture, some very funky shapes and lots of laughter.

 And by home-time the world looked more like this.... lovely!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

And to follow.....Sonic Boom Six and The King Blues

The next gig was a bit of a punt really. One for Pete for a late birthday present. In keeping with the average Tomkies night out, there was, naturally, a pre-departure drama. I was late getting ready so it started with the "will we, won't we" get the Met or take the car debate. As it was Pete's night out it didn't seem fair to make him drive so we opted for the Met. All well and good. Except I forgot my travel pass. Take two. Half way to tram station. No phone. Too late to go back. Drama three. No cashpoint card. Luckily I'd borrowed some cash to get us there, planning to get the rest from the cashpoint, so we did have some money, but it was like being a student again, coppering up to see if we had enough for a last drink and a bus to the tram! Just to prove our commitment to a good night out, we sacrificed the bus, got another round of drinks and walked to the Met. We know how to rock and roll in our house ; )   (oh, and Student Union bars are not as cheap as they used to be - just in case you needed to know...)

So, the bands....
(please note: there is some "parental advisory" language on their sites)

Local outfit Sonic Boom Six were just coming on as we went in. We had no idea who they were but they were epic. Ska meets punk meets rock with a bit of dub thrown in for good measure. Sounds dodgy but it worked. We'll definitely be checking them out again next time they're in Manchester. but if you're curious, here's a sample

or catch their latest single New Style Rocka on YouTube.

The King Blues were headlining and they were awesome.

Don't let the front page fool you - this band have some good stuff to say and the lead singer is a powerful poet. If you get the chance to hear his poem "5 bottles of shampoo", you'll know what I mean. Looking for it on YouTube I chanced across this video of the lead singer, Itch, sharing his own rendition of a beautiful poem by Byron as part of the BBC poetry season. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did....

Gig round-up! First up, Billy Bragg...

March and April were great gig months here at Tomkies Towers. Billy Bragg, my all-time favourite politico-romantic-folk hero played the Academy with his usual blend of sharp wit, biting satire and passion for fairness and equality in society. The concert was part of the Hope Not Hate campaign and Billy did the campaign proud. The audience was a resassuringly mixed bunch - a lot of us who have no doubt grown up with Billy through the Thatcher years and beyond - but more importantly perhaps - a wildly enthusiastic contingent of teens and students. Good to know that there is a new breed of commited young people ready to campaign for a fairer society and take up the baton from us oldies! (And yes, that is a cup of tea - hats off to the man who can still rock it out clutching a brew of a different kind!).

It was many years after he died that I realised my Grandad was what you might call a "quiet Socialist" - never overtly political (no idea how he voted - you didn't discuss that kind of thing back then) but a true believer in equality for all. He fought in the war with time in India and Jerusalem. I remember his tales of swimming in the Suez Canal and nearly being swept away by the huge ships. I only wish I could remember more and had listened more carefully. I'd like to think he'd like Billy Bragg and this song reminds me of him - this one's for you, Grandad.....

Monday, 4 April 2011

Wonderwool voucher in your newsletter!

Newsletter subscriber vouchers for Wonderwool are on their way in the newsletter out today! If you are a subscriber and haven't had your copy, email me at or new subscribers still have time to sign up via the website

I have lots of blogging to do from workshops, new products, patterns etc. but with Wonderwool at the end of the week, it will have to wait until I get back!

Look forward to seeing those of you who can make it to Wonderwool. We have lots of new yarns, fibres, books and other goodies for you to see. Ooh, and I'm having a major stock re-shuffle when I get back so look out for lots of great offers on samples, end of line yarns, hand-dyed yarn and fibre one-offs. (If I don't make some space I won't be able to store all the lovely new yarns I've got my eye on!)
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