Thursday, 18 August 2011

Special Anniversary

Today is a very special day - it's the first Anniversary of the Blacker and Beyond group on Ravelry.

This was our original group banner:

We're celebrating this with an Anniversary Along by challenging ourselves to take on a project - some of us knitting Liz Lovick's March of the Fibres sweater or some of the Fair Isle designs from it.  This is the Ravelry link to the pattern, or you can obtain it through the Northern Lace website.

The idea for a Ravelry group that would be about international breeds of sheep (and other fibre animals) and their fleece, fibre and yarn for all crafts came about at a memorable and inspiring workshop with Deb Robson where we spent a day knitting with wool from 20 different breeds of sheep.  The participants were from 3 different continents and we wanted to stay in touch through Ravelry.

The name of the group was strongly influenced by the fact that many of the yarns we'd used in the workshop had been donated by Blacker Yarns.

An early and popular feature is our weekly Sheep of the Week thread.
We also have collected a vast amount of information about sheep and sheep breeds, stockists of breed-specific products, books, small mills, other resources - you name it, we have it listed on our group pages.  There have been swaps and sharing of fleece/fibre, lots of information about breeds in the Sheep of the Week threads, and sharing much more besides.  The group membership is very international and we have a number of European members who constantly astound me with their excellent English.

There have been some exciting highlights during the year.
We gained 2 group mascots.  There was the excitement when Deb's Handspinning Rare Wools DVD came out - a nice lead up to the countdown to the book I've already mentioned - The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook.

This literally was a countdown as some of us looked on with unashamed envy when a hundred or so lucky people at Maryland Sheep and Wool Show were able to buy some copies specially shipped in.  Then those in America started getting their copies, and finally it reached the UK.  Many of us had pre-ordered through Amazon who had a major fail and put back the date.  Not to be thwarted there was a lot of googling and checking and the Book Depository came up trumps.

Soon after this there were the inevitable calls on Ravelry for a FFSB group, and I think it was Beth from The Spinning Loft who pointed out that any FFSB group would have a big overlap with B&B.  Quick check with group members and the decision was made.  Blacker & Beyond became Blacker & Beyond with FFSB.

As the first anniversary approached, and membership of the group passed 800, we thought it would be fun to have a Knit A Long - something we could share together and would link back to our roots in that knitting workshop.  It was one of our new moderators, Barbro, who came up with the great idea that we keep things the now accustomed relaxed B&B way and have an Anniversary Along where people could make what they wanted.

So that's where we are now.  People are posting in the AA thread what they'd like to try and do during the next couple of months.
I approached my choice logically:

I wanted this first Anniversay Along to have some strong links to the events around the starting of B&B, and also what that has led to me taking on during this past year.
  1. So, it has to be a Liz Lovick pattern because I took 2 classes with her at Knit Camp - hence March of Fibres.
  2. It has to be knitted from Blacker Yarns because Sue donated many of the yarns we used in Deb’s class at Knit Camp, plus I want it to be a knitting project because it was a knitting class we took with Deb.
  3. It has to have several breeds of sheep in it because the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook has come out during the last year and is now an integral part of this group
  4. It has to be a Woolsack cushion because I wouldn’t have been involved with Woolsack if it weren’t for B&B and having met Sue at Knit Camp.
I’ve put all that together and decided to use the sheep pattern from March of Fibres, plus some of the smaller bands between the animals, but I’m going to knit it in DK and fit the pattern onto the 40cm sq cushion size.

For anyone wondering what Woolsack is - well that's one of the things that for me has come about partly through my starting B&B.  I'll post about it soon, but this is the website if you don't want to wait.  Other things I've got involved with include writing the Baa Baa What Sheep articles for the Ravelry newsletter - TWIR, hunting down owners of the very rare Boreray sheep around the country (I'll post about that another time as well), and writing an article on Borerays for Yarn Maker magazine, with the help of Barbro who did all the spinning samples.

And it all started in Deb's workshop on Friday 13 August 2010 in Stirling - a very lucky day for me.  The last year has been a wonderful, fascinating journey.

Note - some of the links will only work for members of Ravelry.  If you're not a member, then why not join?  It's free and has a great deal to offer anyone with an interest in woolly things.

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