Thursday, 30 July 2015

Hans Hedgehog, and the Appleton le Moors Back to Back Challenge

May 2015

In 1811 at Newbury, Berkshire, a one thousand pound wager was made to take the wool from a sheep's back and turn it into a coat for a man’s back in one day. Watched by 5,000 people, the coat was completed in thirteen hours. The sheep was eaten and much beer was drunk to celebrate.

In 2015 at Appleton le Moors, North Yorkshire a group of volunteers recreated the event - this time with three Alpacas - in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. They didn't eat the Alpacas afterwards. We live in a more enlightened age, so there was a Chilli and Tortilla night instead. 

The weekend kicked off with the shearing of the alpacas, and their wool was then carded, spun and knitted into a sweater which went on to be raffled-off at the village pub. In total, just over £4,000 was raised over the course of the weekend.

Our own contribution to the process was modest - we visited mid-morning on the Sunday, by which point the knitting was all but done. There was surplus wool to be carded and spun, though, and our 3 year old gamely had a try of all the different machines. 

Luckily the cake stall was still well stocked, and a local accordionist was laying on a few tunes. We visited the three freshly shorn Alpacas and tried to befriend a few of the lambs which seem to wander freely in the village. Well, our little boy did, anyway.

We were given a ball of leftover yarn to take home with us, and it was really nice to work with such a raw, unprocessed fibre for a change. For a little while I was stumped for a pattern that would do it justice.

The unprocessed alpaca yarn was a mottled brown colour and had been spun to what I would guess to be a reasonably chunky weight. Looking at it, it seemed to suggest about 15/16 stitches to 10cm would give a nice fabric.

With this in mind, I scoured that great thief of time, ravelry for projects which would suit 100m or so of chunky brown yarn. And I found Hans. 

The nice thing about hedgehogs is that size isn't really important, and all I needed to worry about was getting a fabric dense enough for the stuffing not to show through. 5.00mm needles seemed to do that fine. 

My version followed the modifications set out here, giving it a tummy which was the same shade of brown as the face. It just seemed truer to life that way, although that may be as much based on cartoon depictions of hedgehogs as real lie ones. Blame Beatrix Potter.

When my little boy is feeling tired or in need of a cuddle he has a habit of telling me "I'm only a little baby hedgehog" and making meeping noises. Where it comes from I have no idea, but I find it very endearing, and so I thought a cuddly hedgehog would make a good gift for him, and a cool keepsake of the back to back challenge.

Pattern: Hans my Hedgehog by Margaret Bloom
Size: Irrelevant
Yarn: John Lane's Alpacas chunky homespun
Needle 5.00mm
On ravelry: here

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