And off I p/hop….

I am leaving MSF to be a carpenter. This is my goodbye post to p/hop really. I am not going anywhere far, but MSF has been a complete life-changer for me and p/hop remains one of the things I am most proud of.

Four years ago I emailed Natalie Fergie to thank her for running a competition where entrants had to come to the MSF UK website to answer questions and win a prize. She emailed back and said she had an idea.

That idea bore fruit. A lot of fruit.

Skip forward to now and I am trying to work out what would be the best indicator of p/hop’s success. I have access to all sorts of stats, but p/hop’s pretty vast and so much has happened…

Would it be the obvious? The £40,000 (in pounds, dollars and euros) that knitters have raised? This is the equivalent to paying for a doctor to be in the field for more than two years!

Or would it be the more than 200,000 people who have visited the blog and read about p/hop and/or MSF. They’ve come from 180 countries, including 61 of the 70 countries MSF has worked in in the same period (no fans yet in Turkmenistan, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Somalia, Liberia, Cameroon, Chad, Djibuti or Guinea unfortunately, but they’ll come).

Or would it be the ravelry and twitter numbers? Over 1,300 members between them, including an Olympic team! The hundreds (or is it thousands?) of threads on the ravelry discussion board?

Maybe it’s the numbers I can only hazard guesses at? The hundreds of events, swaps and competitions that have been organised? The tens of thousands of patterns that have been downloaded and knitted? The thousands of minutes of thinking and planning and talking and doing that made them all of it possible? Could it be, and excuse me for getting a little soppy, the millions of (what unit do I use?) of love and compassion and generosity that p/hop is built on?

Difficult to choose, right? It has to be something that ties this all together, the common thread that runs through everything ‘p/hop’….

How about metres of yarn?

‘But it is impossible to know the answer’ I hear you cry.

Not so. I have had seventeen volunteers working twelve hours a day for a month counting patterns downloaded, stitch and bitch meet ups, ravelry projects, yarn swaps and thousands of other bits of data. This has all been fed into a complex algorhythm which has given us the answer.

To date p/hop yarn metrage is exactly 17,980,641 metres

And whether that is accurate or not, I am proud to have contributed my few metres to the total.

On a personal note I’d like to say that p/hop has inspired me, taught me and taken me to places I never expected to go.

Highlights have got to be knitting on a mountain in Lesotho, making a music video in Ghana, watching RooKnits on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, watching Natalie get teary at the justgiving fundraising awards and meeting all the knitters at the various festivals across the country (who knew there were so many knitting festivals?)

I have also learnt more about online community and fundraising and engagement and empowerment from you guys than from any of the conferences or seminars I have been to or the articles I have read.

Last of all, a few thanks…

A big one to Natalie of course. p/hop’s mum, visionary and legend.

Then to Louise, my first intern (now works for RedR in Australia), who looked after p/hop through it’s tender toddler year, bravely taking p/hop on its first tour of the UK despite knowing next to nothing about knitting.

Then to Clare (who is actually taking over from me as international blogging editor at MSF). Under Clare’s care p/hop has really gone to a whole new level in the last couple of years, both online and on the road. Can’t thank her enough for her time, enthusiasm and commitment! Good luck to her filling my boots in the MSF comms department. I know she’ll be great.

Lastly, and most importantly, to all of you. Because you are p/hop. The knitters sans frontiers. A group of people I barely knew existed that have had a huge impact on me, on the MSF UK office and on our work in the field. Total inspirations. Thank you.

And the winner is…

On a rainy Thursday evening I squeezed onto a packed bus up to Holloway, skipped over puddles and headed to the mighty Emirates Stadium.

Just Giving Awards - Emirates Stadium

As you probably know p/hop was nominated for Most Creative Fundraiser at the Just Giving Awards, so I soon was transported from rainy London to the swish entertainment room of the stadium.

The evening began with a glass of bucks fizz and a spot of knitting gazing out on to the Arsenal pitch, which had lamps on it to make the grass grow at night. Who knew they did that!

Just Giving Awards

Pete and I pretended to be at a game, I’m supporting Flowers in the Rain (one of our samples which I borrowed for the evening) and Pete looks miserable because Arsenal haven’t won anything for ages.

Just Giving Awards

We enjoyed a delicious meal and good conversation with the other nominees at our table. I managed to squeeze in our unofficial motto, “p/hop the less sweaty way to give” while talking to someone who organises charity bike rides.

Just Giving Awards

As well as Flowers in the Rain being at the awards Natalie had a gorgeous Trinity Shawlette which her friend Paraknit had made especially for the occasion, again demonstrating how generous knitters are.

Just Giving Awards

After dinner there was a superb and heartfelt performance by the Choir With No Name which is made up of homeless and vulnerably housed people. Please take a moment to visit their website as they are truly inspiring.

Choir With No Name

Then the nerves set in as it was award time. Being part of the Just Giving Awards was a humbling experience as we were among wonderful and inspiring people and many of the stories of how people started fund raising brought a tear to my eye. The other finalists in our category were great fund raising ideas (You can read about the Davenant Slum Survivor Team and  Gabrielle Latham & Joanne Hall’s Big Wheel Lock-in fundraiser on the Just Giving website) so I had no idea who would win.

I was caught completely unawares when Natalie’s name was called out so only got this photo of her collecting it. She made a brilliant acceptance speech about how knitting a jumper starts with just one stitch, then you knit another, and another and it grows, which is how p/hop has happened. It’s thoroughly deserved and well done to Natalie for coming up with such a brilliant idea. Keep an ear out on your local radio as you might hear Natalie talking about p/hop as she’s done loads of interviews over the last 48 hours.

Just Giving Awards

I did get a better photo later on once we’d calmed down…

Just Giving Awards

and we had to show the award with some knitting!

Just Giving Awards

Awards aside, something just as momentous happened last night. Watch this video to see more…

It was a great evening and we’d like to thank Just Giving, firstly for helping to make fund-raising so easy and secondly for a lovely event.

Finally we’d like to say a  HUGE thank you to everyone who has made this happen. I hope you know p/hop isn’t about a few people, it’s about a whole community, so if you’ve done something, no matter how small, pat yourself on the back and say “I did this”.

BRILLIANT! Now what’s next?

Knitting interrupted

So, sometimes at MSF, something comes along and takes your week apart. This happens fairly regularly, to a greater and lesser extent. This week that has happened and it has been cholera in Haiti that we have been working flat out on…..

A relative holds a child's hand who is suffering from symptoms of cholera at a Haitian government hospital where MSF is treating people. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The situation in Haiti is dire enough that we have launched an appeal from the London office to ask for funds specifically to help us up our game there. More than one thousand staff are working round the clock to treat the thousands of patients we are seeing and to build cholera treatment centres so we have somewhere to treat them and providing safe water to communities and community education and and and…..

There is no doubt in my mind that this work merits a donation from me, from you, from anyone…. But…

But, one of the things that makes MSF special for me is the fact that we don’t often ask for money for specific projects – only when we need to act fast and on a very large scale. And why? Because we prefer to have a fund of money that we can use wherever we see fit – wherever the needs are greatest. Basically, we ask our supporters to trust us.

I was a fundraiser before I worked at MSF and was an MSF supporter before I was MSF staff and one of my proudest moments as a supporter was following the tsunami in early 2005. MSF ran an appeal for funds, to which I donated. Then, once they realised they could not spend it in a meaningful way, that they had done what they could, they offered to give it back. As a fundraiser, this seemed crazy, but as a supporter, it confirmed in my mind that I had made the right choice with my donation.

P/hop is based on an honesty box, and on trust, and this is one of the reasons it fits so well with MSF. The money that knitters raise through this weird and wonderful knitting project goes directly to MSF’s general fund. You are trusting us to spend it where the needs are greatest.

I think a donation to the Haiti appeal is a donation well made, but you guys should be proud that your donations are already at work battling cholera in Chad, malaria in Niger, treating victims of a cyclone in Myanmar, helping victims of domestic and sexual abuse in Papua New Guinea and doing life-saving work in another fifty odd countries.

By the way, this work has interrupted my knitting, but, before you say anything, this post is not an over elaborate excuse for not having done my rows….

Everything going smoothly when suddenly… disaster strikes!

So yesterday, I walk into the MSF fundraising meeting (to talk about p/hop naturally) with my knitting under my arm. I carry my knitting in a scotch tube (Natalie, I know you’ll be proud), Bowmore if you’re interested. It’s great because it’s a perfect fit and the needles don’t break in my bag, a problem I have had twice before. It’s bad because people assume I’m an alcoholic carrying a bottle of scotch everywhere.

I take my seat in between Anne and James from supporter services. These are the lovely peeps who look after MSF supporters – if you’ve phoned the office for any reason, there’s a good chance you’ve spoken to them. I settle down and pop the top of the Bowmore tube. Concentrating not on what I am doing but on the person speaking, I pull the needles from the tube. Slowly the realisation dawns on me that there is no wool on the end of either needle. Words appear in my head that aren’t repeatable on a blog such as this. Luckily they don’t make it out of my mouth and startle Sam who is talking about trends in the proportion of visitors to our site who are using smart phones. I spend the rest of the meeting silently panicking, imagining my scarf self-unwinding every minute I am sitting there.

The meeting ends and I go downstairs, pull out the wool and stare at it. I have no idea what to do. I try to rethread it but the loops are twisted and the yarn ends up coming out somewhere in the middle of the row. I hear frogging noises in my head.

Just at that moment, our lovely reception volunteer Lorna walks past and out of sheer desperation I ask her if she knits. Knits? Of course she does!

Five minutes later she returns, and returns my scarf with not a row dropped. I ask if she has heard of p/hop (she is new here). She hasn’t, so I show her the site and she loves it. And what’s not to love??

So I just want to end this frankly fascinating tale (for those of you who have got this far) by repeating what I’m sure I have said before… that p/hop is a wonderful thing and an inspiration to me. And whether you are here for the first time or are a p/hop veteran, you are part of something very special and should be proud.

Now, back to the knitting, two more donations just came in.

No more BS! p/hop birthday promise…

I have made a lot of promises involving this scarf. I have broken most of them. No more. By Friday, 5pm, the scarf shall be complete. Or maybe more than complete. That kind of depends on you….. Cheers, Pete x


Remember you can get all the blog-a-long updates by following p/hop on twitter and in the p/hop Ravelry group.

PHKCOW: MSF-Pete gets serious.

The competition with Clare (gingerknitsUK) has well and truly started.

Pete's fighting face

Pete's fighting face is designed to strike terror into the heart of Clare

Little did she know that my knitting inactivity was a clever and underhanded tactic to lull her into a contest, so I could become the first p/hop knitting champion of the world (PHKCOW)! Having feigned reluctance to the proposed knitting race, I have stormed off the blocks with a massive 11 rows on the first weekend….

‘I thought he’d forgotten how to knit!’ I hear you mutter.

And you were nearly right. But, when I heard about a local knitting group called Stitch Mark East (here for ravelry and here for facebook), I knew it was destiny… Not only did the experience inspire me to my personal record for number-of rows-knitted-in-one-go. And, not only was it a very cool and relaxing afternoon chatting and knitting. It was also in Cafe Oto in Dalston, which is a wicked place… With the company of Rachael (Stitch Mark East founder) and her friends, good tea and good music, 11 rows flew past in no time.

Clare, I have thrown down the gauntlet, the race is on… I await your response 😉

*Stitch Mark East (or Knits of the Round Table as Rachel regrets not calling it) is on every Sunday in Cafe Oto, so if you are a local reading this, feel free to drop by.*

Pete and Rachael at Stitch Mark East

I meet Rachael, Stitch Mark East founder

Pete vs Clare vs You?

Pete and I are having a knitting race. I need to finish a cabled scarf by the end of May as it’s for my Dad’s 70th and Pete needs to finish his scarf so Arsene Wenger can wear it. As an added challenge I need to write the scarf up as a pattern for p/hop.

There will be more on this next week so watch this space. There would be more on it today but Pete has left his knitting at home. Bad Pete.

Here he is back in January with his scarf, I think he’s knit about 2cm more since then. I can’t give him too much grief as I’ve been working on my scarf since April 2009.

I think Pete thinks us knitters get everything finished quickly so if you have something that is taking forever please join in. The more the merrier. Let us know about your WIP (Work In Progress) that is taking forever in the comments or over on Ravelry.

Happy (slow) Knitting.

What happened in York??!

I tell you what, you take your eye off p/hop for five minutes and suddenly you are sitting there stunned again. Woolly Wormhead donated half her pattern sales, the tragic events in Haiti have inspired massive generosity and something strange happened in York!

All we know is that Jane (probablyjane on Rav) was last seen boarding a train heading that way… Suspicious.

You see, I checked the p/hop total just now and there has a been a torrent of donations from our friends in the north, lots of them mentioning York… Has Jane been hypnotising Yorkshire-based knitters? If you woke up in York after the weekend, covered in wool, with a very generous, donation sized hole in your wallet or purse, this may explain it. Could be worse though – you could do an Elvis impersonation every time your phone rings or howl like a wolf whenever you hear the word ‘cake’….

In all seriousness, it is amazing. I remember not more than two weeks ago talking to Natalie about putting up the fundraising target from £10k to £12k and now we’re nearly there…. You all continue to humble and inspire me.

In other news, I have completely failed in my 100days promise. Basically I promised to do two rows a day on the scarf for 100 days starting on the 1st December. Til new year, I was probably doing ok; not every day, but making up for it when missing a day or two. Now, however, I am seriously lagging. Work was crazy in the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and, although still busy, we are not working every evening and weekend now (unlike our colleagues in the field). On top of this, I have started learning French (brilliant course) once a week and Saturday football with Les Mavericks started up again after the winter break. But enough with the excuses. I shall start again and I shall try to finish by the time the 100days project is over.

Song for Steve……

So, the time has come.

Some thought they would never live to see it, but it has arrived….

But first a bit of background. I started knitting as a result of p/hop and particular because of Natalie. One day a guy called Steve saw this blog and really liked the project. Steve is a physician so MSF is close to his heart anyway, but more importantly Steve is a knitter. In a fit of outrageous generosity (which I’m sure he now regrets), Steve offered a donation of $500 if I could knit anything! Now, I’ll do pretty much anything for $500 and so started my Arsenal scarf.

The challenge was that Steve would pay once I could get the scarf all the way round my neck. On holiday in Ghana that happened. So, myself, Anna, Zak and Janet (the guys I was staying with) made a song for Steve.

So here are MSF-Pete and the Ghana Hillbillies. Hope you like it Steve……….

Big thanks goes out to our very talented backing dancers: Bismarc, Roxine and their mate whose name escapes me….

Also, at one point, excuse my French – heat of the moment stuff!

Day whatever: p/hopping in Ghana

So I have just been on holiday to Ghana! Went to visit my friends Zak and Anna, who are there doing work for a development organisation called AACO (don’t tell MSF). Had a wonderful time and did a lot of knitting. Made a couple of videos for p/hop, one I’ll post now and one in a week or so as I am off to France on Friday (it is my 30th this month so I have used it as an excuse to go on 2 holidays 😉

Loads of boys in Ghana crochet by the way but I saw no other knitters.

More on my return from France and the next one is a bit special…..