2015: My year in knitting

Every year I like to keep track of how much I have knit and how many projects I have made. No real reason why other than it gives me a pleasing sense of tying up loose ends and starting the new year with a clean slate. It also allows me to conveniently forget about the large basket of WIPs by the sofa and cast on for a shiny new guilt free project.

Every time I finish a project in Ravelry I add the year tag - 2015 so that I can easily search them all and tally up my progress.

This year, thanks in large part to Stash Dash I got through 27,000m of yarn and completed 40 projects.

A random selection of 2015 projects
For specific details on any of my projects please see my Ravelry page here.

My categories of projects stack up as follows:

Shawls.    16
Socks.       10
Garments 5
Kids socks 2
Hats.          2
Blankets.   4
Cowl.          1

How about you? Do you keep a tally of your annual progress too?

A Stash Dash triumph

Today marks the end of Stash Dash 2015 - an epic challenge hosted by the Knit Girlls to knit 3K, 5K or 10K's worth of yarn from your stash.

Me, being me I had to go for the 10K challenge and I have to admit that there is no way on earth I would have achieved this, were it not for the Mitered Crosses blanket which acounted for over 5K of yarn all by itself.

My Stash Dash 2015
So, clockwise from top left we have:
Hitchhiker 400m
I Heart Stripes shawl 365m
Shetland Trader MKAL 453m
Traveller Tunic - 973m (The shame - I still need to take a modelled picture of this one
Drachenfels  939m
Log cabin-ish blanket 1002m
Watermelon Stripes 268m
Mitered Crosses blanket 5034m
Trickle Shawl 385m

All the links take you to my Ravelry pages in case you want more details of yarns, patterns etc. Also a few lovely members of my Ravelry group - Louise Tilbrook Designs - joined in too and we posted details of all our projects here. Do check them out as there are some fabulous inspirational projects there.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this years challenge and getting some larger projects off the needles was very motivating.

Now all that remains is the question - Is it too early to start planning for next years challenge?

Fibre East 2015

I was really pleased to be able to go to Fibre East this weekend. I have been planning to go for several years now but the fates had always intervened. This year though, I was determined even though it meant going en famille after a busy preceding day at Whipsnade Zoo.

Sunday was unfortunately the wetter of the two days but we were undeterred (we holiday in the Lake District so rain doesn’t faze us) and we managed to see most of the vendors there. The lovely volunteers and organisers did a great job of directing us to make sure we didn't miss anyone out and I was pleased to be able to catch up with some old friends and make some new ones.
Fibre East 2015: Purchases

My first stop was with Rachel of Porpoise Fur as my fluff stash has been seriously depleted and I am keen to keep up with my spinning practice. I was also intrigued to notice that Rachel has an upcoming fibre club starting in September. With a celebration of women in science it seems tailor made for me and so I'll be saving my pennies from my birthday money for that one.

The Knitting Swede Stride sock yarn: Robin Red Breast
 I finally managed to buy some much coveted self striping yarn from the Knitting Swede after a protracted and heated debate with my sons, both of whom were very keen to join in with the stripy sock love. I wanted the yarny yumminess all to myself but they had very definite ideas. However, with some judicious use of grey yarn from stash for heels/cuffs I reckon I can eke out the yarn to provide socks for both me and one boy from 1 skein of yarn - we will see.
Yarns from the Plain Chelford sock yarn: Peaches & Apricot

It was a delight to meet up with Nic and see her relatively newly launched range of hand dyed yarns - Yarns from the Plain. I had seen some of her work online but in person it was a beautiful display with some very tempting bases and colours. I was very drawn to the blue/green shades of her Netherley Alderley base in the colourway Sassenach - no surprises there then and I also picked up a lovely skein of Chelford superwash sock yarn in the Peaches & Apricot colourway for a gift I am planning.

All in all it was a great day and now I just need to find more time in the day to knit All The Things.

Creativity and new beginnings

Sunday 21st June saw me leaving my husband and children to the mercies of the London Science Museum and skipping off gaily for an afternoon of fun chat, knitting and cake with the Muse Connection Volume 2 at The Parcel Yard, King's Cross.

My last attempt to attend the Muse Connection had been thwarted at the last minute by family matters and so in the preceeding week I had all my fingers crossed that no-one would come out in a rash, need driving to the ends of the earth or have a sudden business trip foisted on them. In the end, all the lucky stars aligned and I was footloose and fancy free - for all of 3 hours.

The event was organised by Kate of APlayful Day and Helen of Curious Handmade and it was such a treat to be able to sit amongst like-minded folk. To sit and chat about our knitting, to eat cake and to listen to talks from both Rachel Coopey - sock designer extraordinaire and Lydia Gluck - co-editor of Pom Pom Quarterly.

The theme of the day was New Beginnings and both talks were centered around this theme - so relevant to crafters everywhere. In honour of the occasion many of us were knitting along on the New Beginnings KAL, or actually were casting on new projects on the day.
My new beginning: sock #2 in Biscottie & Cie sock yarn

It's no secret that of late I have been somewhat distracted by Stash Dash 2015 hosted by the Knit Girlls and a variety of other KALs and events. My design work has been a little in the doldrums and although I have a few submissions and projects in the pipeline I feel as though I have been struggling to pick myself up and carry on with the creativity. In the interests of being determinedly upbeat I don't often blog when I can't be positive and cheerful but to be frank, the last few weeks/months have been hard work on the domestic front. Trying to stay positive and vibrant and creative whilst dealing with the minutiae of family life is a challenge for me at best and in recent weeks it seems to have sucked the creative life force right out of me (apologies - on re-reading that seems a tad dramatic - but you get the picture).

The theme of New Beginnings though was just what I needed to give myself a metaphorical kick in the rear, along with the realisation that every project has to start somewhere.

The aptly named Squishy from Anzula Luxury Yarns from my goodie bag
Being creative can sometimes be hard work and sitting around for the perfect design inspiration to strike is an exercise in futility. Instead part of the challenge is to consistently 'show up', to work at it a little every day and to continue to do your best work even when, in truth, you would rather be lying down in a darkened cupboard whilst your offspring run amok.

The exciting news that I'm going to be doing a Mystery Sock KAL for the Solid Socks group on Ravelry is a further reminder that time, tide and creativity wait for no man. So - pop a date in your diary for November 1st and pick out a perfect skein of solid or semi solid sock yarn for a bit of toe-up mystery.

Interactions and community #Loveyourblog Week 1

This recent project and blog series from A Playful Day couldn't have come at a better time for me. 

As you may have noticed my blogging has always been a little sporadic and recently it recently seems to have trailed off into a tumbleweed of good intentions and good old fashioned writers block.

I think that part of my problem is that I have become bogged down in what I want my blog to be about. Since starting to grow my own design portfolio I obviously want it to promote my designs and my own work but also I love many aspects of the creative world. I knit for myself, for others as well as for business and I'm wary of it becoming too one-dimensional.

With that in mind, I have decided to take inspiration from Sarah Knight's recent blog post over at Crafts from the Cwtch and just write from the heart. Just find my own voice and write about things that I love, things that inspire me and yes, from time to time that will involve socks.

This weeks focus on community and specifically the crafting community is perfect timing too. My aim for 2015 has been to hide a little less behind social media and meet real live people in the flesh. As a self confessed introvert, albeit one who can talk for hours about yarny-related pursuits I have found it all too easy to inhabit the social media world and stay firmly within my comfort zone. This year though, is all about emerging from my little woolly nest and meeting like-minded people. Forging new connections and deepening friendships initially started online.

Recently I met a small group of people from my Ravelry group on a short day trip to Brighton. I had been looking for an excuse to visit Brighton after missing out on going to Unwind last year and the opening of Kate's new bricks and mortar store - YAK - seemed like the perfect opportunity.

A sunny day by the seaside
I was pleasantly surprised at how quick the journey was from my corner of Essex and a very enjoyable morning was spent yarn shopping, drinking coffee and sampling a local cafe's excellent baked goods. Our initial reserve at meeting each other soon disappeared and before long we were chatting like old friends. The conversation flowed as we worked on our projects and I was genuinely disappointed that I had to leave so soon to catch my train and collect the boys from school.
Some of my new stash

Plans are already underway for another meet up in July - this time on a weekend to suit those with different domestic circumstances and I think it is fair to say that we are all looking forward to it immensely.

It is easy to forget that by being part of such a wide community of crafters - whether that be Ravelry, Instagram or Twitter (or indeed all of them) - when we meet we aren't just strangers meeting for the first time. We already know each other and by meeting in person we can only deepen and grow that connection.

Seatoller Socks

Our first "Walks in the Lakes" series starts off with the Seatoller Socks:

Seatoller Socks

Seatoller is a tiny hamlet nestled at the end of the Borrowdale valley in the Lake District and has surprisingly Scandaniavian connections. The striking braided cable featured on these socks is reminiscent of the type of braids sometimes seen with old Norse textiles.

The start of our walk is a gentle one with the cable running along one side of the front and back of the sock and plenty of relaxing stocking stitch to show off a beautiful yarn.

As with many of my patterns it is offered in both toe-up and cuff down formats- all the better to tempt you with.

Our walk is heading onwards and upwards from here - to the dramatic summit of Glaramara via a beautiful mountain stream and waterfall - Comb Gill. But don't worry, the final stop will be a traditional cosy English pub to rest your weary feet.

More details on the Comb Gill socks will follow next week.

2015: Plotting and planning (Part II)

Following on from last weeks article on my bullet journal plans, my thoughts naturally turn to the projects that will require organisation and planning in 2015.

I am by nature a "jump in with both feet" kind of gal - and all to often my initial enthusiasm for a new shiny project wanes. With this in mind I am keeping the 2015 plans minimal but with an emphasis on expanding my creativity.

As a scientist by training I am analytical and methodical but the opportunities for creativity are distinctly lacking in my everday life. One of the things which I have so much enjoyed about growing my design and teaching business is that I can explore new ideas in creative and imaginative ways.

I love the idea of having a word for the year - something to give me focus and direction - and I have spent some time working on this and what I might choose. It might just be me but I find the idea of picking just 1 word quite daunting. What if things change? What if I move in a different direction? What if I get bored with that word?

With this in mind I have decided to have a word for each month. To me, this seems more achievable and it gives me the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. I will be posting my "Word of the Month" on the blog and also my various social media - please do feel free to join in if you'd like to.