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.

Love your blog: Week 4 - Gratitude

Unlike last weeks prompt for the #loveyourblog challenge, this weeks prompt of Gratitude left me with so many ideas that I didn't know where to start.

Not a day goes by that I'm not grateful for my knitting, my craft and my community.

Amongst other things, I am grateful:

  • That I have my health and my eyesight.
  • That I have the ability to 'make stuff' out of thin air with just yarn and needles.
  • That I can share this with other people who 'get it'.
  • That these people form a wonderful vibrant community, of which I am part and my tiny portion of it on my Ravelry group is simply wonderful.
  • That we can all support and learn from each other.
  • That Ravelry exists.
  • That my family have a never ending need for socks.
  • That I have time and energy to do what makes me happy, every single day.
  • That yarn squishes down really small for the purposes of stash concealment. 

My family being grateful for our fabulous local market..and  oysters

A new challenge: Me Made May

I have really enjoyed and been inspired by the #loveyourblog series running this month. Kate (of A Playful Day fame) has done a wonderful job of bringing together quite a diverse community of crafters and for me, it has brought back a love of blog reading and of blog writing that I thought I had lost.

It turns out that it wasn't lost at all, it was just having a little sleep and needed a kick of inspirational caffeine to get it moving again.

With that in mind, it was very timely for me to happen across the 'Me Made May' challenge. See - the inspirational snippets that pop into your life when you read other blogs!

Hosted by the very talented Zoe over at the So, Zo What do you Know blog this challenge has been running for several years now is both a personal and a community based one. The premise is simple - to celebrate the handmade and to both show and share our love for our craft.
The decision of how much and when to participate is a personal one. Some opt for the challenge of a daily 'me made' outfit - complete with photographs whilst others go for a more pared down approach. I can't help thinking that for us knitters, the daily outfit might be a bit of a challenge. As much as I love my Icon dress in Purl Alpaca yarn I'm not sure I want to wear it too much as the weather warms up here in the UK.
Getting into the swing of things this week though I have been enjoying my very seasonally coloured Knit Night shawl, in club yarn from Ginger twist Studios - in the Muddy Daffodils colourway.

Knit Night by Louise Zass-Bangham

But, the whole point of the challenge is that anything handmade counts and it doesn't have to be everyday. It is a celebration of the handmade and a culture that values the time, effort and skill of making wearable items.

There is a Flickr group, for sharing all those lovely photos and the hashtag #mmmay15 for following along on the various social media channels.

Even if you're not planning to take part there is bound to be lots of inspirational eye candy, so why not take a look?

Are you planning to take part? If so, be sure to let me know so I can check out your progress and we can cheer each other on.

Love your Blog Week 3: Social media - the good, the bad and the ugly

In the creative industry as in all walks of life, there is a tendency to focus overwhelmingly on the positive and to ignore or minimise the negative, the less-than-perfect or the ugly.
In general this is usually the best policy - as my mother used to say "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". However this can lead to what is known in the scientific community as publication bias. Results of pharmaceutical clinical trials which show a positive outcome are far more likely to be published than those which don't.

In the same way, we are all far more likely to document our successful projects on Ravelry and show them on Instagram, than we are to show photos of that sweater with the wonky sleeve that was relegated to the back of the cupboard.

In general, we are far more likely to show only the good, the beautiful and the perfect. Recently a well known Instagrammer made this point and published a series of photos showing her 'everyday' after someone made the comment that she had a 'beautiful life' Her thoughtful response was that, of her normal day the part she shared via social media comprised  approximately 2% - and that was on a good day.

Whilst entirely understandable, this type of self-censorship has the potential to cause anxiety or negative thinking amongst users of social media. Any feelings of self-doubt or tendency to over-critical thinking can be made worse by an endless parade of 'lovely' photographs. As a new parent I remember distinctly feeling overwhelmed by seeing a good friend post pictures she took of baking cookies with her toddler - all happy smiles and clean faces. When I tried the same it ended in tears, tantrums and flour-covered cat.

Now, I'm not for one minute suggesting that we all start to broadcast our 'Ugly' but when using social media it is well worth bearing in mind that you are seeing carefully editing highlights of someones life, or work or craft. And, as beautiful and inspirational as it is, it is part of a bigger, messier, imperfect whole.

And for the record, and in the spirit of scientific interest - this is the product of a week's worth of data gathered on my 'normal' day.


 For lots more thoughts on Ugly and it's meaning in our creative context, please see the fabulous A Playful Day, whose brainchild this 'Love Your Blog' series is. Her post on this weeks theme is fabulous and well worth a read.

Love Your Blog: Week 2 - Beginnings

Somewhat ironically, this blog post has been the hardest one to start. Typically for me I have no problem diving headfirst into any number of crafty projects. KALs, events, the year of making challenge, you name it. I'm there. Stoically ignoring my mountain of other WIPs and deadlines I can never resist rushing headlong into another project. And if it doesn't work out - well, there is always frogging and a fresh pile of yarn to play with.

Starting a blog post however is a totally different experience. Numerous false starts, over-analysis and eventual collapse are the normal turn of events when I sit down to type. I am known to be a bit of a perfectionist and something about committing my words to print is enough to paralyse me with indecision.

Is this post good enough? Does it say what I want it to say? Could I phrase it better?

When I have news such as a new pattern release to communicate, then I'm all business-like and can bang out a blog update relatively quickly. But if I am wanting to write a more reflective or analytical piece then the self-doubt kicks in and leads to the eventual fail-safe response of 'write nothing'

Not ideal, I think you'll agree.

So I am using this wonderful challenge by A Playful Day to visit lots of other crafty blogs, to chat, to get inspired and most of all to realise that not every post I put out there has to be 'perfect'. It's about reaching out to fellow crafters, starting a conversation and interacting about our favourite subject in the whole world.#

It's just people chatting about yarn - there's nothing to be scared of

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.