Life as a Knitter

A change of routine

Don't get me wrong. I love a good routine as much as the next person - probably more so. They give my busy life structure and purpose and without routines I would probably spend all day camped out on the sofa in my PJs with a big pile of yarn.

There are some times though when it is good to change things up a little and do something completely different. For me, yesterday was one such day.

I had to drive 150 miles north (and back again) to collect my boys from a few days spent with their grandparents. We decided to turn a chore into a treat by meeting halfway at Saltaire - a Victorian village in Yorkshire ( indeed a World heritage Site no less).

It has a really fascinating history, the whole village being built by industrialist Titus Salt. He built a spinning mill after coming into possession of a warehouse full of alpaca fibre (as you do) and created a whole village around the mill for his employees. As a piece of social and economic history it is fascinating. On a slightly more superficial level it has one of the finest bookshops for miles around and a few very good coffee shops too.

Wandering the cobbled streets and exploring the canal towpaths was a great way to unwind and think different thoughts to my usual daytime pursuits. Inspiration was everywhere - as was a very cold and blustery wind. Guy Garvey, the lead singer of Elbow (Manchester based band) once famously credited his musical genius with being from Manchester. Saying that the brain functioned more creatively when it was a few degrees cooler - for non UK readers Manchester is a large city in the North of England which is well known for being cold and a little on the damp side.

Anyway, it was either the sudden burst of cold, fresh air to the brain or 7 hours of enforced non-knitting time spent behind the steering wheel but I arrived home positively fizzing with new ideas.

Rashly I dumped the laundry, the over excited children and the uneaten Easter chocolate and set about trying to cast on all the things. Being astute and sensible you will of course realise that this course of action was unwise and bound to end in tears (mine) and tantrums (also mine).

I sought refuge in my mitered square sock blanket (and a large glass of red wine) instead but this morning I was up bright and early, busily filling a (new) notebook with All The Ideas. Neatly proving of course that my purchases in the Salts Mill bookshop were of course entirely justified. For what are new notebooks for if not for storing those beautiful, shiny new ideas.




As I write this Edinburgh yarn Festival 2016 is receding into the past and Easter is breathing down my neck with a degree of urgency. I truly have no idea where the month has gone but I am acutely aware that in 2 days time I am required to have my whole family transported 250 miles north, with a full complement of all-weather gear (Easter in the Lake District can require either snow shovels or sunscreen - my bet is on the former this year). Not only that but we need to have sufficient supplies for an Easter egg hunt - the snow shovels may come in handy for this - and the makings of an Easter family dinner.

This post was intended to be a leisurely round-up of my Edinburgh shenanigans but to be honest, you are probably more than tired of hearing about it if you weren't there. And if you were there, you will still be wafting along on the same yarn fume high that I am.

So I will content myself with flinging some of my purchases before your eyes - metaphorically, obviously - I'm not letting these goodies out of my clutches any time soon.

A modest yarn haul from Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

A modest yarn haul from Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016


From top left we have 3 fabulous skeins of Tamar 4ply from Blacker Yarns, a skein of Ground Control 4ply from The Wool Kitchen, a skein of yarn from La Bien Aimee that loudly declared itself to be a Hitchhiker in the making; a skein of the fabulous new 4ply yarn from The Knitting Goddess; and in the centre 2 skeins of the wondrous new yarn from Rachel Atkinson aka Daughter of a Shepherd, whose Hebridean yarn debuted in Edinburgh.

There were other purchases too - a lovely project bag from The Little Grey Girl and fibre from Porpoise Fur but you will see more of these another day.

For now, I will take this opportunity to wish you a happy Easter. May it be filled with knitting and chocolate.





What making means to me

My long-standing comfort WIP: meet SockYarnBlankie

My long-standing comfort WIP: meet SockYarnBlankie

For me, making time (ie time dedicated to making) is synonymous with 'me time'. That much sought after period of calm, free from the demands of everyday life in general, and the rigours of childcare in particular.

I was drawn back into making on a whim. As the mum of two young children I found myself one day mercifully and gratefully alone on a shopping trip. With birthday money burning a hole in my pocket I found myself staring at yarn in John Lewis and rashly decided that "I would learn to knit again".

I selected yarn (a Rowan wool/alpaca blend from memory) and needles and headed home fired with enthusiasm to make myself a stripy jumper. My making time was limited to nap times and evenings and I loved it. Picking up the needles signalled the end of adult responsibilities for a while. The ability to just sit and knit, to calm the brain, ignore the never ending laundry pile and to just create.

Making time became, literally an exercise in making time for me and helped me to remember that I was a real person and not just an extension of my family. Over time my interest in knitting increased, my horizons broadened (thank you Ravelry) and I became a Knitter, a teacher and a designer.

Now, no day is ever complete without at least a little knitting in there somewhere. Whether it be swatching for a new design or working on a simple stripy sock, time spent making grounds me, reminds me who I am and that with a little time and patience you can create anything you want.

This blog post was inspired by A Playful Day and her Maker's Year project - you can read all about it here and also by using the hashtag #themakersyear on social media


A yarn review - Tamar Lustre by Blacker Yarns

The clever folk at Blacker Yarns have released a real beauty of a yarn this week - the Tamar Lustre Blend - and I was thrilled to have the chance to play with a skein or two of this recently.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Lustre 4ply, Colourway Tiddy Brook

Blacker Yarns Tamar Lustre 4ply, Colourway Tiddy Brook

The yarn is a worsted spun blend of Wenslydale, Teeswater, Cotswold and Black Leicester Longwool all which add a fabulous shine and lustre. To add a suitable amount of woolly 'bounce' 30% Cornish Mule has been added and the end result is really rather wonderful.

First onto my needles was the 4ply version (a dk version is also available) and as soon as I got my paws on it Iknew it would work beautfully in garter stitch.

Knitted up at a relaxed gauge on 4mm needles the 4ply yarn had great stitch definition but also good drape and sheen too - properties that you don't often find combined in a yarn.

This yarn would be absolutely perfect for a large 2 or 3 colour shawl and the fabulous range of colours is perfect inspiration. I can see this as a large, wrappable, wearable garter stitch shawl or maybe something with a Hap-style construction.

The slight stickiness of the yarn, thanks to the Cornish Mule,  would also lend itself well to fair isle and other colourwork techniques should the fancy take you. The only difficulty might be in choosing your colours, but the handy shade card can help you with this.

I love a good shade card...

I love a good shade card...

And, the even better news is that, unlike the Cornish Tin which was such a hit last year, Tamar Lustre is going to a permanent stock yarn. So you should have ample opportunity to snag some for yourself.

All in all, a real gem of a yarn and one that I will certainly be seeking out at Edinburgh Yarn festival.

Bang out a sweater

A slightly freestyle yoke

A slightly freestyle yoke

Today I am reaping the rewards of a few finished knitting projects - one of the upsides of my recent illness was the extended time available for knitting and crafting - anything to avoid the horrors of UK daytime TV.

Today I thought I would share the Stopover sweater I recently completed as part of the Mason-Dixon ladies #bangoutasweater KAL. Knit in aran weight Lopi yarn but on larger than usual needles this is much touted as an amazingly quick (ie under 7 days) knit and I am happy to concur that this is indeed the case.

Like a few other knitters I had some trouble getting a gauge and fabric combination that I was happy with. Eventually I settled on 15st per 4" (the pattern calls for 13") on 6mm needles. I did a little maths and worked out that I could knit the M size and come up with something which would fit my UK Size 10 frame (34" bust).

I had never knit with Lopi yarn before and I was keen to give it a go. Choosing colours was the hard part though and I was very tempted by looking through the gallery of some beautiful finished sweaters.

The pattern is fabulously clear and it really did knit up very quickly. Looking at the finished sweaters I wasn't entirely convinced by the high neckline and I'm not a fan of things being tight around my neck. As it happens I tried it on once I got to round 12 of the colourwork yoke and decided that I liked the fit as it was, without doing the final set of decreases.

I went a little freestyle at this point - adjusting round 13 to work without additional decreases and then switching to smaller (5.5mm) needles. I added one round of plain grey and then worked in k2, p2 rib for 4 rounds.

I really liked the little pop of colour that the orange gave in the yoke pattern and so I decided to use this same contrast colour just to do the bind off with.


I am really pleased with how this turned out, and even more thrilled that I managed to bang out a sweater whilst it is still cold enough to "feel the benefit" - as my mum used to say.

You can find all the details on my ravelry page: here

Festival planning (or how big a suitcase do I need?)

With less than a month to go until I head north for Edinburgh Yarn festival, my thoughts are turning towards preparation for the big event.

I can only marvel at the preparation required for those actually vending at the show - hats off to you all in advance. The preparation required from just from a Knitters perspective is quite enough to be going on with, thank you.

First of all there is the journey and the all important question of travel knitting. I am flying this year so there are important considerations of project/needle choice to be made. I have no wish to have my lovely new Knit Pro Zings confiscated so I will be opting for the tried and tested Knit Pro wooden DPNs and interchangables. The knitting project itself needs to be small and portable - socks, obviously, but also with a garter stitch shawl on the go for a bit of variety. Note to self - remove scissors from project bag.

Once at the Festival I'm hoping to meet with and chat to considerably more people than I managed to last year. It is my cunning plan to make a list (me making a list - there's a surprise) with stall holders I'd like to see/chat to/meet as well as to note down any knitting friends from Ravelry and where they are likely to be on the Friday. Last year I completely managed to miss large chunks of the Podcaster Lounge events just because I was totally distracted by yarn in large, squishable quantities.

And of course, there is the marketplace. If you are anything like me, when faced with yarn fumes in large quantity you spend approximately 75% of the time wandering in a happy knitterly daze. Merrily squishing, planning, chatting and having a lovely time congratulating yourself on your restraint. Then you make your first purchase, the brakes are off and you spend the remainer of the day hurtling towards financial bankruptcy and more yarn than you can knit before next years festival rolls around again.

To combat this I have a cunning plan:

It sounds obvious but I am going through my queue to identify yarn I need to buy for a specific project. Then looking through the vendor list to see which ones I am most likely to have success with. Armed with a shopping list and at least a vague plan for the yarn I am less likely to end up coming home with an armful of beautiful single skeins and no idea what to make with them.

And finally - the social side. The organisers at Edinburgh Yarn Festival really have thought of everything. For those, like me who are heading up on the Thursday, they have organised an informal Knit Night at a city centre location. Perfect for meeting up with knitting friends, meeting new ones and just generally hanging out with 'your people'. All the details can be found here - they just need you to sign up using the online form. There is no charge and no committment, it is just to give the venue an idea of likely numbers.

So, are you going? If so, do let me know. It would be great to meet up with you and compare yarny purchases.

On balance...finding it and keeping it.

There is no denying that the past few weeks have been busy, chaotic and somewhat disrupted by illness. In the midst of all this I have kept my eye very firmly on Unravel - the knitting and craft festival held in Farnham on 19th and 20th February. I was planning to go on the Friday and it was to be my treat, my little bit of me time and yes, let's be honest some much needed retail therapy.

This week is also the school half term holiday in the UK and as a mother who has a day job as well as a growing design business I have to use school holiday clubs in order to meet all my obligations. And herein lies the dilemma.

My children hate the holiday club. They would much rather be hanging out at home but as they are aged 9 and 10, if I'm not home, then they can't be either. I know that they hate it but they understand it and, for the most part have accepted it and we always try to do something special on my day off, to spend time together and do something fun.

This week however, events have conspired against me and I need to work extra hours. I could still go to Unravel but then my boys would have spent all week in the holiday club without a 'mummy day'.

I am lucky that my boys are still at an age where they do want to spend time with me. In a few short years they will be teenagers - with all the moody angst that comes along with it. Right now they are smart and funny little dudes and (generally) I really do enjoy spending time with them. Quality time with them is few and far between and most of our daily interactions involve me nagging and chivving them through our daily routines. Holidays should be a time to kick back a little and let go of the routine but for me, and many other working parents that isn't really an option.

And so, I have decided this year that retail therapy can wait until Edinburgh - it isn't as if I don't have yarn in my stash already. Yes - it would have been lovely to meet up with knitting friends and make new ones but I can't do everything. And if these last few weeks have taught me one thing it is that I am not Superwoman. I could still go to Unravel but then other aspects of my life would suffer and I would probably embark on the weekend tired, frazzled, guilt-laden (and skint).

So I choose the simpler version instead: a chilled out day at home with Minecraft, country walks and an attempt to knit my way through enough stash to justify my purchases at Edinburgh Yarn Festival.


With apologies for absence...

You may have noticed I have been a little absent of late, courtesy of a series of particularly nasty bugs. It turns out that I am not superwoman after all and that the ordinary common sense rules of "look after yourself" "eat well" and "get enough sleep" apply to me too - who knew?


Thanks to the miracles of antibiotics and some bed rest though I am feeling better than I have done in ages and almost back to my usual self.

I have learnt my lesson though and so I will be taking things slowly and not trying to do to much at once.

I just wanted to say thank you for all the well wishes, thank you for your continued support and to reassure you that normal service will soon be resumed.

And in the meantime, if anyone wants me I'll be knitting lots of stripy socks...


Knitting Goals 2016

After much thought I'm not setting myself targets such as 'Knit 12 pairs of socks' this year but rather my aims are to have a good balance of projects on the needles at any one time and to keep making progress through those projects without the distractions of the new and the shiny. At the same time, the trick is to leave enough flexibility in there to cope with the inevitable "Oooh...shiny..." distractions. I know what I'm like :)

My Mama Vertebrae cardi - very much in progress

My Mama Vertebrae cardi - very much in progress

Knitting projects for each month are to include:

1. Something using yarn from stash (bought pre Jan 2016)

2. A sweater for me (the same sweater may span several months)

3. At least 2 original designs

4. Vanilla socks...obviously

5. Something for the gift box (this can be something from items 1 or 4, or something else)

As each month end approaches knitting tasks include:

1. Updating Rav project pages and stash

2. Deciding which projects can be finished by the month end

3. Picking a new project to cast on, on the 1st of the month

4. Ensure that any yarn which has entered the stash has been photographed and logged (with date) on Ravelry - the little box marked 'Cost' can just stay blank.

I did contemplate going through the whole stash and making sure that my Ravelry record is accurate as I reckon that about 60% of my stash is properly recorded. In the end though, my chronic laziness won out and I decided that as long as I faithfully promise to make sure new stash is logged promptly, then my time would be better spent actually knitting my stash rather than documenting it.

So, how about you? Care to share your knitting goals - I'd love to hear what you are up to. Please do leave a comment below or pop over to my Ravelry group where we have a whole motivational thread devoted to goals, encouragement and a fair number of lists.

Airing my stash

The new year has seen a bit of domestic upheaval and decluttering and as a result I have been thrilled to have acquired a nice big wooden chest of drawers in our spare room. Of course, I immediately did what any self respecting knitter would do and filled it full of yarn.

All the boxes under the bed and on top of the wardrobe were piled gaily into the drawers and I gazed happily on its woolly contents.

These beauties from The Uncommon Thread have their own special drawer

These beauties from The Uncommon Thread have their own special drawer

After the dust has settled though I find myself surveying it with a somewhat more critical eye. I did a major round of decluttering last year so I am pleased to report that there is no lurking fun fur/eyelash yarn in there, and a lot of my pre-ravelry acquisitions have already been sent to the local charity shop.

On surveying what is left I realised I have some beautiful yarn and it needs to be allowed to see the light of day. I also have some non-so-beautiful yarn which leaves me wondering why I bought it in the first place. Looking at the yarn in the latter camp I realised that most of it was purchased at yarn shops as impulse buys, and mostly when exploring new towns and new-to-me yarn shops.

I'm sure you know the feeling. On a trip to a new town you come across a yarn shop, or your DH finds one and, pleased as punch, insists that you go in and he will treat you. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth you enter the shop, ready to be sent dizzy with yarn fumes and instead find yourself surveying a huge wall of baby acrylic yarn.

There really is a place for pastel baby acrylic yarns, of course there is, but I have a strictly limited need for it. Of my precious yarn storage space I would much prefer that I give homes to beautiful hand-dyed yarns, items of wonder and beauty and just enough good quality dk weight wool to make a few sweaters. Add in some great sock yarn and some fun self stripes and that really would be my ideal stash.

Anyway, that aside. The reality is that when I find myself in such a yarn shop, with my DH looking expectantly at me I usually panic and pick something that I know, in reality I will never knit with but it looks pretty. The yarn then comes home with me and goes promptly into the stash, never to re-emerge.

Now, I know myself too well to ever utter the words 'cold sheep' ever again. I love yarn too much and specifically I love buying and holding new yarn too much for that. What I do want to do though is to better curate my stash and make sure that I do justice to some of the lovely yarn I currently own.

I'm not quite sure what shape that will take but I am busy doing lots of planning for the current year and realistically assessing how much knitting time I have both for new designs and for personal knitting. With that in mind - and the recent Episode from Jo of Shinybees fame on Knitting Goals - I will be back shortly with my realistic, achievable and downright cunning Knitting Goals for 2016.

Loving my stash

This year I have been deliberately low key about my goals and intentions for 2016. I know I have a tendency to try to commit to lots of different things at once and often end up not achieving many, or indeed any of them.

This year I decided to take a little time and not feel the pressure to commit to any particular goals, just because January 1st has rolled around again.

One of my major goals for last year was to get the website up and running, and now that it is I feel as though I want to relax here a little. To take stock and take a little time to grow into this new space of mine.

One thing I have started to do however is to look at my stash with a more critical eye. Specifically the yarn I collected before I discovered luxury and hand-dyed sockweight yarn, and that which I collected after this point. My stash definitely falls into two camps - Noro Silk garden, I'm looking at you!

My aim for this year is continue enjoying fabulous hand dyed yarn from some amazing indie dyers and I have no intention of cold sheeping in the slightest. What I would like to do is to go through some of my older stash and give away that which I know I'll never use. Then, with what's left my aim is to always have a simple project on the go that is using up some of my older stashed yarn. Baby hats, blankets and little sweaters are always perfect for the gift box and use up those odd half skeins of sock yarn. I recently discovered the joys of holding sock weight yarn doubled to make an approximate worsted weight yarn and the resulting super-squishy fabric is perfect for using up some of that stash.

2016 is going to be my year of stash appreciation - here's to the well curated stash!