Pure Luck socks

 Pure Luck socks

Pure Luck socks

It seems that new designs are like buses - you wait for ages and then a few come along at once.

Today is October 1st - the start of Socktober and what better way to celebrate than with a new sock pattern.

These are toe-up socks with a little difference in the toe detail. Perfect if you want to try something different for your next toe-up pair.

You can find all the details over on Ravelry - and if you use the code SOCKTOBER at checkout you’ll get a 25% discount with my compliments.

There will be a few more Socktober happenings as well during the month so be sure to check in for news - or sign up to my newsletter so you don’t miss out.

Click here to jump to the pattern

Self Care Cowl

IMG_20180925_065438_134.jpg

Well, this is a surprise. Last time I checked my publishing schedule for the last 4 months of the year definitely didn’t include a cowl. Socks - yes, a shawl - yes. But definitely not a cowl.

This skein of Malabrigo Chunky had other ideas though and was originally a plain knit cowl that I never wore. I had knit it in the round at a slightly too-tight gauge and it always gave me the feel of wearing a neck brace.

So I ripped the yarn back and decided to see what would happen if I knit the cowl flat with a textured slip stitch pattern. As it turns out, it makes all the difference and creates a wonderful warm, smooshy texture and 1 skein is enough for a not-too-snug cowl, perfect for chilly autumn mornings.

If you subscribe to my newsletter please check your inbox for a special discount code. For those that don’t (please do think about it - I promise not to spam you) there is an early bird 25% discount until 1st October. Please just use code SELF-CARE at the Ravelry checkout.

You can buy the pattern here.

Chunky yarn and large needles make for a super quick knit and it’s no exaggeration to say that I knit this cowl, the whole thing, in an afternoon. It’s the perfect knitting project for when you need some self care time. Turn your phone off, stick Netflix on and spend a few hours treating yourself to a fun, luxurious knit.

PIN FOR LATER:

wordswag_1537796537668.jpg


Socks - do you block yours?

IMG_20180829_110414_310.jpg

It’s always a bit of a tricky one and something that people can have strong opinions, on but I love the process of blocking in general and blocking socks in particular. There’s something very pleasing about seeing two weirdly shaped tubes suddenly and magically become sock-shaped on the blockers. And yes, I know that you can just block them on your feet (and I certainly do this with my kids socks) but it is much easier to take a photograph of your finished sock masterpieces when they are on blockers as opposed to when they are on your feet - ask me how I know?

For me, its part of the whole closure that comes at the end of a project. In the same way as you come to the end of a good book and you are reluctant to move on to the next one whilst the characters are still alive and kicking in your mind. Coming to the end of a much loved sock project is much the same. These socks in the photo - knit with yarn from London House Yarns - accompanies me on most of my summer journeys and our happy family memories (and a bit of sand) are knit into each stitch of these socks.

I like to take my time, tidying up the loose ends and emptying out the project bag of assorted bits and pieces. In an ideal world I’ll also put my needles neatly away but I know in practice they often end up randomly in a drawer waiting for me to rifle through them in a desperate search for elusive 2.5mm needles.

Do you have any “end of project” rituals or things that you like to do at the end of a project - or is it just me?

Knits - how do you wear yours?

IMG_20180906_070946_662.jpg

Scrolling through my Instagram feed recently it suddenly struck me that something was missing. I share a lot of photos of knits in progress (also coffee and cats) but hardly any photos of the finished pieces being used or actually worn. There are the occasional glimpses of socks or things in the background but very rarely do I actually take a photo of the finished knit "in the wild", as it were.

Once I noticed this I started to notice it in general, in other people's feeds as well. Of course it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Not all of us are particularly comfortable in front of a camera (I know that I'm not) and we don't always have a willing photographer to hand. And no matter how hard I try and how many lessons I have from my 15 year old niece - I'm still to master the art of the selfie that doesn't make me look slightly deranged.

So, I thought I would come at the problem from a different angle and use the type of shot beloved by Instagram users - of the flatlay - only with knitwear. The idea was to show my outfit for the day and to show how I pair something I've knit - in this case my Worth The Fuss shawl - with my everyday wardrobe. The yarn is Titus 4ply from Eden Cottage Yarns just in case you were wondering. The colourway is a beautiful one called Starling and just like the feathers of it's namesake there are tiny flashes of bright greenish-yellow within the grey which my photos really don't do justice to.

I'm pleased to say that even though I was worried folks might think me a little strange, the post has done really well on Instagram this morning, with lots of people commenting on how they like to wear their knits and also talking about how they might incoporate this into their future posts.

Apart from shows and yarn festivals I don't often get to see many knitters in my day to day life and yet I love to see how people wear their finished items and how they combine them with other pieces in their wardrobe to come up with finished outfits.

I've yet to think up a cunning hashtag for this yet - watch this space - but I'd love to know what you think of this idea and whether you think it's something you think would be fun/useful/inspirational. 

You can either head over to the the Instagram post to join in the conversation or leave a comment here.

Blanket conumdrums

20180831_164842.jpg

It's not often that I'm seized with a sudden need to finish up a project (as my current WIP pile will attest to) but this weekend I found myself gripped by a sudden notion that my sock yarn blanket needed to be finished. Ravelry tells me that it has been on the needles for over 4 years now and even though I knew at the outset that it was a long term project I think it's fair to say that my progress on it has been sporadic to say the least.

To square it off I only needed to add 12 more squares so I set about it with a zeal - only slightly hindered by the fact that I could only find part of my sock yarn scraps. As I was knitting on the squares I found myself pondering the reasons the project had taken so long and I found myself coming up with a pros/cons list of working such a blanket:

Knit as you go - the appeal of "no sewing up" at the end is a big one, I'll admit. I've tried projects like this before - the Beekeeper Quilt is one that springs to mind - and my initial enthusiasm soon wanes in the face of all those teeny tiny squares waiting to be joined. Balanced against this however is the fact that the blanket soon loses any hint of portability. A lot of my down-time is either when travelling or on holiday and this blanket soon became too large to take anywhere with me.

It also means that you need to pay particular attention to colour placement if, like me, you don't want a completely random effect. I was really keen to create a blanket with a cohesive balanced look and that meant being a little bit careful with my colour choices. I have a few key colours and yarns which I wanted to space out throughout the blanket and I didn't want to risk running out whilst only half way through. When you are joining squares at the end you have a lot more freedom in colour placement and can move squares about to your hearts content until you find an effect you like.

Anyway, back to my progress. I finished just 1 square short of the blanket - it will be done tonight though. But in spreading it out on my bed I had to face an uncomfortable truth. I had succeeded in making it wide enough - which was very pleasing. I am though quite a few strips short of having it be long enough to pass itself off as anything more than an oversized lap blanket.

I have decided though for the good of my sanity that's it's necessary to mark it in Ravelry as finished, to deal with the ends and to actually use it as a finished "Thing".

Part of the nature and the eternal appeal of these blankets is that you can go back and add to them over time and that's exactly what I plan to do with this. For that reason I'm not going to add a border right now. I'm just going to use it and enjoy it, and who knows, whilst I'm snuggled up under it during the coming winter months I might just add to it a little here and there.

The challenge of course will be not to put all my yarn scraps in a "safe place" but to keep them where I can find them.

 

Combining my twin loves

IMG_20180828_064834_088.jpg

Somewhat appropriately after my last post, it's been a while since I've put pen to paper but I've had a wonderful holiday and break with my family and am now back at my desk. As usual after a bit of a break all those creative ideas and projects that I've been mulling over forever all seem to be clamouring for attention at the same time and it's difficult to force myself to sit down and focus - never my forte at the best of times.

For today I've decided to go with my heart and set up something I've been meaning to do for ages. As you know I love to combine my twin loves of knitting and reading and I'm often seen with my Kindle or a book in hand. Since becoming a parent and a knitter however the amount of free time I have to read has dwindled sadly and I can only look back with fondness on those days when I could sit and read a book in a single sitting.

My recent holiday though did give me the opportunity to sit and read for whole blocks of time which felt like a lovely self-indulgent treat and one which I want to carry on doing now that I'm home. Nothing major and no huge goals, just the gentle commitment to try and fit more reading time into my everyday - spending less time on Twitter might also help.

With that in mind I was looking on Instagram for good hashtags which celebrate my twin loves of knitting and reading and found very little. There are some great #bookstagram accounts which I love - those like @bookishbronte and @julybookshelf are really inspirational and have some great recommendations - but I couldn't find many which were specifically for knitters who love to read.

So - we now have #bookishknitter as a hashtag and I also took the opportunity to dust off my long-dormant Goodreads account. It has been neglected for ages so I had a bit of a spring (autumn) clean, added a few new books and away I went.

I also set up a Bookish Knitters Group on Goodreads too - because - well, why not? Please do connect to me over there and let me know what your reading plans are. And if you'd like to join the group - or use the #bookishknitter hashtag on Instagram that would be fabulous too.

And if you are interested in more community (and bot free) hashtags please do think about signing up for my monthly Instagram newsletter. The first one will be hitting inboxes next week and will contains some great ideas for livening up your Instagram, making new connections  and avoiding the bot-ridden bigger knitting hashtags.

Apologies for absence

IMG_20180806_071917_748.jpg

I'm seeing a lot of posts over on Instagram and Facebook recently which, much like any formal British meeting, start with "Apologies for Absence". I know that I have certainly been guilty of this in the past and this was indeed the starting sentence to this draft - when I noticed that my last post was nearly 2 weeks ago.

Real life is just that, it can be messy, busy and for a lot of the time, pretty unphotogenic and yet we put this pressure on ourselves and feel bad when somehow things slip and we miss a few days/weeks posting.

I've had conversations with a few fellow Instagramers recently where they have taken a few days off and actually been contacted by followers asking why they hadn't posted. Seriously? Don't get me wrong - we all check in with people from time to time and that natural concern is a brilliant part of the online community we inhabit. But one person actually said words to the effect that "if you can't be bothered to post, I'll unfollow you".

Let's be honest, no one pays to use these sites - whether they are consuming content or creating it. No one has a right to expect a post from you - you share when you want to share. And not before.

If you are busy making memories with the family, if you are busy with work/life or frankly just not in the mood there's no pressure at all to show up and do something you don't want to do.

Sorry - rant over now. I think I'll just sit down and knit with my coffee for a bit and knit on this sock. And yes - if you are wondering I totally did match my nails to my knitting. Sometimes it's the little things that make me happy

Summer Knit School - now full

wordswag_1531320542075.png

My word! That escalated quickly.

We now have over 500 very eager and enthusiastic participants to my first seasonal creative course. With that in mind and to ensure that I have sufficient time to chat to folks and follow along with their creative exploits I have had to close the course to new sign ups.

But never fear, this is definitely something I will be running again in the near future. So, if you aren't already signed up to my email list please do and you'll be the first to know of new courses and events.

For now, why not follow along with us on the #summerknitschool hashtag on Instagram - you don't need to be signed up to enjoy being a bit more creative with your knitting this summer.

 

Maybe the Instagram bots have the right idea

No pretty photo here today but a bit of warning - this is a bit off the cuff and a bit longer than usual but I hope you will stick with me.

The past weekend saw a lot of activity surrounding the anti-Trump demonstrations in the UK and I was thrilled to see so many handknit items on parade. I love to see our craft used for the purpose of self expression, so photos of Pussy Hats and knitted protest banners - especially the #ballstotrump one knitted by the East London Knitters.

There were however the sadly predictable comments from those who firmly believe that "politics have no place in knitting" and that knitters on social media should just "stick to the knitting". They might as well as "Women - know your place" and have done with it.

I am firmly of the opinion that politics has a place in every aspect of our lives and that to try and compartmentalise it is artificial and ignores the fact that not only are we knitters but we are also humans.

On social media as much as in real life we crave connection and interaction. The recent world events however have meant that people seem increasingly unwilling to see anything that contradicts their world view.

Yes, I'm a knitter and my social media reflects that but I'm also interested in a wide variety of other topics - cooking, parenting, politics, feminism, literature, bullet journaling, slow living. I could go on but you take my point. The knitting (and the politics) are a small but important part of who I am as a person.

Ask folks what they want to see on social media and the answer is immediate with words like "authenticity" "real life" and "reality" frequently heard. We decry people for being "less than authentic" and we criticise the over-styled flatlay.

But, here's the thing, if you want the reality and you want the knitting then you have to accept that other aspects - like the politics - will also come along for the ride.

Every so often I'll share a post about bullet journaling. It never does as well on Instagram as my yarny posts but that's totally fine. But I share a photo of a knitted protest banner or comment on someone else's photo of a Pussy Hat and I receive vitriolic messages and hateful comments. And yes, I'm fully aware that in writing this I will receive more of the same but that's fine.

One message that really struck home was this. "I really hate it when people I follow for their knitting suddenly see fit to air their views on other subjects". But yet, if you can't share your views and your life on your own social media feed then where can you?

If we take that to it's logical conclusion that leaves us with a series of pretty, perfect images of knitting. Devoid of personality, devoid of humour, warmth and that personal connection we so crave. Like a glossy magazine you can flick through but not engage with.

Almost exactly like those recent bot accounts that have swept through Instagram. Beautiful images to be sure but meaningless when taken out of context. Maybe some people really would rather follow an Instagram robot than a real person!

Now that's a thought - and not a happy one.

As for me - I'd rather have real life and the knitted banner complete with "Protesticals" every day of the week.

Summer Knit School is open.

wordswag_1531320542075.png

The school holidays are looming large on the horizon and I'm trying to make plans - both knitting and otherwise for the summer.

Somewhere between the change in routines, the warm weather and the holidays I often find that I go through something of a creative slump.

In previous years I used to really worry about this but now I've accepted that some seasons are just a bit more productive than others and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

What I am planning though is a bit of a creative summer challenge - both for myself and also for you if you'd like to join me. You can click the link to sign up to receive a weekly prompt from me and I'll be running it mainly over on Instagram with the hashtag #summerknitschool.

Nothing too taxing, nothing stressful - just some thoughts and ideas you might want to try to give your creativity a gentle nudge. It's all totally free and hopefully stress-free too. And this way, who knows, by the time the cooler weather and sweater season is upon us you might be raring to go and fizzing with new ideas. Oh - you might want to buy a new notebook too!

Sign ups are open now and the first challenge starts on Monday 23rd Jul.

Using my Bullet Journal as a Knitter

IMG_20170615_065044_011.jpg

It’s no secret that I’m a huge lover of notebooks in general and bullet journaling in particular. In my opinion there is no problem so insurmountable that a good detailed list and some highlighters can’t fix.

As I know that fellow BuJo fans can never resist a peek into a fellow journaling layout I thought I would share my July planning pages with you and talk a little more in detail about how I combine my twin loves of knitting and bullet journaling.

First of all, if you are new to the idea of bullet journaling you can read more about it at these fabulous resources

Bullet Journaling - by Ryder Carroll

Boho Berry

Tiny Ray of Sunshine

Monthly Spread

My usual bullet journal spread is plain and functional  - no washi tape for me - and at the start of each month I have my calendar/advance planning and then on the double page directly after that I have my monthly knitting plans.

This varies from month to month according to my mood and what I’m working on but at the moment it takes the form of a basic tracker where I list all the projects I want to make progress on this month. I don’t religiously track everything but it helps me to focus on where I want to direct my efforts.

I also keep a note of projects in the pipeline and things that I want to follow up on. And I keep a separate section for monthly challenges or particular hashtags that I want to use or follow. So for July for example - #stashdash is an obvious one that I want to use and engage with.

20180705_154916.jpg
20180704_105520.jpg

 

New projects

When I start a new project it gets a fresh double page in my journal and I make a note of it in the index too so I don’t forget. I use this page to keep a note of any pattern adjustments I might make, what needles I'm using and where any particular supplies are kept. Reading this it sounds as though I'm so organised but I think it's fair to say that this section often ends up with a lot of bits of scrap paper jammed in there too.

Other ideas

This is just the basics as I try to keep most of my notes organised electronically these days. But nothing beats the trusty pen and paper especially when you are out and about or your phone battery is flat. I know that other BuJo fans use theirs to keep a track of what they want to buy at yarn festivals for example, or to keep track of their purchasing or stash (scary thought).

But that's the joy of the bullet journal - endlessly adaptable and flexible. It can the knitting planner you've always dreamed of. You just need to use it and make it work for you.

If you don't mind I'd love to see how you use yours - just tag me on Instagram or leave a comment below.

 

 

The power of positivity

IMG_20180628_123605_063.jpg

I've said before that if knitters ruled the world we would have the whole world peace thing sorted out before tea time. And the events of yesterday I think have proved me right - at least in part.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to take part in a collective launch of an online initiative which was the brainchild of the Countess Ablaze. You can read the whole back story here but basically she issued a challenge to indie dyers, designers and other online creatives to come up with a design or yarn based on her iconic colourway "If I Want Exposure I'll Get My Tit's Out". And at 12 noon yesterday over 250 folks did just that - launching their #titsoutcollective products upon the internet.

I was hopping backwards and forwards between Facebook and Instagram and even managed to snag a skein of yarn for myself as well as launching my own design - the Erika Cowl. It was a busy, exciting and uplifting way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Each participant had to choose a charity to donate a proportion of their proceeds to and I can't wait until the end of the month when we all submit our sales totals. The original yarn from the Countess raised over £3000 for a charity and I can't wait to see what our collective efforts will unleash this month.

As with anything online these days there were a number of negative comments too, which was a shame but ultimately did not detract in any way from the huge wave of knitterly positivity that swept through the internet yesterday. People discovered different indie dyers, new dyers sold out of yarn faster than hot cakes and the whole thing was just so inspirational that I was hugely proud to have taken part in it.

If you haven't already done so, please do check out the #titsoutcollective hashtag on Instagram. And if you are a member of the Everyday Knitter Facebook group do keep your eyes out for a cheeky little group project later in the month. It will be a chance to show off your "Tit's Out" purchases in a fun show of support for the Countess and the fabulous project she has pulled off in just 2 weeks.

 

 

I never met a grey I didn't like

This blog post could also be subtitled “An ode to grey yarn”.

Anyone who even casually glances at my IG feed or other social media won’t get far without encountering a photo or three of grey yarn in some form or another.

I love colour in so many areas of my life - Leuchtturm notebooks, nail varnish and pens spring to mind but when it comes to yarn choices (for garments especially) I instinctively reach for the grey.

Now you might think that grey yarn is dull and indeed if you are looking at a commercial ball of sock yarn in a shade reminiscent of school skirts then you might be right. But let me introduce you to the wonderful world of hand dyed grey yarn and you might just see things differently.

“Grey skies over Manchester” - dyed by the Countess Ablaze is a work of art and manages to capture exactly all the nuances of the grey, cloudy skies so often seen over my favourite city (seen here in the striped version of my Fuss Free Festival Shawl)

“Baby Elephant” is the wonderfully named grey from The Uncommon Thread which also features heavily in my “perfect grey” list. Seen here in combination with a .

For me, the beauty of grey yarn lies in it’s ability to pair so well with other shades. Nothing makes my heart sing quite so much as seeing a grey shawl or sweater with a pop of bright yellow. Yellow and grey is a fabulous colour combination - just check out the hashtag #grellowlove on Instagram if you don’t believe me. Grey has a miraculous ability to tone down even those most vibrant colours and turn them into something that even the most colour phobic person would happily wear.

So, what do you think. Are you a paid up member of TeamGrey or is it colour all the way?

 

Instagram likes are your currency - spend them wisely

IMG_20180302_115956_336.jpg

A great idea came to me late last night, as all the best ideas do. I’d been speaking to my boys about pocket money and the importance of spending it on things that are important to you and then as I was scrolling through Instagram later on I found myself thinking of the system of ‘likes’ and how we use them.

I know we all like to think of Instagram as a non-commercial platform, even though we know that deep down that we are either there to sell or to be sold to. But the sense of community and of belonging in some part at least, overrides this and keeps us going back day after day.

More than anything we crave connections to fellow humans and crafters and Instagram gives us that ability to connect, to chat and to build real meaningful relationships both online and in person.

The way we do that and the way that our social currency works is through the system of ‘likes’. In a way, ‘likes’ are the currency of Instagram and they are what keeps the whole system oiled and moving.

We judge how good a particular photo is based on the number of likes (I know we shouldn’t, but we do). In a way the number of ‘likes’ tells how good/useful/important something is in the same way that we perceive a more expensive lipstick to be somehow better quality than something we paid £2 for.

This is one of the things which has really riled me about the recent wave of spam IG accounts. These automated accounts run by bots are nothing more than machines built to gather likes. They don’t add or create anything but they harvest carefully selected, popular images in order to induce people to hit that ‘like’ button. And of course, people do hit the ‘like’ button - as that’s what made the images popular in the first place. It’s a carefully calculated and manipulated strategy designed to build the ‘worth’ of spam accounts. The more people that they can persuade to ‘hit like’ then the more their account is seen and then ultimately they can sell off that account to a business and make money from it.

As these spam accounts get ever more sophisticated it can be hard to spot them from genuine ones, especially now with the recent trend of using actual people’s names. But reporting and blocking remains the way forward. Ultimately if few people engage with the posts then these accounts will simply be seen less and they will drop further down the grid that Instagram choses to show you.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the face of the relentless proliferation of these accounts but small things really can and do make a difference. Choose where you spend your ‘likes’ wisely and let’s help add value to the real, hardworking crafters of Instagram.

PIN FOR LATER

Instagram likes are currency.png

Stripy socks really do go faster

Stripy-socks-go-faster.jpg

I’ve been plugging away on a plain vanilla sock - no pattern - for what seems like eons now but which is in actual fact just a few weeks. It’s lovely yarn, a hand dyed sock yarn blank. Dyed to create lovely speckles and splashes of colour as you knit, but if it weren’t for a few strategically placed stitch markers I would feel as though I were making no progress at all.

A recent pair of stripy socks though positively flew off the needles. So much so that I swear house elves have been coming in at night in a scenario reminiscent of the Elves and the Shoemaker fairytale. The magic promise of “just one more colour” combined with a few Netflix watching sessions - DH and I are currently addicted to The Last Kingdom - meant that a few times in the morning I picked up my knitting only to be genuinely surprised at how much I had done the previous night.

I don’t know about the laws of space and time but it seems to me that stripy socks occupy a time dimension all of their very own.

How to spot a fake Instagram account

IMG_20180604_070744_180.jpg

It’s a strange thing and I don’t pretend to understand the reasons for it but spam IG accounts seem to have become a bit of a thing recently, especially on some of the main knitting hashtags. Many of them appear to be particularly random, reposting content from a variety of accounts either with or without credit.

I am reliably informed by people working within the IT industry that many of these fake accounts are randomly generated - so called “bots” - which automatically skim content from various hashtags and repost them. I guess there is some reassurance in the fact that even though the use of your images may feel deeply personal and shocking, there is no malice or ill wish behind having your images used in this way.

[Please note that here I make a distinction between these bot accounts and the malicious copying/hacking of certain accounts. The latter is fortunately much less frequent but it is targeted and motivated by a desire to harm or someone damage someone's online reputation]

It doesn’t stop these fake accounts being annoying though and if nothing else it does effectively “dilute” the quality content on the hashtags which are affected - by having the same few images be reposted again and again.

One thing I have noticed is that they are increasingly hard to identify at first glance and look like they could be real accounts, especially now they seem to have moved away from the very generic @knitting_insta_loves to much more plausible sounding names which could well be real people.

I often mention in my IG Stories about accounts that I have reported and blocked and people often ask how you can tell. How do you spot a fake IG account?

Although I am by no means an expert I do spend a lot of (read: too much) time on Instagram and I have found that the following things generally set my alarm bells going:

Content is not consistent from frame to frame: Most knitters and crafters show progress on their crafty endeavours or the same types of images/props/items crop up in repeated photos scattered throughout the feed. It’s just human nature. We tend to share what we like and often those images are broadly similar. Spam accounts rarely show the same project twice and may vary widely in content.

Spam accounts harvest images from a variety of accounts often lifting the entire caption too. If an account has posts with text in a variety of languages, or is promoting an Easter discount in June then you can be fairly certain that it isn’t genuine.

Under the caption there is often a generic comment such as “tap to like” “do you agree” “tag a friend” which is out of context with the caption. In some cases there is a credit given to the original account but from experience I can tell you that this doesn’t always notify the original image owner. I’ve had accounts use my images with an apparent credit to @louisetilbrookdesigns but no notification has ever reached me.

Once you start looking for such accounts you’ll probably realised that they are much more ubiquitous than you thought. Often they are the same unfortunate images which crop up time and again.

Happily there is something you can do about it though. If it’s your image which has been reposted without consent you can click on the three dots (top right of the image) and select the option to report for copyright infringement. Top tip: it’s best to do this from a laptop/PC rather than a mobile device. You will be asked to provide links to your original content to prove that the image is yours.

If the fake account hasn’t used your images but you would like to block them and/or report them as spam, you can click on the same three dots to do that too. It might seem as though such actions are a drop in the ocean of a sea of fake accounts but Instagram really does take action and the more accounts we flag up to them as spam the more they can help keep our IG feed spam-free.

 

How I knit and read at the same time

IMG_20171113_070202_475.jpg

I post a lot of photos of my knitting, often with my Kindle alongside as that’s my favourite way to spend a bit of down time, and I’m frequently asked how I manage to knit and read at the same time.

I think it’s important to say up front that this isn't something that I do all the time and I’m certainly not some sort of multi-tasking guru. Only certain kinds of knitting is appropriate for this and only at certain times. But yes, with that caveat in place I believe it is perfectly possible with a little practice to teach yourself to knit without looking at your yarn. Your eyes are then free to watch TV, go to the cinema or indeed to read. I don't know about you but my reading time really suffered when I took up knitting and I really needed to find a way to bring it back into my daily life.

It really is a habit and we often look at our stitches just because they are there. We don’t really need to see what we are doing as we are relying on touch and muscle memory to do most of the work for us. A lot of the time I watch my stitches just because it is soothing and slightly hypnotic and because who doesn’t like to see pretty colours.

But if you do want to branch out a little and expand your skill set I put together a few simple tips for knitting without looking at your stitches:

Pick something simple - preferably all stocking stitch or garter stitch. Something like a sock or a hat knit in the round is perfect, especially if you are using a circular needle.

Start to knit and for a stitch or two try closing your eyes or glancing away from your work.

Use a Kindle, e-reader or a book that will stay open by itself. Put the book on a flat surface in front of you.

Just take it slowly, don’t rush the stitches and have patience with yourself. Don’t try to do any complicated cabling just yet or to read War and Peace. Just pick some lovely smooth yarn (something that doesn't split) and a good, relaxing read.

Have a go - just a few minutes every day - and you might just surprise yourself.

 

 

Why it's not OK to share patterns - even free ones

IMG_20161204_083156.jpg

One of the most common misconceptions that I come up against in my daily online chat is the enduring myth that it is OK to share patterns as long as they are free. Most people understand and accept the copyright issues around paid patterns but for free ones it seems that it is still very much fair game.

As a designer who makes a significant chunk of her income from online pattern sales I do still make a few of my patterns available for free and I choose to do this for a number of reasons.

I have a baby cardigan pattern which I use for class teachings - the Fuss Free Baby cardigan - and I also make it available free via my Ravelry store. On there I ask that if people use and enjoy the pattern that they consider making a donation to Bliss (a UK charity for newborn and premature babies) which is a subject very dear to my heart.

For every copy of this pattern that is given to a friend, or photocopied or shared (or photocopied and sold on Ebay - yes, that really does happen), that is a lost opportunity for a hard working charity to receive a donation.

Sometimes I will make a pattern available free for a limited time in order to achieve a specific marketing goal. Apologies if that sounds cold and calculating but at the end of the day we designers are trying to earn some form of living from this. As an example the Fuss Free Festival Shawls was available as a free download for a time in order to encourage people to sign up to my newsletter. I was very clear that this was for a limited time and that after the promotion had ended it would revert back to being a paid pattern.

Once the shawl was for sale though I still had a bit of battle with folks who thought it was fine to email copies of it to their friends on the grounds that they “got it for free and so it was only fair to give it to others”.

Sometimes a pattern is free, just because I want to offer it for free. But I would still like people to download it from Ravelry, favourite it, talk about it and generally help to spread the work to other people who haven't come across my designs yet. All of these things help to boost a designers visibility online and can really help to make a difference to the success or not of future pattern sales. A photocopied sheet or emailed screenshot really doesn’t achieve the same results and in the crowded online space of pattern sales all those little bits of exposure really do add up.

Nothing boosts a designers profile more than lots of happy knitters chatting online or in person about your latest fun pattern.

And to those knitters who already do go above and beyond to support and promote the work of indie designers - a heartfelt and very woolly thank you. Your enthusiasm makes everything we do worthwhile.

PIN FOR LATER

Why sharing patterns is not ok.png

 

 

The joys of scrappy socks

Scrappy_socks.jpg

If you’ve seen any of my Instagram photos recently you will be under no doubt that I have recently become a tiny bit obsessed with scrappy socks - using up odds and ends of scrap sock yarn to create delightfully odd and mismatching stripy socks.

We all have those tiny bits of sock yarn lying around - too small to be made into a mitered square on the memory blanket (each of my blanket squares needs about 3g) but too much to bear to throw away - and these are the perfect project to make use of them.

Thrifty and colourful - talk about a win win!

If I’m totally honest though the one thing that has put me off scrappy socks in the past has been the words feared and dreaded by all knitters - “Weaving in the Ends”. But, after my friend Tash recommended a life changing new technique to me I have become a total and utter convert to the world of scrappy socks.

The Clasped Weft Join achieves the Holy Grail of the knitting world- being simple to work, super quick and requiring absolutely no end manipulation. Just a quick snip and away you go with the next colour.

I originally learnt the technique by watching the YouTube tutorial filmed by Boston Jen and I highly recommend taking a look - it’s super quick and you’ll have the method down pat after just a few practices.

This makes it the ideal project for when you are travelling or out and about. Just grab a few tiny scraps of yarn (more for a long journey) and a pair of scissors or travel snips and you are good to go.

I’ve knit one sock already and am already well underway with the next. Unusually me for I’m not trying to match them and I can say with some surprise that it really is quite unexpectedly freeing. I am drawing from the same batch of colours and each stripe is 7 rows deep but these are my only ‘self-imposed’ rules.

It's really quite addictive, just to be able to reach into my little bag, grab a new colour, quickly join and away you go. I can predict many more of these colourful, fun socks in my future now.



 

Love your LYS - either online or in person

IMG_20171102_064146_573.jpg

In the face of the relentless encroachment of online shopping and the large commercial companies all using their considerable resources to vie for our attention, it’s easy to feel powerless in the face of it all. So much is made of the convenience of online shopping, the speed and the price that it's easy to just shrug your shoulders and go with the flow.

But even the snazziest of websites, with all their glossy photos and shiny banners can’t hope to compete with the sensory overload that is a yarn shop. As knitters and crafters we are tactile creatures. Never more at home than when using our senses to see, touch, smell and even listen to yarn. Don’t laugh - don't tell me you don’t love the pleasing crunch that a rustic tweedy yarn makes when you squish it between your fingers?

Such is the effect of a yarn shop that many knitters will simply stop on crossing over the threshold and take a moment just to look around and let their senses acclimatise to the dazzling array of colours and textures on offer.

Now tell me the last time that buying from a website made you feel like that. Did your heart skip a beat as you opened up the web page. Did you pause to appreciate the joy as you clicked the checkout button? I very much doubt it.

It’s important to note that I make an exception in this to online shopping with indie dyers such as Countess Ablaze and Eden Cottage Yarns. Both of these yarns I rarely get to meet in person so online shopping really is the next best thing to plonking myself down in their studios for a cup of tea and a yarn squish.

As well as the sense of community that a yarn shop can foster - the classes, the expertise and help available, the knitting groups and just the sheer joy of being around like minded people and it’s clear that buying yarn online is a very poor relation.

Now I know there are times when it just isn’t possible to buy yarn in an LYS. Not every town has one for a start or it may not stock what you need. Difficulties with transport, with access and choice can all play a part and leave you reaching for the mouse instead.

But when you do, as we all do from time to time please bear in mind that you have a choice over where you spend your hard earned money. Unlike with book buying online (where Amazon has pretty much annihilated the competition) the same isnt true - yet - of yarn shopping.

You could chose to click on one of those well known online yarn giants whose well placed Google Ads fall so conveniently at the top of the search screens. Or you could choose to scroll a little and shop online from one of the many UK LYSs who have fabulous websites and offer a great alterative online shopping experience.

After all, it may not be a yarn shop local to you but it is still local to someone else. And even if the small independent yarn shop is solely online (as opposed to being a bricks and mortar shop) your money will still go into the local economy where that small business is based.

Just as convenient - you can still shop for yarn at 10pm in your PJs. Just as easy - modern websites and payment systems means that even the smallest of LYS can invest in a slick purchasing system and in a few clicks that yarn can be on it’s way to you.

The difference is that you will have the peace of mind that knowing you have supported a real person, a real small (often family run) business. A real LYS that doesn't have the advertising budget to compete with the “big box” stores but which still very much has a valuable service to offer.

So, as it was Yarn Shop Day on May 12th, wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t need a special day to remind us. What if every day was an LYS Day - where we make a conscious choice to support our LYSs - even if they are miles away from where we live.