The Coffee Break Cowl

It's September, I've had my first pumpkin flavoured beverage from a certain coffee chain and I'm in a distinctly autumnal frame of mind.

At this time of the year my thoughts start turning to cosy knits and I find it impossible to resist the lure of a good rustic coloured, worsted weight yarn. At any other time of year I'm all about the blues and greys, but as soon as the leaves start to turn I need something warmer in colour on the needles.

The Coffee Break Cowl is so named because indeed I did knit it over several long coffee dates with myself - part of my new post-holiday self care routine. It's an easy to remember textured pattern knit flat and then seamed at the end. One skein (100g worsted/DK) is more than enough to make a simple cowl but if you have 2 skeins you could make a longer one which can be looped once more around the neck for extra cosiness.

There's an early bird discount running from now until midnight (GMT) on 16.09.19 - just head to the Ravelry page and use the code COFFEEEB (note the third E in there) and the 25% will automatically be deducted at checkout.

PIN FOR LATER

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Washi Tape - 9 reasons you need some in your knitting bag

My recent Instagram post which featured washi tape generated quite a few comments, not least of which was the question "But what do you do with it?"  So, in the spirit of knitterly endeavour may I venture a few suggestions which might be of help - and do please feel free to suggest more in the comments.  Uses for washi tape include but are not limited to:  1. Creating little page tabs in journals/books/patterns  2. Sticking along the edge of the page to denote a new month - easy to find when flicking through  3. Dividing up a page into sections  4. Blocking out days/weeks on paper calendar - added advantage that you can write on it  5. Highlighting where you are in a pattern - it removes easily without damaging the paper  6. Emergency sellotape when you rip your pattern  7. Sticking a card or piece of temporary information into a journal/book  8. Emergency stitch marker - fold a short length over into a ring shape  9. Purely decorative purposes - call me frivolous  Got any more uses? Do let me know - I have quite a lot of the stuff at home now and I'm always keen to find new ways to use it

My recent Instagram post which featured washi tape generated quite a few comments, not least of which was the question "But what do you do with it?"

So, in the spirit of knitterly endeavour may I venture a few suggestions which might be of help - and do please feel free to suggest more in the comments.

Uses for washi tape include but are not limited to:

1. Creating little page tabs in journals/books/patterns

2. Sticking along the edge of the page to denote a new month - easy to find when flicking through

3. Dividing up a page into sections

4. Blocking out days/weeks on paper calendar - added advantage that you can write on it

5. Highlighting where you are in a pattern - it removes easily without damaging the paper

6. Emergency sellotape when you rip your pattern

7. Sticking a card or piece of temporary information into a journal/book

8. Emergency stitch marker - fold a short length over into a ring shape

9. Purely decorative purposes - call me frivolous

Got any more uses? Do let me know - I have quite a lot of the stuff at home now and I'm always keen to find new ways to use it

Re-entry

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It’s clearly the sign of a good holiday when you find yourself back at your desk, hands on keyboard desperately struggling to remember how to write or compose a blog post.

The week I was away flew past - lots of swimming, lots of reading and a surprisingly small amount of knitting. I didn’t pick up a pen or even think about writing. The real world seemed very far away.

Now, I’m back and struggling a little. The Instagram world is full of drama (no surprise there), the current political situation in the UK is going from bad to worse (and with today’s news, to the diabolical) and I’m struggling to stay afloat. I just want to pack everything back up and escape back to our little bit of Greek paradise, but obviously that’s not an option. There is school uniform to buy, lists to be made and a whole mountain of domestic chores await.

So I’m going to do what any sane knitter would do in the circumstances and dive into my stash in search of a new cast on. If ever there was a time to start knitting a survival blanket - I think it might be now.

A new thing

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The Blanket of Exacting Requirements, as I have named it is done, off the needles and blocking as I type. I’m really pleased with it and my son (who has aforementioned requirements) is mightily pleased too. This is my first time using West Yorkshire Spinners Colourlab DK for a blanket - having taken the decision earlier in the year to refrain from using acrylic yarns from now on - and I have to say that I love everything about it.

The colour range is good, it’s an impressively all-British produced yarn and it retails for under £7 per 100g. I know this reads a bit like an advert and I apologise but really, I promise I haven’t been paid to promote this yarn. I just really like it.

Whenever you mention knitting with pure wool though the issue of price always rears it’s head, with the assumptions that pure wool is expensive and impractical for blankets. So I thought I would do a little road-test and report back on this blanket at intervals so you can see how it is holding up. I have two boys and an equal number of cats and so knits in our household are very much used and abused.

As for price. I used approx 7 balls of this yarn in various colours which equates to less than £50 for the whole project (7 x £6.95). It’s absolutely not the cheapest yarn available but for something that will be used and loved for years that’s a price point that I’m very comfortable with. Price isn’t something we often speak about in relation to our finished objects. We talk about yardage and colours used but actual hard cash is frequently overlooked in our discussions.

So from now on I’ll be adding the estimated cost of a project to my Ravelry page. Sometimes with deep stash a price will probably be a best guess but it’s better than nothing. And hopefully it might go a tiny way towards dispelling the myth that all wool is expensive and that acrylic is the only affordable option.

One is never enough

Giant granny square blanket - Number 2

Giant granny square blanket - Number 2

So it seems that granny square crochet blankets should come with an advisory health warning. After finishing my blanket last week I found myself sitting in bed on Sunday morning feeling slightly bereft and not sure what to do with myself. So of course I did the only acceptable thing in these circumstances and started another one.

Addicted, nah, not me.

Apologies by the way if you were under the string impression that this is a knitting blog. I promise that normal service will be resumed shortly.

And if you are tempted over to the way of the crochet you might like to know about a CAL over on Instagram. Run by @martushkaknits the #crochetfromyourheart CAL is for any crochet project that you are undertaking this summer. Lots of people are doing scrap yarn granny squares or similar long term projects and it’s really wonderful to see all of their progress. If looking through their fabulous projects doesn’t get you reaching for the crochet hook then nothing will.

A Crochet Success

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It’s always a happy day when a finished object coincides with a Finished Object Friday so it’s definitely time for a happy dance as I declare my giant granny square blanket done. Even more so as it’s one of the first crochet projects of mine that I’m truly happy with.

After much deliberation about the border I opted for just 2 rounds of double crochet after the final round of dark purple. I tried a picot edge and it didn’t look right so I opted for the ‘less is more’ approach.

It's based on the Purl Soho Giant Granny Square pattern on Ravelry and I used just over 2000m leftover sock yarn on a 2.5mm hook. No matter what I do I always seem to crochet quite tightly so in the end I just embraced it and I really like the relatively tight fabric it produced. It feels pleasingly substantial without being too heavy and I can see this lap blanket getting an awful lot of use over the coming months.

The only downside is that I can’t share it in my own Everyday Knitter FB Group without breaking our strict ‘no crochet rule’ - which is pretty funny really.

I feel oddly bereft to have finished this now - and I have a strange urge to cast on another one. I think I may be mildly addicted.

Knitting a square in the round

Fuss Free baby blanket knit in West Yorkshire Spinners ColourLab DK

Fuss Free baby blanket knit in West Yorkshire Spinners ColourLab DK

There’s a lot to be said for knitting a square blanket in the round, rather than knitting it flat. I don’t know about you and I’m fairly sure it defies the laws of physics but I’m convinced that a square knit flat takes far, far longer than one knit in the round.

At some point when I have three-quarters of  a square I always start doing a heck of a lot of measuring, certain that after these last few rows I will have knit enough. Or if all else fails I start trying to convince myself that everyone really wants a wide, short rectangular blanket rather than a square one. Obviously they don’t - it would just look weird and exactly like you’d given up three quarters of the way through but such are the tales I try to tell my inner knitter.

Instead I find that if you knit a blanket in the round it’s all bunched up on your needles and you can keep knitting and knitting, through films, kids playparks and all manner of events. It’s easier on the hands and (if you are doing stocking stitch) there’s the added benefit of no purling. It does mean of course that it’s harder to spread it out for photographic/measuring purposes but you can’t have everything and I’d rather just keep knitting so that the eventual size is a happy surprise when I finally bind it off.

If you’d like to try knitting a blanket in the round, as with everything there is more than one way to go about it.

Knit a central square - this is my favourite method and one I come back to time and time again. In my Fuss Free Baby Blanket (a free download on Ravelry) it starts with a central garter stitch square. You then keep the live stitches on the needle, place a marker and pick up the same number of stitches along each of the 3 sides - adding a marker at each corner. You then alternate a mitered increase round with a plain round building up the square from the centre out. Easy peasy. You can add stripes or whatever takes your fancy make the most of fuss free, portable knitting.

The other option is to start with a small number of central stitches - usually on DPNs - and build the increases from there. This can be a bit more fiddly but is perfectly straightforward to master. My basic recipe for this is as follows:

Cast on 8 sts and divide equally across 4 DPNs

Rnd 1: kfb in each st (8 sts inc)

Rnd 2: k

Rnd 3: *kfb, k to last st on DPN, kfb. Rep from * 3 more times (8 sts inc)

Rnd 4: k

Rep rnds 3 and 4 - each increase round adds 8 sts. Once you have sufficient sts you can switch to a circular needle. I like to switch to a 60cm cable once I have about 80sts in total. It might be a bit tight for the first few rounds but as you add more stitches it soon becomes easier.

Two ways of achieving the same result, but both with the nifty feature of avoiding the tedium of an “almost there” blanket knit flat.

False starts and firm opinions

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It was the kind of scenario you just couldn’t make up. 

Picture the scene. I am doing a bit of flatlay photography for my one Instagram photo of the week. I’ve got my little blanket project in progress, my coffee still hot and the junk on the bed shoved to the side out of side.

In wanders my eldest son, he glances at the bed and asks if that’s his new blanket I’m working on. “Why yes it is” I answer, “Just like the one you asked for”.

His old baby blanket suffered a sad demise a few years ago, courtesy of our old, incontinent cat and he had been asking for a new one for a while.

He expressed concern that this new blanket, whilst using the same colours ‘looked different’ to how he remembered it. There then followed a slightly confusing conversation which only after careful consultation with my Ravelry project library did we determine that we were in fact each talking of an entirely different baby blanket.

The one I was remembering - a Moderne Baby blanket - of log cabin-like construction had in fact belonged to his brother (oops). The one he was picturing with fond memories was in fact the first baby blanket I ever designed - the Fuss Free Baby Blanket - which starts with a central square knitted flat and then has stitches picked up around that square to be knit in the round.

Realisation dawned as we looked at each other across my lovely flatlay. 

But luckily the central patch would serve just as well for the other blanket and I really hadn’t done more than an hour or two’s knitting on it. 

So, I learnt a valuable lesson. To always check what’s in someone else’s mind when they ask for a knitted something. And he learnt how to frog and rewind yarn!


My first Instagram free week

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It isn’t something I’ve come across before, for obvious reasons. But when you haven’t logged in to Instagram for a few days it starts sending you little automated emails. Trying to entice you back to see what you might have missed. Trying to trigger that little bit of your brain that deals with dopamine and addiction. Heck, even trying to make you feel guilty about not showing up.

Seriously. If ever I needed a wake up call that the whole app is designed to draw you in, entice you in and then, crucially, keep you there, then these polite, chirpy ‘look what you are missing’ emails are just the thing.

Happily I can report that these pester emails are now directed to reside in my spam folder along with emails from companies that like to tell me about ‘summer beach body deals’ and strange people from foreign climes trying to send me an inheritance.

I quickly logged in to Instagram for a check in last week. Sunday morning over coffee. I had an hours leisurely scroll which was really rather pleasant and then I logged off to spend an hour doing some gardening - my new favourite thing. It’s really nice, especially in the evening to put the phone down and go and do a bit of gentle pottering about. I’ve never been much of a gardener but we recently had some help clearing our overgrown (I prefer the term nature friendly) garden and I was thrilled to find some old peonies that have survived years of neglect, so now I’m trying not to kill them with kindness.

My other plans for my Insta-break have been rather scuppered by the heat wave we are currently experiencing in my part of the UK. I was planning to do some spinning and get to grips with my drop spindle but it’s been so warm that even looking at a pile of fluff brings me out in sweat.

A friend on Twitter gave me this useful tip for working on larger projects in the heat though - using a small folding lap table to keep the bulk of your project off your legs. We had this ugly old table back from when my husband had surgery a few years ago and I’d stored it away. But it turns out that it’s the perfect size to rest my giant granny square blanket on while I work on it. And there’s room for my coffee too - winner!


If at first you don't succeed...

You might have spotted this WIP before as I’ve shared it online a few times now. Sadly though, despite much ripping and a moderate amount of swearing it still remains a WIP rather than a finished object.

In my planner for the end of July I had optimistically pencilled in “share Soldotna resolution”. This was going to be a perky, uplifting little blog post about how I overcame my issues with the neckline, came up with a pleasing solution and possibly even modeled it for you.

Sadly none of those things happened. I ripped back and ended up going back a bit too far. I sorted that out and tried a 3 stitch i-cord bind off. That rolled something terrible so I tried a 2 stitch i-cord (on smaller needles). It still rolled. I decided to embrace the rolling and knit several rounds of stocking stitch. That looked terrible on me. I thought I would try a few rounds of garter stitch (on smaller needles). And eureka…

...only joking...it still didn’t look right.

So after several hours of cursing I did what any sane knitter would do, threw it in a corner and cast on for a simple, soothing garter stitch blanket.

It’s too hot to knit much this week anyway. There’s going to be a bit of heatwave here in my part of the UK and I will have no need of a colourwork yoke sweater, no matter how cute the short sleeves are.

At least, that’s my argument and I’m sticking to it.

In the meantime i’m hoping that inspiration strikes, from somewhere.


The PPS - Larger version

2 skein version of the Pattern Please Shawl

2 skein version of the Pattern Please Shawl

For some reason it seems to be the week of 'large things’

Whether it’s been my break from Instagram or something in the air but it seems to be the week for finishing up larger scale projects. Earlier in the week I finished up my large scale Garter Ripple Squish - freeing myself of just over a kilo of scrap yarn in the process.

Yesterday I finally sorted out the update to my Pattern Please Shawl - The PPS - on Ravelry. This is a more generously sized version of the 1 skein original. It uses 2 x 100g skeins of sock weight (fingering weight) yarn - pictured here is a sample using ‘Heliotrope’ in Hayton 4ply from Eden Cottage Yarns (pink) and ‘And You’ll Hand me Your Weapon’ from Third Vault Yarns.

If you’ve already purchased the pattern, you should have received the update in the usual way. I know that a lot of people expressed an interest in knitting a larger version and I’m so excited to see what you come up with.

Happy Knitting

A monster FO: The Garter Ripple Squish

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There are FOs and there are monster FOs. At just over a kilo (1100g to be precise) this massive version of my Garter Ripple Squish blanket is a whopper.

Holding 3 strands of sockweight yarn together on 7mm needles somehow managed to make a wonderfully cushy fabric. I’ll be honest, it felt rather dense while I was knitting it and a real dead weight on my lap. But blocking as ever worked it’s magic and it’s loosened up a treat. It’s pleasingly substantial and comforting but it doesn’t make you feel as though you are trapped under something heavy.

I used a whole assortment of random leftovers to make this and at just over 1000g that equates to 10 whole skeins of sockweight yarn. It’s quite a thought to realise that not only did I have a kilo of leftover sock yarn hanging about the house, but that I still have more. Luckily a lot of that is more pinky/purple in colour and is happily slotting into my crocheted Giant Granny Square blanket.

Even more pleasingly this contributes a splendid 4040m to my Stash Dash total for this year - hurrah! It used to be the case that yarn held doubled/trebled didn’t count for the total yardage - only the yardage actually knitted (if you see what I mean) and so I was fully prepared to reduce this total by two-thirds. However on checking the rules it seems they have changed it for 2019 and so the full amount counts.

Happy days indeed.

If you fancy having a go at a bit of a stashbuster yourself you can find the original pattern here - do let me know if you knit it - I’d love to know if anyone manages a bigger one.

A summer sabbatical

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What could I do with 2 hours extra every day? 

I've found myself with that thought a lot over the last few weeks, especially since working out that 2 hours is my daily average for time spent scrolling on Instagram. The handy ‘activity’ monitor built into the app shows me all too clearly how much of my daily life is eaten up by this tiny little app that lives on my phone.

Some days it's a lot more than 2 hrs. Now that wouldn't be too bad, if scrolling made me feel good. But right now it's the good old 80/20 principle in action.

20% of my time on Instagram is fantastic. I connect with friends, chat, laugh and share life's ups and downs. I love it and it's truly life affirming.

The other 80% leaves me sad,anxious, stressed and upset. I see online behaviour that I wouldn't accept in any other area of my life and it worries me that it seems to have become the new norm. At a recent school event about online bullying I was struck by the awareness of some of the young adults around me on this issue, it it saddened me that we had adults who aren’t seemingly capable of modelling the behaviours we are teaching to our children.

It's time for a change. My kids break for the summer holidays at the end of next week and I'm thinking I might do the same. The thought of an Instagram sabbatical is an attractive one and the fact that it scares me also is probably a sign that it's much needed.

There are a ton of things I keep saying I want to do more of. I want to read more. I want to learn to spin - properly and I want to spend more time this summer with my kids before I lose them to the mid teen years. All of which are good things to do. And with 2 hours a day at my disposal I reckon that’s a pretty good start.

I’ll also be blogging here a little more and I’ll be using my email newsletters to document what I’m up to, so I’m not going away. Just taking a little step back to refocus, refresh and hopefully enjoy some more creative pursuits.


When knits don't go to plan

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Sometimes you knit something and it’s love at first sight. It fits well, you can block it, weave in the ends and call it done. Other times - not so much. This latest project - the Soldotna Crop definitely falls into the latter category.

I love the yoke, I love the length (it will look fabulous over a navy dress I have) and I love the colours. What I didn’t love was the super high neck line that felt as though it was a polo neck. I’m not quite sure where I went wrong - as the original sample definitely doesn’t have a high neck but I know since posting about it on social media that a lot of other people have experienced the same problem.

Yes - I know I should have read the very helpful comments on Ravelry project pages first but since when did I ever do things the sensible way? It seems that knitters, being the creative bunch that they are have found a few different ways around the neckline problem which generally fall into the category of:

  1. Ripping out the neckline ribbing and working an i-cord bind off

  2. Ripping out the ribbing and adding a few more rounds of stockinette to allow a relaxed, rolled edge

  3. Ripping out the ribbing (and a tiny bit of the yoke) and working the ribbing a little lower down.

Either way - the astute among you will have realised that some ripping is required. There were some super organised types (who did read and plan ahead) who started the sweater with a provisional cast on, anticipating such a problem but I’m ignoring them (joke - I am of course secretly envious of your foresight).

So, armed with my trusty nail scissors I cut off the ribbing and ripped back. Of course, I had reckoned without the cunning short rows at the back and so I ended up having to pull back a bit further than intended. But, with only a modest amount of swearing I managed to get the neck stitches back onto waste yarn and there they currently sit awaiting my attention.

At the minute I’m erring towards an i-cord bind off, but time permitting later on today I’m hoping to try it on and make a decision - probably,

It's not just about the knitting

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I think we can safely say that it has been a turbulent few days. I was all set to send a newsletter on Monday morning and then the news of Ravelry’s rule change broke and the knitting world went into a spin - even making the news headlines on the BBC and the leader pages of the Guardian.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about you can read all about the new Ravelry rules here and the background to it here.

As much as we all enjoy knitting and use it as a coping mechanism for our everyday stresses, I think there has definitely come a time when it isn’t sufficient to insist that we just ‘stick to the knitting’. The personal is political and the impact that politics has on our lives is immense and inescapable whether you choose to recognise it or not.

My very first pattern sales were through Ravelry, indeed it was Ravelry that made me realise that self published pattern sales were even possible. Although I’ve dabbled with sales on other sites: LoveKnitting - woeful and Patternfish - clunky, Ravelry has always been my mainstay.

To be crystal clear, I fully support Ravelry’s position and my future pattern sales will be through Ravelry. I have no plans to make them available elsewhere. 

In addition it seems that there are a few chain letters (for want of a better word) being sent to designers and yarnies, asking for a refund on goods bought. Designers who are standing by Ravelry are being asked for refunds by people who are choosing to leave the platform. You can see a particularly hilarious example I shared on my Instagram page here.

Again, to be clear, Designers sell a digital download and that is what the buyer receives. When a platform changes it’s terms and conditions, the buyer has no recourse to refunds for products bought before that. 

The stance that Ravelry has taken, whilst admirable is just the first step though. Part of the backlash that we have seen over recent days is a reaction to the fact that we can’t go back to a time when it was ‘just about the knitting’. This has made for some uncomfortable reading, especially as makers of colour and other marginalised groups have been campaigning about this for some considerable time. This could be the time for real, significant progress in making our craft a truly inclusive one but we can only do that by considering the impact of our choices and decisions in our everyday lives. The makers and companies that we support, and by extension those that we choose not to.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Ravelry is a free service and if you use it as often as I do, you might like to make a small donation. Or, an even better way is to buy a few patterns or gift a few to friends and spread a little love. I’ve recommended a few designers below whose work I really admire and who have been tireless in campaigning for a change in attitudes for some considerable time. This is by no means an exhaustive list though and I would really urge you to explore and find new people whose work you may not have seen before

Ravelry donation page

Jeanette Sloan

Marceline Smith

Grace Anna Farrow

Gaye Glasspie - @ggmadeit

Francoise Danoy - @arohaknits


From me to you

A fresh mug of coffee, a notebook and my laptop. It might be pouring with rain outside and a distinctly grey start to the working week but sitting down to write my email newsletter always feels like a bit of a treat. And like all treats it always seems to sink to the bottom of my to-do list. Somehow there are always a hundred other ‘important things’ that clamour for my attention.

But today I have my phone firmly turned screenside down and on the other side of the room. It’s just me and my coffee for half an hour and time to write. In an eternally busy world sometimes it feels like the ultimate act of rebellion to turn your back on the world and spend a bit of time with just you, your thoughts and those of others.

I have struggled of late to keep up with other peoples blogs and newsletters. People that I like to follow and whose work I admire, their writing kept getting lost in an ever present series of to-do lists and things “to do later” - Hint: later never seems to come.

So now I’ve started saving all my email newsletters from people into a separate folder on my phone and it really does help. Rather than have them get lost in my general inbox they are saved waiting for me to have a spare half an hour. In the same way as I used buy and read glossy magazines I now save up and read fabulous snippets from creatives whose writing and work never fails to lift me up, make me think and inspire me. I think it was Ruth Poundwhite (of the Creatively Human podcast) who gave me that idea and co-incidentally enough her new (and free) email marketing challenge begins this week.

I’ve had an email newsletter going for a while now and whilst I love to write it I feel as though I need to revisit it a little and evaluate it. So I have signed up and am looking forward to viewing it through fresh eyes. and maybe trying a few new things.

For me the joy of an email newsletter is that it cuts through all the noise and busyness of social media. It’s a crowded old world out there and new, shiny things are constantly competing for our attention. An email though, lets me chat to people on a much closer, much more human level. Rather than a post on Instagram that might get hundreds of people tapping on little hearts but only 5 comments, an email is the opposite. You don’t get that little dopamine hit of instant gratification as people ‘like’ your work but you get the chance to communicate with them on a much deeper level - for me as a card carrying introvert - it’s a bit like the difference between close friends and casual acquaintances.

My email newsletter is my way of communicating with friends, with people who really ‘get’ what it is I do and why I do it. It’s a cup of coffee and a chat, rather than a pretty flatlay with lots of gloss and rather less substance.

All this is a very long winded way of saying, if you are signed up to my email list then a heartfelt “Thank You” for being there. And if there’s anything you’d like to see in my emails that I don’t currently do then please do let me know.

And of course - if you’d like to sign up and see what I’m talking about you can see more here

Ready for a KAL?

It’s a very low-key, minimal fuss type KAL, I promise.

If you’ve started already then WIPs totally count too. Starting on 1st June I’ll be running a KAL for my new design - the Pattern Please Shawl - over on the Everyday Knitter Facebook group and also on Instagram.

It’s a simple, fun knit - ideal for using up mini-skeins and all kinds of general stashbusting potential. The yarns pictured here were a kit from Lucylocketland, although these lovely birds-egg inspired colours sold out in a flash.

I know that Eden Cottage Yarns has some fabulous mini skeins too - I believe I even saw sparkly ones in her last update.

If you like stripes, garter stitch and a relaxed, no pressure KAL then this is the one for you.

By way of added incentive, every finished project listed in Ravelry by 15th July 2019 and linked to The PPS pattern page will go into a prize draw to receive a little something from my personal stash. There will be 2 prizes on offer - both skeins of hand dyed yarn - and I’m happy to ship them anywhere in the world.

So the only question that remains is which colours to pick? If you are stuck tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #patternpleaseKAL so I can find you. Two brains are better than one, right?

5 reasons to switch your knitting to circular needles

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I am an unashamed and determined devotee of circular needles. I absolutely love them - so much so that my few remaining straight needles are relegated to poking lost items out from under the fridge and other such mundane uses. I knit pretty much everything on circular needles whether I’m knitting in the round - as in this Humulus sweater or flat.

I see so many comments from knitters who aren’t sure what the benefits of circular needles are, or view them with uncertainty or trepidation so in this short blog post I hope to be able to convince you of their many advantages and to induce you to maybe giving them a try.

Minimal need for seaming: This one thing alone was enough to convert me to circular knitting. I loathe sewing up garments with a passion and being able to work a top down sweater on a circular needle, weave in the ends and pull it on was a complete revelation.

No need to purl (if you don't want to): Normally stocking stitch fabric is created by alternating a knit (right) side with a purl (wrong) side. When knitting in the round you always have the right side facing you and so to create stocking stitch all you need to do is knit - and lovely smooth stockinette will emerge like magic from your needles.

Reduces strain on hands and arms: Circular needles allow the weight of the fabric to be more evenly distributed and often knitters report reduced muscle fatigue when using circular needles compared to straights. This makes perfect sense when you think about it - particularly if you have something heavy like an aran sweater on the needles where the whole weight of knitting is resting on 12 inches or so of needle. There is a reason that old metal knitting needles are often curved from years of use.

Storage: Ever the space conscious knitter. Needle tips and cables, or fixed circular needles fold up into a neat, compact shape - far more convenient for storing and transporting.

Travel knitting: Keeping with the neat and compact theme, circular needles are far more conducive to knitting on public transport. I knit socks quite often on small circular needles, which require minimal hand/arm movement. Although, I grant you there are times when longer cables are handy for detracting seat companions who like to impinge on your personal space.

These are just 5 reasons but honestly, I could wax lyrical about this for days. If you are undecided it’s well worth having a go. Just bear in mind that it will feel a little strange at first, particularly if you are used to tucking the needle under your arm.

Try just doing a few minutes each day and see how you feel at the end of the week - you never know - it might grow on you.

PIN FOR LATER

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How to start a knitting group at work

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I have to be up front here and say straight away that I haven’t managed to do this yet. But I am declaring today to be my Take Your Knitting to Work Day.

In the interests of positive thinking and the importance of having a Cunning Plan I am putting my intentions out there into the universe and trying to start a knit club at work.

Step 1 - Positive mental attitude - see above

Step 2 - Best knitting bag (colourful to attract attention). This is from Hide and Hammer

Step 3 - Most attractive work in progress (also the largest - see Step 2). This is no time for a tiny, discrete sock toe. The WIP in question is the Humulus Sweater

Step 4 - Use the power of research. There was a very timely article in the Wall Street Journal about this very thing - talking about the health benefits of knitting at work - so I’ll email it to the facilities manager.

Step 4 - Position yourself in the staff area at lunchtime with colorful knitting bag and gadgets on display

Step 5 - Have a large coffee to bolster self-confidence and resist the urge to shove my ear buds in and listen to podcasts

Step 6 - Smile and make eye contact with people. This is the big step - as any of my fellow introverts will attest to.

With any luck I might attract the attention of a few passing knitters, or even some interested non knitters who could be persuaded. I have spare needles and yarn in my bag on the off chance.

Wish me luck - I’ll report back,

A new design and a realisation

This week saw most of my plans crumble like a soggy digestive. A recurring inner ear problem put me firmly out of action for a few days and meant that my lovely neat content calendar went disregarded - seriously cross - I used coloured pens and everything.

But I did manage to launch my new shawl design - The PPS* - which I was really pleased about. And a huge thank you to everyone who has been in touch, bought the pattern or talked about it to their friends. I really appreciate it, and seeing it on the front page of Ravelry patterns (albeit briefly) was a huge boost - Thank You.

In the past though I would have been stressed about what I was not doing, about things that I “should” be doing. They were in my planner for heavens sake - therefore they must be done.

This time though I listened to my inner voice - the one that sounds uncannily like my Mum. Telling me that I really couldn’t do it all. That trying to battle on through a horrible combination of vertigo and seasickness was never going to end well. And that it was OK to just take a few days off.

And so I did. And I have to say that it felt really good. Maybe, just maybe that pesky inner voice knows what it’s talking about sometimes.

*The PPS - why the name?

It stands for the Pattern Please Shawl - which if you are a member of any online communities (Facebook - I’m looking at you) you’ll instantly recognise as the pesky phrase that pops up repeatedly when people share their work but don’t share every last detail of the pattern/yarn/needles. I’m easily amused, I know but I quite like the idea of people asking “pattern please” when folk share an image of their completed shawls to which the response can quite legitimately be “why yes it is, how did you guess”

I told you I was easily amused - although judging from your response I think that quite a few of you also share my sense of humour