What does your stash say about you?

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If you had to pick one word to sum up your stash, what would it be? For me that word would be PREPARED.

I'm going to say right now, just in case you were in any doubt that I love my stash, it's my pride and joy and I absolutely refuse to attach any negative feelings to it. So often I hear and see others complaining about their stash, feeling guilt over it, obsessing over it and generally failing to derive enjoyment from it.

My stash is my happy place full of, as yet untapped, potential. I've destashed over the years and finally arrived at a balance I'm happy with. This was brought home to me this weekend when I realised that in just a weeks time I start my new job. A job where for the first time ever I can walk to work. This of course means knitwear - and specifically gloves.

I suffer from a slight case of Raynaud's syndrome and really need warm mitts when I'm out and about in winter. As we are forecast for a bit of cold snap next week I plunged headlong into my stash to emerge triumphant with the perfect skein of worsted weight yarn (Malabrigo Rios in the colourway Sand Bank.

A fellow knitter recently recommended a TinCan Knits mitten pattern and so it only took me a few moments to find the pattern and get ready to cast on.

All on a Sunday afternoon without getting changed out of my PJs.

And if that isn't having a stash that is prepared for all eventualities, then I don't know what it.

The Everyday Knitter Academy is Open!

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Why I created the Academy?

I started out like anyone else. Picking up the needles after a hiatus of over 20 years I immediately reverted to what I knew. Straight needles, picking a pattern from a magazine and buying the exact same yarn used in the pattern, sometimes even in the same colour. This was knitting how I knew it. How my beloved Nana had taught me. I wished I could tuck my needle under my left arm the way that she did too, but that bit always eluded me.

I knit quite a few jumpers like this until one day I discovered the beta version of Ravelry and a whole new world of knitting opened up to me. Here were knitters who didn't always follow the rules.

Here were knitters who substituted a different yarn to that called for in the pattern. They adapted the patterns to fit their body shape. They switched in and out little design elements, replaced a cable here and a lace panel there. I was immediately transfixed as this hobby of mine took on a whole new dimension. I started to knit socks, and then to adapt them and to design my own and my knitting adventure grew along with my confidence.

There's something about knitting, about making something with your own two hands which builds confidence. It's a quiet confidence but it's there just the same. It proves to your inner self - who let's face it, is probably your worst critic - that you can do something positive and something well. And yet all too often I hear knitters who are plagued by self doubt and their own internal voices telling them that "They could never do that" or that "They would love to have the skills to do that one day".

If I achieve one thing with this course, it will be to prove that yes, you can indeed do that. If you have the skills to pick up the needles, cast on, knit/purl and bind off then the possibilities are endless. You can knit lace, you can adapt a pattern, you can knit a intarsia sweater in the dark in the cinema - OK I may have exaggerated that last point but you get my drift.

You can do anything you damn well please with your knitting. You are resourceful, you are patient and you have the skills that together we can build on and develop. Please don't let fear put you off. It's just yarn at the end of the day and if all goes to hell in a handbasket it will still just be yarn. You won't have lost anything but you will have at least tried and the skills you learn from trying new things are what help us to grow as knitters.

How does it work?

The course material will be set out in modules on the Teachable site which I hope you will find to be a simple and straightforward place to navigate.

Signing up and providing the payment details will unlock access to the course modules as they are published. Some of these courses will be longer than others but you will be able to dip in and out and work through them at your own pace. To go along with the courses and to provide that much needed support you will also have access to the secret Facebook Group created just for Academy members.

Based on the same principles as the Everyday Knitter Facebook group this group is just for people like you, people who have taken the plunge and signed up to become Academy members. Some of the courses (depending on the material) will have a free pattern associated with them. This will be a pattern that I have written in order to help you develop the skills we are working on. In addition, as Academy members you will have access to live Q&A sessions with me which will run on a weekly basis. The purpose of these sessions will be to unlock any barriers to you achieving what you want from your knitting. Anything you are stuck on, anything you can't understand or anything you want help with. Think of it as a friendly Knit Night session in the local pub - glass of chilled white wine is optional.

And, just as an extra thank you as an Academy member you will receive 2 free patterns from me during the course of a year. These will be my self published patterns which are normally sold via Ravelry. On publication Academy members will receive an exclusive Ravelry code which will enable them to download the pattern and enjoy it for free.

How much does it cost?

The membership site works on a monthly payment system. You set up the details and every month the membership fee is deducted from your account. You are free to cancel at any time. If you decide it isn't for you simply cancel your account. You won't be able to access the course material or the secret group after you leave but I hope you will still keep in touch through the Everyday Knitter group.

I deliberately kept the monthly cost low - at the price of a moderately posh coffee - as I want it to be affordable for everyone.

Access to all the material and the Facebook group is priced at $3 per month ($2.70 at the time of writing). Once you have enrolled you will automatically have access to all new courses as they become available.  At this time, unfortunately paying by Paypal isn't an option when setting up recurring monthly payments but I'm hoping that this is resolved in the future.

How do I join?

You can find out more by jumping straight over to the Academy and clicking "enroll now". Don't worry, this bit is entirely free and without obligation, it just enables you to have a look around.

Click on the "What is the Everyday Knitter Academy" button to access a series of short classes designed to give you a feel for the site, how it works and what you can expect.

If you like what you see all you need to do is click on "Full Academy Content" to enroll. This option costs $3 per month and gives you access to all the online material - with new stuff being added weekly - as well as access to the closed Facebook Group.

I really hope to see you over there and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to get in touch.

 

Twixtmas

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Don't get me wrong. I absolutely love Christmas. I love the anticipation, the twinkling lights and the smell of a real Christmas tree. I'm not so keen on the queues and the crass commercialism but on the whole I think that Christmas has a lot to commend it.

But, for me, the real joy is that period that I've recently seen referred to Twixtmas. That special no mans land between Christmas and New Year when no one knows (or really cares) what date it is, and it's perfectly acceptable to eat mince pies and cream for breakfast. 

For our family it's made even more special by the fact that after the festivities are finished, we pack as much leftover food as we can into our car and head for the hills. Literally. We make our regular pilgrammage north to the Lake District and hole up for a week in our favourite cosy holiday cottage. 

I'm sitting this watching snow fall outside the window, looking out over the valley. We have all our essentials (it's surprising how much knitting you can pack into a family car) and nothing to do for a week. I'm planning on spending the time knitting, writing and reading.

One thing I am absolutely not going to be doing is making any sort of resolutions or Grand Plans. Out of interest I brought a few of my old journals with me and one thing I was really struck with, was how repetitive they are - and not in a good way. My last 3 years journals show me here, in the same cottage writing much the same list of resolutions. But somehow I haven't transformed into that magical creature who rises at 5am, writes in her gratitude journal for half an hour and then greets the day with yoga, body brushing and a green smoothie.

So, this year I am embracing being me. I'm not going to be destashing, cataloguing my Ravelry inventory or making knitting plans for the year. I'm not going to be reviewing my 2017 knits - because, really - who cares? And it goes without saying that Cold Sheeping is never going to happen in my house.

I'm embracing my knitting, embracing my stash and embracing me.

If anyone wants me I'll be sat in the window seat with hot coffee, my knitting bag and the last of the mince pies.

What makes an expert knitter?

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It's a bit like the quote about beauty being in the eye of the beholder isn't it? What makes a knitter an expert or when could you consider yourself to be an expert?

It's a question that frequently crops up when patterns, on Ravelry and in other sources, are graded according to level of pattern difficulty. A simple sock pattern with a cable might be rated as 'easy' by a competent and experienced knitter on her 30th pair of socks, but a knitter who was new to socks or knitting in the round might have a very different experience. This is why I always caution newer knitters not to rely too heavily on these fairly subjective assessments but instead look at what specific skills you need to knit that pattern. If it just calls for knitting in the round and increasing/decreasing then you can knit a sock or a simple sweater - no matter what the 'official' rating might be.

One thing I really love about teaching and blogging is the ability to chat to people at all levels of knitting ability and pointing out to people that sometimes, what they think of as 'hard' really isn't that hard at all. It is all just a matter of perception.

It's a common misconception that just because we live in an age where information is so freely available, that it is equally accessible to everyone. Some people are visual learners, some like the written word and sometimes people just need the help and support of a friendly community. Ideally we would all have a local LYS or regular knit group that we could pop into when we needed help or advice. Somewhere to sit down with a cuppa, have a bit of a knit and maybe get someone to show you exactly what a lifeline is (and why it can change your life). Sadly we can't always have that real life interaction when we need it and that's my main reason behind creating the Everyday Knitter Academy.

I absolutely love the community we've created over in the Everyday Knitter Facebook group and that is absolutely staying as it is. But I've also created the Academy as a way of being able to give more focussed and more practical advice and tutorials on a range of subjects. In addition there will be a specific (and closed) EK Academy Facebook group where I will be able to do Facebook Live sessions with tutorials and information Q&A sessions.

The Academy will be based on a monthly membership site - where for the price of a posh coffee every month you will have access to a host of tutorials, a friendly community and a world of knitty information to peruse at your leisure.

If you'd like to find out more about the Academy and how you can be involved, please click the link here to sign up to the newsletter for more information.

If you knit something set it free

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To paraphrase the famous quote "If you knit something set it free" - this neatly sums up my attitude to knitting and gift giving.

At this time of year particularly when us knitters are frantically trying to finish off Christmas presents (or like me, eating mince pies and contemplating the WIP pile) there can be a lot of discussion about who is "knitworthy".

We've all heard horror tales, or even experienced them of a knitted gift carelessly thrown aside, of thoughtless comments and of thank you notes never received. A long time ago however I developed my own frame of reference for gift knitting which is quite simply, I don't. Or rather I do, but only on my own terms. If the recipient in question has asked (politely, and in a suitable timeframe) for an item then that's fine. We can have a discussion about colours, yarn choices and styles. I usually set up a Ravelry bundle of candidate patterns for them to chose from. In this way I've successfully knit gifts for friends and family for years and it works well. They get something they will love and wear to death and I get the satisfaction of sending a loved one or close friend out into the world warmly clad.

What I absolutely don't do however is to knit random gifts for people on the automatic assumption that they will love it because I made it for them. Not everyone is as enlightened as us knitters and they may neither know nor care how many hours of painstaking work went into something. Colour choice, fabric/yarn choice and personal styling is just that - personal - and I would never to presume to that someone would absolutely love a bottle green cabled knit hat, just because I happen to have made it for them.

Yes, it's absolutely lovely when you give a handknit gift and it is warmly, nay effusively received. A thank you note or even a photo of the recipient wearing said handknit is a thing a of joy and something to be treasured. But I would caution against automatically judging those who don't send a thank you note and I'll offer up a personal story as illustration for this.

In 2006 I had just had my second baby, exactly 50 weeks after having my first. Like his brother DS2 was premature and was critically ill for a short but very scary few weeks. Finally at home we battled with all the things that expanding your family normally entails, with the additional livener of having an active 13 month old in the house. The health visitor wrote "not coping well" in my notes - a euphemism for impending post-natal depression. But we moved on through a difficult time and eventually found our routine. About 6 months after DS2's birth I moved a random pile of stuff in the spare bedroom and found 2 beautifully knit cream matinee jackets, still in a gift bag. There was no note or card or anything to identify who had sent them, or when. DH denied all knowledge, as did the other relatives who had been staying with us. It was a total mystery and obviously they were now way too small for my rapidly growing boy.

I felt terrible that I had no idea who to thank for them, and also that I hadn't used them. But in truth I didn't use any of the handknit items I was given (apart from a blanket) - DS2 spent his formative months in a series of white babygros as I had no energy for devising baby outfits. In the end, I decided to pass them on to our local baby unit along with some other bundles of donated clothing. 

I'm sharing this deeply personal story just to ask that perhaps we don't always rush to judge someone for not responding to a gift. Each of us, in our own way is doing our best with what life throws at us, and a lack of response isn't automatically equated with rudeness or ill manners.

If you knit something knit it with joy and give it freely, without hope or expectation. Just give it for the joy of giving. And rejoice that you can cast on a brand new shiny project to replace it.

An exciting new venture

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I'm excited to be able to share with you some exciting news today - that I have joined up with the fabulous Lucy of Magnolia Tree Yarns in an affiliate program.

If you don't know of  Lucy already she has a wonderful site full of woolly goodness, that's packed full of some amazing yarns. She also has a really comprehensive range of resources on the site and runs in person workshops too.

Based in Cheshire, Lucy aims to offer a well stocked, friendly and knowledgeable LYS and she also backs that up with a comprehensive website too - so she can be your LYS no matter where you are.

To kick start our affiliate relationship Lucy is offering a flash sale, starting today with 40% off everything in her online store - while stocks last. And as I'm about to start my 12 Days of Christmas Event it seemed like the perfect opportunity to share this with you.

Just head over to her store by clicking here and have a browse - you might find the perfect yarn to go with one of my 12 Days' pattern offerings.

 

Full disclosure here: if you click on the link above and make a purchase a small percentage comes to me as an affiliate.

12 days of Christmas

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I'm sure it won't have escaped your attention that Christmas is hurtling towards us at the speed of light and knitters everywhere are frantically burning the midnight oil to finish those holiday gifts.

This time of year can feel stressful and hectic, often I just want to bury under a pile of blankets (handknit of course) and emerge in the New Year. Last year I was inspired to try a Random Acts of Kindness challenge - doing something for someone else every day in December.

This year I thought I would step things up a little by running a series of 50% pattern discounts - one per day - for the first 12 days of December.

The final line up is still in draft form but I will probably try to alternate a shawl pattern with a sock pattern. I know that many of you lovely, loyal folk might already have some of the patterns that I offer, so in that case you could always consider having your own random act of kindness event and gifting a discounted copy to a friend. The ever helpful Ravelry makes gifting a pattern really easy and it's always lovely to get a gift message in your Ravelry inbox.

Each day for the first 12 days in December I'll send out a short email notification with the pattern and the discount code and each promotion will run for 24 hrs (please note that I am on GMT, London time). If you don't currently subscribe to my email list - this might tempt you to sign up.

Please feel free to share the code with others and on your own social media - and I'll also announce it via the other usual channels - Instagram, my Facebook page and Twitter. Although I might need a fortifying glass of mulled wine to get all that scheduled.

So, tell a friend, set your reminders and get ready to celebrate a bit of seasonal giving with me. And yes, mulled wine is absolutely encouraged.

Top tips to avoid Facebook overwhelm

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If you are anything like me you belong to a fair number of Facebook Groups and they have a bit of habit of multiplying when you aren't looking - a bit like rabbits.

It's always good to have a bit of a declutter every now and again (whether we are talking about digital clutter or the contents of your knitting bag) and looking at your use of Facebook groups is a good start. A few months ago Facebook discontinued it's Groups App which many people liked to use to avoid being overwhelmed by the Facebook timeline. Since then I've heard a few people say that they miss group posts or they feel overwelmed by the number of notifications they get.

It's a shame to leave a group just because you get too many notifications - after all - the more active a group is the more likely it is to be of benefit to you. So here are a few tips I have found to be helpful to keep on top of Facebook and make it work for you rather than the other way round.

1. Turn off notifications for fast moving posts or ones where you don't want to receive any updates to it. Look for the 3 little dots in the top right corner of the post and tap it to turn off notifications. A case in point, a group member may have a new baby or puppy and you want to like it or add a "congratulations". With the best will in the world though you don't want or need to see notifications from 200 people all saying the same thing. Turning off notifications is perfectly sensible in this case.

This also works for posts you see which you have no interest in (and don't want to see again) or posts that you think might be contentious and you don't want to engage in that particular debate.

2. Turn off notifications for the group altogether. I know of a few people who do this for all their groups - keeping their timeline limited to updates from friends/family, news etc. To do this just go to the groups tab across the top of the page and you can see all the ones you have joined. Select a particular group (it's right click on my Windows PC and press/hold on my android phone) and you see a few different options one of which is to turn off notifications. You are still a member of the group and any time you are ready to interact with the group you just go to the group tab, click on it and you'll see all the recent updates.

3. Browse by "Photos" rather than "Discussion". If the group is a very visual one with lots of photos being posted - the Everyday Knitter Facebook group is a prime example of this with over 75% posts being accompanied by a photo - this can be very helpful. Just select the "Photos" tab at the top of the page. This is really handy if you are trying to track down that elusive cabled sweater you saw someone had posted 2 days ago.

4. Conduct a regular group audit. It's perfectly reasonable to go through your groups every now and again and consider leaving the ones that you haven't visited in the last 2 or 3 months. You can always rejoin if you find that you miss it. Over time you will get a feel for what number of groups is right for you and will know when you are starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. For me I'm in around 30-35 groups but probably only actively participate in 5 or 6. When going through joining requests for the EK Facebook Group I regularly see people who belong to over 500 groups - the mind boggles at how they keep up and I can only assume that most of them have their notifications very firmly turned off.

So, that's my short, sanity-saving list. If you have any top tips for for keeping the Facebook beast under control do hit comments and let me know.

 

Knitting and the gentle art of debate

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In todays whirl of social media where what we see is increasingly filtered to our likes I wonder whether we are, to some extent, losing the art of gentle debate. The to and fro of discussion, the striving to listen and to understand another's point of view or an alternative opinion to our own.

Every so often a topic crops up on the interwebs which is a so-called hot topic. Something that people invariably have strong views on. On both sides. We aren't talking global politics here - although sometimes we are, but even something as seemingly innocuous as charity knitting or the size of one's stash can often raise peoples hackles and cause tension and dissent.

A lot of that seems to stem from the fact that people want to keep their knitting "just for fun" and don't want it "spoilt" by other people who are ruining it for them. The idea that anyone could say something that would "ruin" knitting for me is a little odd though because after all we have the choice in how we respond to other other's opinions.

Discussion of this nature is often followed by calls to keep the group "all about the knitting" but surely that would lead to a fairly bland and homogenous mix of knitwear. Don't get me wrong, I love knitting as much as the next person but wouldn't an endless parade of knitted blankets and shawls with the "lovely" comments be just as boring and annodyne. 

Whoever said that variety is the spice of life had the right idea and we all need a bit of spice every now again to get us thinking and more importantly to get us listening.

In one of the moments of pure serendipity that I just love about the internet, just as I was setting this to 'publish' I was listening to Emma Gannon's podcast Ctrl-Alt-Delete. She had a terrific interview with June Sarpong - British TV presenter who has a new book just out called Diversify. The idea is that we should all take the time to listen to and understand people who are not like us and who don't think the same as us. If we spend time just within our cosy bubble - whether that be politics or knitting - then we never learn anything new and we never change.

 

Death by scarf

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Recently I came across a newbie knitter and I was thrilled to be able to point him (yes, him) in the direction of all things Ravelry related. A quick glance at a few Brooklyn Tweed and TinCan Knits patterns was all it took and he was soon cranking out amazing hats and planning many more ambitious projects with gusto.

One thing that struck me though was the advice he had received from well meaning knitters in his circle of friends who, without exception, had recommended starting with some something simple like a "nice garter stitch scarf".

Now, I don't know about you but the thought of knitting 5 or 6 feet of plain garter stitch is enough to make me run for the hills. Why on earth do we persist in this well meaning advice and not accept that new knitters can handle a multitude of techniques. They don't know if something is 'hard' unless you tell them it is. Circular needles and knitting in the round aren't just the preserve of more experienced knitters. After all, if you can cast on and master the knit stitch you can work a rolled brim, stockinette beanie. Learn the purl stitch and you can add in a ribbed brim. Feel brave and try a cable - the possibilities are endless and sure to be more satisfying than slogging away on a flat, 6 foot garter stitch scarf.

It's been some time since I learnt to knit (putting it mildly) so it can be hard to think back to those scary days when you felt like you had more than your fair share of thumbs, and more awkward than a giraffe on roller skates. But as with so many things in life we learn from doing, not by slogging through an endurance event.

And, in my humble opinion, knitting 6 feet of garter stitch only teaches you about persistence and the strength of the human spirit - very little about knitting. So why not be brave and help a new knitter out - introduce them to some fabulous yarn, decent needles and a peruse of Ravelry. They will be eternally grateful and you could help save them from death by scarf!

 

Hats for Humans - a KAL to make a difference

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A while ago I shared a social media post from Joy (aka The Knitting Goddess) on the pointlessness of the Innocent Smoothie Hats for smoothie bottles as a money raiser for Help the Aged. It generated quite a bit of online debate - always a good thing - and one of the comments that was made really stuck with me. I'm afraid I can't remember who posted the comment but they said that they would rather knit hats for humans than for bottles.

That really struck a chord with me and I found myself returning to it again and again. There was also lots of chatter about a possible KAL (knitalong) over on the Everyday Knitter Facebook Group and so, ever the multitasker, I saw the opportunity to combine two fun things together, and also to do some good at the same time.

So, starting on Nov 1st and running for the whole month I'm kicking off a Hats for Humans KAL. You can knit any design of hat in any size with the proviso that it must be intended for a human (even preemie sizes count - which - heartbreakingly are about the same measurements as for an Innocent smoothie bottle).

What you do with your hats is up to - be they for you, for a loved one or for holiday gifts. But, if you chose to help out another fellow human and donate it to charity then that would be extra special. I will be knitting for Knit for Peace - a fabulous British charity who take year round donations, but you may donate to whatever charity is closest to your heart and which is local to you.

For every hat that is knit and donated to charity I will enter you into a prize draw to win a skein of something special from my stash. To enter all you need to do is to go to the Everyday Knitter Facebook group (join up, if you haven't already) and look for the Hats for Humans spreadsheet at the top of the group. Open up the Google Sheet and add your details. I'm going on a trust-based system here - I won't be checking individual entries. Life is too short and let's face it - you are all lovely people. I'll do the draw at the end of the month and will happily post to wherever you are in the world.

Feel free to chat about your hats in the Facebook group or on social media using the #hatsforhumans hashtag , and I can't wait to see all of your hats.

Added bonus - use British wool and it would totally count for Wovember too!

Celebrating the imperfect

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It's something that I've noticed for a while and it's one of those things that once you've noticed it you see it everywhere. Women belittling their achievements be they large or small. Working in the science sector I'm well used to seeing women overlooked and also overlooking their own achievements but I see it in everyday life too and specifically in knitting.

I've noticed a recent "thing" where women are seemingly happy to show off their latest knitting project but feel compelled to point out its errors and "flaws". Why on earth do we do this to ourselves. Even worse, why do we post something and actively draw attention to it in a sort of "spot the ball" competition.

There's a well known knitting quote which I think is attributed to Elizabeth Zimmerman but has also been used by Stephanie Pearl Mc-Phee to the effect that if the mistake won't be noticed by a man on a galloping horse then it's absolutely fine to leave it. There is a 99% chance that it won't be noticed by anyone be they knitter or non-knitter (known as muggles to you and me).

I have to admit that I'm definitely of the school where frogging or ripping something back to correct a mistake is absolutely a last resort. Even things such as a mis-crossed cable I can generally live with unless it is really 'front and centre'. But whilst I'm happy to live with it I certainly wouldn't go around pointing it out to friends and acquaintances. 

Flaws and imperfections are what makes us human surely? Handmade objects are made with love and care and yes, the odd imperfection (or design element, as I prefer to think of them) is part and parcel of what makes them special. Anyone can have an Aran sweater, but only you will have one with a slightly wibbly cable on the left sleeve.

Worth the Fuss Shawl

Worth The Fuss (WTF) Shawl - sample knit in Eden Cottage Yarns Titus 4ply (Starling)

Worth The Fuss (WTF) Shawl - sample knit in Eden Cottage Yarns Titus 4ply (Starling)

If you've knit the Fuss Free Festival Shawl (and even if you haven't ) this shawl makes a great follow on project if you are looking for something with a little bit more detail. Garter stitch is interspersed with easy-to-count eyelet rows to add texture and interest.

The eyelet rows also have the pleasing effect of increasing the drapiness and maximising the length and depth of shawl that you can get from one skein of 4ply sockweight yarn - ideal for making the most of that precious yarn.

This sample is knit in a precious yarn indeed - Titus 4ply from Eden Cottage yarns in the Starling colourway. If you haven't seen this colourway before keep an eye on Victoria's shop for coming updates (and maybe even sign up to her newsletter to make sure you don't miss it). It's a grey - so of course I love it already - but it has tiny shots of yellow/green/brown - which when viewed as a whole really does remind you of a birds plummage. Its truly stunning and well worth seeking out if you get the chance.

The What The Fuss pattern has a 50% discount from now until the end of October. Just head over to the Ravelry page HERE and use code WTF.

I also have a version on the needles using some beautiful mini skeins which would be an ideal stash buster - so watch this space!

 

Something for the weekend

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After the success of my "cowl in a weekend" project it got me thinking about how I use my time at weekends and how I could make better use of it to focus on things that really matter to me. If you are anything like me, weekends are normally a jumble of doing everything we didn't manage to get done during the week. Add this to the usual hubbub of kids activities, chores and the vague feeling that you should be resting and recuperating for the week ahead - it's no surprise that when Monday rolls around I usually feel like I need another holiday.

Recently I bought the beautiful Making Winter book by Emma Mitchell and I love it's simple premise of focusing on the beauty in small things. Of the power of nature and simple pleasures to lift your spirits and get your thoughts moving in a more positive direction. I decided to do a little comfort baking and made the Plum Blondie recipe from the book. Although of course I never have the right ingredients to hand - so pears and cinnamon were admirable substitutes.

They were delicious and so simple to make. Just a few minutes in the kitchen (well OK - maybe 30 mins - as I had "help" from the kids) and the house was filled with a gratifyingly cakey fug.

Perfect for fuelling my crochet blanket endeavours add I tried to meet my self imposed target of adding 10 stripes this weekend. In the interests of full disclosure I have to add that I only managed 6 (but it still totally counts as progress in my book).

So, I now have a cunning plan for the coming winter months. Each weekend I'm going to try and pick something simple and achievable to do. Something for me, something to make me feel I can sit back and say that I've achieved something positive this weekend. Whether that be baking, whipping up a quick chunky knit or doing a nature walk with the kids. 

If winter is coming - bring it on.

Can you knit a cowl in a weekend?

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I didn't plan to knit a cowl in a weekend, it sort of just happened.

It was Saturday morning and whilst I didn't exactly have all of my weekend knitting plans finely honed I did have a number of things I was keen to make progress on. Then my eye fell on a fairly new addition to my stash. A skein of plump, purple merino DK from the Countess Ablaze yarn club - The Classics Society. A fabulous mix of dark and light purple with the odd jolt of bright blue. 

Before you could say "swift" I had the skein wrapped around my knees to hand wind it and I got it on my needles straight away. I'm not much of a hat person and with only 225m to play with I didn't have enough for a shawl - so I decided to go for a cowl. The Honey Cowl pattern to be precise. I've made a few of these before and it's a lovely fast pattern to knit. And the slip stitches work really well with hand dyed yarn.

It turned out to be the type of project that you just can't put down. Never mind, just one more row, I'd done a couple of inches before it was time to head out for the morning. A quick trip to the local farm shop where I seized the opportunity to buy some lovely home made ready meals (no cooking equals extra knitting time).

Then it was home for the kids to watch a film and me to put my feet up with my Kindle and crack on with my cowl. It really is amazing how much knitting you can get through when you focus on just one thing - and it helps if the yarn is as delicious to work with as this. As soft and plump as a Flump's behind.

There really are very few things to compete with the thrill of being able to face a cold, dark October morning snuggled up in something you have made yourself, with your own two hands. It really is particularly satisfying.

And now I find myself casting around for my next weekend project - matching mitts maybe?

 

Socks with Sprinkles

Socks with Sprinkles

Socks with Sprinkles

There no better way to start Socktober than by launching a new sock pattern. This one is a cuff down design which strikes a balance between a plain vanilla, easy sock and something with a bit more interest.

The columns of the slipped stitch cable are designed to work really well with a speckled yarn. The longer slipped stitches allow little pops of colour to really shine and they provide for endless entertainment - or maybe I'm just easily amused.

There's no reason at all that you couldn't use a plainer yarn too but in my experience even the most colour phobic of sock recipients loves a bit of a tweedy fleck.

This design also offers something you may not have tried before - a garter stitch short row heel. I know that a lot of people like more stretch than you normally find in a short row heel but garter stitch as that extra bit of stretch and "cushiness". If you don't normally get in with short row heels this might be worth a try. Or you could always just substitute your regular heel option if you prefer.

The pattern is available to purchase on Ravelry, and if you use code SPRINKLES at the checkout you will get 50% off the purchase price (until the end of the month).

 

 

 

Socktober

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October really seems to have crept up on me this year and I can't quite believe we are in to Socktober already. Particularly bad planning on my part as I have 2 shawl patterns on the needles and an alpaca cardigan to finish.

I can't leave the day unmarked though so I'll be raiding my stash and casting on a new pair before the day is out. Even if they don't get finished for a while at least they will be on the needles.

Over on the Everyday Knitter Facebook group our monthly challenge is of course related to socks. There are a few sock novices who will be taking the plunge with their very first pair, as well as more experienced sock knitters who are setting themselves all manner of fun challenges. A tiny bit of my brain (the bit that is wildly over enthusiastic and fuelled by coffee) thought about trying to knit as many pairs as I could this month. Then, thankfully the more rational bit of my brain pointed to the aftermentioned knitting pile in progress and suggested that this might not be one of my better ideas.

Anyway, whatever your level of sock expertise I do hope you'll pop over to the group to join in. Even if you just lurk I hope you will pick up lots of ideas for inspiration and share our love for the way of the handknit sock.

Be all there

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I don't remember where it was that I first came across this quote from the missionary Jim Elliot but I've found myself coming back to it more and more in recent weeks. It serves a reminder that sometimes we just need to focus on one thing and really enjoy it, rather than trying to do too many things at once.

I write every day, I love writing and I love writing about knitting so that naturally translates into writing here about my daily life, my knitting and my passions. As a card carrying introvert though, when things start to get a little sticky my natural inclination is to withdraw from the outside world. I still write every day but the words never see the light of day. I chose to keep them to myself rather than share something which is a little bit more downbeat and a little bit more personal than the stuff I usually choose to share.

I know that we can't always be relentlessly cheerful and indeed there is no expectation to be so - other than the expectations we place on ourselves.

But recent weeks found me increasingly unable to do everything I wanted to do and I was guilty of the eternal problem of trying to do everything, to please everyone and to be everywhere - all at the same time.

Fortunately, my ever loving husband is getting pretty good at intervening now and he saw the signs of a bit of a melt down before I did. As a result we changed our plans and decided not to go to Yarndale. Instead we still headed north but just to visit family and to spend time offline.

It never fails to amaze me what a difference a change of scenery makes. A chance for some fresh air, country walks and the sight of hills and stone walls. I live in the south of England but I was born and raised in the North and there is something really welcoming and about coming home and reconnecting to a landscape and a scenery that makes you feel at peace again.

So, this week it's back to normal. Lots on the needles and lots to write about but this time with a few self imposed rules to help me stay on track. No phone after 9pm and a proper bedtime routine being the key things. It's funny but they are things I'm so insistent that our kids do - but yet I don't apply the same rules to myself. And then I wonder why they are bright eyed and bushy tailed whilst I'm steaming my eyelids open over a cup of coffee.

So, if you "see" me on Twitter after 9pm you have my full permission to give me a gentle telling off.

Why pattern sharing is wrong!

Fuss Free Festival Shawl

Fuss Free Festival Shawl

Pattern sharing is theft!

There we go. A simple statement but one which I absolutely stand behind. In some circles I am aware that this might be greeted with a sharp intake of breath and sideways looks but as a designer who makes a sizeable chunk of her monthly income from direct pattern sales I feel compelled to point it out in no uncertain terms.

I was somewhat taken aback the other day to receive a private Facebook message asking me to copy a pattern I was using and post it to the messenger. They assured me they were more than happy to pay for postage to cover my expenses. In fact, now that I think about it, the request wasn't even couched in terribly polite, or apologetic tones. There was no "would you mind terribly..." or "I'm so sorry to bother you but..." Just a simple request that I copy the pattern and post it to them please.

I don't recall exactly what I said in response but I think I was polite (just) and firm in my assertion that I support the copyright of the original designer - whose published works are freely available for purchase.

It got me thinking though about the way that designers work these days and that maybe there might be a gap in perception between what indie designers do and how they earn their keep as compared to the big commercial yarn companies.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that there is a significant difference between a large commercial yarn company who produces patterns almost as a loss leader to support the yarn the pattern was created for. Indeed, not too many years ago there was a yarn shop near my parents house who would refuse to sell you a pattern unless you bought the accompanying yarn with which to make said pattern. The large companies almost certainly treat the patterns they produce this way, if not as disposable assets, but at least of secondary importance to their main aim - which is the sale of the yarn.

In the world of indie designers things are very different. The majority of us sell our patterns direct to the public, often via a 3rd party such as Ravelry or Love Knitting. Once Paypal, Ravelry fees and VAT are deducted that money is ours to do with as we will, whether that's to invest in new charting software, pay website fees or get the cat wormed!

For every £5 pattern sale we lose through someone 'sharing' a pattern with a friend that's money taken directly from our monthly income.

The issue which really got my goat from the original request was that the person concerned was more than willing, anxious even, to reimburse me for my time and expense is sending the pattern, but didn't give a second thought that the person who put all the hard work into designing and writing the pattern didn't deserve any recompense at all.

Like all things, it comes down to education. The more we educate people about how independent designers work and the more they come to appreciate the help and support they can get from the independent community then hopefully, they will be more prepared to support us in future.

 

Knitting and the gender wars

Pattern is Autumn Leaves by Nikky Van De Car

Pattern is Autumn Leaves by Nikky Van De Car

Unless you've been living under a rock in the UK this week you can't but help have heard the social media rumpus that followed an announcement by major retailer John Lewis. It was nothing earth shattering, nothing ground breaking. Just a simple statement that they were relabelling their children's clothing ranges and would from now on have a gender-neutral range.

To those parents who would dearly like to buy little dresses for their girls with dinosaur prints on, or trains this was welcome and long overdue news. I am parent to two boys but as someone who feels strongly about this issue I'm not averse to reorganizing the clothing racks in department stores and relocating the Space/Science themed T shorts into the "girls" section.

To others though, this move signals the end of the world and that time honoured catchphrase "Political correctness gone mad". Twitter feeds full of rabid, ranting objections and ill-informed opinion abounds. Those who are so quick to label others for taking offence seem to have gone off the deep end and are claiming to be morally outraged that the "left wing PC brigade" are trying to force little Tommy into a dress and won't be happy until the mandatory wearing of fairies and glitter is enforced across the genders.

As a child of the 70s this is all quite amusing. The vast majority of my clothing was bright primary colours (well the bit that wasn't brown corduroy, anyway) and much of it was unisex - often handed down from family and friends. Quite when we started to segregate Mothercare into pink and blue I'm not entirely sure, but surely it can't hurt to give people - and their children - choices.

As knitters ( and also as crafters, sewists etc) this debate can rage on but we are safe in the knowledge that we can create whatever we want. If we want to make a tunic dress for a little girl with a dinosaur motif or a rocket we can. If we want to make a rainbow coloured sweater for a little boy, we can. Our only constraints are our imagination and our budgets.

As an aside, I'll share an anecdote from a few weeks ago. I made a little purple cardigan ages ago and finally a baby girl arrived in the family who I could gift it to. I shared a photo on social media and some of the comments were pretty funny to me. Lots of comments along the lines of "oh, what an unusual colour for a girl". I truely hadn't given it a moments thought that it was in any way a controversial colour. I love purple and it goes with a ton of other colours. It's also dark enough to hide a multitude of baby-related stains and it was superwash yarn that I had in my stash - win, win.

After consulting with a few knitting friends it seemed that they had also experienced similar reactions. Some family members seemed to be of the firm opinion that it was one step away from pink and thus wholly unsuitable for boys. Equally others felt that it strayed dangerously close to blue territory and could not therefore be countenanced by baby girls.

How strange. That a colour can provoke such interesting reactions. So if a purple cardigan can cause ructions I guess it's no surprise that a dinosaur dress has people talking. The John Lewis PR department must be jubilant.

For me though, this whole debate is clearly missing the wider issue. Never mind about pink for boys or purple for girls. There is an urgent and pressing need to readdress the Great Pockets Divide. Now I know there is no rational reason why a baby boy need pockets - what after all is a 3 month old going to stuff in there? But why should baby girls trousers not have them? And for busy pre-schoolers who lets face it, have a wealth of interesting uses for pockets, why should little girls be denied them.

And don't even get me started on women's clothing. For me one of the chief selling points of a dress or skirt (beyond the fact that it's machine washable and non crease) is that it has pockets.

So bugger the colour or the print, let's start a campaign for Pockets For All. Or failing that we can just make them outselves.