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

How to knit on tiny circular needles

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I'm a huge fan of knitting in the round -socks, sleeves and pretty much anything I can do on circular needles I will. I tend to mainly use magic loop but for travel knitting where elbow space is limited or where I need to be able to drop my knitting at a moment's notice (and not miss my stop) I tend to use tiny circular needles.

I generally use the 23cm (9”) diameter ones - these particular ones are Addi sock rockets but other brands also do them.

I often get asked how I knit with them and so I thought I would note down a few tips and pointers to help get you started.

The first thing to say is that they aren't everyone's cup of tea. Some people love them, some hate them and that's entirely fine. We all have our preferred ways of knitting.

  • Give it time - it will feel strange at first and that’s OK. Give yourself time to adjust to the new sensations, how they feel in your hands.

  • Relax your grip - I tend to hold my needles quite tightly anyway but I found that with tiny circulars it really does help to loosen the death grip a bit. Not only will your fingers cramp less but it will feel a lot more comfortable

  • Try to use the tips of your fingers - this can be tricky if your knitting style means that you tend to rest the needles on your palms usually. Keep movements small and light - again trying to keep a light hold on the needle tips as you guide the yarn really helps.

I’ve heard it said that it’s easier to master tiny circular needles if you are a “thrower” rather than a “picker/Continental style”. I’m not sure if there’s any truth to that as I can knit both ways and both seem equally comfortable.

One thing I would say is that unlike with magic loop or DPNs, there is no natural pause whilst you are knitting. There is no point in proceedings where you have to stop to rearrange your stitches or needles. That’s great from the point of view of efficiency but it does mean that you need to make a conscious effort to stop and stretch your hand muscles from time to time.

Many people complain of hand cramps when using small circulars but I find that a short stretch every 10 minutes or so is really helpful. The Loopy Ewe published a short series of ‘Exercises for Knitters’ a while ago which is really useful if you are interested.

Anyway, I hope these few pointers help you to overcome your fear of the tiny circs and give them a go - do let me know if you do try them. I’d love to know what you think.


PIN FOR LATER

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Abundance vs scarcity mindset

Photo by  Jessica Lewis  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

At first glance this seems like an odd topic for a knitting blog but bear with me for a minute. A recent conversation over on The Little Chapters podcast with Jessica Rose Williams and Kayte Ferris of Simple and Season really resonated with me and had me reaching for my journal. They were discussing what a mindset of abundance is and how it translates into everyday life. Simply put it’s a way of saying that you are a ‘glass half full’ kind of person. You see the world as having unlimited resources, you are happy to share knowledge and information and a firm believer in the concept that a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’.

The opposite is a mindset of scarcity where you view resources as being scarce, finite, that information is something to be guarded, not to be shared for fear that there won’t be ‘enough’ of whatever it is to go around. It’s important to say that this isn’t a real, physical scarcity but a way of looking at the world. It isn’t related to what you actually have or don’t have but instead it’s what you perceive.

The more I thought about it the more I realised that this explains a lot about the differing attitudes I see amongst knitters online. Sometimes you share a pattern or a photo and people respond with compliments and generally nice things. Often though comes the inevitable “pattern please?” Or “what yarn?” from people who seem to view the online world purely as a means for acquiring their own personalised knowledge bank. And in these circumstances my first thought is often “why?

We all live in an age where patterns are freely and abundantly available. In fact in our own libraries (online and physical) I’m willing to bet most of us already own enough patterns to keep us busy until we have to hang up the needles. Why the endless pursuit of yet more patterns? Designers aren’t suddenly going to shut up shop and stop designing any more than yarn dyers are going to hang up their gloves and retire and yet it seems like many of us are engaged in the relentless pursuit of more - more patterns, more yarn…

Trying to track down every last pattern and every beautifully dyed skein of yarn is the classic example of a scarcity mindset. And often doomed to disappointment when you realise that the beautiful sweater pattern you love is only available in a language you can’t read, or that the hand-dyed skein of yarn was a one-off and no longer available, or that the cost of shipping to your country is prohibitive.

When you view the situation from a place of abundance you can see that there are always going to be brand new, fabulous patterns parading in front of you. Yes, it’s a fabulous pattern you right now but if you check your Ravelry library you find that you already have a few that are very similar in design. Dyers are always going to be creating new and wonderful colourways - that what makes our creative industry such a special place to be. But we can’t possibly track down every one - nor would we have the means to do so.

This also fits into some thoughts I’m having right now about sustainability and the ways that we can limit the impact that our craft has on the environment. Something about the scarcity mindset seems to feed into this desire to always want to knit the next big thing, to always want to have yarn from whatever dyer is popular right now. I’m fully aware that as a designer myself this is a complete dichotomy and I have no easy answers - just a lot of swirling contradictory thoughts.

But for now I’m working on my thinking. I’ve always very much been a ‘glass half full’ kind of person but there are definitely things I can do more of to develop a mindset of abundance - there are a few articles I’ve found really helpful with this and I’ve listed them below.

What do you think? Is this something you’ve ever thought about - do tell me in the comments or on social media, I’d love to know.

Further links

What is abundant thinking?

10 steps to develop an abundance mindset


Super Sock Snake

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This blog post could also be titled “How to Knit a Sock Snake” - or indeed -why you would want to do such a thing.

Now, you know me - I love a bit of knitting efficiency and I like to knit socks in those spare in-between moments of travel and general hanging around. A recent long train journey meant that I got a bit carried away with the toe-up socks I was knitting. I normally knit around a 16” tube if I’m going to be adding a cuff and an afterthought heel but on this occasion I was engrossed in my Kindle, sipping my coffee and knitting away.

It was only when I got to my destination that I realised that I had in fact knitted close to 22” - practically the foot of sock number 2.

I was absolutely not going to rip out 6” of perfectly good sock so I decided to make a virtue out of a necessity and carry on to make a long sock snake. I had seen someone else on Instagram do this a while ago and the idea had stuck with me since then.

So many people asked about it that I said I would write it up as a short tutorial and will also link it to a free pattern page on Ravelry for those that want to knit a sock snake of their very own. You can find the Ravelry tutorial here.

Step 1: knit your snake.

For toe-up socks (8-9” foot circumference, 4ply yarn and 2.25mm needles) I cast on 24 sts using Judy’s magic cast on - 12 on each needle - and work a standard sock toe with increases on alternate rows (to 64 sts). Then knit, and knit...and knit some more. I knit until the tube measured 31” from the cast on and then added a second toe at the other end.

Step 2: divide your snake in half and decide where you are going to snip.

I like to fold the sock flat and pick the midway point - mark it with a pin. Then unfold it and lay it flat in front of you. Using a tapestry needle and waste yarn, slide 1 full round of stitches onto the waste yarn. Repeat with a second length of yarn - leaving one round between each lifeline

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Step 3: Snip (it sounds less scary than cut)

Once your stitches are secure on your two lifelines they can’t go anywhere. Using sharp scissors - snip a stitch in between the two lines and gently unravel the yarn - I like to use the tip of the tapestry needle. Continue around the whole sock until your sock snake becomes 2 shorter snakes.

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Step 4: Add cuffs

Return the live stitches to needles, join in your chosen yarn and add cuffs to the two tubes

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Step 5: Add afterthought heels

Using the same lifeline process - just across 32 stitches though - add in afterthought heels.

And hey presto - 2 separate socks.


PIN FOR LATER

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Love your LYS

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This article was previously published in May 2018

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 isn’t 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 alternative 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 10 pm 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 is Yarn Shop Day this coming weekend, 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.

How to avoid 'ears' on toe-up socks

An ‘ear-free’ sock toe

An ‘ear-free’ sock toe

It’s such a tiny thing to worry about in the greater scheme of things, I know. But if you’ve ever been annoyed by that tiny sticky-out ear that you sometimes get when you start a sock toe, then this tip might help you.

I’ve been starting socks this way for so long that I can’t remember where I heard it first. It might have been either via Paula of the Knitting Pipeline podcast, or Susan B Anderson - both fabulous sock knitting gurus.

It’s ludicrously simple to do - you just need to unlearn the first piece of advice you were ever given as a new knitter and don’t start with a slip knot. It is this tiny knit which sticks out in the fabric, no matter how tightly you try to pull it and gives that annoying little lump on the very outside part of the toe.

Don’t use a slip knot when casting on

Don’t use a slip knot when casting on

Instead of tying a slip knot, just drape the yarn over the needle and then arrange the yarn as you would do normally for a Judy’s magic cast on - yarn tail over index finger and the end nearest to the yarn ball around your thumb.

You might find it helpful to give a twist to the yarn before you start casting on - just to anchor it and give you something firmer to knit into on the first row. But once you’ve got that first fiddly stitch into the loose loop out of the way it’s plain sailing.

No, tiny knot and no annoying sock ears!

Do give it a go and let me know what you think.

PIN FOR LATER


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Of socks and mice...

Precious Metals Socks - photo by kind permission of Anna-Maja (agrajag42 on Ravelry)

Precious Metals Socks - photo by kind permission of Anna-Maja (agrajag42 on Ravelry)

Sometimes I think I should really write a book - Tales of a Hapless Knitter perhaps.

Let me set the scene. A freshly washed and blocked pair of socks ready to be photographed for their moment of Ravelry stardom. They are also on a freshly washed clean white duvet cover but let’s ignore that for now. Our hapless knitter pops out for groceries and returns intending to take the necessary photographs and get her sock pattern up on Ravelry pronto.

Imagine the wails of dismay when she sees the carnage that has ensued in her absence. A certain black and white cat who goes by the wholly feminine and unsuitable name of Blossom, has brought her latest rodent find into the bedroom and proceeded to use said socks as a tablecloth for her feast.

I’ll spare you the sight but use your imagination on this one. It’s safe to say that a photo of the scene wouldn’t entice anyone into buying a sock pattern, not unless they have a particular interest in rodent anatomy.

But never fear, my lovely email subscribers are fellow KAL-ers came to the rescue with offers of project photos (as well as sympathy for the damaged socks). Thanks to their kindness the pattern is now up on Ravelry for your purchasing pleasure, without a hint of rodent massacre.

So this pattern is brought to you almost literally by blood, sweat and tears - and also the lovely photo taken by Anna-Maja (agrajag42 on Ravelry)

You can find the Precious Metals Socks pattern here - and you’ll also find a chastened cat banished to the kitchen,

Stripy socks and a celebration

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That feeling of new socks never gets old does it?
No matter how things are going or how bad your day, you can pull on your freshly finished pair, wiggle your toes and feel instantly so much cheerful - and not a little bit smug.

I knit these as a long sock snake with a toe at each end, and then snipped to add cuffs/heels. After lots of questions on the way I did these I’ll be doing a blog post on it later in the week but for now you can hop over to my Instagram Stories highlights where I’ve saved a short photo tutorial for you.

It also seems appropriate to wear new socks for the launch of my new Comfort Blanket KAL today. You can find all the details here but basically this is an 8 week KAL combining pattern ideas/recipes for a Mitered Square blanket with self care tips and suggestions along the way.

If that sounds right up your street or you are in need of #ablankettohideunder please do think about joining us, and if you have any questions fire away. I’d love to have you on board.

Comfort Blanket KAL

Well, that escalated quickly.

So many of you were so enthusiastic about me running a Comfort Blanket KAL that I dived in with both feet and have now got the pattern page up on Ravelry and ready for your purchasing pleasure.

For a serial prevaricator like me you’ve no idea how unusual this course of events is. I can dither for weeks sometimes before hitting the Ravelry publish button.

The KAL kicks off on Monday 8th April and will run for 8 weeks, but please don’t worry. I’m not expecting you to knit a blanket in 8 weeks, I promise.

Each Monday, you’ll get a pattern update on Ravelry and it will alternate between a pattern for a particular mitered square, and self-care tips and suggestions. On Ravelry at the minute there is a pre-KAL Information sheet available for download after purchase. That just sets out the key dates for your diary and gives you a bit more information on the closed Facebook group for the KAL and some basic information on yarn/needles.

If you’d like to find out more I’ve summarised it HERE

And if you are ready to jump in and join me for the most gentle of KALs - just click HERE

Any questions? Just drop me a quick email and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.

A blanket to hide under

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Yesterday I did something that I don’t normally do, and posted an off the cuff and deeply personal caption on my Instagram feed. I do normally try to ‘keep it real’ and be authentic there as much as possible but like most people (I suspect) I do heavily filter what I chose to share (and to not share) with the world.

Yesterday though I admitted that I’ve been really struggling with anxiety lately. Partly due to personal circumstances, partly due to the uncertainty and political turmoil of the whole Brexit saga - it’s hard to stay positive in a world where you seem to be bombarded with horrible divisive rhetoric everywhere you turn.

My salvation, as ever is in my knitting and that probably explains why my favourite thing to knit right now are mahoosive garter stitch mitered squares. No thought required, just pretty yarn and soothing stitches.

So many people got in touch yesterday to share their anxieties and their coping strategies that it turned what started off as a pretty dark day into something much more positive, more upbeat, more manageable.

Jokingly we discussed the idea of knitting your own survival blanket - anyone else remember making a blanket fort as a child? And so, obviously my crafting little brain went off at a tangent.

As the Precious Metals Socks KAL is drawing to a close my thoughts turned to the possibility of a very gentle, no-pressure, blanket KAL - think soothing garter stitch, think squares of different sizes, think about an adaptable, flexible pattern (or recipe maybe?) where you can just relax and enjoy creating for the sake of it. Whether you decide to make a cushion cover, lap blanket or full-on “hide from the world” blanket.

I’d like to do this one a little differently though and my ideas are still sketchy so bear with me. First up, there would be a charge for this KAL as I would like to run it more as a community based event, with a closed Facebook group and maybe with a yarn swap component. The pattern will be purchased via Ravelry and purchase will give you access to the weekly prompts/pattern downloads and the Facebook group. The actual KAL itself will run for about 8 weeks with a weekly email from me. I’ll alternate the emails so that one week you’ll receive a weekly pattern/recipe for a mitered square (along with tips and tricks for a neat finish) and the following week you’ll receive some ideas for self-care and mindfulness. I’d also like to use the KAL to raise money for charity, so from each purchase I’ll be donating a fixed amount to Mind - the mental health charity.

So what do you think? If it sounds like something you might be interested in please click the link here to express an interest and as soon as I have more information you’ll be the first to know.

When is a hobby not a hobby?

Beginnings of a mitered square blanket - yes, another one :)

Beginnings of a mitered square blanket - yes, another one :)

I listened to The Little Chapters podcast yesterday - a fabulous newish podcast with Kayte of  @simpleandseason and @jessicarosewilliams and they were discussing hobbies - and more specifically the pressure that people feel to monetise their hobbies, in an age where everyone seems to have or aspire to have a side hustle. And it really got me thinking, from a knitting (and general craft) perspective.

So many times I’ve heard people say to me (or to other crafters), “Oh, you should totally sell those” referring to whatever handmade item you happen to be working on at the time. Now obviously, it’s a lovely compliment to pay someone, to say that their loving handmade item is “good enough” to attract a price tag. The problem is that such people - often non-crafters - are woefully lacking in information regarding the time and the cost of materials needed to make anything more than a simple chunky knit beanie. And even then, good wool doesn’t come cheap. There are very few people who can make a living wage from selling handknit items, and nor should people feel that they have to.

There’s nothing wrong with knitting just for the joy and pleasure it brings you. There should be no pressure to somehow “be productive” or to be judged for what others feel is a meaningful use of your time.

It doesn’t just happen with handknitted items. How many times on a social media platform have you seen someone excitedly share a new project - something that they have made up, or been inspired to create. All too often such posts are greeted with a barrage of "pattern please" or "you should write that up". Blithely ignoring the many hours of work it would take to do that. Not least the expectation that, that person should put in hours of work just to help someone else make something. Yes, of course it is a compliment of sorts but it also comes from a place of entitlement - that someone else should put in the effort (and in the case of pattern writing that’s a heck of a lot of effort) in order to benefit themselves.

That lead me to thinking about the way some people approach social media in general - some from a mindset of abundance and some from a mindset of scarcity - but that’s a post for another day.

As you can see, one small podcast episode can set off a whole chain of thoughts and that’s what I really love about The Little Chapters. Kayte and Jess chat freely about a whole range of topics - to do with being self-employed, running a business, mindfulness, slow-living. They are brilliantly down to earth and never fail to say something during the podcast that makes me say “ooooh….” and reach for my notebook. Do give them a listen - I’d love to hear what you think.