Shawls for spring

 From left: Worth the Fuss shawl, Fuss Free Festival shawl, KISS shawl.

From left: Worth the Fuss shawl, Fuss Free Festival shawl, KISS shawl.

After what seems like the longest winter ever, I am thrilled to see that here in the UK it does finally seem as though Spring has arrived. We actually have some warm sunshine today which is so very welcome after what feels like weeks of mist, fog and grey gloom. Of course, as is always the way, it's also the day that the kids go back to school after the Easter break - c'est la vie.

I don't know about you but spring always makes me think of shawls. They make for such great layering and transition pieces. With our ever changeable weather here in the UK it can be a guessing game trying to decide what to wear each day and a scarf or light shawl can provide a perfect layer of additional warmth and then then be tucked into your bag as the day warms up. Providing warmth without the commitment (and potential heat exhaustion prospects ) of a full on knitted sweater.

I'm always amazed when I hear of knitters who have never knitted or shawl or who "don't get them". There still remains a perception that shawls are for "old ladies" and for many people the word shawl conjures up images of a large, woollen triangular affair, possibly with a fringe. Wrapped around the shoulders of dear, sweet, grey-haired old lady.

In fact, one glance at the work of Stephen West for example should be enough to dispel this myth forever. Bright, colourful, and exuberant. His designs are the antithesis of the traditional image and like anything in knitting are infinitely adaptable to fit your own wardrobe and aesthetic. So for the next few weeks I'm going to be celebrating my love of shawls in all their wondrous variety. I'm going to be looking at shawl shapes, different construction methods and also some all important styling tips on how to wear your beautiful creations.

If you have a shawl related question or something you have always struggled with please do let me know. Just leave a comment below or pop over to the Facebook Group join in the discussion there.

And just to celebrate the arrival of my favourite (if fickle) season, I've set up a discount code in my Ravelry store. Just use code SPRING for 25% off the price of 3 of my most popular shawl designs: Worth the Fuss, Fuss Free Festival Shawl and the KISS shawl.

In the meantime I couldn't leave you without a message from the man himself. If you haven't seen this before please make sure you aren't watching on public transport in case of accidental guffaws. He is priceless and his attitude to shawl wearing is something I think we can all aspire to.

The items my knitting bag can't live without

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If you are anything like me, the bottom of your knitting bag is a sort of graveyard of previous projects with discarded ball bands and snack wrappers. But there are a few constants that I always have about my knitterly person and I firmly believe that you should too.

HIYA HIYA SNIPS - known affectionately as "Puppy Snips" in our household. These are a firm favourite of mine and I have acquired several pairs now. I love that fact that you can attach them to your bag zipper using the handy little chain and the fact that the tiny blade makes them perfectly airline friendly.

WASTE YARN - you never know when you might need to pop in a lifeline or slide your stitches on to waste yarn. I once had a needle break on me in mid-train journey and being able to safely catch the stitches on a length of waste yarn saved much swearing and cursing later on. I really like to carry a small package of dental floss for this - not only is the thread suitably thin and smooth for most yarn types but the integral cutting blade can also be persuaded to cut yarn and can replace your scissors in a travel emergency.

STITCH MARKERS - Although I can make do with loops of waste yarns I always have a few spare stitch markers knocking about. I like to have a few of the lockable markers too - the ones you can clip and unclip. These are really handy for catching up an errant dropped stitch or for marking the right side of your work.

PENCIL and PAPER - As a designer I'm supposed to say at this point that I always have a pretty notepad and pen to hand to jot down design notes or to keep track of a pattern. Sometimes I do, but more often I seem to end up with a random till receipt and a biro. Not exactly as pretty from an Instagram point of view but definitely an essential.

TIN OF HAND CREAM - I always have dry hands and have amassed quite a collection of solid lotion bars, or ones in tins. I tend to avoid anything in tubes after a rather unpleasant leakage episode.

So, those are my must have items - do let me know what your essentials are. I'd love to know.

PIN FOR LATER

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How to knit from a sock blank

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What on earth is a sock blank I hear you ask? Simply put, it is a machine knitted flat piece of fabric which you then unravel and knit with. It really is that straightforward. Rather than knitting from a ball or skein or yarn you unravel the yarn as you go and knit with it.

This always baffles my husband. "So you are taking a piece of knitting, and turning it back into knitting?" was his puzzled query when I showed him what I was doing. "Why on earth would you do that?". But he has been around knitters long enough to know not to argue and to accept that we are ingenious souls who come up with all manner of intriguing solutions.

By applying the dye to a flat piece of knitted fabric rather than the actual strands of yarn themselves, dyers can produce a fabulous range of colours and effects that would be very hard to achieve otherwise. A gradient-dyed yarn is much more straightforward to produce from dyeing a sock blank than it is to apply a gradient to a continuous 400m length of yarn, for example. Hand dyers can really go to town and have fun with the dye pots and then, as knitters, we get the inestimable joy of knitting with it, straight from the fabric. There is no winding or caking needed. 

The first thing to is to unroll the fat sausage-like sock blank and check if it is a double layer of fabric or a single layer. If it is a double layer it means that you can knit two socks at the same time (should you want to - don't worry - it isn't compulsory). If it is a single layer you will need to knit one sock at a time. Please don't try to unravel from both ends of a single layer - that way madness lies. The sock blank has a right end to pull the yarn from and a wrong end - it will quickly become apparent when you give an experimental tug and unravel a metre or two.

If you do have a double stranded sock blank and you want to knit with just one strand at once you will need to come up with a solution for dealing with the other strand as you work. Either wind each strand off separately into 2 balls before you start or wind the other yarn around a bobbin (or similar) as you work. If you aren't sure, check with the dyer before buying to make sure you get a sock blank that will work for the project you have in mind.

And that's really all there is to it. Unravel the yarn for a metre or so and cast on. The yarn will have the characteristic "kinky" appearance that you get from unravelled yarn and to be honest it can take a bit of getting used to, but the fun you will have from watching the colours play before your eyes will more than make up for it.

Do I need to reskein and soak the yarn to remove the kinks?

This is a matter of personal preference. For me, I'm quite happy to knit as it is but if you know that this would drive you mad then by all means then you can wind the yarn into a skein, soak, dry and then rewind. The only time that I have done this with a sock blank is when I was knitting from a beautiful single layer of rainbow gradient yarn for my Fuss Free Festival Shawl. Because I was knitting at quite a loose gauge (on 4mm needles) the kinkiness gave an unevenness to the garter stitch fabric that I didn't really care for and it didn't fully go away after blocking. Normally when you are knitting socks, the much tighter gauge used tends to eliminate this problem and any slight unevenness in the fabric is normally undetectable after the socks have been washed and worn.

Have I tempted you? If you do decide to go ahead and try a sock blank do let me know.

PIN FOR LATER

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How to knit an afterthought heel

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If you follow me on social media you will more than likely know that I'm a huge fan of the afterthought heel and indeed it is one of my favourite classes to teach. Every time I post an image on the subject though it generates a lot of comment and interest and so I thought I would do my best to summarise how I go about inserting a true afterthought heel.

There are also methods which involve knitting in a strand of waste yarn at the point where the heel is to go. This can then be removed from the sock tube and the live stitches placed onto your needles. Confusingly this may also be referred to as an afterthought heel when in fact it is really a Forethought heel - you need to know in advance where your heel is going to go. As you are merrily knitting your sock tube it isn't always possible to stop and try it on or otherwise determine where to place the heel - think crowded train carriage or dark cinema. For these and other reasons I vastly prefer the true afterthought heel.

For this you will need:

  • Your completed sock tube. I prefer to knit both socks and put in the heels at the same time.
  • 3 DPNs - I prefer wooden DPNs with sharp tips
  • 1 lockable stitch marker
  • 1 tapestry needle
  • Sharp scissors
  • Tape measure
 1. Work out where to put the heel

1. Work out where to put the heel

Try the sock on and pull it firmly up the leg. Find your ankle bone on the inside of your foot and trace an imaginary line with your finger down to the sole (underside of your foot). Mark this point with a removable stitch marker. It is normally about 2-2.5" from the back of your heel.

 2. Start to pick up stitches

2. Start to pick up stitches

Take the sock off, lay it flat being sure to have the toe flat - your heel needs to align with the toe - and starting at one side of the sock start to insert a DPN tip into the first leg of each stitch from the row you have marked with your stitch marker (self striping yarn can be helpful here as, often you can follow the line of a colour change).

Work your way across, take your time being sure to pick up the leg of each stitch until you have half the number of stitches of your total sock circumference. eg. for a 64st sock I would pick up 32st. I find that wooden DPNs are easier to use as they are more flexible but this is personal preference.

Once you have 1 line of stitches picked up repeat the process on the 2nd row below your first DPN. You will end up with stitches on 2 DPNs separated by 1 row of knitted stitches.

 3. Identify where to start snipping

3. Identify where to start snipping

Insert a tapestry needle into the leg of one stitch in the middle of that row and pull it up firmly to make a loop. Take a deep breath and snip that loop. Now breathe out and slowly start to unpick the loose thread you have created on each side of the fabric.

 4. Start to snip!

4. Start to snip!

Keep going all the way across until you have 2 DPNs each with 32 (or your chosen number) stitches on them and two curly strands of yarn at either end. These ends can be woven in later. I normally tie them in a knot with the working yarn to keep the tension even. I then untie them and darn them in at the end.

 5. With all stitches present and correct

5. With all stitches present and correct

It happens to the best of us. During the picking up of stitches if you find that you have missed a stitch and you have one loose, just secure it with a lockable stitch marker and slip it back on the needle as you knit that row.

Use your locking stitch markers to capture any strays

Now, just reattach your working yarn and start decreasing as you would for a toe. Essentially you are knitting a 2nd toe in the middle of your sock. My preferred way of doing this is:

Rnd 1: ssk (sl 1 knitwise, sl 1 purlwise, k those 2 tog tbl), k to last 3 st, k2tog, k1. Repeat on 2nd DPN

Rnd 2: k

You may come across the odd stitch which is aligned back to front on the needle, if that happens simple knit it through the back loop to correct it.

Repeat Rnds 1 and 2 until you have decreased the total number of stitches by half. For my 64st sock this would be 2 DPNs each holding 16st. Try on the sock at this point and check the fit. If you need to do a few more rounds you can continue 1 or 2 more decrease rounds.

Finally - use Kitchener stitch to graft the heel closed, exactly as you would do a toe.

Weave in all the ends and do a happy dance in your new socks! Take a photograph to show me (tag it with #louisetilbrookdesigns)  - I'd love to see your finished heels :)

 

Important email changes

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This isn't a very exciting topic I fear, but in light of upcoming changes to the rules around email subscriptions it is a necessary one. You may have already heard about something called GDPR which is the new EU data privacy law.

It regulates how personal data of EU citizens can be collected and used by businesses, and speaking from a consumer point of view it is a fabulous and long overdue piece of legislation. As a business though it does present certain challenges in order to ensure that we stay compliant with the new rules.

Fortunately I use Mailchimp to hold all of my subscriber information and they have been fantastically proactive in putting efficient systems in plcae behind the scenes. What I will be doing though is making doubly sure that everyone who has signed up to my mailing list is still happy to be there.

My email list is a year or two old now and things change, people move on and folks who signed up a while ago may no longer be interested, and that's totally fine. We all love a good digital declutter from time to time and I am no exception.

Later on this week I'll send out a really important email asking to you to hit reply and confirm whether you would like to stay on my mailing list. Please note that this requires a positive confirmation - under the new law businesses can't assume consent, or take no response as a sign of consent. 

If you want to stay subscribed - and I hope you do - please hit the reply button. If not, you don't need to do a thing, your email address will be automatically removed and permanently deleted from the system.

Apologies for the lack of knitting in this post - I promise to resume normal service with my next post - but I just wanted to make you aware so that you can be on email alert.

 

Yarn with a mind of its own

 Yarn is Manos del Uruguay, Allegria. Colouway Orchid.

Yarn is Manos del Uruguay, Allegria. Colouway Orchid.

After wrangling a new sock yarn purchase for most of the afternoon and battling pooling in it's various guises my yarn and I sat down to have a full and frank exchange of views.

After a glass of wine we decided that actually it didn't want to be socks, that it had never wanted to be socks and that I was cruel and heartless for trying to persuade it into a nice, simple plain vanilla sock.

So, I took the yarn's advice and cast on for a nice garter stitch Fuss Free Festival Shawl instead.

And now everyone is happy.

The moral of the story is clear - sometimes you just have to let the yarn win. And also - a glass of wine helps most (but not all) knitting dramas.

Vero for crafters - first thoughts

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As with any new social media platform there has been a lot of discussion swirling around the interwebs this week about Vero - the new(ish) social media platform which aims to put the "social" back into social media. With an emphasis on sharing content and things which are important to you, Vero has actually been around since 2016 but has recently been talked about by a few key Instagram influencers and everyone's curiosity has been sparked.

This weekend saw Vero struggle to cope as the Instagram crowd, many of whom are frustrated with the algorithm, spam and promoted posts, flocked over to see what all the fuss was about.

I joined up on Sunday and I have to say that so far, I really like what I see there. When you post an update you have to decide what it is you are sharing. Is it a book you are reading? Is it a photo you want to share? Is it a film you went to see at the weekend?

Once you've done that you can chose who you share it to. Share it with all of those who follow you? No problem. Or for people you know (either in real life or online) you can choose to "friend request" them - the same as for Facebook. So, in theory you could just choose to share something with your close friends - although I haven't really tried this yet.

The way that this type of sharing really comes into it's own though is in the "Collections". Tap the folder icon at the top of the screen and you'll see a handy list of what people have shared with you in chronological order. (I'll repeat that bit for emphasis - In Chronological Order!).

You can see what photos people have shared with you that very morning. You can see a list of book recommendations that have been shared - like your very own personal library list. This side of the app really appeals to the part of my brain that likes to categorise and organise and it pleases me immensely.

Will it take the place of Instagram? I very much doubt it, Instagram is far too large and too embedded to be easily ousted. But, for now at least, it provides a fun and social aspect to social media that has been sadly missing from Instagram and other platforms of late. I don't know about you but it feels like a very long time since I felt a sense of fun whilst using Instagram.

For a while, there was Ello that a lot of Instagram people joined. But for me that never really felt as though that's where "my people" were. There were lots of beautiful images from photographers and artists but I never really felt as though my little woolly, crafty world found a niche there. It all felt too polished and just a little bit cold. Vero on the other hand feels like sharing a coffee with you best friends. Sitting round chatting, talking about what you are working on, sharing a book recommendation or planning a trip out. it feels like social media should be.

There has been a lot of discussion that Vero intends to monetise the app and will introduce some form of "paid" access. It is hardly surprising that an app will need to make money and from the reading I have done Vero have been very open and transparent about how they intend to do this. Clicking through to buy products (ie  from a book recommendation) will generate income for the site and it may be that they introduce an advert free version or a subscriber version with additional features.

Again, that doesn't really bother me at all as long as everything is clear and up front. If I had the option to pay for a chronological version of Instagram I'd have had my hand in my pocket a long time ago.

I know that some people have had problems accessing the site as they have struggled to cope with the sudden influx of new members but, for what it's worth, I really like what I see there. And I'm really excited to see how it pans out in the coming months.

When the going gets tough

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When the going gets tough - the tough cast on for a new project. In fact, to be more specific they cast on for a colourwork sweater.

Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of a soothing garter stitch project but sometimes you experience challenges in your daily life. The kind of stuff that can really send your brain into a tizzy. The kind of stuff that, if you are prone to overthinking, like me, has your brain spinning with endless "what-if's" or "if only's" - you know the kind of things I mean.

At times like this for me garter stitch just doesn't cut it. I need to direct all that brain energy into something more focussed, something to keep it occupied and stop me from going round and around in ever decreasing circles.

And recently for me, that meant casting on for a colourwork sweater. I've had the Laine magazine No3 in my hot little hands for a while now, poring over the glorious patterns. Really I want to knit them all but realistically that will have to wait. But a colourwork yoked sweater has been high on my list for some time and Treysta with it's patterned yoke and simple clean lines fitted the bill perfectly.

Luckily I had vast amounts of West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley aran yarn which matched the gauge I needed (I originally bought it for a sweater for DH which didn't work out) and I was easily able to supplement the dark grey with a few balls of contrasting yarn from Isla of Brit Yarn.

After that it was just a simple of matter of casting on and going for it. Because I had been unwell I had the perfect excuse to sit in bed (doting husband and kids in attendance) and just knit. And I have to say that it was sheer heaven. With a snoozing cat at my feet, a supply of snacks courtesy of the aforementioned kids and no distractions my brain welcomed the opportunity to focus on something positive and constructive.

I would never have thought that I could knit an entire colourwork yoke in a little over 24 hours - but apparently I can given the right circumstances - and an unlimited supply of biscuits. Who knew?

 

 

 

Images and Ownership

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If you are a longer term reader of my blog it won't be a surprise to you to hear than I am a huge fan of Instagram. I love the platform as a way of connecting with a vibrant online community of other knitters and crafters. It's a great place to soak up visual inspiration and generally hang out with like minded folk.

Recently however I had started to notice an increase in the type of accounts which seem to exist solely for the purpose of reposting other peoples photos. Now, just to be clear, there are some great accounts which do this brilliantly. Collating and curating a fabulous selection of images from a variety of creative sources. When done well, with appropriate tags, accounts like this work almost like an online Insta-magazine. Showcasing a variety of fabulous talent and helping you to explore new feeds that you simply wouldn't have found before. Some of these accounts have huge followings, and to have your work displayed in such a way is a great boon to your numbers and following.

Recently though, I and others have noticed a real prolifertaion in accounts which repost other peoples content but without tagging the original creator (or with just a minimal tag). Often they lift the entire text caption too - sometimes in a different language to the rest of their posts. There is no effort made to tag or highlight the original creator of the image. The motive behind such sites isn't very clear to be honest. Some are clearly trying to sell themed mugs or T shirts and are obvously reposting popular images to boost their Insta-numbers but others don't appear to have any motivation at all.

One explanation is that, possibly, some users are mistakenly treating Instagram as though it is Pinterest - "repinning" images that they like to their own account. This really isn't how Instagram works though and as these type of accounts proliferate we run the risk of populating our IG feeds with the same few images again and again.

This recently happened to me. A casual scrolling through one of the popular knitting hashtags - I think it was #igknitters - and a photo of mine popped up right at the top of the feed. It immediately caught my eye because a) it featured my cat and b) I knew that I had posted that image a few days ago and it would normally be buried way down a popular and fast moving hashtag like that one.

After a brief and minor skirmish with the Instagram Gods (and some online form filling) the offending account was swiftly and efficiently taken down but it made me realise that this is a battle that some designers and creatives are facing every single day. And indeed, since first drafting this I have done this on at least 4 other separate occasions.

So, what can we do about it? As ever I suspect, not every much but at least we can be aware of the problem. I know that it is really easy and soothing to scroll through a lovely series of images - quickly double tapping to add your like. But it might be worth checking sometimes, particularly when exploring via a hashtag (as opposed to just those whose accounts you follow) what the actual account is. Alarm bells start to ring when you see a variety of lovely images with various projects and WIPs - never repeated. After all - which genuine account will have so much variety in their knitting life? Or when you see the oft repeated comments "caption this" or "double tap to like" or "tag a friend". Real accounts don't really work like this and might tip you off to look a little more closely.

If you do find such an account it really isn't worth commenting on their post - I suspect that many are "bots" anyway but you can click the three little dots at the top right of their profile. Reporting them as spam, or blocking them is a good way to make sure you don't see them again (and also - they can't see you) but it also might just help to alert the powers that be at Instagram to the issue. Every little helps, after all.

All in for the Ravellenics

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You know me, I can never resist a challenge. Especially when it comes with a cast iron excuse to sit on the sofa and watch lots of sporting action. The Ravellenics - held on Ravelry are a great excuse for that and for weeks now I've been plotting and planning the perfect combination of projects. 

Of course, as knitters we should know that real life never runs that smoothly and I suddenly found myself needing a new travel project a short notice. I have just released my newest shawl design - the KISS shawl - which is a stocking stitch shawl knitted from side to side with a lace border worked as you knit. All the time I was knitting it though the recuring thought running through my head was "I bet this would look really cool in garter stitch".

Most things look better in garter stitch in my opinion. So, this was the perfect project to pick. I know the pattern anyway so there was none of the awkward set up phase. I could just cast on and knit.

Now, just to spice things up a little I am going to Unravel this Saturday and so the next thought that popped into my head was "Wouldn't it be cool to be able to wear this to the festival?"

I really need to have a word with that inner voice of mine...

So, here we are. 5 days to go and 350m yarn to knit. Totally doable I know - I just need to focus and not get distracted. If you see me browsing the Ravelry queues or surfing Instagram feel free to prod me and get me back on track.

KISS Shawl - a new pattern release

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It's a beautiful sunny day, crisp and clear and the perfect day for a new pattern release.

The KISS shawl lives up to its acronym of Keep It Simple Stupid as it is super simple to knit. Starting and ending with just 2 stitches there's no complicated cast on nor do you have to bind off a billion stitches. The lace border is knit on as you go, so at the end  you can just bind off and wear it with pride.

It's perfect for the special skein of sock yarn that you have squirreled away somewhere and because it is knit side to side you can really maximise the yarn you have. Just weigh the yarn periodically and once you have used half you start the decreases. It really is that simple.

The sample here is knit in the fabulous Nether Alderley 4ply yarn from Yarns from the Plain - a beautiful yarn which drapes really well when knit at a relaxed gauge.

The body of the shawl is worked in stocking stitch which really shows off a hand dyed yarn. But if your yarn has speckles or pops of colour it would look equally fabulous with the body knit in garter stitch instead. Or you could knit two version - one of each and see which you prefer.

You can find the pattern here - and there is an early bird discount too (until midnight Feb 9th) - if you are a newsletter subscriber though do check your inboxes as you have something a little special.

Either way, there's no better way to celebrate the coming of spring (allegedly) than with a new shawl.

Style vs substance

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What started out as a bit of fun turned out to be quite a thought provoking exercise. I loved seeing everyone's #bestnine2017 photos on Instagram and, despite saying that I wasn't going to do any "looking back" type exercises I couldn't resist popping my details in to see what my best nine guide looked like. And I was a little bit surprised to be honest.

I have spent a quite a bit of time (and some money) recently on improving my photography and styling skills. Instagram is such a visual platform as we all know and with the recent algorithm changes it has become increasingly difficult for your photos be seen about the rest. I've played around with lighting and composition trying to find the type of shot that does well as well as trying to improve my own skills - for the sake of learning and growing.

It was interesting to see that of the photos ranked as most popular (by the number of likes) the majority of them were taken quite spontaneously with very little in the way of styling or editing. The blanket (top right) and sock on a beach were literally quick snaps, taken and posted within minutes with no fancy pants editing.

It's hard to draw conclusions from such a random snapshot but I think the lesson from this is clear as I move forward into 2018. To spend less time faffing about with images, editing and all that malarky and just to keep an eye open for engaging or colourful shots as they present themselves. A bit less worrying about style and a bit more substance is going to be the order of the day.

 

Just share for the joy of sharing

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This is a bit of a mini rant so I'll issue apologies up front and feel free to move on if this isn't of interest. I'm sure it can't be just me though who has noticed this. Over the course of recent months I've noticed that there is an increasing trend for people to regard social media as their own personal pattern search engine.

A good friend of mine recently posted a photo of her knitting in progress on Instagram. She is a designer and frequently shares photos of her work, her inspiration and her designs. This however was just the yarny equivalent of doodling. Playing around with yarn and needles for the sheer joy of it. She took a quick snap of the pleasing colours and textures and thought nothing of it.

Then she found herself besieged by requests for the pattern in the comments. "Pattern please" people merrily chirped again and again, and even just the rather curt "Pattern?" - the latter clearly from someone who didn't graduate from charm school recently.

And of course, as is often the way, I found myself noticing this pattern of behaviour over and over again, across all social media platforms. A lovely photo of a finished knit would invariably attract more than a few of these types of responses with varying degrees of politeness.

I absolutely love seeing photos of people's finished work and yes, sometimes a particular pattern intrigues me enough to want to go and track it down on Ravelry, but as a grown woman I'm more than capable of doing that myself - I don't require the original poster to provide the link for me.

I've even seen instances where people get cross with the original poster for not providing a pattern link. "But it's up to them (the original poster) to provide the link", they assert confidently, "It's their responsibility"

I would like to make the case for the exact opposite and suggest that posting a photo of your finished knits bears no such responsibility. 

What on earth happened to sharing our knits for the sheer joy of sharing? In an ideal world we would cast off our latest project and then immediately turn to a friend, loved one or knitterly colleague to show it off to. Often though, we don't have knitty folk around us and so we turn to our online friends instead. Our virtual community of yarny folks who understand and instinctively know just how many hours of work that cabled blanket took to make. But in the excitement of taking a photo and sharing it online we don't always have the time to provide the pattern details or yarn details or go into specifics about what cast on we used. We just want to share our stuff.

And we should feel free to share our stuff without the pattern police popping up to insist that we provide a link to help them populate their own pattern libraries. Let's face it, if you are anything like me your Ravelry pattern library already contains more patterns than you could knit in a lifetime. It's hardly the end of the world if you can't add another one to it.

So knit on with pride, share photos of your work as and when you want to. Share a link if you want to, but don't feel obligated to. It's your knitting and your work and your only responsibility is in helping to make the internet a more yarn-filled and colourful place

 

 

Fresh start

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Today marks a series of fresh starts. And of course, some knitting plans.

My first working day not in the NHS.

My first 10 minute commute (on foot)

My first time ever with a proper lunchtime break - which of course should be more properly referred to as a midday break for knitting.

A new job needs a new notebook of course and this week marks the start of me using my new Strickplanner in earnest - as opposed to keeping it neat and tidy (and empty) for fear of spoiling it. My cunning plan is to have 3 or 4 projects to work on each week with the rest stored safely away out of sight. These will include: a long term WIP (this week it's my Mdina cardigan by Purl Alpaca Designs), a plain sock (obviously), a design in progress and something garter stitch (log cabin blanket fits the bill right now).

Enough variation to keep me happy. Enough restriction to make some progress. That's the plan anyway - I'll let you know how it goes.

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.