Knitting life

Review and reflect

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There’s definitely something about this time of year that encourages review and reflection - although in my case this has been rather enforced by a week in bed with flu - I didn’t have the energy to do much else. And even thinking felt like too much effort at times.

I really love this time of year - seasonal craziness notwithstanding - not least because I get to indulge my love of planning with a brand new planner and lots of big ideas for the coming year. But, as much as it is helpful to dive headlong into a new year it’s also nice to look back at what we’ve achieved this year. To stop a minute and take stock of all those small wins. It’s all to easy to focus on the things we didn’t do and the resolutions that went unmet, when in actual fact we probably achieved a heck of a lot more than we think we did.

According to this fun #topnine app apparently in 2018 I mostly knit stripy socks. I love how the snazzy Must Stash Yarn stripy socks account for my top 3 Instagram posts (in terms of likes) in 2018.

Once I’ve shaken off this lingering bug and had a serious amount of coffee I’m planning on a serious bit of 2018 reflection before I get too carried away with 2019 plans. I recently discovered Susuannah Conway through her #decemberreflections2018 project on Instagram and she also has a brilliant (and free) workbook - Unravel Your Year - which I can’t wait to dive into.

But for now, I’m going to take it easy with my knitting - in fact I might even cast on another pair of stripy socks to see me through into the New Year.

A more minimal knitters Christmas

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Please don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I love the warmth, the fairy lights, the candles (and yes - a bit of mulled wine). What I increasingly struggle with is the excess and the intensity of it all. Each year seems to bring a mounting sense of urgency, of the endless pursuit of seasonal perfection and a constant comparison between myself and others.

I know that the last point - the comparison - is entirely on me. It’s the way that I can respond to external pressures when I’m feeling less than positive about my own circumstances and that’s something that I am working on.

But, that minor personality foible aside I do feel as though every year brings with an onslaught of more - more Christmas “stuff”. There are some beautiful yarn advent calendars out there and some really lovely KALs and projects but sometimes it all just feels a little bit too much.

I’m really glad that I decided not to buy a yarn advent calendar this year. I was sorely tempted back in the summer when my favourite dyers were busy plotting and planning. But in the end I decided that I would rather not put that pressure on myself to keep up. I would inevitably feel that I had to keep up with the daily knitting (again - that’s entirely my own neuroses talking) and that it would just add to the general feeling of overwhelm that often threatens to overtake me at this time of year.

So instead, rather than wallowing in my own self-analysis I’ve decided to adopt a few principles for a more minimalist knitty Christmas.

  • I am packing away my WIPs (and a sizeable chunk of my stash) - all of them - into the loft when I get the Christmas decorations down. Instead I am just going to have the 3 or 4 that I’m actively working on instead of the huge WIP basket that stares balefully at me every time I pass it.

  • I will pick out a few suitably seasonal skeins of yarn to decide on a relaxing “Twixtmas” project - the lovely period between Christmas and New Year when nothing ever happens.

  • I am doing absolutely no gift knitting, other than things I want to do (read: none)

  • I have asked for no yarny gifts (or indeed any gifts) this Christmas. Both my husband and I have agreed that we have enough “stuff” and we would rather folks donate to Crisis or some other charity on our behalf.

  • Rather than doing an advent knit I am going to use up some of my sock yarn stash and make a series of hats for a homeless shelter, ready for donation in the New Year.

    I am really sorry if this post comes across as “holier than thou” or in any way miserable. I promise you that isn’t my intention at all. But I’ve been writing this blog long enough now to realise that if I’m feeling a certain way there are bound to be others who are feeling just the same.

    I love seeing all the advent and festive posts on my social media feed but for this year I am giving myself permission not to get caught up in the seasonal knitting. But instead to relax, light some scented candles and just do some nice plain hat knitting with no pressure or expectations.

Christmas Knitting...or not

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The above photo neatly encapsulates the sum total of my planned Christmas knitting - and yes - it’s all for me. The West Yorkshire Spinners Fairy Lights yarn will be my festive socks for the season (and beyond) and the sparkly delights of this smashing Lay Family Yarn will be my relaxing knitting project for December (pattern to be decided).

I do plenty of deadline knitting throughout the year for commissions and designs of my own and so for a few years now I have made the conscious decision not to knit for others at Christmas. The exception being stripy socks for my boys - but they have recently had new pairs of socks from me and at the rate their feet are growing they will just have to wait for their next pair.

Knitting to any kind of deadline is enough to systematically remove all the joy I might feel about making something for others, no matter how knitworthy the recipient. So instead I’ve adopted the rule that if I see a pattern or yarn that I think someone might like I knit it, when I feel like it and give it to them. If it happens to coincide with a birthday or important life event then so much the better. But sometimes, those spontaneous gifts are so much more memorable just for that very fact of spontaneity. “I knit this for you, just because…”

I loathe the term “selfish knitting” with a passion and refuse to apply it to my own knitting. The day I hear someone refer to the term “selfish reading” or “selfish running” I might reconsider.

Knitting for me is an essential part of who I am and time spent knitting is time I’m investing in myself. Investing in both my physical and mental health.

Knitting is my daily act of self care and adding labels or time pressures to it is not an option.

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally in awe of those dedicated souls who churn out hats, mitts and scarves for their loved ones at Christmas. And if that act of knitting and giving motivates them and gives them joy, then all power to their needles. But, it’s not for me.

I firmly ascribe to the view that knitting (gifts) isn’t just for Christmas - it’s for life!

Socks - do you block yours?

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

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

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

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

Knits - how do you wear yours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blanket conumdrums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Using my Bullet Journal as a Knitter

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

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

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

Bullet Journaling - by Ryder Carroll

Boho Berry

Tiny Ray of Sunshine

Monthly Spread

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

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

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

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New projects

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

Other ideas

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

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

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

 

 

Stripy socks really do go faster

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

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

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

How I knit and read at the same time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The joys of scrappy socks

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

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

Thrifty and colourful - talk about a win win!

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

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

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

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

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

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



 

Love your LYS - either online or in person

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

10 uses for removable stitch markers

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You may have noticed from some of my social media posts that I have a not-so-secret fondness for those little bulb pins - sometimes called interlocking or removable stitch markers. I’ve managed to acquire quite the collection over the years - either bought in bulk from Merchant and Mills, bought in pretty colours as sets and also squirrelled away from the labels of clothes bought in slightly posh clothing stores.

The reason for my obsession? They are the most ridiculously useful items you’ll ever possess in your knitting bag. So much so that I’ve started to clip a few through the zipper of all my project bags - just so that I’ll never be without one.

So what do I use them for you may ask?

  • Marking stitches during a long cast on: slip one onto the needles after every 50 stitches or so to save lots of counting.
  • Marking the right side when working in garter stitch.
  • Use as a regular stitch marker.
  • Catching up a dropped stitch to fix later.
  • Marking sleeve decreases/increases - to save counting - especially on darker fabrics.
  • Marking rows knitted - put one in every day rows to save counting.
  • Holding knitted pieces together during seaming.
  • Holding a few solid stitch markers safe and together in your knitting bag.
  • Pinning a reminder note to your knitting: if you are setting it down for a while and you want to remind yourself of something**.
  • Marking a central double decrease - or similar decrease where the stitch marker has to go through the actual stitch.

** I am well aware that this is something of an aspirational goal. Very few of us set a project aside fully intending to not pick it up again for the next six months, but if you were that sort of person who plans ahead with military precision then this would be the perfect way to not forget which size needle tips you used.

If you have any other uses for them I’d love to know - they are endlessly adaptable - just like knitters after all!

PIN FOR LATER

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How I maximise my knitting time

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It’s no secret that I am a dedicated (some would say, obsessive) knitter and there really are very few social situations outside of a church where I don’t feel comfortable in whipping out my needles.

In order to be able to sustain this dedication it is necessary to have a range of suitable knitting projects on hand at any given moment - at least that’s my excuse for having so many projects on the go at once. But it really does make sense if you stop to think about it.

This is for me why I could never be a monogamous knitter. As much as I admire the patience and tenacity of these dedicated knitters, what on earth would you do when faced with a 3hr train journey at short notice and all you have to hand is the final border on a king-sized blanket. Just the thought of undertaking a journey on public transport with No Knitting is enough to bring me out in a cold sense of dread and fear. Anyone who has ever travelled by train in the UK and has experienced the horrors of the unscheduled “rail replacement bus service” will know exactly what I mean.

No, as far as I’m concerned, amassing multiple WIPs is nothing at all to do with a willful disregard for the “one project at a time” brigade. It’s not about gleeful, profligate casting on either. More, it’s about making sure that you have a project ready for the time slot you have available to you.

Have 20 minutes to wait in the doctors surgery for an appointment? Fine - grab that baby cardigan and work a few rounds on the sleeve.

Have a blissful hour to yourself on the sofa with Netflix and coffee? Perfect time to pick up stitches on that sweater neckband or add a square or two to your sock yarn blanket.

Leaving for an impromptu cinema visit with 10 minutes notice? Not a problem - just grab that plain vanilla sock toe that you cast on weeks ago.

Do you see what I mean? Yes, you might not be churning out the finished objects as fast as our monogamous knitterly friends but you will always have an appropriate knitting project on hand. Which to my mind is far more important and infinitely more pleasing.

And for the truly dedicated knitter you might want to employ my time honoured tactic of putting together the “Emergency Knitting Bag”. No laughing at the back there - the Fear is real.

I have a couple of projects bags squirreled away each holding a skein of sock yarn - either pre-wound or a commercial ball and a set of DPNs. I know I don’t normally use DPNs but in an emergency I’m prepared to compromise and I have loads of sets lying around that I rarely use.

I keep one in my craft area - ready to grab and another in the boot of my car. Truly - you never know when you might need it. My car boot holds bottled water, dried fruit, emergency first aid kit - and sock yarn!

And after a recent escapade in the Lake District involving a large piece of sharp metal and the front tyre of my husbands car, I’ve also taken the opportunity to stash a bag in his boot too! Never mind the Scouts - it truly is the knitters who are always well prepared.

 

 

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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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.

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?

 

 

 

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.