Knitting life

Staying small

Precious Metals Socks KAL starting soon

Precious Metals Socks KAL starting soon

I saw a really interesting statistic yesterday which really gave me cause to think, and also crystallised a few thoughts which I’ve been mulling over for a while. The ever-fabulous Casey from Ravelry ran and published a report into the income made by designers through Ravelry pattern sales. January was the best month for pattern sales and his figures showed that only 300 people made more than $1000 in sales. It goes without saying that sales for the summer months are a whole lot lower.

With figures like that it’s pretty obvious that pattern sales alone are not a viable way to make a living - and that’s the reason that most designers either have more diverse income streams or who work other jobs in addition to their designing.

For the purposes of comparison I checked my figures and in January I made just short of £660 in pattern sales (approx $860) - not bad - and probably about in line with my monthly average.

It goes without saying though, that this is not my sole source of income. I work a full time job and I’m married with a husband who also has a full time job. And of course there are the overheads to be deducted for tech editing, website hosting, software and the dreaded tax return.

My designing and pattern sales are a useful source of secondary income but more importantly for me, it’s fun and that’s why I do it. If I were to give up work to focus on this full time I’m not sure I would inherently be any more productive, or that realistically I would be able to convert that free time into actual income. There are only so many patterns people are willing to buy and hours in the day in which to knit them.

So much business advice is gearing towards growing your business, to “slaying it” and to building your income. Sometimes it feels as though it’s wrong to say “I’m fine where I am actually, thanks”. I’m never going to be a crusading business woman, and I’m fine with that.

I’m just happy, doing what I do. And I’m eternally grateful that I’m able to do it.

My favourite apps for knitting pattern storage

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As much as I would love to say this is my library/craft room, in reality, due to lack of space (and an excess of kids and Lego) I’ve had to embrace digital storage of patterns and knitting paraphenalia. I access and store patterns almost exclusively in digital rather than paper format these days. The exception to this is the beautiful (print only) Laine Magazine and also a few treasured stitch dictionaries - the complete Barbara Walker series as well as my absolute favourite Japanese stitch bible.

In my quest for the perfect digital solution I’ve tried out a few different apps (I’m an Android user) and I thought it might be helpful to share them here:

KnitCompanion: I know this is really popular and I have bought (and used) the paid for version. There is also a basic, free version if you wanted to try it out. I really love the way it seamlessly integrates into Ravelry and if I were a really prolific knitter of other people’s patterns I think this would probably be my app of choice. As it is, I’m usually juggling knitting my own designs with knitting those of others, so I tend not to use this very much at the minute. It’s really great for saving your progress though and avoids that “where the heck am I?” feeling when you pick up a long-term WIP that you have mysteriously abandoned half way through the lace chart from hell.

Goodreader: This available for i-Phone/Apple users. I’ve no experience of this but I know that many people do use it and speak very highly of it.

Evernote: I’ve had an Evernote account for years now and I use it for all sorts of things, from household bills and storage of documents, to knitting patterns and clips for design inspiration. The platform is free to use, or you can pay a small amount (as I do) to access a greater range of premium features. I keep the vast majority of my bought knitting patterns in here, stored in folders along with useful articles, research articles and those all important size charts that I always need to reference. Whenever I buy a pattern - usually from Ravelry - I download it straight away to whatever device I’m on and then save a copy in Evernote. It synchs across all of my devices and it means that I can always access that crucial bit of pattern information no matter where I am. I love it so much that I am an Evernote affiliate. You can sign up by clicking this link for a free trial of their Premium service. This is an affiliate link which gives me points towards my own Premium membership.

Google Drive. I’m a real fan of Google docs and spreadsheets, and most of my design work and content creation happens here. I love being able to create specific folders for everything and the fact that it integrates so seamlessly into Trello (see below) is a real bonus.

Trello. This is where I do my day to day (and month to month) business planning. I love the calender function here and so this is where I manage my everyday tasks, set my editorial calendar and keep track of various projects.

Where do you stand on the issue of pattern storage? I asked this question in my Instagram Stories earlier today and so far it’s about 35% Team Paper and 65% Team Digital.

If you know of any apps or storage solutions that I haven’t mentioned, do please let me know. Like the search for the elusive perfect notebook, the search for perfect storage is always ongoing.





It's the little things...

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Relax, there will be no mention of a certain, over inflated, over commercialised V-word day today. I don’t hold with the idea of picking a specific day to celebrate love to be honest. Although, while we touch on the subject, ever so briefly, what the heck is Galentine’s Day all about, apart from just another excuse for card companies to make money?

For me, love is in the expression of the smallest of things. the things we do every day without making a song and dance (or a lavish Facebook post) about.

It’s me remembering to fill up the car with fuel before my husband borrows it. He knows how much I hate queuing at our petrol station - so it goes without saying that he appreciates the gesture.

My husband spends more time than he would like, probably, listening to me waffle on about yarn but he puts up with it patiently and sympathetically, because he loves me. And he knows that, just every once in a while he is the recipient of some of it. He commiserates when a project goes wrong and is genuinely happy for me and proud of me when things go well.

But, for services above and beyond the call of duty he has been known to help me wind, by hand, 2,000m of hand dyed laceweight yarn. Two whole kilometres of yarn!

If that doesn’t say love then I don’t know what does quite frankly.

Colour Therapy

Whenever anyone asks me what my favourite colour is, my stock answer is always “Blue in general - Teal in particular”. But this latest project of mine is giving me cause to reconsider.

I am reknitting an older design of my own - the Garter Ripple Squish blanket - that I originally designed as a smallish sized baby blanket for a friend.

For some time now, you many have noticed, I have been wittering on about the size of my leftover 4ply sock yarn mountain and fearing that my entire stash space is going to be taken over by these cute, beguiling, self-multiplying balls of handdyed yarn.

I had been looking online at a whole host of stashbusting projects but having just finished a sock yarn, mitered square blanket I was in no hurry to undertake another 4ply blanket project - especially since it took me 3 years to finish it. During which time my sock yarn leftover stash was entirely undiminished - in fact it grew considerably.

So having seen a few marled projects - especially the Bobble Marley hat by Riverknits - I had a bit of a “What If…” moment. I grabbed 3 balls from my leftovers pile and cast on for a lap sized Garter Ripple Squish.

And it was love at first sight. There’s something magical about watching each colour blend into the next. And something pleasingly thrifty about being able to use up every last yard of yarn. I just knit until one of the three yarns runs out and then add in another one. I’m using the Clasped weft join for this and will leave the ends until after I’ve blocked it - before giving them a trim.

It’s so addictive, and on 7mm needles it is growing at a very pleasing rate indeed. And more importantly, I can report that there is definite shrinkage in the size of the leftovers mountain. It’s still there - but I finally have the sense that I have the upper hand in this battle.

Social media - You have more control than you think

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With social media it’s easy to forget that you can choose what you don’t see, but also, more importantly what you do see.

In recent weeks and in light of many conversations that are taking place about diversity and inclusion, I (I suspect like many others) have been reviewing the accounts that I interact with on social media. I was shocked to discover how homogenised my Instagram feed was at first. Even though I followed a diverse range of people, on closer examination I realised that the majority were very like me.

It’s certainly no excuse but it’s a fact of life that the internet reflects back to us how we most often see the world. Algorithms are very good at monitoring what it thinks we like and then giving us more of the same. So if we spend a lot of time commenting on pretty floral flat lays, or lovely skeins of hand dyed yarn, then that’s what it shows us more of.

Hence, my social media feed is often comprised of yarn, coffee and sometimes cats. There was a weird stage when Instagram kept insisting on showing me photos of those odd looking hairless cats. Heavens knows why - maybe it thought they needed a knitted sweater.

In recent weeks though I have been spending time purposely exploring new accounts from people with a diverse range of backgrounds (even some non-knitters) and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how quickly the algorithm picks up on that.

As well as choosing what we do see though, we also have the ability to choose what not to engage with on social media and to choose where we direct our energies. Instagram is a wonderful place in so many ways but it’s use as a platform for meaningful social interaction is limited to say the least. Comments are difficult to moderate and it is all too easy for well meaning words to be taken out of context. I’m not entirely sure how best we can effect genuine societal change when it comes to diversity and inclusion but I’m fairly sure that liking a few posts, adding a few comments and following a few new accounts is not actually going to do that much. Much less is it going to help to shout at each other across a Mark Zuckerberg owned social media platform.

I’m increasingly conscious of the amount of time I spend on Instagram and have started to use the “time limit” feature to help me manage my time better. Far better sometimes, rather than getting dragged into online debate and drama is to actually put down my phone and do something in the real world, whether that’s finding out more about local charities that I can help with, spending time with my young boys helping them to find their own way in the world or spending time on my own reading and education.

I guess this is just a long-winded way of saying that if someone is “quiet” on Instagram or any other social media platform, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing anything. Conversely, just because you shout loudly on social media about a certain issue it doesn’t mean that translates to anything meaningful in the “real world”. Social media is all well and good but at the end of the day, surely it’s the little things we do every day, the small interactions we have and the baby steps we take every day towards being a better human, that actually count?

Why we knit?

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In the midst of all the social media noise it is sometimes easy to lose sight of why we knit. Or at least that’s how I’ve found things over the last few days and weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time (probably too much, if I’m honest) on social media recently - the fact that Instagram now tells you how many hours per day you have spent on the platform doesn’t help but certainly brings the issue into sharp focus.

Handing over this finished baby blanket to a newly created family of three this weekend though, really brought me back to why we knit in the first place. We knit because we want to create beautiful things. We knit because we want to put love out into the world. And for us (by which I mean Knitters with a capital K) we best express our love in the form of yarn and needles.

Watching the new, slightly sleep-deprived parents unwrap their gift and instantly wrap their new baby in it brought a little tear to my eye, and theirs. They had been through a long journey to become a family and in that moment they felt welcomed and supported as new parents in our small rural community. Yes, it was just a blanket. But it was a blanket knitted with love and good thoughts, and knit just for them.

And that feeling that we all had at that moment - that’s why we knit.

Little by little

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Blogging and writing is a tricky thing indeed. It’s very easy to get into a habit but conversely it’s very easy to get out of one too. A missed blog post one day, or not writing for a few days is such a simple thing but one that creeps up on you and before you know it you’ve missed a few weeks.

No one says anything - because of course everyone has busy lives - and to be fair they probably don’t even notice. But before you know it, it’s been weeks and you haven’t set (metaphorical) pen to paper.

Now, I love to write. In fact after knitting it’s my next best thing but recently I’ve got out of the habit. Putting your own work out there into the world, whether that be a knitting pattern or a piece of writing is not for the faint hearted or thin of skin. It’s easy to dwell on the negative voices, the voices that keep you small, the voices that tell you that you aren’t enough, that you aren't “good enough” or that you should somehow be better.

Gradually over time you start to listen to the voices and you don’t say anything at all. Keeping quiet is a good way to make sure you don’t invite any harsh words or criticism. But it’s also a good way to ensure that, in any debate, it’s those harsh voices that are heard loudest.

I’m a long -time follower of Jen Carrington and by a miraculous stroke of luck she has just started a 28 day free online course called “Write the Damn Thing”. It’s a course focused on overcoming your obstacles to writing - whatever they are - and just getting on with it. Jen has a wonderfully no nonsense approach and so I decided this was the perfect opportunity to get back into the writing habit. No excuses and no faffing.

My daily writings here for the next month will be just me, doing what I do normally. Knitting, writing and drinking coffee - cake may be involved.

I’ve no idea what I’ll write over the next month but I’m sure knitting will be involved.

The joy of socks

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I know that the Marie Kondo method is currently having it’s annual revival, courtesy of a particularly well timed NetFlix show and my social media feed has been full of neatly folded drawers and decluttering of epic proportions.

If you are new to the whole #konmarie movement it is based on Japanese principles and aims to streamline your home, your belongings and indeed your life by asking a simple question - does it spark joy?

The idea is that, when decluttering you take each item in turn and ask yourself whether it sparks joy before deciding whether to keep it or remove it from your house. Obviously I’m hugely oversimplifying this and there are some great books and YouTube channels out there devoted to just this thing.

Suffice to say that I tried it, for about 5 minutes and then gave up. I get the idea, don’t get me wrong and I can see how it might work if I wasn’t surrounded by two chaos creating young boys and a husband who is a determined and self-confessed hoarder.

One of the central themes of the #konmarie method is that all items in drawers should be neatly folded - yes even underwear - so as to prevent an unsightly tangle. If you don’t believe me just look on Pinterest for photo after photo of neatly folded knickers.

That was taking things a bit too far, even for me but I couldn’t resist making a few neatly folded sock boxes - just for the purposes of private amusement.

Have you tried the Kon Marie method? If you have I’d love to know how you made it work for you. I want to but it all just seems a bit too extreme for my liking.

Knitting and Inclusion

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This post has been brewing in my mind for little while now. Random thoughts and experiences have swirled around but stubbornly refused to merge into a cohesive piece. I’m still not sure they are fully formed to be honest but now seems as good a time as any to get them out of my head and on to paper.

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before and at length but the statement that “All knitters are lovely” has to be one of the biggest myths around. Yes, there are fabulous and wonderfully generous knitters out there. Knitters who give their time freely to help others and to share knowledge and experience. But knitters also represent a full cross section of society.

In short, knitters are human with all the faults and foibles that come along with that. If you talk to any group of knitters they will invariably say how welcoming and inclusive knitting is as a hobby, but scratch beneath the surface of this well meaning statement you’ll invariably find that groups of knitters can be anything but welcoming. Pretty much everyone can relate to an experience of being shunned by a cliquey Knit Night group for example, or been made to feel they aren’t one of the ‘cool kids’ on a Ravelry forum. It happens and it happens every day.

When people are recommending a group - either in real life or online they invariably say “Oh, everyone there is really lovely”, when in reality what they actually mean is “Everyone there is like me”.

In the Everyday Knitter FB group for example, I am known for calling out people when they start a post with “Hey ladies”. The idea that all knitters are automatically women just drives me nuts. And when you (gently) point out that the group has a significant number of men and non binary members, often it is met with anger or defensiveness. They generally insist they meant “no offence” but my point is always that it’s about inclusion and making everyone welcome in the group.

This issue has come to greater prominence in my mind after all the discussions centering around race and white privilege over on Instagram over the last few days. You can read more of the back story here and here. As the discussion unfolded, I like many other people who have benefited from white privilege realised that I had a lot of reading and learning to do.

Simply pick up a knitting magazine (with the notable exception of Pom Pom Quarterly) or attend a knitting show and it becomes obvious just how underrepresented people of colour are in our community. Whilst I had often noted it subconsciously, I was embarrassed to realise that I had never really challenged the reasons the lay behind it, nor had I questioned it further with folks within the industry.

Racism and discrimination is as rife in the knitting community as it is the general communities around us. That makes for very difficult and uncomfortable reading for many people, including me and it is clear that a great deal needs to be done to make the knitting community a genuinely more diverse and welcoming place to all knitters.

If, like me you are looking for a good place to start I can highly recommend the work of Layla F. Saad who has done amazing work in this area. And if you are looking to support and promote the work of POC within the fibre industry, do check out the Instagram profile of Marceline at @heybrownberry. In her Story highlights she is collecting a wealth of information on brilliantly talented fibre folk to follow.

Whether you love or hate the Instagram algorithm (mainly hate in my case) one thing it does tend to do is to reflect your own likes and preferences back to you. That means that if you mainly engage with the accounts of people ‘like you’ that means that in turn, only similar accounts to your own are suggested back to you. The more we change our behaviour by genuinely engaging with a more diverse range of people, then the more diverse our Instagram feeds become and hopefully the more welcoming our community becomes to knitters all of backgrounds.

I genuinely believe that the knitting community can do better and will do better in the future.

No cold sheep today

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I first wrote this blog post in January 2017 but as I read of another independent yarn store closing down it makes for more pertinent reading than ever.

FROM THE ARCHIVES:

Apologies in advance for the slight mini rant today but I have heard and seen so much online these past few days about 'Cold Sheeping' that I feel duty bound to try to redress the balance a little.

For those that don't know, the practice of Cold Sheeping refers to going on a yarn diet or a restricted yarn buying policy - akin to going 'cold turkey'. It is certainly a common feeling at this time of year to feel slightly overwhelmed by your stash, or to feel as though your house in general has way too much clutter in it to even contemplate buying anything more stuff. Heaven knows, I am certainly guilty of feeling a slight sense of panic as my formerly well-contained stash spills out of its neat wooden drawers and starts to set up home in other areas of my house (is it just me or does the stuff breed when you aren't looking?).

However, whatever the answer is I'm almost certain that it doesn't involve going on a yarn diet. For the simple reason that diets never work. If they did the diet industry would go out of business. Anything that advocates extreme restriction or denial will inevitably involve a backlash at some point and freed from constraint you will be gleefully hoarding pretty sock yarn again before you can say 'Blue faced Leicester'.

So, I am proud to say that there will be no Cold Sheep or yarn dieting here. This is a Cold Sheep Free Zone.

My stash is a thing of joy - it brings warm and woolly solace to dark days - and it means that at the drop of a hat (or the news of an imminent baby arrival) I can rummage in the stash, grab some needles and whip out something cute and giftable in less time than it takes to traipse into town to buy a congratulations card.

It must be especially hard at this time of year for our beloved LYS's and independent yarnies who have to endure all talk of 'cold sheep' with a fixed grin and a firm hand on their budgets. January can be bleak enough for any business but small, independent businesses feel the pinch more than most and a little support at this time of year could make all the difference. I know that budgets can be tight right now and appreciate that not everyone may have the funds to spend, but even if you can't take advantage of your favourite indie dyers latest update you can help spread the word by telling your friends or sharing it on social media. And if you are visiting your LYS but really don't want to buy more yarn you could always take the opportunity to stock up stitch markers or needles - you can never have too many of either.

So, this January I am encouraging you to give the Cold Sheep the Cold Shoulder. Embrace your stash in all its woolly glory and show some love to our fab independent business.

Normal service will resume shortly

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Gosh, its been a while since I last logged in. It turns out that a combination of flu, Christmas and a broken laptop isn’t at all conducive to blogging - who knew? I could say that I have been using the time to creatively reflect, set my goals and intentions for the year and plan our my next three months of blog posts. But in reality I’ve been hunkered in front of the fire knitting and eating my own body weight in Quality Street.

I’m normally raring to go in the New Year, fizzing with all manner of cunning plans and ideas. But this year, I’m just not feeling it. It feels like a time to be slow, to be reflective and just to to take my time emerging from our family holiday bubble. If you are struggling with this too then you might like to check out Kayte Ferris of Simple and Season. She has a great blog and podcast and her most recent newsletter was packed with tips for how to survive the next few weeks if the whole January “new year new you” thing just feels a bit too overwhelming.

Please rest assured that I’m not going anywhere. I’m still here, still knitting but just taking my time getting back into the swing of things. Because of my aforementioned lack of laptop (thanks Windows for totally arsing things up) I’ve been using my Instagram account as a sort of mini-blog with longer and slightly more reflective captions than I normally do. This recent one was a bit of an affectionate poke at the tangles that we knitters can get ourselves into with New Years Resolutions. Heaven knows, I’m no stranger to this and I’ve often made elaborate plans in January for mammoth year-long projects only to find that come February I’m happy to convert that planned throw into a cushion cover and have done with it.

Anyway, please grab a coffee and your knitting and bear with me. I’ll be back soon once I’ve emerged from hibernation - and bought a new laptop.

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.