How to spot a fake Instagram account

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It’s a strange thing and I don’t pretend to understand the reasons for it but spam IG accounts seem to have become a bit of a thing recently, especially on some of the main knitting hashtags. Many of them appear to be particularly random, reposting content from a variety of accounts either with or without credit.

I am reliably informed by people working within the IT industry that many of these fake accounts are randomly generated - so called “bots” - which automatically skim content from various hashtags and repost them. I guess there is some reassurance in the fact that even though the use of your images may feel deeply personal and shocking, there is no malice or ill wish behind having your images used in this way.

[Please note that here I make a distinction between these bot accounts and the malicious copying/hacking of certain accounts. The latter is fortunately much less frequent but it is targeted and motivated by a desire to harm or someone damage someone's online reputation]

It doesn’t stop these fake accounts being annoying though and if nothing else it does effectively “dilute” the quality content on the hashtags which are affected - by having the same few images be reposted again and again.

One thing I have noticed is that they are increasingly hard to identify at first glance and look like they could be real accounts, especially now they seem to have moved away from the very generic @knitting_insta_loves to much more plausible sounding names which could well be real people.

I often mention in my IG Stories about accounts that I have reported and blocked and people often ask how you can tell. How do you spot a fake IG account?

Although I am by no means an expert I do spend a lot of (read: too much) time on Instagram and I have found that the following things generally set my alarm bells going:

Content is not consistent from frame to frame: Most knitters and crafters show progress on their crafty endeavours or the same types of images/props/items crop up in repeated photos scattered throughout the feed. It’s just human nature. We tend to share what we like and often those images are broadly similar. Spam accounts rarely show the same project twice and may vary widely in content.

Spam accounts harvest images from a variety of accounts often lifting the entire caption too. If an account has posts with text in a variety of languages, or is promoting an Easter discount in June then you can be fairly certain that it isn’t genuine.

Under the caption there is often a generic comment such as “tap to like” “do you agree” “tag a friend” which is out of context with the caption. In some cases there is a credit given to the original account but from experience I can tell you that this doesn’t always notify the original image owner. I’ve had accounts use my images with an apparent credit to @louisetilbrookdesigns but no notification has ever reached me.

Once you start looking for such accounts you’ll probably realised that they are much more ubiquitous than you thought. Often they are the same unfortunate images which crop up time and again.

Happily there is something you can do about it though. If it’s your image which has been reposted without consent you can click on the three dots (top right of the image) and select the option to report for copyright infringement. Top tip: it’s best to do this from a laptop/PC rather than a mobile device. You will be asked to provide links to your original content to prove that the image is yours.

If the fake account hasn’t used your images but you would like to block them and/or report them as spam, you can click on the same three dots to do that too. It might seem as though such actions are a drop in the ocean of a sea of fake accounts but Instagram really does take action and the more accounts we flag up to them as spam the more they can help keep our IG feed spam-free.

 

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.

 

 

Why it's not OK to share patterns - even free ones

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One of the most common misconceptions that I come up against in my daily online chat is the enduring myth that it is OK to share patterns as long as they are free. Most people understand and accept the copyright issues around paid patterns but for free ones it seems that it is still very much fair game.

As a designer who makes a significant chunk of her income from online pattern sales I do still make a few of my patterns available for free and I choose to do this for a number of reasons.

I have a baby cardigan pattern which I use for class teachings - the Fuss Free Baby cardigan - and I also make it available free via my Ravelry store. On there I ask that if people use and enjoy the pattern that they consider making a donation to Bliss (a UK charity for newborn and premature babies) which is a subject very dear to my heart.

For every copy of this pattern that is given to a friend, or photocopied or shared (or photocopied and sold on Ebay - yes, that really does happen), that is a lost opportunity for a hard working charity to receive a donation.

Sometimes I will make a pattern available free for a limited time in order to achieve a specific marketing goal. Apologies if that sounds cold and calculating but at the end of the day we designers are trying to earn some form of living from this. As an example the Fuss Free Festival Shawls was available as a free download for a time in order to encourage people to sign up to my newsletter. I was very clear that this was for a limited time and that after the promotion had ended it would revert back to being a paid pattern.

Once the shawl was for sale though I still had a bit of battle with folks who thought it was fine to email copies of it to their friends on the grounds that they “got it for free and so it was only fair to give it to others”.

Sometimes a pattern is free, just because I want to offer it for free. But I would still like people to download it from Ravelry, favourite it, talk about it and generally help to spread the work to other people who haven't come across my designs yet. All of these things help to boost a designers visibility online and can really help to make a difference to the success or not of future pattern sales. A photocopied sheet or emailed screenshot really doesn’t achieve the same results and in the crowded online space of pattern sales all those little bits of exposure really do add up.

Nothing boosts a designers profile more than lots of happy knitters chatting online or in person about your latest fun pattern.

And to those knitters who already do go above and beyond to support and promote the work of indie designers - a heartfelt and very woolly thank you. Your enthusiasm makes everything we do worthwhile.

PIN FOR LATER

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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.

 

 

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.

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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