Knitting life

5 reasons to switch your knitting to circular needles

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I am an unashamed and determined devotee of circular needles. I absolutely love them - so much so that my few remaining straight needles are relegated to poking lost items out from under the fridge and other such mundane uses. I knit pretty much everything on circular needles whether I’m knitting in the round - as in this Humulus sweater or flat.

I see so many comments from knitters who aren’t sure what the benefits of circular needles are, or view them with uncertainty or trepidation so in this short blog post I hope to be able to convince you of their many advantages and to induce you to maybe giving them a try.

Minimal need for seaming: This one thing alone was enough to convert me to circular knitting. I loathe sewing up garments with a passion and being able to work a top down sweater on a circular needle, weave in the ends and pull it on was a complete revelation.

No need to purl (if you don't want to): Normally stocking stitch fabric is created by alternating a knit (right) side with a purl (wrong) side. When knitting in the round you always have the right side facing you and so to create stocking stitch all you need to do is knit - and lovely smooth stockinette will emerge like magic from your needles.

Reduces strain on hands and arms: Circular needles allow the weight of the fabric to be more evenly distributed and often knitters report reduced muscle fatigue when using circular needles compared to straights. This makes perfect sense when you think about it - particularly if you have something heavy like an aran sweater on the needles where the whole weight of knitting is resting on 12 inches or so of needle. There is a reason that old metal knitting needles are often curved from years of use.

Storage: Ever the space conscious knitter. Needle tips and cables, or fixed circular needles fold up into a neat, compact shape - far more convenient for storing and transporting.

Travel knitting: Keeping with the neat and compact theme, circular needles are far more conducive to knitting on public transport. I knit socks quite often on small circular needles, which require minimal hand/arm movement. Although, I grant you there are times when longer cables are handy for detracting seat companions who like to impinge on your personal space.

These are just 5 reasons but honestly, I could wax lyrical about this for days. If you are undecided it’s well worth having a go. Just bear in mind that it will feel a little strange at first, particularly if you are used to tucking the needle under your arm.

Try just doing a few minutes each day and see how you feel at the end of the week - you never know - it might grow on you.

PIN FOR LATER

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How to start a knitting group at work

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I have to be up front here and say straight away that I haven’t managed to do this yet. But I am declaring today to be my Take Your Knitting to Work Day.

In the interests of positive thinking and the importance of having a Cunning Plan I am putting my intentions out there into the universe and trying to start a knit club at work.

Step 1 - Positive mental attitude - see above

Step 2 - Best knitting bag (colourful to attract attention). This is from Hide and Hammer

Step 3 - Most attractive work in progress (also the largest - see Step 2). This is no time for a tiny, discrete sock toe. The WIP in question is the Humulus Sweater

Step 4 - Use the power of research. There was a very timely article in the Wall Street Journal about this very thing - talking about the health benefits of knitting at work - so I’ll email it to the facilities manager.

Step 4 - Position yourself in the staff area at lunchtime with colorful knitting bag and gadgets on display

Step 5 - Have a large coffee to bolster self-confidence and resist the urge to shove my ear buds in and listen to podcasts

Step 6 - Smile and make eye contact with people. This is the big step - as any of my fellow introverts will attest to.

With any luck I might attract the attention of a few passing knitters, or even some interested non knitters who could be persuaded. I have spare needles and yarn in my bag on the off chance.

Wish me luck - I’ll report back,

Abundance vs scarcity mindset

Photo by  Jessica Lewis  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further links

What is abundant thinking?

10 steps to develop an abundance mindset


Love your LYS

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This article was previously published in May 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But when you do, as we all do from time to time please bear in mind that you have a choice over where you spend your hard earned money. Unlike with book buying online (where Amazon has pretty much annihilated the competition) the same isn’t true - yet - of yarn shopping.

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

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

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

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

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

When is a hobby not a hobby?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I'm doing a No Spend Lent

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Every year I try to give up something for Lent -with varying degress of success, but this year I’m joining Barbora (@herinternest on Instagram) in #NoSpendLent2019.

Jessica Rose Williams wrote about this a while ago on her blog and it really made sense to me. A bit of a financial reset is a good thing to do from time to time I think. I’m fortunate in that both my husband and myself work and we have a reasonable household income. It’s easy to spend money on non-essentials like takeaway coffee and food without really thinking about it.

Not only does this lead to the inevitable confusion at the end of the month when I wonder why on earth I’m skint again, it also contributes to my guilt around trying to be more aware of environmental choices. I’ve been doing my best to ditch the single-use plastics and takeaway coffee cups and I do have reusable cups, but I’ve yet to fully embed this in my lifestyle and often myself lacking one when I need it.

The rules of #NoSpendLent2019 are simple: No spending on anything that isn’t essential, although of course it’s entirely up to you what you define as essential. Life doesn’t stop and kids will still need dinner money and school supplies (I think they eat bloody Prit Sticks and pens - the rate at which we seem to go through them) but anything that doesn’t fall into your essential category is off limits.

For me, my essentials are:

  • An outfit for an upcoming work event in April

  • Kids school stuff, and classes

  • Sports payments & classes

  • Groceries (although making an effort to shop from my freezer/pantry too)

  • Basic toiletries (again, making sure to use up what we have first)

Non essentials:

  • I’ve pretty much given up buying makeup and posh toiletries anyway as I try to reduce plastic use.

  • Takeaway coffee and takeaway meals

  • Books and magazines

  • Yarn and needles - I think I have enough to last me a month or so

  • Patterns - again - I think I have enough for now

The idea isn’t to live in a state of monastic self-deprivation. And if I come across a book that I really, really want to read I probably will buy it. It’s more a case of trying to be more aware of those small purchases every day. Those little £3-5 items which you buy almost without thinking about it. And really considering “Do I need this or do I just want it”.

Fancy joining me? If you do decide to have a go - however you want to define it please do let me know. Either use the comments below or tag me on Instagram with the #NoSpendLent2019 tag and we can cheer each other on.

The Rare Stitch Project

Third Vault Yarns self stripe with a duplicate ‘rare stitch’ added

Third Vault Yarns self stripe with a duplicate ‘rare stitch’ added

Have you heard of The Rare Stitch project? No, neither had I until I experienced one of those remarkable serendipitous events that our online knitty world seems to excel in.

I had just finished reading an article on the Ravelry home page under their regular Humans of Ravelry slot - you can read it here (you may need to scroll down a little to find it). The article talks about Raveller tentenkits - aka Margot - whose son was diagnosed with a very rare condition. She uses her knitting to raise awareness of rare diseases by incorporating a deliberately wrong (rare) stitch into each project as a visual representation of one ‘rare or unusual’ stitch in a sea of ‘normal’ stitches. Margot has a lovely Instagram account as @1010_studio and she is well worth a follow.

With cup of coffee in hand I literally popped over to Instagram to connect with Margot and the first post I see is a post from the lovely Deb - @tinckhickman sharing her ‘rare stitch’ project. She talked very movingly about a recent diagnosis within the family of a rare and unusual disorder and also linked back to Margot’s work.

How weird is that? I love how interconnected our knitting world is and I love that this project is doing such great work to highlight awareness of such rare and often overlooked diseases.

Today - 28th February - is Rare Disease Day so it seemed like the perfect time to share this little anecdote with you and to also help to raise awareness this group of disorders. For many patients and their families the diagnosis of rare disease (literally something that affects 1 in a million or fewer) can seem incredibly isolating. Support groups and help can be far away, or non existent and it can be baffling to navigate the healthcare system with healthcare professionals who also know very little about your condition.

Rare Disease Day is organised and supported by EuroDis - Rare Diseases Europe - who bring together research and support for those affected under one umbrella organisation and try to amplify the work ongoing.

So if you do one thing today, why not add a ‘rare stitch’ to your WIP and share it online with the hashtag #therarestitch and show a little support for this worthwhile project

Zero waste socks

Yarn is a self stripe from Third Vault Yarns - Ides of March

Yarn is a self stripe from Third Vault Yarns - Ides of March

As knitters we tend to be a fairly thrifty bunch anyway, and I know that I am certainly loath to part with any scraps after I’ve finished a project.

But, as I was knitting on these socks it dawned on me that these will be my first pair of official “Zero Waste” socks.

The 100g skein gave a lovely pair of toe-up socks for me (64sts on 2.25mm needles) with a fish lips kiss heel and left 40g remaining. My eldest son liked them so much that he also wanted a pair - and although he now has feet that are as long as mine they are also a lot narrower (think canoe’s and you’re on the right track).

So I divided the remaining yarn into 2 x 20g balls and paired it with a toning brown (of long forgotten provenance) from my stash for toes, heels and cuffs. His socks are 56sts on 2.25mm needles and so I got about 5 inches up the leg before the self-stripe ran out.

I just did a Clasped weft join to the brown yarn and carried on to add another inch and then the cuff. So by the time I have finished his second sock there’s won’t be a single scrap of the self-stripe left, which I have to say is all very pleasing,

As I am determinedly ploughing on with my mahoosive (three strands held together) Garter Ripple Squish, the idea of not adding anything further to my dwindling yarn scrap supply is really quite attractive.

I’m not sure if this will be a “thing” for future socks too but it’s certainly been a fun project.

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

Photo by  Radu Marcusu  on  Unsplash

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.