everyday knitter

The Everyday Knitter Academy is Open!

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Why I created the Academy?

I started out like anyone else. Picking up the needles after a hiatus of over 20 years I immediately reverted to what I knew. Straight needles, picking a pattern from a magazine and buying the exact same yarn used in the pattern, sometimes even in the same colour. This was knitting how I knew it. How my beloved Nana had taught me. I wished I could tuck my needle under my left arm the way that she did too, but that bit always eluded me.

I knit quite a few jumpers like this until one day I discovered the beta version of Ravelry and a whole new world of knitting opened up to me. Here were knitters who didn't always follow the rules.

Here were knitters who substituted a different yarn to that called for in the pattern. They adapted the patterns to fit their body shape. They switched in and out little design elements, replaced a cable here and a lace panel there. I was immediately transfixed as this hobby of mine took on a whole new dimension. I started to knit socks, and then to adapt them and to design my own and my knitting adventure grew along with my confidence.

There's something about knitting, about making something with your own two hands which builds confidence. It's a quiet confidence but it's there just the same. It proves to your inner self - who let's face it, is probably your worst critic - that you can do something positive and something well. And yet all too often I hear knitters who are plagued by self doubt and their own internal voices telling them that "They could never do that" or that "They would love to have the skills to do that one day".

If I achieve one thing with this course, it will be to prove that yes, you can indeed do that. If you have the skills to pick up the needles, cast on, knit/purl and bind off then the possibilities are endless. You can knit lace, you can adapt a pattern, you can knit a intarsia sweater in the dark in the cinema - OK I may have exaggerated that last point but you get my drift.

You can do anything you damn well please with your knitting. You are resourceful, you are patient and you have the skills that together we can build on and develop. Please don't let fear put you off. It's just yarn at the end of the day and if all goes to hell in a handbasket it will still just be yarn. You won't have lost anything but you will have at least tried and the skills you learn from trying new things are what help us to grow as knitters.

How does it work?

The course material will be set out in modules on the Teachable site which I hope you will find to be a simple and straightforward place to navigate.

Signing up and providing the payment details will unlock access to the course modules as they are published. Some of these courses will be longer than others but you will be able to dip in and out and work through them at your own pace. To go along with the courses and to provide that much needed support you will also have access to the secret Facebook Group created just for Academy members.

Based on the same principles as the Everyday Knitter Facebook group this group is just for people like you, people who have taken the plunge and signed up to become Academy members. Some of the courses (depending on the material) will have a free pattern associated with them. This will be a pattern that I have written in order to help you develop the skills we are working on. In addition, as Academy members you will have access to live Q&A sessions with me which will run on a weekly basis. The purpose of these sessions will be to unlock any barriers to you achieving what you want from your knitting. Anything you are stuck on, anything you can't understand or anything you want help with. Think of it as a friendly Knit Night session in the local pub - glass of chilled white wine is optional.

And, just as an extra thank you as an Academy member you will receive 2 free patterns from me during the course of a year. These will be my self published patterns which are normally sold via Ravelry. On publication Academy members will receive an exclusive Ravelry code which will enable them to download the pattern and enjoy it for free.

How much does it cost?

The membership site works on a monthly payment system. You set up the details and every month the membership fee is deducted from your account. You are free to cancel at any time. If you decide it isn't for you simply cancel your account. You won't be able to access the course material or the secret group after you leave but I hope you will still keep in touch through the Everyday Knitter group.

I deliberately kept the monthly cost low - at the price of a moderately posh coffee - as I want it to be affordable for everyone.

Access to all the material and the Facebook group is priced at $3 per month ($2.70 at the time of writing). Once you have enrolled you will automatically have access to all new courses as they become available.  At this time, unfortunately paying by Paypal isn't an option when setting up recurring monthly payments but I'm hoping that this is resolved in the future.

How do I join?

You can find out more by jumping straight over to the Academy and clicking "enroll now". Don't worry, this bit is entirely free and without obligation, it just enables you to have a look around.

Click on the "What is the Everyday Knitter Academy" button to access a series of short classes designed to give you a feel for the site, how it works and what you can expect.

If you like what you see all you need to do is click on "Full Academy Content" to enroll. This option costs $3 per month and gives you access to all the online material - with new stuff being added weekly - as well as access to the closed Facebook Group.

I really hope to see you over there and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to get in touch.


What makes an expert knitter?


It's a bit like the quote about beauty being in the eye of the beholder isn't it? What makes a knitter an expert or when could you consider yourself to be an expert?

It's a question that frequently crops up when patterns, on Ravelry and in other sources, are graded according to level of pattern difficulty. A simple sock pattern with a cable might be rated as 'easy' by a competent and experienced knitter on her 30th pair of socks, but a knitter who was new to socks or knitting in the round might have a very different experience. This is why I always caution newer knitters not to rely too heavily on these fairly subjective assessments but instead look at what specific skills you need to knit that pattern. If it just calls for knitting in the round and increasing/decreasing then you can knit a sock or a simple sweater - no matter what the 'official' rating might be.

One thing I really love about teaching and blogging is the ability to chat to people at all levels of knitting ability and pointing out to people that sometimes, what they think of as 'hard' really isn't that hard at all. It is all just a matter of perception.

It's a common misconception that just because we live in an age where information is so freely available, that it is equally accessible to everyone. Some people are visual learners, some like the written word and sometimes people just need the help and support of a friendly community. Ideally we would all have a local LYS or regular knit group that we could pop into when we needed help or advice. Somewhere to sit down with a cuppa, have a bit of a knit and maybe get someone to show you exactly what a lifeline is (and why it can change your life). Sadly we can't always have that real life interaction when we need it and that's my main reason behind creating the Everyday Knitter Academy.

I absolutely love the community we've created over in the Everyday Knitter Facebook group and that is absolutely staying as it is. But I've also created the Academy as a way of being able to give more focussed and more practical advice and tutorials on a range of subjects. In addition there will be a specific (and closed) EK Academy Facebook group where I will be able to do Facebook Live sessions with tutorials and information Q&A sessions.

The Academy will be based on a monthly membership site - where for the price of a posh coffee every month you will have access to a host of tutorials, a friendly community and a world of knitty information to peruse at your leisure.

If you'd like to find out more about the Academy and how you can be involved, please click the link here to sign up to the newsletter for more information.

Hats for Humans - a KAL to make a difference


A while ago I shared a social media post from Joy (aka The Knitting Goddess) on the pointlessness of the Innocent Smoothie Hats for smoothie bottles as a money raiser for Help the Aged. It generated quite a bit of online debate - always a good thing - and one of the comments that was made really stuck with me. I'm afraid I can't remember who posted the comment but they said that they would rather knit hats for humans than for bottles.

That really struck a chord with me and I found myself returning to it again and again. There was also lots of chatter about a possible KAL (knitalong) over on the Everyday Knitter Facebook Group and so, ever the multitasker, I saw the opportunity to combine two fun things together, and also to do some good at the same time.

So, starting on Nov 1st and running for the whole month I'm kicking off a Hats for Humans KAL. You can knit any design of hat in any size with the proviso that it must be intended for a human (even preemie sizes count - which - heartbreakingly are about the same measurements as for an Innocent smoothie bottle).

What you do with your hats is up to - be they for you, for a loved one or for holiday gifts. But, if you chose to help out another fellow human and donate it to charity then that would be extra special. I will be knitting for Knit for Peace - a fabulous British charity who take year round donations, but you may donate to whatever charity is closest to your heart and which is local to you.

For every hat that is knit and donated to charity I will enter you into a prize draw to win a skein of something special from my stash. To enter all you need to do is to go to the Everyday Knitter Facebook group (join up, if you haven't already) and look for the Hats for Humans spreadsheet at the top of the group. Open up the Google Sheet and add your details. I'm going on a trust-based system here - I won't be checking individual entries. Life is too short and let's face it - you are all lovely people. I'll do the draw at the end of the month and will happily post to wherever you are in the world.

Feel free to chat about your hats in the Facebook group or on social media using the #hatsforhumans hashtag , and I can't wait to see all of your hats.

Added bonus - use British wool and it would totally count for Wovember too!

Charity Knitting - how to help when you have no time

This month the focus of my Everyday Knitter Facebook group is on charity knitting and this has lead to some great conversations around this subject. Many knitters love to knit for charity and do so prolifically. Others would love to help out more but although they have the supplies and the ability they lack the time to knit all the things they want to and still help out their favourite charities.

Whenever you are knitting for a charity it is often wise to check out how they intend the finished items to be used/distributed/sold before committing your precious time into a project. There seems to be a unversal assumption amongst certain media companies and PR folk that knitters are elderly ladies with an infinite amount of time on their hands and who don't value their time and skills perhaps as much as they ought to - but that's a topic for another day.

If you don't have time to knit something for a charity appeal but would still like to help - never fear:

1. Tell people about it. Spread the word to those around you who might be able to help. Either online or in person - every person who talks about or who mentions a particular charity helps to raise awareness.

2. Have a clear out and donate some craft suppliers. Charities are often thrilled to receive donations of wool and needles. Often they are able to pass these on to other knitters to make use of and create items for sale or donation. It's often worth checking first before you do to make sure that you are supplying what you need.

3. Look around, some charities accept donations all year round - Knit for Peace is a great example. You can cast on for a hat and donate it whenever it is ready, whether that's in a month or a years time.

When it comes to knitting for charity, really no act is too small or too insignificant. We can all do a little bit to help - whatever that is and in whatever form it takes. 

Lists of lists

So, today I'm all about the lists and a bit of organisation. I have decided to get all my ducks in a row before the start of Stash Dash 2017 in an effort to beat my total from last year when I completed 14 projects with a total of 7826m.

Poor planning on my part meant that a few larger projects were finished up in April and May when in actual fact I could have saved them up and counted them against my finished Stash Dash tally.

This year I would like to pass the 10K mark - I know - why do we do it to ourselves. But, show me a challenge and I can never resist.

Phase 1 of my cunning plan involves assessing all my sock WIPs and seeing how much work is needed on them. Short answer - a lot. I'm aiming to get each one to around the 75% complete mark and then in the first week of stash dash I can have a burst of finishing and give myself a bit of a motivational boost into the bargain.

I does mean of course though that I'll need to cast on a few more things - so that I have something to work on as May 26th (the official start date) appraoches.

If you'd like to find out all the rules and requirements for Stash Dash please follow the thread on the Knit Girlls Ravelry group. Their next podcast episode is promised to be all about the event - so you are far better off getting all the information direct from them.

Right, now I think I might just go and set up a spreadsheet or two.

What is a sock yarn swap anyway?

So, what's all the fuss about a sock yarn mini swap anyway?

If you are a member of the Everyday Knitter Facebook group you may have seen that we had so much fun with our last mini swap that we are doing it again. Many of us are knitting sock yarn blankets or scrap yarn projects and as much as we love our own stashed yarn it can be a real bonus to have an injection of colour from someone else's stash.

So, the sock yarn mini swap idea was born. For minimum hassle and maximum knitting time we use an app called Elfster which is an automated gift exchange service. You register and then after the sign-up deadline has passed you will automatically matched up to a swap partner. The swap is reciprocal - ie you both exchange gifts with each other.

If your swap partner has any particular preferences it's good to take these into account when choosing which yarns to send. You can set up your preferences by using the 'wish list' function in Elfster.

You then just need to wind off your chosen yarns into 5g mini balls or skeins. It isn't necessary at all to skein them but if you would like to there is a great tutorial here on how to do it. It's also nice to label the skeins - dyer and colourway - so that your partner knows what they are. It's a great way to discover new-to-you dyers or to get your mitts on something that you haven't had a chance to try out before.

Then just write a little note, pop everything in a Jiffy bag and post it by the deadline. It's a good idea to register on Elfster that you have sent your parcel. As an admin - that makes my job so much easier.

Then, when your parcel arrives please take a little picture and let us know about it on the Facebook Group. You can also record it as received on Elfster. This shows your swappee that their parcel has arrived safely and hopefully that you are happy with the contents.

All that remains to be done is to grab your sock yarn blanket and add your new mini skeins, along with some happy memories of a new knitty friend you've made.


Progress...and a quandry

I'm sure it can't just be me who always seems to reach a sticking point partway through their project. All is going swimmingly, the yarn is fabulous, you love the way it works with the pattern and then, all of a sudden, nothing. All motivation dries up, disappears and the project descends into the the WIP basket never to be seen again.

For me, the crucial point is about 75% of the way through something. Even though my logical brain tells me that just a bit more effort and I'll be casting off, my less than rational brain is yearning to go and do something else. This is often compounded, as in the case of this shawl, when a crucial design decision is needed.

This is warm and squishy DK weight yarn and I'm keen to use as much of the yarn I had as possible - Cumbria DK from The Fibre Co. I'm now at the stage to do the border and the plan I had in my head doesn't look quite right. I find myself in a quandry and so of course I do what I normally do in this situation - cast on for something else.

But, today I am being good. It's coffee at the ready and thinking caps on. Today this shawl will have a border and I will be a happy designer - probably.

Monday Motivation

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time you will know that I'm a huge fan of a to-do list for helping me to get stuff done. Whilst that's great for the normal chores and business tasks it doesn't help much on the crafting front where my attempts at steely focus are easily distracted by the new, the shiny and the pretty.

What has been working recently though is the Mojo Monday thread over on the Everyday Knitter Facebook group. Every Monday we pick a WIP to make progress on and then on the Friday we show our finished object (FO). I have to say that it is proving to be a great source of motivation for me. Obviously life happens sometimes and plans change. Sometimes knitting has to come second to other life events (shocking but true) but in that case you simply award yourself some consolatory cake and admire the FOs of others.

What really helps is seeing the motivation and enthusiasm of others and there is the gentle accountability of having publicly stated your goals out loud which I find does wonders for your focus and determination.

What helps motivate you? Do let me know. And if you have any spare motivation hanging around please send it my way. This mountain of WIPs isn't going to knit itself.

The best bits.

One of the best bits about designing is neatly summed up in this photo. Delightful, squishy garter stitch on its way to becoming a lovely, warm shawl in a fabulously soft shade of grey. And a beautifully bright yarn waiting patiently to be added into it. 

I am knitting with the Fibre Company's Cumbria yarn which is a DK weight and I'm aiming for a shawl which is light and squishy but also warmly substantial too. The kind of thing you could fling over your shoulders whilst you enjoy your morning coffee in peace. OK, it's wishful thinking on that last point I must admit. There is never any shortage of coffee around here but as for peace and quiet...That's another thing altogether.

Normally when designing I make numerous swatches beforehand and I know in advance how the colour placement and stripes will work out. With this one though I am just going with the flow and will add in the colour when it feels right. This beautiful buttery yellow/grey yarn is crying out to be included but I want it to be an accent to the grey rather than the main focus. 

A few more rows I think, and then it's time will come


Sunday Knitting

I shudder to think at the number of wasted weekend hours, way back when I was a non-knitter. As a student I would spend ages on the sofa with a pot of tea revising (or rather, watching all the omnibus editions of soap operas). Just think how much knitting I could have been doing.

Every week when I gaily skip out of work on a Friday I think gleefully about all the free time I will have to knit over the coming weekend. And then I realise that no, in fact there is adulting to be done. By the time that I have attended to various domestic chores, distributed the appropriate offspring to the appropriate sporting or social event and then boiled the kettle I find myself with, at best 30 minute chunks of time in which to fling myslef on the sofa and knit like fury.

Still, I am pleased to report that I make the most of the time I have a variety of projects on standby ready to leap into the knitting void at all times. Over the weekend though I do try to pick a particular (ideally relaxing) project to work on. Even though the time I can spend on it is broken up into chunks it is still surprising just how much progress you can make on it. All of those little bursts of knitting can really add up - just as long as I leave my phone alone and avoid Instagram surfing.

New skills...and cake

It's been a while since I learnt a new technique or skill and so it was with some trepidation that I approached brioche knitting. I have long admired the fabulous brioche shawls a la Stephen West on Ravelry but somehow refused to consider them as potential projects because, "I don't knit brioche"

Daft I know, but I had somehow got into the mindset that I simply was not a brioche knitter. It was a beautiful stitch and gave the most fantastic results but nope, it simply wasn't for me.

Fast forward to December of this year and I found myself going through old bullet journals. I realised that for the past three years, one of my New Years goals had been to learn Brioche knitting. Slightly embarrassed that I still hadn't managed I decided that 2017 would be the year - and declaring it publicly meant that this time I wouldn't be able to wimp out.

IN the end it turned out to be not nearly so horrific as I thought and after a few false starts I soon got into the swing of this soothing and strangely addictive stitch. I found this tutorial to be really helpful and also the pattern instructions for the Purl Soho cowl and hat are super clear and informative too.

Yes, I made some mistakes - as the slightly dodgy photo above shows - but I really enjoyed the project and am now casting around for another brioche project. Next time I would definitely pay more attention to gauge. An 88st cast on should have been for a hat but it came out much larger than that - happily it works as a snug cowl. On relfection I think a smaller needle size would have helped with this and might also have helped to tighten up my slightly wibbly sticthes. But on the whole I'm counting it as a success ... and awarding mysekf some cake,