knitting life

A summer sabbatical

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What could I do with 2 hours extra every day? 

I've found myself with that thought a lot over the last few weeks, especially since working out that 2 hours is my daily average for time spent scrolling on Instagram. The handy ‘activity’ monitor built into the app shows me all too clearly how much of my daily life is eaten up by this tiny little app that lives on my phone.

Some days it's a lot more than 2 hrs. Now that wouldn't be too bad, if scrolling made me feel good. But right now it's the good old 80/20 principle in action.

20% of my time on Instagram is fantastic. I connect with friends, chat, laugh and share life's ups and downs. I love it and it's truly life affirming.

The other 80% leaves me sad,anxious, stressed and upset. I see online behaviour that I wouldn't accept in any other area of my life and it worries me that it seems to have become the new norm. At a recent school event about online bullying I was struck by the awareness of some of the young adults around me on this issue, it it saddened me that we had adults who aren’t seemingly capable of modelling the behaviours we are teaching to our children.

It's time for a change. My kids break for the summer holidays at the end of next week and I'm thinking I might do the same. The thought of an Instagram sabbatical is an attractive one and the fact that it scares me also is probably a sign that it's much needed.

There are a ton of things I keep saying I want to do more of. I want to read more. I want to learn to spin - properly and I want to spend more time this summer with my kids before I lose them to the mid teen years. All of which are good things to do. And with 2 hours a day at my disposal I reckon that’s a pretty good start.

I’ll also be blogging here a little more and I’ll be using my email newsletters to document what I’m up to, so I’m not going away. Just taking a little step back to refocus, refresh and hopefully enjoy some more creative pursuits.


When knits don't go to plan

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Sometimes you knit something and it’s love at first sight. It fits well, you can block it, weave in the ends and call it done. Other times - not so much. This latest project - the Soldotna Crop definitely falls into the latter category.

I love the yoke, I love the length (it will look fabulous over a navy dress I have) and I love the colours. What I didn’t love was the super high neck line that felt as though it was a polo neck. I’m not quite sure where I went wrong - as the original sample definitely doesn’t have a high neck but I know since posting about it on social media that a lot of other people have experienced the same problem.

Yes - I know I should have read the very helpful comments on Ravelry project pages first but since when did I ever do things the sensible way? It seems that knitters, being the creative bunch that they are have found a few different ways around the neckline problem which generally fall into the category of:

  1. Ripping out the neckline ribbing and working an i-cord bind off

  2. Ripping out the ribbing and adding a few more rounds of stockinette to allow a relaxed, rolled edge

  3. Ripping out the ribbing (and a tiny bit of the yoke) and working the ribbing a little lower down.

Either way - the astute among you will have realised that some ripping is required. There were some super organised types (who did read and plan ahead) who started the sweater with a provisional cast on, anticipating such a problem but I’m ignoring them (joke - I am of course secretly envious of your foresight).

So, armed with my trusty nail scissors I cut off the ribbing and ripped back. Of course, I had reckoned without the cunning short rows at the back and so I ended up having to pull back a bit further than intended. But, with only a modest amount of swearing I managed to get the neck stitches back onto waste yarn and there they currently sit awaiting my attention.

At the minute I’m erring towards an i-cord bind off, but time permitting later on today I’m hoping to try it on and make a decision - probably,

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,

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.

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.

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.

Christmas Knitting...or not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Wool - and other thoughts

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Last week I announced that I was going to run a small knit-along - the #winterwoolkal - aimed at carrying on, in some small way, the fabulous Wovember love from previous years. You can read the original blog post here.

I had planned to do a slightly bigger event but my enforced wi-fi break the week before during our family holiday meant that it was all a bit rushed. Still, I was very pleased with the enthusiastic response. Lots of knitters gleefully rootled through their stash or took the opportunity to buy a skein from a new-to-them producer or dyer.

So far so good. It was a bit of a surprise then to be greeted with, what a friend laughingly termed a ‘wool backlash’. I received a steady stream of emails, PMs and messages suggesting that my focus on 100% wool (the original Wovember principles) was somehow elitist and risked alienating a large number of knitters.

Quite apart from the hysterical thought of a bunch of grown adults being scared off by 50g of Blue Faced Leicester DK, my grandma (who always knit with with wool) would have been tickled pink to be called elitist.

Seriously! How can the choice of wool over other fibres be controversial. It has been such a staple of textile production for 100s of years. I think many of the comments stem from the misconception that wool is somehow expensive and that certainly seemed to be a recurring theme in my emails. This is an excellent article by Louise of KnitBritish which most excellently debunks that myth.

I have always maintained that there is a valid place for acrylic yarn. But that place is not in a KAL aimed at promoting wool and the British wool industry. Including acrylic and other fibres in the KAL would detract from the whole message in the same way that calling a £1 ball of acrylic yarn from Aldi “wool”, detracts from the value of wool as a living, breathing, essential resource for knitters.

In addition, just because a group of people have chosen to apply the term “wool” to anything you can knit with (as opposed to calling it yarn) it doesn’t mean you can use it in a wool KAL. If it didn’t come from a sheep then it isn’t wool.

Wool has so many wondrous qualities, which others have expressed far more eloquently than I can - just browse the Wovember back catalogue of articles for inspiration. Acrylic yarn and other fibres obviously have their place but can never replace wool in my opinion

Nothing beats the the feel, the squish and the smell of real wool. No one - to my knowledge - has ever ripped open a bag of petroleum based yarn product and gleefully inhaled the aroma within. And for that reason, I am and will remain a wool enthusiast to my very core.

Socks - do you block yours?

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

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

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

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

Knits - how do you wear yours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apologies for absence

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I'm seeing a lot of posts over on Instagram and Facebook recently which, much like any formal British meeting, start with "Apologies for Absence". I know that I have certainly been guilty of this in the past and this was indeed the starting sentence to this draft - when I noticed that my last post was nearly 2 weeks ago.

Real life is just that, it can be messy, busy and for a lot of the time, pretty unphotogenic and yet we put this pressure on ourselves and feel bad when somehow things slip and we miss a few days/weeks posting.

I've had conversations with a few fellow Instagramers recently where they have taken a few days off and actually been contacted by followers asking why they hadn't posted. Seriously? Don't get me wrong - we all check in with people from time to time and that natural concern is a brilliant part of the online community we inhabit. But one person actually said words to the effect that "if you can't be bothered to post, I'll unfollow you".

Let's be honest, no one pays to use these sites - whether they are consuming content or creating it. No one has a right to expect a post from you - you share when you want to share. And not before.

If you are busy making memories with the family, if you are busy with work/life or frankly just not in the mood there's no pressure at all to show up and do something you don't want to do.

Sorry - rant over now. I think I'll just sit down and knit with my coffee for a bit and knit on this sock. And yes - if you are wondering I totally did match my nails to my knitting. Sometimes it's the little things that make me happy

Summer Knit School - now full

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My word! That escalated quickly.

We now have over 500 very eager and enthusiastic participants to my first seasonal creative course. With that in mind and to ensure that I have sufficient time to chat to folks and follow along with their creative exploits I have had to close the course to new sign ups.

But never fear, this is definitely something I will be running again in the near future. So, if you aren't already signed up to my email list please do and you'll be the first to know of new courses and events.

For now, why not follow along with us on the #summerknitschool hashtag on Instagram - you don't need to be signed up to enjoy being a bit more creative with your knitting this summer.

 

The power of positivity

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I've said before that if knitters ruled the world we would have the whole world peace thing sorted out before tea time. And the events of yesterday I think have proved me right - at least in part.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to take part in a collective launch of an online initiative which was the brainchild of the Countess Ablaze. You can read the whole back story here but basically she issued a challenge to indie dyers, designers and other online creatives to come up with a design or yarn based on her iconic colourway "If I Want Exposure I'll Get My Tit's Out". And at 12 noon yesterday over 250 folks did just that - launching their #titsoutcollective products upon the internet.

I was hopping backwards and forwards between Facebook and Instagram and even managed to snag a skein of yarn for myself as well as launching my own design - the Erika Cowl. It was a busy, exciting and uplifting way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Each participant had to choose a charity to donate a proportion of their proceeds to and I can't wait until the end of the month when we all submit our sales totals. The original yarn from the Countess raised over £3000 for a charity and I can't wait to see what our collective efforts will unleash this month.

As with anything online these days there were a number of negative comments too, which was a shame but ultimately did not detract in any way from the huge wave of knitterly positivity that swept through the internet yesterday. People discovered different indie dyers, new dyers sold out of yarn faster than hot cakes and the whole thing was just so inspirational that I was hugely proud to have taken part in it.

If you haven't already done so, please do check out the #titsoutcollective hashtag on Instagram. And if you are a member of the Everyday Knitter Facebook group do keep your eyes out for a cheeky little group project later in the month. It will be a chance to show off your "Tit's Out" purchases in a fun show of support for the Countess and the fabulous project she has pulled off in just 2 weeks.

 

 

Instagram likes are your currency - spend them wisely

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A great idea came to me late last night, as all the best ideas do. I’d been speaking to my boys about pocket money and the importance of spending it on things that are important to you and then as I was scrolling through Instagram later on I found myself thinking of the system of ‘likes’ and how we use them.

I know we all like to think of Instagram as a non-commercial platform, even though we know that deep down that we are either there to sell or to be sold to. But the sense of community and of belonging in some part at least, overrides this and keeps us going back day after day.

More than anything we crave connections to fellow humans and crafters and Instagram gives us that ability to connect, to chat and to build real meaningful relationships both online and in person.

The way we do that and the way that our social currency works is through the system of ‘likes’. In a way, ‘likes’ are the currency of Instagram and they are what keeps the whole system oiled and moving.

We judge how good a particular photo is based on the number of likes (I know we shouldn’t, but we do). In a way the number of ‘likes’ tells how good/useful/important something is in the same way that we perceive a more expensive lipstick to be somehow better quality than something we paid £2 for.

This is one of the things which has really riled me about the recent wave of spam IG accounts. These automated accounts run by bots are nothing more than machines built to gather likes. They don’t add or create anything but they harvest carefully selected, popular images in order to induce people to hit that ‘like’ button. And of course, people do hit the ‘like’ button - as that’s what made the images popular in the first place. It’s a carefully calculated and manipulated strategy designed to build the ‘worth’ of spam accounts. The more people that they can persuade to ‘hit like’ then the more their account is seen and then ultimately they can sell off that account to a business and make money from it.

As these spam accounts get ever more sophisticated it can be hard to spot them from genuine ones, especially now with the recent trend of using actual people’s names. But reporting and blocking remains the way forward. Ultimately if few people engage with the posts then these accounts will simply be seen less and they will drop further down the grid that Instagram choses to show you.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the face of the relentless proliferation of these accounts but small things really can and do make a difference. Choose where you spend your ‘likes’ wisely and let’s help add value to the real, hardworking crafters of Instagram.

PIN FOR LATER

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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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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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The items my knitting bag can't live without

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If you are anything like me, the bottom of your knitting bag is a sort of graveyard of previous projects with discarded ball bands and snack wrappers. But there are a few constants that I always have about my knitterly person and I firmly believe that you should too.

HIYA HIYA SNIPS - known affectionately as "Puppy Snips" in our household. These are a firm favourite of mine and I have acquired several pairs now. I love that fact that you can attach them to your bag zipper using the handy little chain and the fact that the tiny blade makes them perfectly airline friendly.

WASTE YARN - you never know when you might need to pop in a lifeline or slide your stitches on to waste yarn. I once had a needle break on me in mid-train journey and being able to safely catch the stitches on a length of waste yarn saved much swearing and cursing later on. I really like to carry a small package of dental floss for this - not only is the thread suitably thin and smooth for most yarn types but the integral cutting blade can also be persuaded to cut yarn and can replace your scissors in a travel emergency.

STITCH MARKERS - Although I can make do with loops of waste yarns I always have a few spare stitch markers knocking about. I like to have a few of the lockable markers too - the ones you can clip and unclip. These are really handy for catching up an errant dropped stitch or for marking the right side of your work.

PENCIL and PAPER - As a designer I'm supposed to say at this point that I always have a pretty notepad and pen to hand to jot down design notes or to keep track of a pattern. Sometimes I do, but more often I seem to end up with a random till receipt and a biro. Not exactly as pretty from an Instagram point of view but definitely an essential.

TIN OF HAND CREAM - I always have dry hands and have amassed quite a collection of solid lotion bars, or ones in tins. I tend to avoid anything in tubes after a rather unpleasant leakage episode.

So, those are my must have items - do let me know what your essentials are. I'd love to know.

PIN FOR LATER

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Yarn with a mind of its own

Yarn is Manos del Uruguay, Allegria. Colouway Orchid.

Yarn is Manos del Uruguay, Allegria. Colouway Orchid.

After wrangling a new sock yarn purchase for most of the afternoon and battling pooling in it's various guises my yarn and I sat down to have a full and frank exchange of views.

After a glass of wine we decided that actually it didn't want to be socks, that it had never wanted to be socks and that I was cruel and heartless for trying to persuade it into a nice, simple plain vanilla sock.

So, I took the yarn's advice and cast on for a nice garter stitch Fuss Free Festival Shawl instead.

And now everyone is happy.

The moral of the story is clear - sometimes you just have to let the yarn win. And also - a glass of wine helps most (but not all) knitting dramas.