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,

A new design and a realisation

This week saw most of my plans crumble like a soggy digestive. A recurring inner ear problem put me firmly out of action for a few days and meant that my lovely neat content calendar went disregarded - seriously cross - I used coloured pens and everything.

But I did manage to launch my new shawl design - The PPS* - which I was really pleased about. And a huge thank you to everyone who has been in touch, bought the pattern or talked about it to their friends. I really appreciate it, and seeing it on the front page of Ravelry patterns (albeit briefly) was a huge boost - Thank You.

In the past though I would have been stressed about what I was not doing, about things that I “should” be doing. They were in my planner for heavens sake - therefore they must be done.

This time though I listened to my inner voice - the one that sounds uncannily like my Mum. Telling me that I really couldn’t do it all. That trying to battle on through a horrible combination of vertigo and seasickness was never going to end well. And that it was OK to just take a few days off.

And so I did. And I have to say that it felt really good. Maybe, just maybe that pesky inner voice knows what it’s talking about sometimes.

*The PPS - why the name?

It stands for the Pattern Please Shawl - which if you are a member of any online communities (Facebook - I’m looking at you) you’ll instantly recognise as the pesky phrase that pops up repeatedly when people share their work but don’t share every last detail of the pattern/yarn/needles. I’m easily amused, I know but I quite like the idea of people asking “pattern please” when folk share an image of their completed shawls to which the response can quite legitimately be “why yes it is, how did you guess”

I told you I was easily amused - although judging from your response I think that quite a few of you also share my sense of humour

How to knit on tiny circular needles

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I'm a huge fan of knitting in the round -socks, sleeves and pretty much anything I can do on circular needles I will. I tend to mainly use magic loop but for travel knitting where elbow space is limited or where I need to be able to drop my knitting at a moment's notice (and not miss my stop) I tend to use tiny circular needles.

I generally use the 23cm (9”) diameter ones - these particular ones are Addi sock rockets but other brands also do them.

I often get asked how I knit with them and so I thought I would note down a few tips and pointers to help get you started.

The first thing to say is that they aren't everyone's cup of tea. Some people love them, some hate them and that's entirely fine. We all have our preferred ways of knitting.

  • Give it time - it will feel strange at first and that’s OK. Give yourself time to adjust to the new sensations, how they feel in your hands.

  • Relax your grip - I tend to hold my needles quite tightly anyway but I found that with tiny circulars it really does help to loosen the death grip a bit. Not only will your fingers cramp less but it will feel a lot more comfortable

  • Try to use the tips of your fingers - this can be tricky if your knitting style means that you tend to rest the needles on your palms usually. Keep movements small and light - again trying to keep a light hold on the needle tips as you guide the yarn really helps.

I’ve heard it said that it’s easier to master tiny circular needles if you are a “thrower” rather than a “picker/Continental style”. I’m not sure if there’s any truth to that as I can knit both ways and both seem equally comfortable.

One thing I would say is that unlike with magic loop or DPNs, there is no natural pause whilst you are knitting. There is no point in proceedings where you have to stop to rearrange your stitches or needles. That’s great from the point of view of efficiency but it does mean that you need to make a conscious effort to stop and stretch your hand muscles from time to time.

Many people complain of hand cramps when using small circulars but I find that a short stretch every 10 minutes or so is really helpful. The Loopy Ewe published a short series of ‘Exercises for Knitters’ a while ago which is really useful if you are interested.

Anyway, I hope these few pointers help you to overcome your fear of the tiny circs and give them a go - do let me know if you do try them. I’d love to know what you think.


PIN FOR LATER

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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


Super Sock Snake

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This blog post could also be titled “How to Knit a Sock Snake” - or indeed -why you would want to do such a thing.

Now, you know me - I love a bit of knitting efficiency and I like to knit socks in those spare in-between moments of travel and general hanging around. A recent long train journey meant that I got a bit carried away with the toe-up socks I was knitting. I normally knit around a 16” tube if I’m going to be adding a cuff and an afterthought heel but on this occasion I was engrossed in my Kindle, sipping my coffee and knitting away.

It was only when I got to my destination that I realised that I had in fact knitted close to 22” - practically the foot of sock number 2.

I was absolutely not going to rip out 6” of perfectly good sock so I decided to make a virtue out of a necessity and carry on to make a long sock snake. I had seen someone else on Instagram do this a while ago and the idea had stuck with me since then.

So many people asked about it that I said I would write it up as a short tutorial and will also link it to a free pattern page on Ravelry for those that want to knit a sock snake of their very own. You can find the Ravelry tutorial here.

Step 1: knit your snake.

For toe-up socks (8-9” foot circumference, 4ply yarn and 2.25mm needles) I cast on 24 sts using Judy’s magic cast on - 12 on each needle - and work a standard sock toe with increases on alternate rows (to 64 sts). Then knit, and knit...and knit some more. I knit until the tube measured 31” from the cast on and then added a second toe at the other end.

Step 2: divide your snake in half and decide where you are going to snip.

I like to fold the sock flat and pick the midway point - mark it with a pin. Then unfold it and lay it flat in front of you. Using a tapestry needle and waste yarn, slide 1 full round of stitches onto the waste yarn. Repeat with a second length of yarn - leaving one round between each lifeline

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Step 3: Snip (it sounds less scary than cut)

Once your stitches are secure on your two lifelines they can’t go anywhere. Using sharp scissors - snip a stitch in between the two lines and gently unravel the yarn - I like to use the tip of the tapestry needle. Continue around the whole sock until your sock snake becomes 2 shorter snakes.

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Step 4: Add cuffs

Return the live stitches to needles, join in your chosen yarn and add cuffs to the two tubes

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Step 5: Add afterthought heels

Using the same lifeline process - just across 32 stitches though - add in afterthought heels.

And hey presto - 2 separate socks.


PIN FOR LATER

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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.

How to avoid 'ears' on toe-up socks

An ‘ear-free’ sock toe

An ‘ear-free’ sock toe

It’s such a tiny thing to worry about in the greater scheme of things, I know. But if you’ve ever been annoyed by that tiny sticky-out ear that you sometimes get when you start a sock toe, then this tip might help you.

I’ve been starting socks this way for so long that I can’t remember where I heard it first. It might have been either via Paula of the Knitting Pipeline podcast, or Susan B Anderson - both fabulous sock knitting gurus.

It’s ludicrously simple to do - you just need to unlearn the first piece of advice you were ever given as a new knitter and don’t start with a slip knot. It is this tiny knit which sticks out in the fabric, no matter how tightly you try to pull it and gives that annoying little lump on the very outside part of the toe.

Don’t use a slip knot when casting on

Don’t use a slip knot when casting on

Instead of tying a slip knot, just drape the yarn over the needle and then arrange the yarn as you would do normally for a Judy’s magic cast on - yarn tail over index finger and the end nearest to the yarn ball around your thumb.

You might find it helpful to give a twist to the yarn before you start casting on - just to anchor it and give you something firmer to knit into on the first row. But once you’ve got that first fiddly stitch into the loose loop out of the way it’s plain sailing.

No, tiny knot and no annoying sock ears!

Do give it a go and let me know what you think.

PIN FOR LATER


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Of socks and mice...

Precious Metals Socks - photo by kind permission of Anna-Maja (agrajag42 on Ravelry)

Precious Metals Socks - photo by kind permission of Anna-Maja (agrajag42 on Ravelry)

Sometimes I think I should really write a book - Tales of a Hapless Knitter perhaps.

Let me set the scene. A freshly washed and blocked pair of socks ready to be photographed for their moment of Ravelry stardom. They are also on a freshly washed clean white duvet cover but let’s ignore that for now. Our hapless knitter pops out for groceries and returns intending to take the necessary photographs and get her sock pattern up on Ravelry pronto.

Imagine the wails of dismay when she sees the carnage that has ensued in her absence. A certain black and white cat who goes by the wholly feminine and unsuitable name of Blossom, has brought her latest rodent find into the bedroom and proceeded to use said socks as a tablecloth for her feast.

I’ll spare you the sight but use your imagination on this one. It’s safe to say that a photo of the scene wouldn’t entice anyone into buying a sock pattern, not unless they have a particular interest in rodent anatomy.

But never fear, my lovely email subscribers are fellow KAL-ers came to the rescue with offers of project photos (as well as sympathy for the damaged socks). Thanks to their kindness the pattern is now up on Ravelry for your purchasing pleasure, without a hint of rodent massacre.

So this pattern is brought to you almost literally by blood, sweat and tears - and also the lovely photo taken by Anna-Maja (agrajag42 on Ravelry)

You can find the Precious Metals Socks pattern here - and you’ll also find a chastened cat banished to the kitchen,

Stripy socks and a celebration

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That feeling of new socks never gets old does it?
No matter how things are going or how bad your day, you can pull on your freshly finished pair, wiggle your toes and feel instantly so much cheerful - and not a little bit smug.

I knit these as a long sock snake with a toe at each end, and then snipped to add cuffs/heels. After lots of questions on the way I did these I’ll be doing a blog post on it later in the week but for now you can hop over to my Instagram Stories highlights where I’ve saved a short photo tutorial for you.

It also seems appropriate to wear new socks for the launch of my new Comfort Blanket KAL today. You can find all the details here but basically this is an 8 week KAL combining pattern ideas/recipes for a Mitered Square blanket with self care tips and suggestions along the way.

If that sounds right up your street or you are in need of #ablankettohideunder please do think about joining us, and if you have any questions fire away. I’d love to have you on board.

Comfort Blanket KAL

Well, that escalated quickly.

So many of you were so enthusiastic about me running a Comfort Blanket KAL that I dived in with both feet and have now got the pattern page up on Ravelry and ready for your purchasing pleasure.

For a serial prevaricator like me you’ve no idea how unusual this course of events is. I can dither for weeks sometimes before hitting the Ravelry publish button.

The KAL kicks off on Monday 8th April and will run for 8 weeks, but please don’t worry. I’m not expecting you to knit a blanket in 8 weeks, I promise.

Each Monday, you’ll get a pattern update on Ravelry and it will alternate between a pattern for a particular mitered square, and self-care tips and suggestions. On Ravelry at the minute there is a pre-KAL Information sheet available for download after purchase. That just sets out the key dates for your diary and gives you a bit more information on the closed Facebook group for the KAL and some basic information on yarn/needles.

If you’d like to find out more I’ve summarised it HERE

And if you are ready to jump in and join me for the most gentle of KALs - just click HERE

Any questions? Just drop me a quick email and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.

A blanket to hide under

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Yesterday I did something that I don’t normally do, and posted an off the cuff and deeply personal caption on my Instagram feed. I do normally try to ‘keep it real’ and be authentic there as much as possible but like most people (I suspect) I do heavily filter what I chose to share (and to not share) with the world.

Yesterday though I admitted that I’ve been really struggling with anxiety lately. Partly due to personal circumstances, partly due to the uncertainty and political turmoil of the whole Brexit saga - it’s hard to stay positive in a world where you seem to be bombarded with horrible divisive rhetoric everywhere you turn.

My salvation, as ever is in my knitting and that probably explains why my favourite thing to knit right now are mahoosive garter stitch mitered squares. No thought required, just pretty yarn and soothing stitches.

So many people got in touch yesterday to share their anxieties and their coping strategies that it turned what started off as a pretty dark day into something much more positive, more upbeat, more manageable.

Jokingly we discussed the idea of knitting your own survival blanket - anyone else remember making a blanket fort as a child? And so, obviously my crafting little brain went off at a tangent.

As the Precious Metals Socks KAL is drawing to a close my thoughts turned to the possibility of a very gentle, no-pressure, blanket KAL - think soothing garter stitch, think squares of different sizes, think about an adaptable, flexible pattern (or recipe maybe?) where you can just relax and enjoy creating for the sake of it. Whether you decide to make a cushion cover, lap blanket or full-on “hide from the world” blanket.

I’d like to do this one a little differently though and my ideas are still sketchy so bear with me. First up, there would be a charge for this KAL as I would like to run it more as a community based event, with a closed Facebook group and maybe with a yarn swap component. The pattern will be purchased via Ravelry and purchase will give you access to the weekly prompts/pattern downloads and the Facebook group. The actual KAL itself will run for about 8 weeks with a weekly email from me. I’ll alternate the emails so that one week you’ll receive a weekly pattern/recipe for a mitered square (along with tips and tricks for a neat finish) and the following week you’ll receive some ideas for self-care and mindfulness. I’d also like to use the KAL to raise money for charity, so from each purchase I’ll be donating a fixed amount to Mind - the mental health charity.

So what do you think? If it sounds like something you might be interested in please click the link here to express an interest and as soon as I have more information you’ll be the first to know.

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.

How to make felted dryer balls

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Whilst casually scrolling through Pinterest and various zero waste websites I came across a number of references to tumble dryer balls. For the uninitiated these are balls (no surprise there) that you put in your tumble dryer in order to speed up the drying process.

Mr Amazon of course sells packs of these in various shapes and sizes - most of them plastic - which didn’t really appeal to me. Then I came across a reference to tumble dryer balls made of wool and of course my keen knitterly senses perked up at this.

A bit of Googling later and some kitchen experimentation I found myself with quite a bowlful of these cute felted balls. The jury is still out on the whether they categorically reduce drying time but my goodness they are such fun to make - and of course a fabulous way to use up an scraps of 100% wool you happen to have about your person.

I’m sure there are a variety of techniques available for doing this but when I shared photos on Instagram so many people asked about them I thought i would share it here:

HOW TO MAKE FELTED TUMBLE DRYER BALLS

  1. You must use 100% wool for this

  2. Also be aware that strong or deep dye colours in your wool run the risk of colour transfer to your laundry so choose accordingly.

  3. Start of with a small core of tightly wound sock yarn (any yarn will do for this) - about 5g in weight, or if you have any spare roving/yarn ends scrunch these into a small walnut sized ball.

  4. Take your 100% wool and start to hand-wind to form a round ball. Rotate it carefully to ensure an even round shape.

  5. The balls in the photo use approximately 20-25g wool

  6. Once wound, break the yarn and tuck the end in firmly

  7. Once you have amassed 4 or 5, stuff them into the cut off leg from an old pair of tights. Put one down in the toe, then tie a knot. Then add the next ball and tie a knot. Continue until all of the balls are encased - with a knot between each one to stop them felting together.

  8. Throw the balls in with your laundry for a few cycles of washing and drying

  9. Then remove them from the tights and hey presto - cute, fuzzy yarn balls.

How to work the clasped weft join

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know that I suddenly developed a passion for knitting scrappy socks with leftover sock yarn. Having previously shunned them for fear of having to weave in All The Ends, I discovered the Clasped Weft Join and became positively evangelical about it.

Simple to do, no needle is required or any faffing. You don’t even need scissors if you can just snap the yarn by hand. It takes less than a minute and you are up and running with your new colour.

Sounds too good to be true? Just try it - and I’m sure you’ll be a convert too.

I uploaded a short video of how I do it, as it really is easier to see it in action than to try to write out a tutorial. It’s the first time I’ve ever uploaded anything to YouTube so please be kind - I may need to hire my teenaged sons to be my social media managers at this rate.

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.

And we're off...

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The Precious Metals Sock KAL starts today - and I have to admit I’m just a little bit excited. It seems like ages since I did a sock KAL and I’ve really missed it.

The first installment should be in your inbox, if not now, then very shortly.

If you haven’t yet signed up there’s still time, just click this link to subscribe .

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Happy Knitting

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

Mickelby Cowl

This was originally part of a collaboration with Eden Cottage Yarns and now this cowl pattern - my Mickelby Cowl - is on general sale on Ravelry with a little early bird discount - although if you are a newsletter subscriber please check your inbox first for a little extra discount*.

This is a quick and really straightforward knit which looks way more complicated than it really is.

If you have always shied away from colourwork or filed it away in the box marked “too scary” I promise that it’s a lot simpler than it looks. The slip stitch pattern means that you only work with 1 colour per round and it’s really addictive - a real “just one more round” kind of project.

And, as an added bonus it is a snug fitting cowl - it uses only 50g of sockweight yarn with 2 x 10g mini skeins - ideal for stashbusting purposes.

So there you go, quick, easy and thrifty - what more could you want.

*The discount codes apply until March 2nd

You can buy the pattern here, and if you’d like to sign up to receive notifications on future pattern releases as well as the forthcoming sock KAL you can sign up here.

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.