Knitting life

Re-entry

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It’s clearly the sign of a good holiday when you find yourself back at your desk, hands on keyboard desperately struggling to remember how to write or compose a blog post.

The week I was away flew past - lots of swimming, lots of reading and a surprisingly small amount of knitting. I didn’t pick up a pen or even think about writing. The real world seemed very far away.

Now, I’m back and struggling a little. The Instagram world is full of drama (no surprise there), the current political situation in the UK is going from bad to worse (and with today’s news, to the diabolical) and I’m struggling to stay afloat. I just want to pack everything back up and escape back to our little bit of Greek paradise, but obviously that’s not an option. There is school uniform to buy, lists to be made and a whole mountain of domestic chores await.

So I’m going to do what any sane knitter would do in the circumstances and dive into my stash in search of a new cast on. If ever there was a time to start knitting a survival blanket - I think it might be now.

One is never enough

Giant granny square blanket - Number 2

Giant granny square blanket - Number 2

So it seems that granny square crochet blankets should come with an advisory health warning. After finishing my blanket last week I found myself sitting in bed on Sunday morning feeling slightly bereft and not sure what to do with myself. So of course I did the only acceptable thing in these circumstances and started another one.

Addicted, nah, not me.

Apologies by the way if you were under the string impression that this is a knitting blog. I promise that normal service will be resumed shortly.

And if you are tempted over to the way of the crochet you might like to know about a CAL over on Instagram. Run by @martushkaknits the #crochetfromyourheart CAL is for any crochet project that you are undertaking this summer. Lots of people are doing scrap yarn granny squares or similar long term projects and it’s really wonderful to see all of their progress. If looking through their fabulous projects doesn’t get you reaching for the crochet hook then nothing will.

A Crochet Success

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It’s always a happy day when a finished object coincides with a Finished Object Friday so it’s definitely time for a happy dance as I declare my giant granny square blanket done. Even more so as it’s one of the first crochet projects of mine that I’m truly happy with.

After much deliberation about the border I opted for just 2 rounds of double crochet after the final round of dark purple. I tried a picot edge and it didn’t look right so I opted for the ‘less is more’ approach.

It's based on the Purl Soho Giant Granny Square pattern on Ravelry and I used just over 2000m leftover sock yarn on a 2.5mm hook. No matter what I do I always seem to crochet quite tightly so in the end I just embraced it and I really like the relatively tight fabric it produced. It feels pleasingly substantial without being too heavy and I can see this lap blanket getting an awful lot of use over the coming months.

The only downside is that I can’t share it in my own Everyday Knitter FB Group without breaking our strict ‘no crochet rule’ - which is pretty funny really.

I feel oddly bereft to have finished this now - and I have a strange urge to cast on another one. I think I may be mildly addicted.

False starts and firm opinions

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It was the kind of scenario you just couldn’t make up. 

Picture the scene. I am doing a bit of flatlay photography for my one Instagram photo of the week. I’ve got my little blanket project in progress, my coffee still hot and the junk on the bed shoved to the side out of side.

In wanders my eldest son, he glances at the bed and asks if that’s his new blanket I’m working on. “Why yes it is” I answer, “Just like the one you asked for”.

His old baby blanket suffered a sad demise a few years ago, courtesy of our old, incontinent cat and he had been asking for a new one for a while.

He expressed concern that this new blanket, whilst using the same colours ‘looked different’ to how he remembered it. There then followed a slightly confusing conversation which only after careful consultation with my Ravelry project library did we determine that we were in fact each talking of an entirely different baby blanket.

The one I was remembering - a Moderne Baby blanket - of log cabin-like construction had in fact belonged to his brother (oops). The one he was picturing with fond memories was in fact the first baby blanket I ever designed - the Fuss Free Baby Blanket - which starts with a central square knitted flat and then has stitches picked up around that square to be knit in the round.

Realisation dawned as we looked at each other across my lovely flatlay. 

But luckily the central patch would serve just as well for the other blanket and I really hadn’t done more than an hour or two’s knitting on it. 

So, I learnt a valuable lesson. To always check what’s in someone else’s mind when they ask for a knitted something. And he learnt how to frog and rewind yarn!


My first Instagram free week

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It isn’t something I’ve come across before, for obvious reasons. But when you haven’t logged in to Instagram for a few days it starts sending you little automated emails. Trying to entice you back to see what you might have missed. Trying to trigger that little bit of your brain that deals with dopamine and addiction. Heck, even trying to make you feel guilty about not showing up.

Seriously. If ever I needed a wake up call that the whole app is designed to draw you in, entice you in and then, crucially, keep you there, then these polite, chirpy ‘look what you are missing’ emails are just the thing.

Happily I can report that these pester emails are now directed to reside in my spam folder along with emails from companies that like to tell me about ‘summer beach body deals’ and strange people from foreign climes trying to send me an inheritance.

I quickly logged in to Instagram for a check in last week. Sunday morning over coffee. I had an hours leisurely scroll which was really rather pleasant and then I logged off to spend an hour doing some gardening - my new favourite thing. It’s really nice, especially in the evening to put the phone down and go and do a bit of gentle pottering about. I’ve never been much of a gardener but we recently had some help clearing our overgrown (I prefer the term nature friendly) garden and I was thrilled to find some old peonies that have survived years of neglect, so now I’m trying not to kill them with kindness.

My other plans for my Insta-break have been rather scuppered by the heat wave we are currently experiencing in my part of the UK. I was planning to do some spinning and get to grips with my drop spindle but it’s been so warm that even looking at a pile of fluff brings me out in sweat.

A friend on Twitter gave me this useful tip for working on larger projects in the heat though - using a small folding lap table to keep the bulk of your project off your legs. We had this ugly old table back from when my husband had surgery a few years ago and I’d stored it away. But it turns out that it’s the perfect size to rest my giant granny square blanket on while I work on it. And there’s room for my coffee too - winner!


If at first you don't succeed...

You might have spotted this WIP before as I’ve shared it online a few times now. Sadly though, despite much ripping and a moderate amount of swearing it still remains a WIP rather than a finished object.

In my planner for the end of July I had optimistically pencilled in “share Soldotna resolution”. This was going to be a perky, uplifting little blog post about how I overcame my issues with the neckline, came up with a pleasing solution and possibly even modeled it for you.

Sadly none of those things happened. I ripped back and ended up going back a bit too far. I sorted that out and tried a 3 stitch i-cord bind off. That rolled something terrible so I tried a 2 stitch i-cord (on smaller needles). It still rolled. I decided to embrace the rolling and knit several rounds of stocking stitch. That looked terrible on me. I thought I would try a few rounds of garter stitch (on smaller needles). And eureka…

...only joking...it still didn’t look right.

So after several hours of cursing I did what any sane knitter would do, threw it in a corner and cast on for a simple, soothing garter stitch blanket.

It’s too hot to knit much this week anyway. There’s going to be a bit of heatwave here in my part of the UK and I will have no need of a colourwork yoke sweater, no matter how cute the short sleeves are.

At least, that’s my argument and I’m sticking to it.

In the meantime i’m hoping that inspiration strikes, from somewhere.


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,

It's not just about the knitting

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I think we can safely say that it has been a turbulent few days. I was all set to send a newsletter on Monday morning and then the news of Ravelry’s rule change broke and the knitting world went into a spin - even making the news headlines on the BBC and the leader pages of the Guardian.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about you can read all about the new Ravelry rules here and the background to it here.

As much as we all enjoy knitting and use it as a coping mechanism for our everyday stresses, I think there has definitely come a time when it isn’t sufficient to insist that we just ‘stick to the knitting’. The personal is political and the impact that politics has on our lives is immense and inescapable whether you choose to recognise it or not.

My very first pattern sales were through Ravelry, indeed it was Ravelry that made me realise that self published pattern sales were even possible. Although I’ve dabbled with sales on other sites: LoveKnitting - woeful and Patternfish - clunky, Ravelry has always been my mainstay.

To be crystal clear, I fully support Ravelry’s position and my future pattern sales will be through Ravelry. I have no plans to make them available elsewhere. 

In addition it seems that there are a few chain letters (for want of a better word) being sent to designers and yarnies, asking for a refund on goods bought. Designers who are standing by Ravelry are being asked for refunds by people who are choosing to leave the platform. You can see a particularly hilarious example I shared on my Instagram page here.

Again, to be clear, Designers sell a digital download and that is what the buyer receives. When a platform changes it’s terms and conditions, the buyer has no recourse to refunds for products bought before that. 

The stance that Ravelry has taken, whilst admirable is just the first step though. Part of the backlash that we have seen over recent days is a reaction to the fact that we can’t go back to a time when it was ‘just about the knitting’. This has made for some uncomfortable reading, especially as makers of colour and other marginalised groups have been campaigning about this for some considerable time. This could be the time for real, significant progress in making our craft a truly inclusive one but we can only do that by considering the impact of our choices and decisions in our everyday lives. The makers and companies that we support, and by extension those that we choose not to.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Ravelry is a free service and if you use it as often as I do, you might like to make a small donation. Or, an even better way is to buy a few patterns or gift a few to friends and spread a little love. I’ve recommended a few designers below whose work I really admire and who have been tireless in campaigning for a change in attitudes for some considerable time. This is by no means an exhaustive list though and I would really urge you to explore and find new people whose work you may not have seen before

Ravelry donation page

Jeanette Sloan

Marceline Smith

Grace Anna Farrow

Gaye Glasspie - @ggmadeit

Francoise Danoy - @arohaknits


From me to you

A fresh mug of coffee, a notebook and my laptop. It might be pouring with rain outside and a distinctly grey start to the working week but sitting down to write my email newsletter always feels like a bit of a treat. And like all treats it always seems to sink to the bottom of my to-do list. Somehow there are always a hundred other ‘important things’ that clamour for my attention.

But today I have my phone firmly turned screenside down and on the other side of the room. It’s just me and my coffee for half an hour and time to write. In an eternally busy world sometimes it feels like the ultimate act of rebellion to turn your back on the world and spend a bit of time with just you, your thoughts and those of others.

I have struggled of late to keep up with other peoples blogs and newsletters. People that I like to follow and whose work I admire, their writing kept getting lost in an ever present series of to-do lists and things “to do later” - Hint: later never seems to come.

So now I’ve started saving all my email newsletters from people into a separate folder on my phone and it really does help. Rather than have them get lost in my general inbox they are saved waiting for me to have a spare half an hour. In the same way as I used buy and read glossy magazines I now save up and read fabulous snippets from creatives whose writing and work never fails to lift me up, make me think and inspire me. I think it was Ruth Poundwhite (of the Creatively Human podcast) who gave me that idea and co-incidentally enough her new (and free) email marketing challenge begins this week.

I’ve had an email newsletter going for a while now and whilst I love to write it I feel as though I need to revisit it a little and evaluate it. So I have signed up and am looking forward to viewing it through fresh eyes. and maybe trying a few new things.

For me the joy of an email newsletter is that it cuts through all the noise and busyness of social media. It’s a crowded old world out there and new, shiny things are constantly competing for our attention. An email though, lets me chat to people on a much closer, much more human level. Rather than a post on Instagram that might get hundreds of people tapping on little hearts but only 5 comments, an email is the opposite. You don’t get that little dopamine hit of instant gratification as people ‘like’ your work but you get the chance to communicate with them on a much deeper level - for me as a card carrying introvert - it’s a bit like the difference between close friends and casual acquaintances.

My email newsletter is my way of communicating with friends, with people who really ‘get’ what it is I do and why I do it. It’s a cup of coffee and a chat, rather than a pretty flatlay with lots of gloss and rather less substance.

All this is a very long winded way of saying, if you are signed up to my email list then a heartfelt “Thank You” for being there. And if there’s anything you’d like to see in my emails that I don’t currently do then please do let me know.

And of course - if you’d like to sign up and see what I’m talking about you can see more here

5 reasons to switch your knitting to circular needles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PIN FOR LATER

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How to start a knitting group at work

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

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

Step 1 - Positive mental attitude - see above

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck - I’ll report back,

Abundance vs scarcity mindset

Photo by  Jessica Lewis  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further links

What is abundant thinking?

10 steps to develop an abundance mindset


Love your LYS

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This article was previously published in May 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When is a hobby not a hobby?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I'm doing a No Spend Lent

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

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

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

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

For me, my essentials are:

  • An outfit for an upcoming work event in April

  • Kids school stuff, and classes

  • Sports payments & classes

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

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

Non essentials:

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

  • Takeaway coffee and takeaway meals

  • Books and magazines

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

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

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

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

The Rare Stitch Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zero waste socks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staying small

Precious Metals Socks KAL starting soon

Precious Metals Socks KAL starting soon

I saw a really interesting statistic yesterday which really gave me cause to think, and also crystallised a few thoughts which I’ve been mulling over for a while. The ever-fabulous Casey from Ravelry ran and published a report into the income made by designers through Ravelry pattern sales. January was the best month for pattern sales and his figures showed that only 300 people made more than $1000 in sales. It goes without saying that sales for the summer months are a whole lot lower.

With figures like that it’s pretty obvious that pattern sales alone are not a viable way to make a living - and that’s the reason that most designers either have more diverse income streams or who work other jobs in addition to their designing.

For the purposes of comparison I checked my figures and in January I made just short of £660 in pattern sales (approx $860) - not bad - and probably about in line with my monthly average.

It goes without saying though, that this is not my sole source of income. I work a full time job and I’m married with a husband who also has a full time job. And of course there are the overheads to be deducted for tech editing, website hosting, software and the dreaded tax return.

My designing and pattern sales are a useful source of secondary income but more importantly for me, it’s fun and that’s why I do it. If I were to give up work to focus on this full time I’m not sure I would inherently be any more productive, or that realistically I would be able to convert that free time into actual income. There are only so many patterns people are willing to buy and hours in the day in which to knit them.

So much business advice is gearing towards growing your business, to “slaying it” and to building your income. Sometimes it feels as though it’s wrong to say “I’m fine where I am actually, thanks”. I’m never going to be a crusading business woman, and I’m fine with that.

I’m just happy, doing what I do. And I’m eternally grateful that I’m able to do it.

My favourite apps for knitting pattern storage

Photo by  Radu Marcusu  on  Unsplash

As much as I would love to say this is my library/craft room, in reality, due to lack of space (and an excess of kids and Lego) I’ve had to embrace digital storage of patterns and knitting paraphenalia. I access and store patterns almost exclusively in digital rather than paper format these days. The exception to this is the beautiful (print only) Laine Magazine and also a few treasured stitch dictionaries - the complete Barbara Walker series as well as my absolute favourite Japanese stitch bible.

In my quest for the perfect digital solution I’ve tried out a few different apps (I’m an Android user) and I thought it might be helpful to share them here:

KnitCompanion: I know this is really popular and I have bought (and used) the paid for version. There is also a basic, free version if you wanted to try it out. I really love the way it seamlessly integrates into Ravelry and if I were a really prolific knitter of other people’s patterns I think this would probably be my app of choice. As it is, I’m usually juggling knitting my own designs with knitting those of others, so I tend not to use this very much at the minute. It’s really great for saving your progress though and avoids that “where the heck am I?” feeling when you pick up a long-term WIP that you have mysteriously abandoned half way through the lace chart from hell.

Goodreader: This available for i-Phone/Apple users. I’ve no experience of this but I know that many people do use it and speak very highly of it.

Evernote: I’ve had an Evernote account for years now and I use it for all sorts of things, from household bills and storage of documents, to knitting patterns and clips for design inspiration. The platform is free to use, or you can pay a small amount (as I do) to access a greater range of premium features. I keep the vast majority of my bought knitting patterns in here, stored in folders along with useful articles, research articles and those all important size charts that I always need to reference. Whenever I buy a pattern - usually from Ravelry - I download it straight away to whatever device I’m on and then save a copy in Evernote. It synchs across all of my devices and it means that I can always access that crucial bit of pattern information no matter where I am. I love it so much that I am an Evernote affiliate. You can sign up by clicking this link for a free trial of their Premium service. This is an affiliate link which gives me points towards my own Premium membership.

Google Drive. I’m a real fan of Google docs and spreadsheets, and most of my design work and content creation happens here. I love being able to create specific folders for everything and the fact that it integrates so seamlessly into Trello (see below) is a real bonus.

Trello. This is where I do my day to day (and month to month) business planning. I love the calender function here and so this is where I manage my everyday tasks, set my editorial calendar and keep track of various projects.

Where do you stand on the issue of pattern storage? I asked this question in my Instagram Stories earlier today and so far it’s about 35% Team Paper and 65% Team Digital.

If you know of any apps or storage solutions that I haven’t mentioned, do please let me know. Like the search for the elusive perfect notebook, the search for perfect storage is always ongoing.