knitting

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.

A new thing

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The Blanket of Exacting Requirements, as I have named it is done, off the needles and blocking as I type. I’m really pleased with it and my son (who has aforementioned requirements) is mightily pleased too. This is my first time using West Yorkshire Spinners Colourlab DK for a blanket - having taken the decision earlier in the year to refrain from using acrylic yarns from now on - and I have to say that I love everything about it.

The colour range is good, it’s an impressively all-British produced yarn and it retails for under £7 per 100g. I know this reads a bit like an advert and I apologise but really, I promise I haven’t been paid to promote this yarn. I just really like it.

Whenever you mention knitting with pure wool though the issue of price always rears it’s head, with the assumptions that pure wool is expensive and impractical for blankets. So I thought I would do a little road-test and report back on this blanket at intervals so you can see how it is holding up. I have two boys and an equal number of cats and so knits in our household are very much used and abused.

As for price. I used approx 7 balls of this yarn in various colours which equates to less than £50 for the whole project (7 x £6.95). It’s absolutely not the cheapest yarn available but for something that will be used and loved for years that’s a price point that I’m very comfortable with. Price isn’t something we often speak about in relation to our finished objects. We talk about yardage and colours used but actual hard cash is frequently overlooked in our discussions.

So from now on I’ll be adding the estimated cost of a project to my Ravelry page. Sometimes with deep stash a price will probably be a best guess but it’s better than nothing. And hopefully it might go a tiny way towards dispelling the myth that all wool is expensive and that acrylic is the only affordable option.

Knitting a square in the round

Fuss Free baby blanket knit in West Yorkshire Spinners ColourLab DK

Fuss Free baby blanket knit in West Yorkshire Spinners ColourLab DK

There’s a lot to be said for knitting a square blanket in the round, rather than knitting it flat. I don’t know about you and I’m fairly sure it defies the laws of physics but I’m convinced that a square knit flat takes far, far longer than one knit in the round.

At some point when I have three-quarters of  a square I always start doing a heck of a lot of measuring, certain that after these last few rows I will have knit enough. Or if all else fails I start trying to convince myself that everyone really wants a wide, short rectangular blanket rather than a square one. Obviously they don’t - it would just look weird and exactly like you’d given up three quarters of the way through but such are the tales I try to tell my inner knitter.

Instead I find that if you knit a blanket in the round it’s all bunched up on your needles and you can keep knitting and knitting, through films, kids playparks and all manner of events. It’s easier on the hands and (if you are doing stocking stitch) there’s the added benefit of no purling. It does mean of course that it’s harder to spread it out for photographic/measuring purposes but you can’t have everything and I’d rather just keep knitting so that the eventual size is a happy surprise when I finally bind it off.

If you’d like to try knitting a blanket in the round, as with everything there is more than one way to go about it.

Knit a central square - this is my favourite method and one I come back to time and time again. In my Fuss Free Baby Blanket (a free download on Ravelry) it starts with a central garter stitch square. You then keep the live stitches on the needle, place a marker and pick up the same number of stitches along each of the 3 sides - adding a marker at each corner. You then alternate a mitered increase round with a plain round building up the square from the centre out. Easy peasy. You can add stripes or whatever takes your fancy make the most of fuss free, portable knitting.

The other option is to start with a small number of central stitches - usually on DPNs - and build the increases from there. This can be a bit more fiddly but is perfectly straightforward to master. My basic recipe for this is as follows:

Cast on 8 sts and divide equally across 4 DPNs

Rnd 1: kfb in each st (8 sts inc)

Rnd 2: k

Rnd 3: *kfb, k to last st on DPN, kfb. Rep from * 3 more times (8 sts inc)

Rnd 4: k

Rep rnds 3 and 4 - each increase round adds 8 sts. Once you have sufficient sts you can switch to a circular needle. I like to switch to a 60cm cable once I have about 80sts in total. It might be a bit tight for the first few rounds but as you add more stitches it soon becomes easier.

Two ways of achieving the same result, but both with the nifty feature of avoiding the tedium of an “almost there” blanket knit flat.

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 monster FO: The Garter Ripple Squish

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There are FOs and there are monster FOs. At just over a kilo (1100g to be precise) this massive version of my Garter Ripple Squish blanket is a whopper.

Holding 3 strands of sockweight yarn together on 7mm needles somehow managed to make a wonderfully cushy fabric. I’ll be honest, it felt rather dense while I was knitting it and a real dead weight on my lap. But blocking as ever worked it’s magic and it’s loosened up a treat. It’s pleasingly substantial and comforting but it doesn’t make you feel as though you are trapped under something heavy.

I used a whole assortment of random leftovers to make this and at just over 1000g that equates to 10 whole skeins of sockweight yarn. It’s quite a thought to realise that not only did I have a kilo of leftover sock yarn hanging about the house, but that I still have more. Luckily a lot of that is more pinky/purple in colour and is happily slotting into my crocheted Giant Granny Square blanket.

Even more pleasingly this contributes a splendid 4040m to my Stash Dash total for this year - hurrah! It used to be the case that yarn held doubled/trebled didn’t count for the total yardage - only the yardage actually knitted (if you see what I mean) and so I was fully prepared to reduce this total by two-thirds. However on checking the rules it seems they have changed it for 2019 and so the full amount counts.

Happy days indeed.

If you fancy having a go at a bit of a stashbuster yourself you can find the original pattern here - do let me know if you knit it - I’d love to know if anyone manages a bigger one.

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,

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

Ready for a KAL?

It’s a very low-key, minimal fuss type KAL, I promise.

If you’ve started already then WIPs totally count too. Starting on 1st June I’ll be running a KAL for my new design - the Pattern Please Shawl - over on the Everyday Knitter Facebook group and also on Instagram.

It’s a simple, fun knit - ideal for using up mini-skeins and all kinds of general stashbusting potential. The yarns pictured here were a kit from Lucylocketland, although these lovely birds-egg inspired colours sold out in a flash.

I know that Eden Cottage Yarns has some fabulous mini skeins too - I believe I even saw sparkly ones in her last update.

If you like stripes, garter stitch and a relaxed, no pressure KAL then this is the one for you.

By way of added incentive, every finished project listed in Ravelry by 15th July 2019 and linked to The PPS pattern page will go into a prize draw to receive a little something from my personal stash. There will be 2 prizes on offer - both skeins of hand dyed yarn - and I’m happy to ship them anywhere in the world.

So the only question that remains is which colours to pick? If you are stuck tag me on Instagram and use the hashtag #patternpleaseKAL so I can find you. Two brains are better than one, right?

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,

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.

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.