Yarn in the City Pop-Up Marketplace tomorrow in London!

If you are out and about in London tomorrow (Saturday 5 September 2015), beware the knitters!  120 knitters and crocheters will be out and about around the city on the Great London Yarn Crawl.  This will be my third time on the yarn crawl, which is held in aid of Refuge.  You can read here about what a great time I had last year.

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(Just some of the yarn I squished on the Great London Yarn Crawl last year.)

For those of you who have tickets for the yarn crawl, I’m looking forward to meeting some of you, and for those of you who are reading this and wishing you had tickets, there may still be some solace to be had if you can get to London, as there’s another fantastic event happening alongside the yarn crawl, organised by Yarn in the City (who organise the Great London Yarn Crawl).

They are putting on a Pop-Up Marketplace for one day only.  It’s taking place from 12-7 on Saturday 5 September 2015 at the Chelsea Old Town Hall and tickets will be available on the door (for £10 – children under 16 go free if accompanied by an adult).  The marketplace will showcase not only some of London’s wonderful yarn shops and independent yarn businesses, but also a range of fantastic sellers from all over the UK.  It should be well worth a visit to admire some wonderful supplies, experience an indie designer showcase, take part in a knitting-relating art project A Memorable Yarn with Brenda Dayne and possibly do some shopping!  If you have any knitted items you have made which you would like to donate to charity, Yarn in the City will also be collecting those at the marketplace for Knit for Peace.

So, empty your piggy bank and come along if you’re able to get to London tomorrow.  For more details, visit the Yarn in the City website.  Perhaps I’ll see you there?

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Rest and be thankful: gratitude

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(Mosaic floor at the National Gallery, London.)

A few years ago I started keeping a very informal gratitude journal.  Life was feeling a bit tough, and I’d read that making time to be aware of things you are grateful for could increase wellbeing.  So I started to take a few minutes each evening to write down three things I’d been grateful for during the day.

I was curious to see whether making a conscious effort to notice small moments of gratitude on a daily basis would make any difference to the way I felt.  I actually noticed a difference quite quickly.  It wasn’t dramatic, but I soon realised that even on bad days I usually had something to be grateful for, and I started to take pleasure in noticing these moments in each day and remembering them later on.  I find it an enjoyable habit and I’ve kept it up for the last few years like a mini-journal.

I also find Instagram a great way to capture positive moments.  I find that my Instagram feed is usually full of very positive and inspiring images, and I like to keep mine for sharing things that have lifted my spirits:

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(Some recent pictures from my Instagram feed: top row –  first blossom on my baby cherry tree, lichen on a walk with my mum, daffodil shadows, swatching for my Japan Sleeves sweater; second row – finished Palmyre shawl, home-grown veg from the garden, leaf embroidery on the sky and Norwegian mittens at Unravel 2015.)

Slowing down to notice small pleasures and be grateful can be very powerful.

This month, one of the things I’ve been grateful for has been the A Playful Day Love Your Blog Challenge, and this post on the theme of “gratitude” is my last in that challenge. Taking part has been a great way of discovering lots of inspiring bloggers and trying out a different way of blogging (as I’d never used prompts before), and I’ve really enjoyed it.  Thank you to Kate for hosting the challenge and introducing me to so many interesting people, and thanks to everyone who has taken part and shared their ideas – I’ve loved reading your posts and discovering a new community. x

A Playful Day
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Beyond ducklings and pantomime sisters: the risks of ugly

In April,  I’ve been taking part in the Love Your Blog Challenge, hosted by A Playful Day, which has seen me taking a weekly theme as the prompt for a blog post.  I’m really enjoying taking part, and particularly reading all other participants’ posts.  It’s been a great way to discover many interesting blogs and voices.

This week’s prompt for the Love Your Blog Challenge has, for me, been more “challenge” and a bit less “love your blog”!  The topic to explore was “Ugly”, and I have to admit that I’ve really struggled with it.

When I saw what the topic was, I felt almost immediate strong resistance, without really knowing why.

Beyond ducklings and pantomime sisters, the ideas refused to flow.  Ugly is not a word I use particularly often.  Seeking inspiration,  I looked up the definition.  The Oxford English Dictionary says that ugly means either:

1.  unpleasant or repulsive in appearance; or

2. hostile or threatening; likely to involve unpleasantness.

There are certain things which I definitely consider fall into the second part of the definition, for example, violence, cruelty, exploitation and persecution.  The news has instances of ugliness on it virtually every day.  However, I don’t want to write about those things here and now.  They are too important.  They deserve to be covered by someone who has something to say.  I feel that I would be writing just because I have a prescribed blog topic to explore without any particular message to communicate.  So I’m not going to write about them.  (Gosh, I sound fairly petulant there – I promise I’m not stamping my feet and frowning as I type!)

Which leaves me with the other meaning:  unpleasant or repulsive in appearance.  I think that’s a pretty strong and damning verdict on anything.  I tried to think of the last time I used the word ugly in the context of appearance in a conversation.  These shoes came to mind:

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They are well-worn and well-loved shoes of mine, which I’ve had for years.  A friend  described them as “ugly in a good way”!  I admit that they are in a very scruffy state now, but I love their utilitarian, snub-nosed plainness.  (They are also incredibly comfortable.)  You may love them or hate them and I suppose some people might consider them ugly.

The daisies at my toes may also be seen as undesirable weeds which must be eliminated from any lawn.  Ugly maybe to some?  Yet to other people, these same daisies enhance a lawn, and represent individual jewels waiting to be made into stunning necklaces, or the crown of a great queen.

Having spent a week thinking about “ugly”, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really believe in it (in the sense of the first limb of the definition).  It’s incredibly subjective, but because it’s also a very harsh criticism, it can have a powerful impact.  While beauty might be said to be just as subjective as ugliness, the label “beautiful” implies worth and is likely to make us look more closely, whereas the label “ugly” implies the opposite.  It’s likely to make us look the other way.

Beauty and perfection are becoming the norm in so many of the images and objects we are presented with.  There is a risk that our perception of ugliness is also shifting to mean anything which does not meet these “norms”.  Judging a book by its cover and finding it “ugly” means that we may not take the opportunity to look any further.  Even on a simple and harmless level, we may miss out on delicious misshapen vegetables at a farmer’s market or fail to see the inspiration hiding within the myriad colours and textures of the cracked tarmac pavement beneath our feet.  (KNITSONIK has woken many knitters from their slumber of not seeing the beauty of tarmac.  Read her blog post about Tarmac Tuesday here.)  I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, “ugly” is a set of blinkers, to be treated with extreme caution.

I don’t think I would have written this post, had it not been for the Love Your Blog Challenge.  I’ve felt very stuck at times while writing it, and although I’m not altogether sure that I got unstuck in the end, it’s been an interesting experience.  Thank you for the challenge!

A Playful Day
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How does a knitter begin? False starts and true beginnings.

This post is my interpretation of the theme for week two of the A Playful Day Love Your Blog Challenge, which is “Beginnings”.  You can find out more about the challenge here.

A Playful Day

How to begin, when pondering beginnings?  One of my favourite beginnings is, ‘Once upon a time…’  So I’ll start with that.  Let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time, there was a small girl.  Each day she grew a little and she learned a lot about the world around her.  She loved to ask questions and one day she asked her mother, ‘How did I begin?’

‘Now, there’s a question,’ her mother thought, searching for an answer which would be right for such a small person.  And she said to her daughter, ‘I made you.  I knitted you, stitch by stitch, over many months until you were ready to be born.’

Somehow this answer made sense to the small girl until such time as she was ready for a more scientific answer, and she felt very loved that her mother had made her with so much care.

Despite the story of her knitted beginnings, the small girl did not pick up knitting needles herself  for a few years, until, one long summer day, a neighbour taught her how to knit.  The girl learned to form the ‘knit’ stitch, and knitted an irregular square of mustard-coloured yarn.  Her neighbour cast off the square and the girl sewed it up into an envelope with a button to fasten it – a purse!  She proudly filled the purse with coins, which immediately fell through the gaping holes between her rather loose stitches!

At that point, the girl looked at her work and decided that she must be very bad at knitting.  She was clearly not a knitter and she did not try to knit again.

The end.

I’m sorry.  There is no ‘happily ever after’ here.  The girl did not follow her apparent knitterly destiny, growing up with needles in her hands and quickly becoming an amazing knitter of immense skill and prowess.  Instead, this is a true story, and true stories are often less tidy than made-up ones.

The girl in the story was me.  My mum used to tell me that I’d been knitted.  I loved that explanation of my beginning, but I look back slightly regretfully at the fact that I didn’t persist with my first childhood knitting experience.  I sometimes wish I had been that happily-ever-after, amazing knitter-girl.  Maybe I could have been like Annabelle in Mac Barnett’s book Extra Yarn (which is a brilliant story, with beautiful illustrations by Jon Klassen, of a little girl who learns to knit from an ever-replenishing box of yarn).

In real life, by the time I picked up needles for the first time, I had already developed the early stages of a perfectionist streak which I hadn’t yet learned to handle.  The disappointment of toiling to create a completely useless purse put me off trying to learn any more.  In later years, stubbornness, persistence, and eventually a little more patience with myself would kick in to support that perfectionism, and actually help me to learn when I found things difficult.  It was just a shame that THE MUSTARD PURSE OF DOOM happened before that.

Of course, in real life, stories don’t have to have a neat ending, as they often do in made-up story land.  That mustard garter-stitch square wasn’t the end of my knitting life, but only a false start.  I found my way back to knitting as an adult, and this time I fell under its spell and became an everyday knitter.  You can read the story of the true beginning of my knitting life here.

That’s the exciting thing about beginnings: they don’t always have to happen at the beginning and sometimes we get more than one chance.  As a late learner, I am not the knitter I would have been if I’d knitted all my life.  However, I have had the pleasure of being fully aware of my learning experience and the satisfaction of each new skill.  I still have so much to learn and I’m looking forward to each step of the journey.

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Knitted arrow from Unravel 2015

How did your knitting journey begin?

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Finding my feet and reaching out: new blogging challenges

“Sing like there’s nobody listening”

This quote (variously attributed to Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh, William Purkey, Mark Twain and Satchel Paige) hangs on my friend’s kitchen wall.  I love the sentiment behind it, of committing to a whole-hearted performance, uninhibited by fear of criticism or judgement.  I also know that I find that far easier said than done.  (I’m a classically trained singer, but even in the practice room, at times I’ve found it hard not to be singing to my inner critic.)

A year ago this week, I finally pressed publish on my first blog post here on yarnful.com.  I’d been toying with the idea of writing a blog for a while.  I loved the idea of having an expressive space online where I could write about things that inspire me (mainly yarns of all kinds, both textiles and tales), but although I bought a domain name and thought about it a lot, it remained just an idea.

That was until, as part of an online course on ideas generation, I had to carry out a project which took one idea and during the course of a week, turned it into something real.  I mulled over whether this was the right time to start my blog and nearly didn’t do it.

Someone else on the course made a comment that helped me to take the plunge.  They said (generally, not specifically to me) that, “Most new blogs aren’t read by anyone anyway!”  Fears of public failure were put into perspective by the thought that my blog probably wouldn’t be seen anyway, so what on earth was I worrying about?  I could “blog as if there’s nobody reading” and it would almost certainly be true (and risk-free).  So I wrote my first post, spent an afternoon playing with paint and scraps of yarn and fabric to create the image at the top of this page (below is an unedited shot of what I got up to) and then I pressed that slightly terrifying “publish” button at the bottom of the screen…

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And nothing happened, because nobody was reading what I’d written. But then I had to “hand in” my course homework online, and my fellow course-mates became my first readers.  Their feedback was overwhelmingly constructive and I found that it was actually quite exciting that someone was reading my words.

So I kept at it, and I’ve published fairly regularly over the last 12 months.  It’s definitely true that new blogs don’t get many readers at first, but gradually my number of “views” has increased and my confidence to share this blog has grown.  It’s also been hugely encouraging to get feedback on posts, whether it’s from friends, strangers who have come across it by chance, or other knitters I have connected with in some way.

Singing as if there is no-one listening can provide a useful safety net, but the best performances happen when you are completely present with the audience and communicating your song to them.  I think that blogging is much the same.

As I go into a second year of writing this blog, I’m hoping to build more connections and be braver about interacting with others.  I also want to make more time to read and support other blogs by engaging more actively with the blogging community.  So I am really excited to be taking part in A Playful Day’s Love Your Blog Challenge, which will be running throughout the month of April.  A Playful Day is a blog that inspires me, and through a series of weekly blogging challenges, she’s hoping to inspire bloggers to “fall back in love” with their blog.  This post is my interpretation of the first week’s challenge topic: interactions and community.

I hope that this will be a year when, instead of blogging like there’s nobody reading, I blog like my story is worth telling.

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Fear of missing out (and how even the knitting events you can’t attend might still bring you joy)

Fear of missing out (“FoMO”) is the fear that you’re missing out on fun and rewarding interactions and experiences that other people are having.  Apparently we all have different factors which might cause us to experience FoMO to varying degrees (including the levels of autonomy, competence and connectedness we feel in our daily lives), but a study by the University of Essex found that people with high levels of FoMO are more likely to use social media, and that social media may itself exacerbate the fear, as it makes it easier to see the experiences you are missing.

With such an active online international knitting and yarn community, there is always plenty of news on social media about different knitting events taking place.  It is impossible to go to everything.  This month there were two events in the UK that I was unable to attend in spite of really wanting to go.  I had kept my disappointment in check when I decided not to go, but wondered how regretful I’d feel when I saw all the social media coverage.  Would I be afflicted with FoMO?

The first event was the very first gathering of The Muse Connection, which was hosted by two of my favourite podcasters, A Playful Day and Curious Handmade, in my home city of London.  Centred around the themes of colour and community, with tea, cake, and plenty of time to knit and chat with like-minded people, it sounded like a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

The second event was Edinburgh Yarn Festival, which took place the following weekend in Edinburgh.  Edinburgh is a five-hour train journey from London, but the amazing classes and marketplace, events such as the podcast lounge (hosted by another of my favourite podcasters, Knit British) and even a Ca-baa-ret made this a tempting prospect for a weekend away.

As the anticipation began to build for both events on Ravelry, Instagram and through various podcasts and blogs, I kicked myself a few times during February that I would be missing out.  As they got closer, however, I realised that my feelings started to change.

I noticed it first with The Muse Connection.  I began to enjoy the little snippets of news about the event.  Rather than making me feel worse about not going, sharing in details of the build-up, such as the excitement over the sponsors (and amazing goodie bags) and venue, was fun.  Seeing photos of the event taking place, and reading/listening about it on the A Playful Day and Curious Handmade blogs and podcasts enabled me to gain a flavour of the atmosphere and the themes that they had explored.

The themes for the event were partly what inspired me to make a visit to Columbia Road Flower Market in east London on the Sunday that The Muse Connection was taking place, so that at least I could get my own fix of colour and community.

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(As you can see, I had a great time basking in the sights, sounds and smells of the market.  It didn’t have yarn, but it was a great morning out indulging my senses in a riot of colour.)

The run-up to Edinburgh Yarn Festival was similar.  It was fascinating watching various dyers preparing for the show.  (For a brilliant insight into an indie dyer’s business, follow Eden Cottage Yarns on Instagram.  Not only does the owner, Victoria, have an amazing talent as a dyer, but she’s really, really good at showing the inside of her business.)  I loved watching the different stalls take shape and people travelling to Edinburgh.  I began to look forward to another weekend as an inspired observer of Edinburgh Yarn Festival.  When it began, I really enjoyed seeing glimpses of the weekend, discovering vendors who were new to me through pictures on social media, and even seeing clips of the Ca-baa-ret festivities.

There was also a bonus surprise that weekend, as I discovered Edinburgh wasn’t the only yarn festival taking place.  Early on the Saturday morning, I spotted #bedinburghyarnfest in my Instagram feed.  Created by UK-based knitters, Anna Maltz and Rachel Atkinson, #bedinburghyarnfest was the ultimate “stay at home yarn festival”, taking place through Instagram and Twitter over the whole weekend.  Rachel writes more about it here.  From the first picture on Saturday morning, the momentum gathered quickly, and soon lots of us were taking part.  Attendees shared not only pictures of current projects but also their surroundings, food, festival drinks, fellow attendees and much more.  There were even workshops on yarn-dyeing and steeking hosted on Twitter.  I kicked off my #bedinburghyarnfest experience with a lovely Saturday morning reading an article on Shetland yokes by Kate Davies in the latest edition of the Shetland magazine 60 North, with socks in hand and tea in my favourite knitting mug.

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(Yes, the rabbits on the mug have rather an unusual knitting technique.)

On Sunday, I did some guilt-free yarn shopping from my stash, to choose yarn for an Ocean Blossom shawl.  Two friends helped me to choose colours via Instagram: Jenny, who lives about half an hour from me in South London and Zoe, who lives on the other side of the world in Australia.

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#bedinburghyarnfest was a blast of unexpected magic which united lots of us who weren’t able to share in Edinburgh in person.  Taking part in it, I admired lots of projects, had some lovely conversations, and found plenty to inspire me for the future.

The yarn community is a tight-knit (badum-tish!) one.  If you run a yarn-related event, it’s possible that there are people you have never met, possibly living far away, who would love to attend if only they could.  A good event gives its attendees a good experience, but some events also have a positive impact on people who aren’t even there.  They create ripples beyond the group of ticketholders and build a wider community.  I believe that this doesn’t happen by accident, but by the will of individuals to share generously, to interact and to make connections with each other.  These values were at the heart of The Muse Connection, Edinburgh Yarn Festival and #bedinburghyarnfest.

I’ve realised that I don’t necessarily have to be at an event in order to gain from it taking place.  It’s all about engaging in a positive way.  I’ve also realised that by sharing my experiences at the events I am lucky enough to attend, I might be able to help someone else conquer their FoMO.  Here’s to sharing!

Edinburgh Yarn Festival will be taking place again in 2016 (dates to be confirmed).  Sign up to their visitor mailing list here for more details when they are announced.

Volume 2 of The Muse Connection is taking place in London on 21 June 2015, but is already sold out!  Look out for Volume 3.  You can sign up to their mailing list here.

#bedinburghyarnfest has not announced future dates, but I believe that plans may be in the pipeline! 

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Unravel 2015

I recently made a road trip from London to Farnham with three friends to attend Unravel at Farnham Maltings.

Unravel is an annual yarn and fibre festival, and as it’s at the end of February, it usually  kicks off the UK yarn “season”.  Farnham is a pretty town a little way south-west of London, and Unravel is held in a lovely old maltings building (where barley used to be prepared for brewing), which is now home to an arts centre, café and all-round creative hub.  I’d not attended Unravel before, but had always heard great things about it, and so I was excited to go for the first time.

I wasn’t disappointed.  The whole building had been transformed with yarn and knitting-related displays everywhere, from sweaters on the walls of the café, to knitted arrows pointing the way to the venue.

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The marketplace was spread over several floors, and the winding nature of the building makes it into a bit of a treasure trail, as you wend your way through the different spaces, discovering new vendors around every corner.  Although it was busy, there was still time to chat to vendors and other attendees, and a lovely convivial atmosphere.

My friends and I hadn’t booked for any of the talks or classes, but I did get the chance to meet Annemor Sundbø (who had given a talk on Norwegian knitting traditions) and to see her wonderful collection of old Norwegian mittens, which were strung around the walls of one room.

Mitten Mittens

I really enjoyed looking round all the stalls in the marketplace.  There was a really inspiring selection of yarn, fibre, patterns, notions, tools and other lovely things.  There was so much to admire on the beautifully-presented stalls.

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Marketplace photos – top to bottom above: knitted taxidermy from Sincerely Louise, Kaffe Fasset-inspired crochet blanket at The Natural Dye Studio’s stall, a tempting table of Skein Queen yarn, beautiful vintage objects from Eliza Conway, and Spin City’s stunning hand-dyed fibre.

There was so much to see that I took the approach of taking a full tour round at a leisurely pace, and then going back to a few stalls towards the end of the day to make my purchases.  In the end, I bought Annemor Sundbø’s book, Knitting in Art (which I had been coveting for some time), three skeins of John Arbon’s Viola yarn to make a big shawl (so hard choosing between the gloriously complex colours), some very luxurious ruby-toned lace weight yarn from Skein Queen and a skein of gorgeous green Stein Fine Wool from The Little Grey Sheep (who produce their own hand-dyed yarn from their own herd).

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While I’m very pleased with my purchases, it wasn’t just about the shopping.  Unravel 2015 was full of inspiration: lovely knitwear, new and familiar vendors, lots of products to explore in the future and lots of catching up with other knitters.  Thanks to the vendors and organisers for a brilliant event, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

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Winter inspiration by the sea

A long weekend away provided a welcome opportunity to recharge my batteries and get plenty of visual inspiration.  Although London hasn’t been cloaked in a Narnian snow blanket (like many other parts of the Northern hemisphere), it’s still pretty dark and cold, and I’m definitely at the point where I feel that the days have been short for too long.

So it was a real tonic to have a few days by the sea, staying in a cottage in Southwold, a little town on the Suffolk coast.  I don’t think cold weather is a problem if you have the right clothes and don’t have to travel too far.  Obviously, I was well-equipped with handknits, so I wrapped up snugly and went out for lots of walks to make the most of the winter daylight.

Southwold is a beautiful place, with an excellent beach and pier (with handmade automata as amusements)

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and colourful beach huts (each with its own name).

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There are so many interesting buildings and features in the town, with gorgeous details, both old and new:

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I also took the chance to warm up a little on a tour of the Adnams distillery.  There was lots of beautiful copper distilling apparatus, a little museum, which featured a handstitched bottle cover, and a wonderfully-fragrant gin laboratory (where they experiment with different botanicals).  I wish you could smell it now…

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I’ve been to Southwold many times, and one of my favourite nearby places is the huge RSPB reserve at Minsmere.  I’d never been there in winter before though, and although it was quieter than at other times of year, there were still deer to be spotted in the woods and a bittern preening in the sunshine in the reedbeds.

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A wintery walk round Minsmere also provided a wealth of inspiration in terms of different textures and colours in the landscape.  I enjoyed having time to observe and to take photos of some of them.  Here are some of my favourite details:

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Lots of them make me think of textured knits or embroidery stitches, and there were some surprising flashes of colour.

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Of course, I made time for some knitting while I was away.  I did some swatching for a possible Coronis sweater (which I will make longer than the original) and also worked on the Beetlebum lace shawl I’d just cast on in Madelinetosh Prairie yarn (in the Tern colourway).  It’s been a while since I’ve knitted any lace, and I’m really enjoying this lovely new pattern from EastLondonKnit.  Mine won’t look like anything much until it’s finished and blocked, but if you want to admire the stunning original shawl, here’s where Renee from EastLondonKnit blogged about it.

The combination of daylight, fresh air, lots of walking and so many interesting sights, smells and tastes was really invigorating.  I hope I can hang onto that feeling of inspiration and energy.  What are you doing at this time of year to beat the winter blues?  Or if you’re in warmer climes, how are you making the most of summer?

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Being kinder to myself (or how it’s really not right to rush when knitting with cashmere)

I hope you’re having a good 2015 so far.  I spent the start of mine very quietly, as I was laid low with a chest infection.  When I felt up to knitting, I had a lovely soothing project to work on: the Arboles Cowl by Sashka Macievich.  It was my post-Christmas knitting, cast on after all the rush of gift-knitting and general festive activity, using two skeins of beautiful plant-dyed cashmere yarn from Elisabeth Beverley that I had been looking forward to using.  I had bought the first skein (a yellow, dyed with daffodils) at a Selvedge fair a couple of years ago, and then bought a soft grey skein (dyed with brambles) to pair with it at the PomPom Christmas party in December.  (It’s okay to buy yarn to help you use existing stash, right?)

Working on the project highlighted a habit of mine that I’m determined to break during 2015.  I had no deadline and as I was ill, I wasn’t really up to doing anything very strenuous.  I was enjoying the pattern, and for goodness sake, I was knitting with cashmere!  I should have been relaxing and enjoying the buttery softness of every stitch and the pleasing way the grey and yellow were knitting up together in the slipped stitch pattern.  Yet I found myself rushing through my project, simply to tick another “job done” off my list!

I’m all for goals and planning.  In fact, I generally live by my to-do list and take a great deal of satisfaction from the fact that I manage to juggle all the things I do.  It enriches my life, and if I didn’t push myself sometimes I’d probably still be saying “maybe I should buy some yarn and needles and learn to knit one day”, but sometimes  I take it to extremes.

Luckily, that time I caught myself and gave myself a bit of a talking to.  After that, it was a very relaxing knit.  There are times when I want or need to push on through the to-do list like a person on a mission, but there are also times when I could stop and take more pleasure from small things.  This year I’m hoping to balance a bit more of the latter with the former and to be kinder to myself when I can.  Oh, and I haven’t written that on a list.🙂

Arboles

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Knitting thrums: a how-to guide

Do you knit patterns more than once? I usually prefer to knit something new, but sometimes a pattern begs to be knit more than once, often because I finish it for the first time and think someone else I know might like one of those.  Ishbel by Ysolda Teague is a shawl I’ve made a few times, and I’ve recently made the Brighton Beach shawlette by Dieuwke Van Mulligen for the second time as a birthday present for a friend.  Bella by Dani Sunshine made a lovely matching set of cardigans for a new baby and her big sister.  The Meredith Baby Cardigan by Ruth Maddock created two very different finished objects using different colour combinations: a warm cream with pale blue buttons for a baby boy, and navy with Liberty print floral buttons for a baby girl (which I wrote about here).

My most recent repetition of a pattern has been the Cadeautje slipper socks from Ysolda Teague’s Knitworthy collection, although this one is starting to look a little like a production line.  I wrote here about starting my first pair on a recent knitting weekend, and they are a lot of fun to make.  The first pair was a gift for a friend, but I immediately embarked on a second pair to keep my own toes warm.  I’ve now just finished my fourth pair in time to post off for Christmas!  I think that they will make good presents, but they are also just satisfying and quick to knit, and it’s hard not to smile when you’re making something that looks like this:

Wkclownwig

That’s the inside of the sole, which is covered in the fleecey ends of pieces of unspun fibre (or thrums) which are knitted into it as you go.  They make a lovely, warm and squishy lining, which felts together with wear.  There’s a photo at the end of this post which shows the outside of the sole.

I made my Cadeautje using rainbow thrums, with twelve different hues painting a rainbow from toe to heel.  I bought a mixed selection of coloured fibre from World of Wool in the UK, which has a really wide range of different coloured dyed merino tops (as well as other wool breeds and natural tops).  The main yarn I used is New Lanark Chunky yarn in the neutral grey, Pebble.

This was the first time I’d made thrums, and it’s a really fun technique. The instructions in the pattern suggest that it’s a good idea to make a batch of them at a time so you don’t have to keep stopping between stitches to make each thrum as you go, and I think that’s a really good tip.  If it’s your first time making thrums too, I thought some pictures of the process might be useful.  Below I’ve shown how to make a thrum and how to knit it into your fabric.

Gently pull off a length of fibre to make your thrum. Fold the ends in so that you have a loop at either end.  The chunkier the width of your thrum, the larger the coloured stitch will appear on the right side, and the longer the piece of fibre is, the more fibre you will have lining the inside. If you want a uniform effect, you should try to keep the thrums a similar size.  I tended to use any slightly smaller ones nearer the edges of the sole, as there would be less need for padding there.  The one I’m making below was for the cuff of my Cadeautje.  I made them longer and wider for the sole so it would be more cushioned.

pull thrum thrum length

When you come to add your thrum to your knitting, you will have the right side of your work (i.e. the outside of the sole, if you are making Cadeautje) facing you.  Insert the working needle into your stitch and wrap the yarn round it as if you are about to knit.  Lay your thrum around your needle (over the wrapped yarn) so that the two looped ends hang along the wrapped yarn (first picture below).  Then, holding the two loops of your thrum and your wrapped yarn, knit them as one stitch. Your knitted thrum will look like the second picture below, with the yarn and fibre lying close together.

T1 T3

On the next row (working on the right side if you’re knitting in the round, such as on the cuff of the Cadeautje slippers or on the wrong side if you’re knitting flat, such as on the Cadeautje sole), when you get to the thrummed stitch, you knit (or purl on the wrong side) the yarn and the thrum fibre together as one stitch (see first picture below).  Once knitted, your thrum will look like the second picture below (where I’ve knitted three stitches past the thrum).

About to knit row 1 Finished thrum

If you’re racing to complete Christmas gift knitting or craft projects, good luck with them, and I hope you have a very happy festive season.

Cadeautje finished

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