Friday, 1 May 2015

Gratitude (A Playful Day Love Your Blog Challenge)

Part four in the Love Your Blog challenge, inspired by A Playful Day.  Better late than never.

This one is about gratitude, and it's difficult to chat about this topic without becoming decidedly soppy.  My overriding sentiment will be one of optimism. 

Isn't this the cutest plant pot you've ever laid your eyes on?  It's a little 'hedgehog', which you're supposed to plant your cacti in.  I didn't have enough jaggy plants, so there's a wee succulent and a tiny cactus in there instead.  This little guy is from Barruntando, a great wee handmade pottery shop on etsy.   (They also do the most incredible foxy yarn bowls :o). 

The yarn in the top photo is Titus, from Baa ram ewe.  This yarn is SO SOFT - it's 50% Wensleydale, 20% Bluefaced Leicester wool & 30% British Alpaca.  The colours are inspired by Baa ram ewes surroundings in Yorkshire; each and every one is beautiful! 

I love that items like this exist.  Sheepy wool blended beautifully for our knitting pleasure, and someone who felt we needed a tiny sleepy fox bowl to keep it in?  How can we complain about a life with such things.

The world is full of wonderful people, creative types all in our own way.  We're all great at different things, and we're better when we draw together to do incredible things.  Take for example the recent Edinburgh Yarn Festival (which has been blogged & podded about wonderfully by the inspirational Louise at Knit British).  It was an incredible feat of organisation, crafting, creating & socialising.  From the most famous knitter, to the volunteers and that lovely lady making us the coffee to keep us all going, everyone pulled together to make the weekend great.

Generally, I'm pretty grateful for most things I have in life.
In relation to blogging, I'm grateful mainly for you lot.  You lot who read this blog.  The lovely ladies who encouraged me to publish my first pattern, to people who introduced me to new techniques, new yarns & whole new yarn related hobbies!!

With each new technique I learn, it makes me feel more involved in our wonderful fibre community. 

At the end of the day, it's the simple things which make us happy.

Like new socks drying in a sunny window.

What's your favourite thing about knitting & the fibre community?  & Last but not least, I'd love to thank A Playful Day, for inspiring this series.  

Sock yarn from Stray Cat Yarns

Monday, 20 April 2015

Ugly (Love Your Blog Challenge); "A Gross Parody of Life in a Wicker Basket"

Part three in the 'Love Your Blog' series inspired by A Playful Day.

It took me a very long time to decide what to write about for the A Playful Day challenge this week.  The prompt is 'ugly'.  Should I take a photo of all of those WIPs I don't like anymore and will never finish?  Of that horrible pink acrylic yarn I was hell-bent on collecting when I first started knitting?  Or the knitting projects I have properly messed up and are now sitting in a depressing pile of pretty-but-ruined yarn behind the sofa. 

We all struggle to see past our mistakes, past the flaws which make us doubt ourselves, our goals and the things which we create.   What we know, yet consistently forget, is that the flaws which bother us are mainly noticeable only to ourselves.

In the end, I took a good look at myself, and a photo without any make-up on (super close-up).

I'm tired.  You can tell by the little bruises under my eyes.  I try to do too many things.  My skin is dry, I don't look after it.  My cheeks are getting a little chubby, because I make no effort with my diet.  It's late, because I start ten things at a time and so never concentrate on any properly or finish any of them.  

A lot of us look at ourselves this way.  Critically.  With no kindness or forgiving.  With no trace of compassion for ourselves.  Would you judge another so harshly?  Is this what you think they think of you?

I couldn't take a picture of those 'ugly' skeins of pink aran acrylic, because when I really sit down to think about it, they're not ugly at all, they're just not what I want to knit my next shawl with.  Bright pink aran owls, anyone?  I'm sure there are many fans of obscenely pink yarn, and who am I to say it's ugly. 

I couldn't take a photo of the WIPs I don't like and will never finish.  They remind me of choices I've made - good choices at the time - which turned out not to work so well.  All twists & turns, tangled knots, repeats knit wrongly, ripped out three times before being discarded.  Reviewed by friends & family along the way.  Yarn which, after enjoying the idea of how it was created, just didn't feel nice.  Patterns which did not go well with the yarn, which looked like they would match together but simply did not work in the end.  The love of a pattern which would never have looked good on you in the first place.  A gross parody of life in a wicker basket. 

The pretty-but-ruined yarn behind the sofa isn't ruined, I've just not figured out how to save it yet. 

There is no ugly.  There is only a perception - an opinion.  There is an outlook on life which is not fixed, and need not be dictated by others.  You can choose what kind of day you have, what kind of outlook you will have on it and what you will do with the outcome of your day.  There is always something to learn even from the worst of situations. 

I'm tired, my skin is dry, I can't cook, I try to do to many things at once.  And there's a smile on my face, because I'm happy this way. 

You can find one thing you thought was ruined or too difficult, whether it be in life or crafting, and you can have a wee optimistic think about it.  It's not as ugly as it seems. 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Beginnings (Love Your Blog Challenge)

The second post in the 'Love Your Blog' series, inspired by A Playful Day.

Like all good discoveries, I stumbled on blogging almost by accident.  It was a diary with an audience, a place to throw out ideas and receive feedback from like-minded bloggy folk. 

I certainly didn't expect anyone to actually read it.

For me, the beginning is the most exciting part (the end, the most satisfying).  This applies to all things, not least knitting.  

The pleasure of finding that perfect yarn; and the stitch which suits it perfectly.  Sitting with the skein in your hands, eyes closed, feeling what it wants to become.  Is it soft?  drapey?  does it feel like it wants to wrap lazily around your neck or is it a hardworking, sturdy yarn which would work hard to keep you warm on a bitterly cold day.

Obviously, we don't all start this way.  I'm a yarn-starter.  There are pattern starters, stitch starters and those who throw themselves in head-first and start a different way every time.

This skein of golden joy is 100% silk from Dye For Yarn.  It was one of my guilty purchases at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, a yarn which I couldn't possibly walk past without gravitating towards.  I needed to touch it, to pick it up, to buy it.  Rarely am I so drawn to a skein, and so it had to come home with me.  Being a yarn-starter, I know what this yarn will be - what it needs to be.  You don't make a hat out of a skein like this.  I'll keep what it'll grow up to be secret for now :p

The Yarn-Starter
This method involves the grabby yarn hands.  You love yarn - you see it, you want it, you buy it.   This, whilst incredibly fun at the time, leads to stash overload.  Maybe you're disciplined and don't let your grabby hands get the best of you until you've finished your current project, and if so you're a better knitter than me.

The Pattern-Starter
Ah, so you're the considered type.  Can I stretch it to the "slightly more sensible" type?  You get pattern first, yarn later.  This will obviously cut down on the (ever more terrifying) growth of the stash monster.  You could just have ended up with a stash of patterns instead, which makes you just as insensible as those yarn starters up there. 

The Yarn & Pattern Starter
Ach well.  Maybe you'll get through it all one day.

Each new pattern I begin to design is a mini adventure all of it's own.  I'll inevitably bite off more than I can chew and need to learn a new technique, attempt a new cast off, knit a new swatch for the giant swatch-blanket-to-be.  

Each new person we meet bring new ideas, opinions, talents and inevitably a funny story or two.  Harking back to the last love your blog post, but how far would we get without the advice and support of those around us?   

New(ly washed) bedsheets, new socks, new notebooks - all things which make me very, very happy.

Not to say we should endlessly chase beginnings!  There's nothing so satisfying as a well-done project, be that at work, for a hobby, with a friend, cleaning the house...  The ability to chose a project and stick with it is required if you ever intend to finish, and we all love the satisfaction of casting off that final stitch to lay your newly knitted cardigan/hat/shawl out in front of you, to wear it in front of the mirror.  To show it off in your LYS or on ravelry (or your blog). 

Which kind of starter are you, and why?

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Interactions & Community (Love Your Blog Challenge)



Recently, the lovely Kate of A Playful Day podcast & blog has started a most wonderful project.  A project which encourages us all to love our blogs (and ourselves) a little more - the Love Your Blog Challenge.  

Over the years, a lot of you knitterly folk (and I'm including myself here too) have let everyone know that you're the introverted sort.  The sort who like company, but little and often - rather than all in one loud horrible night out. 

This trait is what makes me love you all the more when you brave the masses to attend events like the recent Edinburgh Yarn Festival to do what you love, and to show support for the indie dyers, designers & creative types who boldly bring their most creative ideas and lay them out naked for your perlustration. 

Having a stall at the festival myself, I can admit I was terrified.  What was I looking for?  What was I scared of?  I'm unsure.  Not quite approval, so much as an avoidance of the disappointment of you knitters whom I adore from afar.   Not that I should be worried; it has been said again and again that the kindness, inclusiveness and compassion of the knitting community is often second to none.  

Also, as an aside, after using 'whom' I developed cold feet about using 'whom' & went off to look it up.  What followed was the best & most hillarious instructional text on 'whom' I have ever clapped my little eyes on, courtesy of the Oatmeal.  Don't let the moustachioed, monocled steed down.
Part of the appeal of the blog is the same - it's so nice to connect with others who have the same interests, sharing knowledge & experiences.

Most of the items which have brought me such joy this weekend I'd never have had I not met some lovely knitting type folk who let me know about them:
  • fibre is from Hilltop Cloud, a gorgeous shop filled with many different fibres, all of which are beautifully dyed and also prepared wonderfully by Katie, who runs her store from Wales.  
  • sock yarn is from Stray Cat Socks, a delightful etsy store filled with hand-dyed, self-striping sock yarn from New Zeland.  
  • the tiny sock knitting needles are from Tangled Yarn, which I only heard about through the lovely Jo of Shinybees podcast.  
  • he bag is a Kanken.  I love it.  I'd never have been brave enough to buy it had friends not adored it too.  (You enablers, you). 

Would I have had the bravery to knit such ambitious projects, try new techniques, new equipment, new hobbies were it not for the support of you lot?  It's unlikely.  Would I have written up those patterns for ravelry and magazines had I not had wonderful constructive feedback from knitters on Ravelry?  probably not. 

The internet really does make the world a smaller place.  This can be scary but the benefits can far outweigh any misgivings you might have about diving in.  Being on-line can connect you with new friends and interests, to new techniques you'd never have imagined and to friends who will last a lifetime.

Certainly, were it not for Ravelry (the best online community of the lot) and the lovely folk at my LYS (not even going to begin naming names), I'm sure I'd have knit as far as some squares.

What does interaction & community mean to you?

A Playful Day

Friday, 3 April 2015

Dressing Mine Eyes

Being a bespectacled person, I am very fond of spectacles.   For years now, I'd have loved to have a wee selection of glasses which I can change depending on what I'm wearing, but never felt I could justify it.  It seems a bit of an extravagance - like folk with 20 handbags.  Gorgeous, but I'd feel odd spending so much on carry-things.

Unlike handbags, however, I am compelled to wear the spectacles on my face every day.  So I should chose ones I like and enjoy wearing them.  Glasses are as much a part of me as my nose, and it's based on this theory that I got in touch with the Eyedresser this month. 

Last year, I stumbled across the Eyedresser at Hillhead Bookclub on a wander one day.  The Bookclub is a gorgeous vintage venue near my flat which has yummy food, ping pong tables in a cage, nintendo & sega consoles, cocktails of every description (including those served in grammophones) and, last but not least, craft fairs.  

It was at one of these craft fairs that I bumped into Michael, aka The Eyedresser.  My current spectacles were bought here over a year ago, and continue to serve me well. They're pretty, they fit, the service was impeccable and I couldn't ask for more.

This year, due to work, I've been unable to head to the Bookclub for the fair, and so the Eyedresser offered to come to my flat.  

Now, when you're presented with innumerable beautiful eyeglasses, it's difficult not to wander away with more than one pair (which is exactly what happened.  I'm now the proud wearer of frames older than I am).  

And the cases!  With the eyedresser himself arrived four nondescript, black cases.  One by one, these were opened to reveal rows & rows of tiny shelves.  Inside each shelf lay glasses, in tiny boxes, and as you pull the drawer further more pairs emerge.   Each drawer is different, filled with a selection of glasses which complement each other.  Spectacle microsystems, if you like.  Half the joy of the morning was opening each little drawer to find out which kind of glasses would be waiting inside.   These range from new popular shapes to unusual vintage pieces which have been collected over a lifetime.  There are ever a pair or two of original Diors from the 70s. 

Not only is Michael the curator of a wonderfully eclectic range of eyespecks, he's really into what he does.  With a flair for the vintage and a deep understanding of the way of the spectacle, it really is easy to see he likes his job very much. 

After a while, I whittled my choices down to these three pairs.  Then I accidentally bought all of them.   They're now all off on their way to the land of lens-fitting so that they can serve their worldly purpose and help me see things and people.  And more glasses.

We should have a glasses party.  We could invite the Eyedresser.  Cocktails and spectacles.

If that seems like a pipe-dream, you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, on the website or at the Hillhead Bookclub on occasion.  Or in your house. 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Rucksack Oogling

It turns out I have expensive tastes in rucksacks. But they so pretty.  I found this whilst desperately plugging away to find a nice bag and retain a life free of back pain.  Why oh why do one shoulder bags kill me so much - I do reckon I always try to take too many things with me.  Of course I need two books in case I finish the first one, and a whole knitting project, a BMJ magazine in case I feel like learning and a flask of coffee in case I'm thirsty on the way in.  A snack?  Yes, that too, lets take some nuts, and you may as well throw in the things I actually need for work.

First up, Orla Kiely makes some beautiful stem print bags.   They're bright & shiny and totally up my street.

Second on my list, are these gorgeous Kanken bags (I think I love the one on the left, but it's considerably more expensive...)

We're not even going to discuss the price of this leather one.

These Herschel bags are just too cute, as are the Sandqvist lot;

In an attempt to be self sufficient, I've been looking up free bag patterns to sew myself, but just haven't found anything which quite meets what I was looking for! 

Have you been making your own bag recently?  Or splashed out and bought a shiny new one?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Cuppa & Cake with Sylvan Tiger Yarn

Recently, I had a wee chat with Katie of Sylvan Tiger Yarn about her beautiful range of wooly goodness.  

I first heard of Sylvan Tiger Yarn when I was sent a beautiful parcel from the Golden Skein club, and couldn't wait to knit with it.  They became the Ithunn socks, and I just had to find out more about where this lovely yarn was born.

How long have you been dyeing yarn for, and what prompted you to begin selling your beautiful creations?

Well, I started researching and experimenting with natural dyes a couple of years ago, and opened my Etsy shop in December 2013.  People were admiring my yarns and the house was getting rather full of wool so I decided I ought to try and sell some of it!
I have a couple of confirmed shows in the diary - Wharfe Wool Fair on 9 May in Otley, near Leeds and Armley Mills Wool Fair on 6 June at Armley Mills Industrial Museum in Leeds.  I've also applied for Yarndale again, fingers crossed. I'm also dyeing up a big box of lovely British Alpaca yarn for County Alpacas, they'll have it on their stall at various shows throughout the year and I've just started dyeing up a bunch of fibre for Adelaide Walker, they'll have it for sale on their website very soon.  There's another little project with The Nude Ewe in the pipeline too, a range of Norfolk Horn yarn produced from a single conservation flock.  I'm test dyeing some samples at the moment and it's looking very promising, watch this space...

Your etsy shop is beautiful, what inspires your colours?

Thank you (blushes!) I love bright jewel colours, especially purple. Inspiration comes from all around really, the landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales, the Moors and the Lake District.  Even just random combinations such as paint splodges on a windowsill or lichens on a tree.  Sometimes from the dyes themselves too.  The natural dyes are sensitive to different minerals so adding things like iron or citric acid will change the colour, I like to experiment, a bit like a mad scientist at times!

When you're not busy making lovely yarn, what can we find you doing?

My day job is for the local City Council's Music section, we programme classical music events at venues around the city. I also play flute (or sometimes cello) in a local amateur orchestra and a wind quintet.  I love reading too and getting out and about in the fresh air.  I've just heard that the first lambs have been born at the City's rare breed farm so I'm looking forward to going lamb-gazing soon!

Do you get the chance to knit yourself, and what's your favourite knitted item?

I try!  I love knitting socks, I always have a pair on the go as travel/TV knitting. I love lace shawls too, I'm currently knitting a lace scarf for my Mother in Law, it's her Christmas present (Christmas 2014!) so I'm really trying to make some progress on it.  Then, I'll be able to cast on for your Ithunn socks as samples for my stalls at wool fairs this year.

Do you have any exciting news / events coming up this year?

I have a couple of confirmed shows in the diary - Wharfe Wool Fair on 9 May in Otley, near Leeds and Armley Mills Wool Fair on 6 June at Armley Mills Industrial Museum in Leeds.  I've also applied for Yarndale again, fingers crossed. I'm also dyeing up a big box of lovely British Alpaca yarn for County Alpacas, they'll have it on their stall at various shows throughout the year and I've just started dyeing up a bunch of fibre for Adelaide Walker, they'll have it for sale on their website very soon.  There's another little project with The Nude Ewe in the pipeline too, a range of Norfolk Horn yarn produced from a single conservation flock.  I'm test dyeing some samples at the moment and it's looking very promising, watch this space...

I might just have to go to Yarndale this year after all :p  If you can't wait that long, you can nosey at the yummy yarn over here

Also, the giveaway is still ongoing (until the end of March) for a copy of the Fearlas Mor pattern & skein of yarn! 

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