Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Digital discoveries - part 1

I've been spending some time 'mooching about' online, and today I'm sharing some of the interesting things I've been watching, reading and listening to in the last few weeks. I hope you like them.

1. 'Old' podcasts. I'm still quite new to podcasts and there is such a huge back catalogue available I'm really enoying finding the episodes that appeal to me - which are mainly interviews with various knitters. If you've been here a while, you'll know I'm a fan of the Yarn Harlot and this archived interview with Knitpicks (episode 58)  gave me plenty of food for thought - especially the part of the conversation where they talk about knitting's perception changing from useful and beautiful work to a "cute" lesiure activity and the neurological benefits of knitting.

2. I've been following Stitched Together blog for quite some time, and Chrissy is one of the bloggers I follow on Twitter too. Chances are you will have come across her blog on FO Friday, WIP Wednesday or seen her comments on many of my own posts. Last week Chrissy published her first podcast. I really enjoyed listening to this introduction - she is a natural and after hearing the things she is going to be talking about, I'm looking forward to future episodes.

3You already know that I'm crazy for Craftsy at the moment. So far I've enrolled on numerous paid AND free knitting classes. I especially enjoy the discussions with the instructors and other students following each lesson. Over the past few years I've learned a lot fromYouTube and online tutorials, but it's great to be part of a real conversation about the chosen subject and to be able to get feedback from the well-known and well-respected knitters who teach the classes. If you haven't tried this platform before, I would definitely recommend trying one of the free options to see if you like it - perhaps  Short Rows by Carol Feller or the Ins and Outs of Grafting with Anne Hanson.  (By the way, I use my iPhone, iPad and laptop interchangeably to follow the different classes, but my favourite is the iPad app which I find so intuitive and great to use, not to mention portable and convenient - yesterday I was ironing while learning about pattern writing.)

free short rows knitting class at craftsy.com

4. Knitsy Magazine (digital only). A friend tipped me off on this one and the first issue is quite promising with content from Erika Knight and Nicky Trench, amongst others. You can download or subscribe for free on iTunes and I think it's one worth keeping an eye on - and apparently it's published from a farm not very far away from me here in West Sussex!

5. While listening to yet another podcast, I heard about an app which sounded interesting. It's called Knitting Chart Maker and is available on iTunes and Android. It's free to download the basic version and an in-app purchase will get you the full functionality for $3.99. With 30 or so standard chart symbols, you can make your own knitting charts, add notes and share or export them. I haven't used it yet but I have plans to try it out very soon. Has anyone given it a whirl yet? 

I'd love to hear about your recent digital discoveries, whether they are new or re-discovered. What have you been watching, reading and listening to lately?
Monday, 29 April 2013

Fork Handles*

Birthday weekend
Little Miss turned four on Saturday. I can't quite believe it. It seems no time at all since she was a tiny little baby sleeping in a wrap on my front, or a nosy toddler peeking over my shoulder on my back. Now she is a funny, cheeky, sociable little girl who will be starting school in a few months. Unbelieveable.

We celebrated with 20 of her friends and a very silly entertainer which they all loved, lots of visiting family and friends, and a trip to the local farm park yesterday for some fresh air and comfort food. (D and I had a night out on Saturday too, in celebration of a close friend's 40th, and discovered that we just can't party as hard as we used to.)  

I finished the birthday crown from Crochet at Play (enter the draw to get your own copy and some yarn, here) although I hadn't even washed and blocked it before she was wearing it like a tennis headband from the 80s. Not quite the look I was going for. The birthday cardi didn't fare so well - as it was finished in a rush, I picked up too many stitches along the front and need to undo that section and reknit it - pics to follow when that's done. 

Now everyone else is back to (pre)/school and work and I have an appointment with a mountain of ironing. See you tomorrow! 
*I can't say 'four candles' without thinking of The Two Ronnies. For international readers and those who are too young to remember the re-runs, here's the classic sketch from the 70s.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Looking forward (4KCBWday7)

It's the final day of the 4th Knitting & Crochet Blog Week and although I haven't posted every single day, it's been really enjoyable and I've found some great blogs to follow. Today's post is about looking forward to next year and where my crafting may have taken me, which skills and experiences I hope to have conquered. I don't usually tend to plan things too far ahead and so far, my crafting journey has been pretty organic so a large part of my 'looking forward' is wondering what will have happened.

As I'm taking some online classes to learn new skills (Knit to Flatter and Pattern Writing for Knitters ) I would like to think that there are will be some new properly-written patterns and some flattering sweaters to come over the next few months, for starters. I'd also like to learn to spin, but haven't started on that yet and am not sure when the time will be right. There are so many things I have to try and new skills to learn that I can't even begin to guess beyond that.
So that's it for this year's KCBW. I'm still catching up with all the people who left comments on my posts, and will get around to them all eventually - thank you for taking the time to leave your kind words. Thanks also to Mimi for hosting the event again and for the lovely Monkey House Sock pattern which is free for participants.

Finally, if you missed Friday's interview post, do check it out for details of the latest giveaway which is open to anyone who leaves a comment. 
Friday, 26 April 2013

Virtual Book Tour & Giveaway: Crochet at Play (4KCWBday5)

For the fifth day of Knitting & Crochet Blog week, the task is to do "something a bit different". It is a happy co-incidence that I'd planned something different for today. I usually post FOs on a Friday but today I'm delighted to be playing host to the virtual book tour for Crochet at Play, the first book from Slugs on the Refrigerator blogger Kat Goldin. I have followed the blog for some time and took this opportunity to find out more about Kat's creative process and the realities of writing a book and managing a home and family... 

Congratulations on your book. It's everything I expected after following your blog for the last few years - lots of really cute patterns and lovely photography. Could you tell us about the process you go through when you are designing and how you get your inspiration?
Aw, thanks!! I really don't have a set process for designing. For the books, I will be working towards a sample project list, but I am lucky and able to change things if a design isn't working. About half of the time, an idea just pops into my head and I figure out how to make it.  The other half of the time, its really about hard work - looking at what has come before, what would work with the rest of the collection, the general balance of items and what colours will keep with the general palette. I spend a lot of time on the swatching stage and really think through how every piece of the project will come together. I usually start with some basic principles - I want designs to be largely seamless, they need to be at a beginner to intermediate level and they need to be exceedingly adorable - the rest just has to follow. I used to have to make everything before I wrote the pattern, but now I usually start with an excel spreadsheet and lay out the pattern and grading mathematically - which is quite funny as I once told my math teacher that I would never use Algebra in real life!

I block sites like Pinterest and Ravelry when I am designing, as I don't want to be influenced by other designer's work, so I tend to look for ideas in real life.  I have been known to follow people around town so I can get a closer look at their garments and spend ages in shops inspecting shoulder constructions. 
Which is your favourite pattern from the book and why is it your favourite?  
The hedgehogs are definitely my favourite.  I was supposed to be making bear claws to go with the Beastie Feet pattern, but I simply could not muster the enthusiasm. I was looking in my yarn stash to see if I could get any inspiration from that and I noticed 2 balls of Jamieson's Spindrift from Shetland, left over from another project.  In my previous life, I worked for one of Scotland's environmental bodies and one of their projects was the eradication of hedgehogs from the Scottish Isles.  Well, I thought "Wouldn't it be funny if I made some hedgehogs out of Shetland wool?" and the hedgehog mittens were born. Even if I am the only one who gets the inside joke, it doesn't matter as they are just so deliciously cute in their own right. 
I admit that I often find it quite a struggle to stay on top of things at home, run the house, a husband and two kids! Crafting and writing a blog is my relief, my down-time. I don't really know how you managed to write the book/ design all those patterns while at the same time running your blog, your other projects, AND look after three young children. How do you manage to do it all? Is there a secret you can share with us? 
There is no secret — the last year has been brutal. Last summer, at the peak of designing Crochet at Play, I had all 3 children at home, all day. Looking back, I don't know how we survived. We were able to just about keep everyone fed and clothed, but no housework was done and we did tag team parenting for months. We now have decided that sanity is vital for all of us and have invested in 3 full days of childcare a week. It still isn't enough time and I fill every crevice of time with work. My day often starts at 5am, working for a few hours before my husband goes off to work, working at soft play, at the park, at toddler group…in essence, I have become a huge bore!! For us, it comes down to what we prioritise - We value creativity and spending quality time with the kids over housework and grocery shopping.  Laundry is piled 2 children high and I frequently forget to make dinner. Popcorn counts as one of your 5 a day, right?
For many craft bloggers, getting a book published seems like an unobtainable dream. You've been quite open with your blog readers in admitting that it hasn't all been plain sailing. How long did the process take, what has it been like for you, and how do you feel now that the book is published? 
Crochet at Play was published almost exactly one year after I signed the contract. It is not an exaggeration to say it was thousands of hours of work - from sourcing yarn support, to grading and writing patterns, to making almost everything in the book.  It is wonderful and fulfilling work, but very time consuming.  There was a huge learning curve as well - I'd only designed hats before, so there was a lot of learning on the job about how to size and grade patterns, how to keep to a style sheet and how to design garments. I really have enjoyed it - I love throwing myself into one task, but have really found the juggling of kids, book writing and other work very hard. I also have worried a lot - that I have done things "the right way" and that people will like it.   

Now that it is out in the world, I am really proud of it.  I set out to design a book of children's crochet that was whimsical and wearable - and looking at it now, I think I have done that.  And while I had been so nervous about people making things in the book, seeing my designs on other people's children has been THE BEST THING EVER.  

In the acknowledgements you talked about people giving you the belief that what you have to offer is worth reading. I think many new designers and bloggers must feel this way (I know I do!) What advice would you give to anyone who has plenty of ideas but worries they may not have anything to offer which will be of interest to others? 
Hahaha, well, I still don't have it all together !!  I think ultimately, you will never know if you don't try.  I am a person who would rather regret what I do than all of the things I haven't done, so I just jumped in and made a commitment to doing the best I could and working to improve on areas where I struggled. It can take a long time to find your voice, but you will get there with time.   

And don't dismiss the importance of a great cheering squad.  I have close friends, my mother and my husband who all act as sounding boards when I need help.  I jokingly call them my "Dream Team" - from business advisors to my wonderful technical editor to people with style - I have an excellent resource of people who help keep me right.  I am a terrible terrible worrier and at different points in the process they were all there to cheer me on or tell me when I have done something stupid.  I think everyone needs people like that in their lives.  Being creative makes you intensely vulnerable - and while ultimately it is a good thing, it helps to have people holding your hand and having your back when you need it. 

What's next for you? (Please tell me your plans include adult sized versions of some of the patterns in the book!!! )
Sadly, no adult sized versions are planned, but I will be doing more designing for adults.  Book 2 will contain patterns for the whole family and I have already started designing many of them.  Plus, I am currently designing a range of designs for magazines and we are currently working on Issue 2 of The Crochet Project, plus its exciting new sister publication, out in January. 2013 is going to be busy, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Kat has kindly offered a copy of 'Crochet at Play' for one lucky CftC reader. 
If that wasn't enough,  she will also include the original (discontinued)yarn to make a lion hat!
TO ENTER: Simply leave a comment below including an email address/Ravelry username. 
The giveaway is open to international readers, and the winner will be randomly selected on
SUNDAY MAY 12th 2013.   Entry is now closed! 

You can find Kat at her Blog (also on Facebook). Follow the virtual book tour below: 
Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Do you know the difference? ( 4KCBWday3 )

After recently publishing an infographic about secret stashes, and another about my own knitting evolution, today's Knitting & Crochet Blog Week prompt did not seem entirely out of the ordinary. As is often the case with my doodles, inspiration for this came from my Mum who is a "regular knitter" and often looks at me like I'm completely mad. If you're visiting from KCBW, I'm sure you'll understand. 

KCBW day 3 - info graphic comparing a regular knitter with a knitting blogger.

If you're a regular Wednesday visitor looking for my WIPs and books update, you can find a summary of current projects on Monday's post. This coming Friday I'll be hosting the Crochet at Play book tour, and will have an interview with author and designer Kat Goldin, which I'm sure you won't want to miss. Next Wednesday I'll be reviewing The Great British Sewing Bee book and the Amy Herzog Class "Knit to Flatter" (which I'm half way through and absolutely loving) so stay tuned!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A Mascot Project ( 4KCBWday2 )

Welcome to the second day of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week. Today's prompt includes this instruction: "Your task today is to either think of or research a project that embodies that house/animal."

I wrote yesterday that my 'house' for the week is "The House of Bee" and while preparing this post I became totally sidetracked by this 3 minute video which, for me, shows the awesomeness of nature (which I strive to understand) and mathematics (which I really don't understand at all). I am completely fascinated by things like this.

It should come as little surprise that my "mascot project" is The Beekeeper's Quilt (by Tiny Owl Knits). Not only is this project directly related to bees and made up of hexagons, but it is the project I have been buzzing back to for almost 18 months as we have a very 'on-again-off-again' relationship.

When I bought the pattern and decided to cast on, I had no idea how much this one project would teach me, including:
  • how to use DPNs 
  • Judy's magic cast on
  • various different ways of binding off
  • how to reduce laddering when using magic loop
  • and perhaps most of all, patience, as it'll probably be a few more years before there are enough hexipuffs for a quilt, and I'm perfectly happy with that. 
I'm not sure how much more there is to learn from this quilt but I'm still applying new techniques to it, such as knitting 3 or 4 at a time. Most of all, I love looking at it - the different yarns, textures and colours. Several of the yarns came from other projects and some are 'scraps' sent by friends I've met here on the blog which is also very special. So yes, this is my mascot project for the week but also probably for life.
Hexipuffs!!!! KCBW day 2

Monday, 22 April 2013

Busy Buzzy Bee! ( 4KCBWday1 )

Before I get onto the first topic for Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, I'd like to extend a huge welcome to anyone visiting for the first time. It's great to have you here, and of course to have the opportunity to hook up with so many other crafty bloggers over the next seven days. I hope that you like what you find here, and that you'll have time to leave a quick message in the comments so I can pop over and see you too - I'm really looking forward to it.

This week I'll be blogging as part of The House of Bee. You see, of the four houses this really is the only one for me....

When I started knitting, I had really good intentions. My aim was to finish each project before starting the next (and not to buy more yarn than I needed for the current project, but that's another story). Over the last couple of years, I realised this is not only impossible (for me), but highly impractical. Different projects most definitely fit different moods and crafting opportunities. Let me show you my current projects by way of explanation. 
KCBW day 1
Yes, I have five active WIPs, plus a long-term project I'll be telling you about tomorrow. Whippoorwill is "TV knitting" - simple enough to not need too much attention, and nice long rows. Sounds good, huh? Yes, until a couple of weeks ago I was watching a TV programme (that my husband worked on and so he was chatting about it at the same time) while knitting happily along until I realised I had veered off the pattern. The second time this has happened with this 'simple' knit - so simple, I get complacent. It'll get finished, but not this week.

Saturday is someone's fourth birthday and two of my projects need to be ready before her party. With the deadline looming these are my focus for the week - the rest will have to wait. 

The Deja Vu socks (which I really didn't want to photograph again until finished, but we already established what happens to my best-laid plans) are "waiting outside ballet/karate/swimming knitting". Easily transported and with just the ribbing to finish, these are very easy to pick up and put down. This project lives in my handbag and will be replaced by another pair of socks once finished. 

Which brings me onto the final WIP - the crochet bag I started making and writing up during the school holidays. For those with children I probably need say no more. If you don't have children, let me just say that it's almost impossible to concentrate enough to write a pattern/recipe when they are both here, and I somehow managed to delete everything I'd written so far! Luckily I have notes in my Traveler's Notebook, but there hasn't been time to go back to it yet. 

So you see, if I only had one project I'd be scuppered. And as much as I'd like to think myself a 'monkey' who can tackle ambitious patterns to develop my skills with each new thing, it would be totally impractical. Being a busy buzzy bee suits me perfectly... for now. 

You can find more information about KCBW here and today's other posts by clicking this link. Have a great day - hope to see you tomorrow! 
Friday, 19 April 2013

If you want warmer weather...

...knit a hat. Yes, it appears to be that simple. The eternal Winter finally turned into Spring the day after I finished test knitting Skeppe for Libby Jonson (of Truly Myrtle).  I love this hat although my camera has really struggled to capture the bright colour. (The pattern will be released soon, and I'll tell you more about it then.) 

I've been looking for some nice 100% wool which feels soft to the touch and which is sufficiantly inexpensive to use for larger items and when Libby's pattern needed less than 100g of worsted weight yarn, it was the perfect opportunity to try something different. 

Having seen Knit Picks Wool of the Andes mentioned lots of times on Ravelry my curiously was roused and I found out that it is available from one UK seller, Great British Yarns. It's more expensive in the UK, at £2.99/50g (over $4.50/50g) but stil very reasonable and I loved knitting with it. It's soft enough to wear next to skin and if the red is anything to go by, the colours seem vibrant and beautiful. I'll definitely be buying more of this, and am thinking that a long light-coloured pair of Cwtchy Cable Amrwarmers might be nice for the warmer-but-still-chilly weather. 
We have a busy weekend ahead (including preparations for someone's imminent birthday!) and there are lots of posts coming up for Knitting & Crochet Blog Week - I hope to see you then.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

WIPs, books & learning

I'm on a mission. It's not something I consciously set out to do, but it seems that now my knitting is competent, there are new things that I need to learn which inevitably lead me to I realise that I don't know enough about construction, fabrics and design to do much more than follow patterns I think will be suitable and hope for the best.  

WIPs & books
When I spotted the Knit to Flatter book on Instagram, it sounded perfect and was ordered right away. I haven't read very much of it yet so I can't write a review, but so far it's great. It talks about how to analyse your shape to identify which design elements will accentuate the best attributes and balance out any disproportionate bits and how to customise patterns to suit and fit. These are skills which I think will be invaluable as I am short with a curvy figure and a waist that is usually lost under clothing. Author and designer Amy Herzog also teaches this content in the Knit to Flatter Online class and I have added it to my Craftsy wishlist. Which leads me onto the reason I haven't started a new novel this week - I've been continuing the Pattern Writing for Knitters class in the evenings, which I am enjoying very much.

And so onto my knitting - I completed one new little project at the weekend, which you can see on Friday, and am back to knitting those "Deja Vu" socks (so called because this is the 3rd incarnation of this lovely A Stash Addict yarn). You may notice the absence of the other project I wrote about last week and that's because I still haven't decided whether to make it an eyelet-less version or to rip back those rows. It's hibernating for a little while. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Spring, Tips & Preparations (for KCBW)

Blogging Tips (in preparation for KCBW)

The sun was shining and I actually used the clothesline today, which means it finally feels like Spring! There are many obvious benefits to the longer brighter days but two quite unfortunate downsides which have occured to me. Firstly it's too warm for the wool hat I made at the weekend. The second, and most disturbing, is that I find myself compelled to do what can ony be described as "Spring cleaning". I know. It's not usually something I would do with enthusiasm but the sun showing up dust and fingerprints had me cleaning windows at 7am yesterday and 'being domestic' for much of today. It's not just the house that has been having a blitz. I've been busy with a little behind-the-scenes work on the blog in advance of the 4th Knitting & Crochet Blog Week (my third - last time I won a prize!).

When I first joined in I had been blogging for just a few weeks and it was a great way to plan and structure posts, reach new readers and find inspirational bloggers - I am still following some of them. If you don't know about KCBW, please read the details here. Essentially all you need to do to take part is blog along next week using the daily prompts and tag your posts so others can find you.

After speaking to a few other bloggers, I thought it might be worth posting some tips on preparing for the event so that newer participants can make the most of it.


KCBW is something for anyone who knits/crochets and writes about it on their blog, or would like to start blogging about it. No specific experience is necessary and the daily tags mean there will be a ready-made audience for your posts - if they like what they find, they may visit again, so it's a really great opportunity. In my opinion it's also a perfect time to re-start a blog that you have let go for one reason or another. If it's something you want to do, you have the rest of this week to get ready.


The topics and prompts have already been published (here) and with almost a week to write and schedule some (or all) of the posts in advance, it's possible to take part even if you will be on holiday/ too busy/ anything else that usually prevents you from doing what you want to do. I generally set up a draft for the seven prompts, a few days before KCBW. Familiar with the topics, I can then add to them when I think of something relevant. In this way the posts take very little time on the day of publication.


Ok, this is a huge topic in itself but here are a few things I have already done or am in the process of doing to make CftC appealing to visitors old and new, and which might prompt you to start your own revamp:

  • How does your blog look? What would you think if you were visiting it for the first time? Do you think it will portray what you'd like it to, in terms of your style/content etc?
  • Fussy fonts and busy backgrounds can be instant turn-offs. Do you have clear font(s) and a background that works well with the layout of your posts and that is easy on the eye? If you're not sure, ask for feedback. 
  • How long ago did you decide on the header and layout? Are they still relevant? Would they benefit from a makeover? 
  • Is it easy to read your blog on a mobile/tablet?  If not, should you enable the mobile version? (Blogger 'how-to' here.)
  • Is the formatting consistent and easy to read? My old posts aren't, as a previous theme had less room for images - I am going back and changing the formatting when I spot something that doesn't look right in the new template. 
  • Is there anything to entice visitors  to read other posts? (Link-within widget, lists of popular posts, etc)
  • Can visitors 'like', 'follow', or 'pin' you? If not, would you like them to? 


Presumably you blog because you want people to read what you have written and give feedback. If you didn't you'd probably be writing a diary. My opinion on captcha /word verification is well documented, but I feel it bears repeating. Please make it easy to comment on your posts. I read lots of blogs and love to leave comments but it's getting increasingly difficult. As a reader I find this frustrating for both myself and the people who will never know I stopped by and felt sufficiently interested to leave them a few words.

During the next week I'm hoping to leave as many comments as possible and if you are using various methods of spam prevention I'd love you to consider it from this perspective which I share with many others too:
  • Firstly, it's often really tricky to leave comments from an iPhone or iPad. I don't know about other devices but it is especially difficult if the word verification image is unclear on a small screen and the first attempt is wrong or it requires spaces/deletions. It's often completely impossible to go back and retype the word. 
  • If clicking through to a blog via twitter/facebook/instagram apps on devices the same problems  can occur via the in-app browsers. If you are using social media to promote your posts, the chances are people are accessing your posts in this way and may have difficulty passing all the verification checks. 
  • If I can't leave a comment on the first attempt I have to decide to either spend lots of time attempting to retype and resubmit the comment, or I can go ahead and read a few more blogs instead. My time is limited and there are lots of blogs I want to read, so the latter usually wins. 
  • This one drives me really mad. I call it 'the belt and braces approach'. Let's say I've decided to go back and try again (sometimes more than once, but I've read a really good post or seen an awesome project and feel compelled to say something about it). Eventually I might be able to verify the word in order to post the comment, perhaps I've switched on a computer just to comment, only to find... comment moderation is also on and the comment needs approval. ARGH! By this point I usually vow never to comment on the blog again, perhaps to never read it for fear of wanting to comment, because frankly my blood pressure can't take much more.
  • How about switching word verification off for KCBW and seeing how you get on? It may take less time to deal with the odd spam comment than approving everything and it'll leave you with more time to visit other blogs and spread a bit of love. You may just end up with some nice comments :) 


Allow some time during the week to find other participant blogs and tell them you have visited. When someone has spent time writing a post and they can see (from their stats) that people have visited it, it's great to have feedback, especially when it's positive and encouraging. As well as making them happy, bloggers are more likely to visit your blog if you have left them a comment. Which is the perfect time to say that if you have managed to make it all the way through this mammoth post, thank you and it would be lovely to hear from you!
Sunday, 14 April 2013

5 Things About Me

A few days ago, the lovely Libby from Truly Myrtle tagged me in this post. I don't normally join in this type of meme but as I enjoyed reading Libby's 5 things, I thought I'd make an exception. So here are mine.
5 Things about me
A rare pic of me,  my (unlikely) husband, my 'baby' sister, the squabbling siblings, and my Mum
1. I love taking photos but can rarely be found in front of the camera. My mum says I should remedy this otherwise my children won't have any photos of me from their childhood, and that would be pretty sad. She's probably right. I'm trying to be better about it, and not all of my photos have my head chopped off these days. 

2. After loving a US legal drama, I studied Law... and hated it. Being stubborn and determined not to quit, I completed the course and then vowed not to do anything related to it. Having a law degree made it difficult to get any other job which I really needed to pay my student loans and it was luck that lead me to a really great company that I worked with for the next twelve years and where I had lots of opportunity and a rewarding career. I'm glad that I had the chance to go into further education, but if our children don't want to, I really won't mind.  

3. I met my husband online in the days when most people didn't really know what the internet was. We would probably never have looked at each other in a 'real life' social situation - his previous girlfriends were tall and blonde (I'm 5'3") and I prefer short dark men (he's around 6'4" and fair). On top of that he smoked, rode a motorbike and worked for a company I didn't like - all major turn-offs for me. Nowadays he does have a Harley but he hasn't smoked for over a decade and went freelance years ago, although I still think he's too tall, and often refer to him as a giant.

4. My sister was born when I was 13. Because we didn't 'grow up' together and I left home when she was 5, I consider myself "an only child with a sibling". It sometimes feels incredibly difficult to parent two children who are less than 3 years apart, especially as there is so much rivalry between them. Their almost-constant squabbling confuses me and drives me mad in equal measure and I don't know what's 'normal' or how much to interviene.  

5. My mother is profoundly deaf. She wasn't always, so her speech is great, and she lip-reads so well that people often forget she can't hear anything at all. She has nerve deafness which started in childhood and got progressively worse. When I was small she still had some hearing and I always had to speak up and speak clearly which has resulted in my normal volume being pretty LOUD. My family are used to it, but I'm not sure what the neighbours think!

There are so many people I'd like to know 5 things about, I can't decide who to tag so if you're reading this, have a blog, and would like to play along please do so. Leave the link to your post in the comments and I'll pop over to read it. 
Friday, 12 April 2013

A jumper (for a bowl!)

I know, I know! It's a jumper for a bowl but I really really like it! Does that make me mad? If so I don't care. This is my first project from 'The Knitted Home' (reviewed here) and it was knit in a couple of hours on Wednesday afternoon because I really wanted to make something from the book and happened to have a bowl like the one in this pattern! 

Yarn bowl jumper

I absolutely love that it's not 'perfect', the rib changes half way through and gives it a great texture. I really like the colour and that it has transformed what was a very ordinary wooden bowl (from a charity shop) into more of a statement piece.

Vintage cocktail cabinet as yarn storage :)
It's a stash-buster, made from horrible yarn (Patons UK Silenzio Chunky - colour 70) which was purchased in a clearance sale. The yarn is an acrylic/wool/alpaca mix and has virtually no twist so when you pull it to tighten the stitches it feels like drafting fibre and starts to fall apart! I deemed it unsuitable for a garment and didn't know what I was going to do with it. It knitted up ok (I used wooden needles as it is really slippery) but the bind off was interesting and I had to rejoin the yarn at least three times when working the 76 stitches.

Durability is not needed for this project - it just needs to look nice  - which I think it does. The colour happend to be perfectly matchy-matchy with the picture above it in the Cwtch. I love the way it looks on the vintage cocktail cabinet which recently became my yarn cupboard.  What do you think? 

Linking with FO Friday & Stash Buster challenge.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013

WIPs & Books: On missing eyelets and beautiful texture

Occasionally a project will be so enjoyable and easy to knit that it seems to happen automatically, almost without any thought at all. Sadly this has now happened TWICE with my rainbow Whippoorwill. The first time, I checked the stitch count only to discover I was ahead of my row counter (oops!) and after ripping out the few thousand extra stitches and getting back to knitting to the pattern - or so I thought - it happened again. This time I have missed out the first eyelet row. I had to resort to self-medication with chocolate. 
WIPs & books
The thought of undoing even a few rows (again) is making me want to throw the whole thing in the cupboard and cast on something else entirely. The eyelets are my least favourite part of this pattern so I now find myself wondering how ridiculous it would look without them - a 'blind' version, if you will. Knitting isn't always relaxing, is it?! 

As a welcome diversion from any decisive action I spent last night reading The Knitted Home by Ruth Cross. It was kindly sent to me for review and, although I'd seen it mentioned in various publications, I don't honestly know if I'd have picked it up in the bookshop, and I certainly didn't expect to like it quite so much. It's rare that I read a knitting 'pattern' book from cover to cover but the combination of Ruth Cross's words and the beautiful matte pages, styled and photographed by Ben Anders has kept me hooked and I've almost finished reading it. Ruth's ethos totally resonates with me: 
"In a world of shiny surfaces, flat pack furniture, clean lines and wanting everything done yesterday, the craft of hand knitting holds a very special place.... Everyone has their own reasons for knitting, but the most unexpected is also one of the most attractive - it takes time. The quietly meditative process of building something with your own hands is a reason in itself to learn, let alone the beautiful things you can create and be truly proud of."
Interestingly she first learned to knit on a pair of chopsticks and her technique is somewhat unconventional - for example her knit stitches are actually "knit through the back loop" stitches (something I also find more natural and had to train myself NOT to do) and there are some variations to other instructions too. Her background is in designing organic freeform work and so the patterns in The Knitted Home are intended as inspiration rather than something to faithfully reproduce, although you can if you want to. This is a book about texture and experimentation.
From a review of The Knitted Home by Ruth Cross
You are encouraged to do what feels good and have some fun with your knitting and to try things out. Ruth goes as far as to say that any "bendy strip" is a yarn and can be knit with, so to give it a go. I really love this approach - my own simple designs are most often presented as recipes, so it sits really well with me. This is my favourite knitting book to date. Even if you're not into improv, the patterns in the book are beautiful and there are many designs I would love to see in my own home.
From a review of The Knitted Home by Ruth Cross
I am pleased to say that the publisher is offering a discount for CftC readers and you can order The Knitted Home (ISBN 9781906417727) for £16.00 including p&p* by telephone 01903 828503 (quote offer code JS186) or post. Send a cheque made payable to: Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department, Littlehampton Book Services, PO Box 4264, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3TG. Please quote the offer code JS186 and include your name and address details. 
*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

If you have / get a copy, I'd love to know what you think of it.
Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A peek inside my knitting bag

On the blog later - a peek inside my knitting bag
One of my early 'popular' posts was a peek inside my handbag and reading it recently, I realised I haven't ever shown you what's inside my knitting bag! I must admit it's not really a particular bag but something that changes depending on the size and number of the current project(s) - you already know I'm polywipamous  and I love bags. This post is not about any particular bag but the content, and how I keep everything together so it can be easily moved from one bag/project to another.

There are essentially three components to my 'kit', the first of which is my A5 Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter. This is a handcrafted folder (expertly made in Germany) which  has three metal clips that can be used to hold just about anything. They are usually used as personal organisers or diaries and come in a range of different finishes including lovely leathers. This one is used strictly for crafting and is made of the 'dance floor' material which is easy to wipe clean, durable and very flexible so it will bend nicely into small bags and squish easily around my knitting without me worrying about it.
On the blog later - a peek inside my knitting bag
The felt pocket at the front is used for larger items such as spare needles, a ruler/gauge and anything else that might need to be tucked in there for a certain project (eg cable needles, ribbon etc). It is possible to order custom pockets but as this was a gift I have the standard pocket which suits me really well.  (My Kindle will even fit in there if I want to knit and read while travelling.) My knitting notebook is kept in the front clip - I use grid paper - and the rest of the folder is filled with plastic covers which contain printed copies of my knitting patterns. It's very easy to unclip them so I they are taken in and out frequently.
On the blog later - a peek inside my knitting bag
Next is my little pocket weighing scales. This one was less than £5 from eBay and I don't know how I managed before I had it, as it's used so much!

I've tried various tins and zippered pouches for my notions since I started knitting, but this Namaste Better Buddy which was a Christmas gift is the best I have used as it is magnetic so it holds metal things in place. There is a 'secret' section accessed via a pull-tab which is great for keeping sharp needles safe.  Within the case I keep:
  • small post-it notes
  • an 'emergency' crochet hook- mainly used for picking up dropped stitches
  • assorted darning needles (thinner needles and pins are in the hidden section and not pictured )
  • Ringo stitch markers 
  • crochet markers (with a clip) 
  • coil-less safety pins which are surprisingly useful (and on all clothing from my favourite shop!)
  • small sharp scissors
  • needle point protectors
  • a few Knitpro tools
  • usually some random beads or buttons I've picked up on my travels
  • retractable tape measure
  • I also carry washi tape (you can read about it and some of the things I use if for here
So that's what's in my knitting bag. How about yours? If you fancy playing along, please feel free to add a link to your own post below or tag a picture on Instagram using #apeekinsidemyknittingbag

Monday, 8 April 2013

Springtime (and learning) in Wales

Springtime in Wales

Springtime in Wales

Springtime in Wales

Last week was not so great for me -  with the new kitchen refit ongoing and no school/pre-school, the combination of bad weather, bored children and the logistics of keeping them occupied and well-fed seemed a little overwhelming. Sometimes, a couple of days away is just what you need to reconnect and take stock and our planned 'road trip' turned out to be well-timed. 

For only the third or fourth time in the last 20 years, as we headed over the bridge into Wales for the weekend, we were moving towards better weather. Our extra bags of woolly layers were unnecessary as we were greeted by blue skies and sunshine. Travelling with my good friend and our four children (all under 7), this was a very welcome surprise! They got to run about, play in the park and enjoy Caerphilly Castle in the crisp Spring air and there were plenty of laughs. Great memories were made.

I didn't manage so much as a single stitch but while the children were asleep I did something I've wanted to do for some time and started an online pattern writing class. The co-incidence of the Craftsy Spring sale which ends TODAY, a few spare hours (between the children's bedtime and my own, in our dark hotel room) and the discovery of the iPad app all worked out really well.

With a husband in the Film & TV industry, I am perhaps overly critical of certain aspects of visual media, and initially the awkward changes from one camera to the other at the end of every point (pictured left) were a little off-putting, but the content of the sections I have watched so far was really very good. Class materials and resources are provided, it's possible to add your own 'notes'  throughout the videos, there are discussion boards for participants and, vitally, once purchased the course can be accessed at any time and does not expire. The presenter of my class - Edie Eckman - is someone who has written a couple of books already in my own collection, and I feel confident about her knowledge of pattern writing, if not her front-of-camera experience. This has definitely encouraged me to try more of the classes and I can understand why the popularity of this platform seems to be growing so much. An Instagram photo I posted of the class also prompted other positive feedback from crafty folk who have enjoyed different courses so I've already added more  to my wishlist and feel happy to recommend them here.

If you haven't heard about Craftsy before, there are LOTS of course offerings including some free mini-classes such as Short rowsKnow Your Wool, Bag-making basics and more. Various disciplines are covered including knitting, sewing, quilting, crochet, baking, spinning, weaving and woodwork. I've included a link below which should take you to the last day of the sale at the time of writing, but you can also use it to access the entire catalogue if you'd like to find out more after the sale ends.


Saturday, 6 April 2013

Say hello in April...

This month I am pleased to say hello to some sponsors you may already recognise. Firstly a relatively new and very up-and-coming yarn store that I have found to provide fantastic service (they send packages that feel like gifts...to yourself!) secondly one of my favourite crochet bloggers, and finally the lovely Hannah who knits, crochets,  dyes, spins and is on a mission to teach those around her to do the same. I hope you enjoy reading more about them and visiting their links.

Harry - the loveknitting office dog
Hello Crafts from the Cwtch readers! Last summer we asked ourselves: “what if you could combine all the best bits of online knitting with the help, support and friendliness of a local knitting shop?” So we created loveknitting and never looked back…

Our task is never finished and we’re always working to improve everything we do. We’re especially proud of our 100% positive customer feedback: we believe it’s down to our lovely variety of yarn, first class delivery service (free on orders over £25), great prices and promotions, extraordinary care and attention to packaging - and an almost obsessive focus on excellent customer support!

We have three main aims as a knitting store: The first is to provide a fantastic range of everything a knitter could want, from yarns and needles to books and buttons, patterns and other accessories. We currently stock Rowan, Debbie Bliss, Millamia, Noro, Louisa Harding, Sirdar, Snuggly, Sublime, Wendy, Peter Pan, Regia, Addi and KnitPro - with plans to bring in other beautiful and great value yarns soon.

Secondly, we want to give knitters all the support and help they might need. Our wonderful expert knitter Natascha is on hand to answer all your cries for help - don’t be shy, she helps us all in the office with our projects too!

Finally, we reach out and connect with the wonderful knitting community on and offline. Our blog is crammed with free patterns, our knitting stories, customers’ projects, fun competitions and links to other favourite knitting blogs - keep an eye out for us during World-Wide Knit In Public Week (June 8th-16th)! www.loveknitting.com

I'm Kat Goldin - when people ask me what I do, I never quite know how to answer.  Sometimes I am a photographer who designs crochet and other days I am a designer who takes photos. What I do know is that my children don't recognise me without a camera in front of my face, crochet hooks in my hands and balls of yarn in my pockets.  

My first book, Crochet at Play with Kyle Books, is out this month.  It is a collection of beautiful and fun designs for children from babies to age 6. In it, and in all of my designs, I try to take basic crochet techniques and make garments and accessories that are enjoyable to make and fun to wear. The designs all have a touch of whimsy about them - ears on hooded jackets, mittens shaped like animals and the like.  In my books, and also with The Crochet Project, a new online magazine, I am working towards changing the way people think of crochet (and I secretly dream of becoming Benign Crochet Dictator of the World). I blog at Slugs on the Refrigerator.

Hello, my name is Hannah and I am a passionate lover of colourful fibre! I am an avid knitter and crocheter, spin my own yarn using a wheel and spindles and of course I love to dye!

I have an etsy shop selling mostly hand dyed yarn, as well as project bags and fibre for spinning on the beautiful hardwood spindles my husband makes.

Last year I started teaching knitting and crochet and now I teach a couple of regular knit and crochet drop ins and also do one off workshops for kids as well as adults who want to learn these wonderful crafts. On top of this I find time for my own knitting, spinning, dyeing and  crocheting projects, a City and Guilds in hand knit design and I have 3 small children!! You can find Hannah's Hen House on Etsy and  Facebook.

If you have a blog or craft-related business that you think other readers might like to get to know in the next "say hello" post, hop on over to the Sponsor page for more details.  I hope you all have a great weekend, I'll be back on Monday with snippets from our little Spring trip. See you then!
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DISCLAIMER: Crafts from the Cwtch is part of the Deramores, Craftsy, Etsy, Creativebug and Amazon Affiliate programmes and works with a few carefully selected sponsors. Where posts or projects are sponsored, the opinions will always be entirely my own. You can find out more about affiliate links and blog sponsorship here.

Hello and welcome. If it's your first visit you may like to start with my most popular tips & tutorials, or the patterns. You can read more about me on the 'Hello' page and you may also like the CftC pages on Ravelry, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Etsy. I hope you enjoy your visit! Sarah

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Knit Now 50 Knit Now Cover 48 Let's Knit issue 80 Simply Knitting issue 115
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