Review: Crochet Yeah!

There are many things I love about blogging, but I have no doubt that my favourite is getting to know so many lovely talented people. As a blogger it's easy to make contact with those you admire ... and if the chemistry is good, you often end up as friends. Last weekend at Unravel I was with several designers / bloggers / podcasters I am proud to call my friends, and had the absolute pleasure of being room mates with Joanne Scrace. (One of many great things about this was raiding her 'sample' case on Sunday morning and finding Missed Kingfisher, which I borrowed for the day.)

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that Joanne is one half of The Crochet Project, and with her partner Kat Goldin she is on a mission to make people think differently about crochet. Their patterns (individually and together) are modern, stylish and accessible. As skilled teachers and experienced designers, they write so clearly that beginner crocheters (like me) can easily follow their patterns and make beautiful things  - the shawl-in-progress in my profile picture is from The Shawl Project Book One (reviewed here) and Book Two also has some truly breathtaking designs.

Bromsgrove Hat and Worcester Scarf - photo credit: Kat Goldin
For this reason, their new book Crochet Yeah! was at the top of my list of things to bring back from Unravel. It is a collection of six accessory patterns which have been designed by Joanne and Kat to showcase the beautiful Socks Yeah! yarn from Coop Knits

With crochet socks, two different hats, mittens, a scarf and a cowl, the collection proves this yarn is great for a lot more than just the hand knit socks Rachel / Coop Knits is well-known for. In the introduction, Rachel explains her recent love of crochet and that she is looking to expand her skills beyond blanket squares. Kat and Joanne wrote Crochet Yeah! with this in mind.

Tenbury Hat & Mitttens - photo credit: Kat Goldin
For experienced crocheters these will be quick relaxing projects, and if you're a crochet novice you will find them to be great confidence-builders because the patterns use simple stitch combinations to produce lovely accessories you'll be proud to wear and to say you made yourself. 

A reminder of the basic stitches, patterns that include different sizes and both the UK and US terms (US terms are given in brackets) plus accompanying charts for the lacy patterns make this an easily accessible collection. 

I'm ready to begin! 
My own first project will be the Malvern Cowl - Joanne was wearing hers at Unravel and it feels as nice as it looks in the picture. Crocheted in the round from basic stitches, and taking just 150g of yarn, it will make a perfect 'handbag' project. The option to graft the cowl will also teach me something new, as I've never grafted crochet before. 

While I may be a little biased, I spoke to lots of people who love the designs as much as I do and the first run of books had sold out by the end of the Unravel weekend! Luckily they are now back in stock and available to purchase. The print copy is perfectly sized to fit in your project bag and you can order direct from The Crochet Project on Etsy (click here) and there also is an ebook (available via Ravelry).

Three ways brioche knitting is like parking a car

Following my brioche preparations, and Unravel yarn purchase, I've finally cast on Stephen West's Askews Me Shawl. This shawl is the very reason I decided to learn brioche, and the project is all about the end product - I can't wait to wear it.  

Earlier today I noticed some similarities between brioche knitting and parking a car. I realise this may not be the most obvious link, but I had parked up to knit a few rows while waiting for the children, and these are the type of thoughts that come to mind on such occasions. Here's my reasoning:


1. Until you know how to do it, it looks like it will be hard. 
When I was learning to drive I was less worried about the 'driving' aspects of the practical exam than the parking - it looked like it might be quite tricky. Brioche was the same, I thought it would be difficult. (It's really not difficult.)

2. Once you can do it, it's pretty easy... but you still have to be vigilant to avoid accidents. 
Once my instructor taught me a simple technique, parking became quite easy*. Of course, you still need to be cautious and look around while you're moving. It's the same with brioche knitting - precisely because it's 'easy' it's possible to become complacent. A few times I have been knitting without looking and the realised that I hadn't caught a whole stitch (remedied by dropping the stitches down and correcting with a crochet hook, but still...) or had done the wrong thing to the stitch.

Easy Knits Dusted Dreams DK in Electric Bloom, Deeply Wicked DK in Shadows & Merfolk
3. When you regularly park in the same car park, you might forget the precise spot you're in.
Do you ever get back to the spot you think you parked in and realise that was where you parked yesterday? Then you have to figure out exactly where you left your car (usually by wandering around while pressing the remote, until you hear the bleep or see the lights flash). 

Brioche (when knit-flat with two colours) is very repetitive. Each row of this project is worked twice before turning - once with the dark yarn, and then again with the light yarn. The first pass is a knit (brk) row and  other is purl (brp) but both on the same side of the work. It is quite easy to do the wrong one, as I discovered last night. Still tired from my weekend away, I was knitting in a trance while watching TV. When I looked down it was to find around 10 cm of the wrong stitch, several rows previously. (I'd put it down and picked it up again without really paying attention to which side of the work I was on.) I decided that it wasn't worth fixing - it's probably not something 'non-knitters' would spot, and fellow knitters tell me that it's like the deliberate mistake in Amish knitting. I can live with that. 

*Disclaimer: This does not apply to parking a PT Cruiser - to park a PT Cruiser you aim for the space next to the one you want to end up in, and then hope for the best. After a few years, it becomes quite natural but then you can never park any other car properly ever again! 

Book Review: London Craft Guide

I must admit that until recently I'd overlooked Yarn in the City - I didn't feel the website or podcast would be particularly relevant to me as I'm not based in London. I was wrong! The podcast* includes great chat, guests and reviews as well as mentioning various events - not just those in central London. It's definitely worth a listen. Having realised my oversight, and that you may have made the same assumptions, I'm keen to tell you about the new book which Yarn in the City duo Rachel Brown and Allison Thistlewood launched this weekend at Unravel, and which is especially useful for those who don't live in London!


The 'London Craft Guide' is part guide book, part pattern collection. Profiling over 30 yarn, fabric and haberdashery shops in and around London - with a bias towards yarn - the listings are split by geographic location and also by speciality (with some natural overlap). If you find yourself in central London in need of a great button selection, it's easy to see which shops you should visit.

While it's quite unlikely that I would ever find myself in that particular predicament, reading about the different shops and their specialities has made me want to visit them anyway. I now know the places to source yarn on cones for weaving, where to go for eco-conscious and ethically minded suppliers, and where to look for luxury hard-to-find yarns of different types.

As well as providing in-depth details of the selected craft shops, the book includes useful local tips - points of interest, and recommendations for stop-offs etc. If you want to head out of London on a day trip, there are mini listings for places such as Brighton, Cambridge and Bath.


While visiting all these shops you're bound to make some purchases, and that's where the pattern collection comes in. There are ten different projects (mostly knitting with some crochet and sewing) which have been designed to use small quantities of a special fabric or one or two skeins of souvenir yarn. Which is handy because you may find you want to cast on immediately. 


Each pattern is heavily influenced by an iconic tourist destination, such as the South Bank Shawl (above) which was inspired by the London Eye, or these divine Waterloo Mitts (below) which would make a great travel project with a simple but effective design in the colours of the Union Jack. 


I think this book is perfect for a crafter wanting to make the most of a trip to London, and for anyone who'd like to organise a mini yarn-crawl of their own - there is even a section to help you with your planning. Additionally this is a useful resource for Londoners, or those who live close enough to travel in for a fun day out with friends. The book is available to order now in paperback and ebook.

*As well as the podcast, Yarn in the City also organise an annual Great London Yarn Crawl (this year it will be September 10th) and you can find Allison and Rachel at weekly knit nights in Clapham (Wednesdays from 7:00pm to 10:00pm at The Goat on the Rise, near Clapham Junction station). 

Unravel 2016 - The Stash

There is so much to tell you about Unravel, it'll definitely take a few posts, but the first really has to be this one as I managed to get everything I wanted and to not go overboard on things I didn't need (some money even came home in my purse). If you follow my Instagram account, you'll already know how pleased I am with these - here are all the details plus where you can find such beauties if you missed out this weekend. 

1. The 'Must-Have' new book and yarn - 'Crochet Yeah!' from The Crochet Project 'Socks Yeah!' yarn from Coop Knits, and a lovely cotton project bag to keep them in.


This yarn has been on my wishlist since Rachel started posting photos of it and I wasn't the only one as it was selling like hot cakes. With an amazing eye for colour, all the shades are beautiful (you can see them here) but these three were too perfect to pass up - they are (L to R) 105 Danburite, 108 Chryso and 109 Iolite. 

The book was launched at Unravel this weekend (it's available to order now!) and I'll be writing a review later this week, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, I have to tell you that thinking about the project I'm going to make from it - Malvern Cowl - kept me awake that night! It's a perfect 150g 'travel' project, and easy enough for my crochet-novice skills, but results in something beautiful and very wearable.

2.  The 'Must-Have' accessories -  Tilly Flop car stickers (and a card)


Ok, so the card was an additional purchase, but the stickers were high on my list. It looks like I'm changing my car soon *sob* so they are not in situ yet - but they are such fun. You can see all of Julie's fabulous range (including her new crochet tea towels) here

3. The One That Got Away Before -  The Knitting Swede's Mini Rainbow (Devonnaire DK)


Last year I made a rookie mistake - after spotting Tanja's mini rainbows I hesitated (a budgetary hesitation, rather than a yarny one) and by the time I went back they were all gone. This year it was one of the first stands I visited - the 4 ply had sold out on day one but I was lucky enough to get there in time to pick up two skeins of the 80% Exmoor Blueface / 20% Silk DK. This may have to be used for a new design project as I have something particular in mind, and in case you were wondering, it feels as lovely as it looks!

4. The 'Souvenir' Skein - Triskelion's Branwen 4 ply in Turquoise


It goes without saying that at least one extra special souvenir skein (one that you have no real 'need' of) has to be purchased when visiting a fibre festival. With the help of Louise Zass-Bangham I came home with this one and my goodness I'm glad I did - it's just perfect. Made from 50% Silk and 50% Extra Fine Falklands Merino this is 495m of pure deliciousness - as you'd imagine, it's luxuriously soft and has the most stunning depth of colour. It needs to become something extra special.

Caerthan's stand is one that I always find a little overwhelming as his yarns have such an intensity of colour I find that I never know what to choose (at Unwind I bought the yarn for my Pebble Beach shawl, also as the 'souvenir' skein), but Louise was right - a yarn that matched my bag and nail varnish was the perfect choice as I already know I love the colour. (Louise left with rather a lot of shopping, so I'm really looking forwards to seeing her new designs and will be sure to keep you posted on those!)

5. The 'Bargain' Skein - Sock yarn from Knitglobal


When chatting to other shoppers, so many people had picked up this bargain sock yarn I had to take a look. Reduced to £4 for a 100g skein of 75% superwash wool/ 25% nylon  it would have been rude not to pick some up. I limited myself to one skein and I think it will make some nice socks at some point. 

6. The Big Purchase - 300g Easy Knits Deeply Wicked DK and 200g Easy Knits Dusted Dreams DK


I've been waiting for Unravel to select some special yarn for Stephen West's Askews Me, and this is it! There were lots of other lovely DK yarns which would have worked well, but as soon as I could get close to the (ever-popular) Easy Knits stand I knew there could be no other for me. (That Jon was knitting a Stephen West brioche project himself, could only have been confirmation from the knitting gods!) The light is completely rubbish for photos today, but frankly it's now or never as these are being wound into balls this afternoon so I can finally cast on! If you want to see the actual colours they are (L to R, back) 'Merfolk', 'Shadows', 'Hotness' and (front) 'Electric Bloom'.

I'll be back tomorrow to tell you more about another book which was launched at Unravel - see you then!

Unravelling


Just popping in to remind you that it's Unravel this weekend. I hope to see some of you there but if you're not coming, you can follow the shenanigans on Instagram (check out my feed @craftsfromthecwtch and also @farnhammaltings. The gallery tag is #unravel2016 ). Come back on Monday to read all about it and see which yarns I chose! 

Logistical and mental preparations (and a request)

With just a few more 'sleeps' until Unravel, my preparations have begun in earnest. As always there are various things that have to be done before the annual trip to my favourite festival. First there is the logistical organisation involved in handing the 'baton' to my husband for the weekend. (Little Miss has a party to get to - with the right gift and wearing appropriate clothing, the dog can't be left all day if they go out, My Boy has homework to do... that sort of thing.) Not to mention packing for an overnight trip.

Then there are the pre-festival preparations - making sure I have noted yarn requirements for the patterns I plan to make, and that I work out my budget. Listing any buttons and notions I'd like to buy. I wrote about these things last year in my post 10 Tips for Unravel Festival. (As it happens, the extra day and additional coffee shop last year meant that some of the things mentioned weren't necessary, but the rest remain valid.)


There is something else I'm trying to be prepared for this year, and I'm finding it difficult. In fact, I'm hesitant to write about it, but there are two things that I know: (1) the blog would be an incomplete record if I didn't, and (2) writing always helps to process my feelings. So here goes.

For the last few years my friend Wink travelled from the Netherlands for Unravel. She would fly in on Friday and spend time with my family, we'd travel to- and from- the event together and share a hotel room there. We would have a great time with friends (old and new).

As the weekend approaches it's hitting me all over again that Wink is no longer with us, and that I will be travelling to Farnham alone. I am trying to be prepared for the journey and for being in the places we'd usually be together. Many of our 'Unravel gang' will be there - that will be a huge comfort, but we haven't seen each other since her death, and so I'm also preparing myself for the feelings which are inevitable when you finally get the chance to have a hug - phone calls and messages just aren't the same.

I considered not going to Unravel this year. Staying at home would certainly be easier, but I really don't think it would be the right thing to do. It would probably mean I'd never go back. So, my plan is to be there and to keep busy and not to dwell on the massive hole Wink has left behind. It won't be the same - it will never be the same - but I can do it with the help of my friends. We will make some new memories, and next year it will be easier - first anniversaries are always the hardest. I know this from experience.

So if you are at Unravel and you see me there, please do come and say hello - show me what you've bought and tell me about your day. Please help me to stay focussed on the good stuff, and all the great things about this community, because that's how I hope to remember this trip. Let's make it a good one. 

Brioche Knitting Part 3: Two-colour Brioche (in-the-round)

If you've been following my 'Brioche Basics' series so far, you will know that I've been learning this technique by practicing the basic stitches until they feel natural. Many of you have said that you want to learn brioche too so I've been sharing the steps with you in easy bite-sized chunks. The 'sl1yo' and 'brk' stitches have already been covered in the earlier posts, and in order to make today's two-colour swatch - this little jar cover - we need to use the 'brioche purl' or 'brp' stitch.

If you're making a swatch, it might as well be used for something!

Brioche Purl / BRP (aka 'Burp')

You already know that the 'brioche knit' or 'brk' stitch involves knitting the slipped stitch and it's paired yarn over together, and it logically follows that the 'brioche purl' or 'brp' stitch involves purling the slipped stitch and it's yarn over (from the previous row) together to form a single stitch, as illustrated in images 1 and 2 below. This is much like a 'p2tog' in regular knitting.

Note: the colours have been muted to make the stitch formation easier to see.
Images 3 and 4 are a reminder of the 'sl1yo' stitch from the previous tutorial. When slipping stitches, always put the yarn to the front of the stitch before slipping, and slip the stitch purlwise, then carry the yarn over the top of the slipped stitch.

Notes on making the swatch

As with the previous instalments, there is an assumption that you can already knit (in-the-round, this time) and that you have worked through earlier posts before moving onto this one. 

It's easier if the colours have a high level of contrast. I chose a bright yellow Soft Fun Denim and the (NEW) Soft Fun Aquarel in 'fantasyscape'. They have the same base but the Aquarel knits up to look like a wash of watercolour, which I absolutely love, and this makes the yellow 'pop'. Oh, I should also mention that I used purple on purpose, so I'd remember to 'purl with purple' - how's that for alliteration? 

A swatch is your chance to try things out - use it to experiment without worrying about the outcome. I switched from wooden double pointed needles (DPNs) to metal circulars half way through mine, and you can probably see from images above, my tension changed quite a lot when I changed needles. I noted that my stitches were tighter and neater with the DPNs, but I didn't enjoy working with them at all! Next time I'll try wooden circulars to see how they compare.
    Soft Fun Aquarel and Denim  50g = 140m 60% Cotton / 40% Acrylic, project bag handmade by my friend Gilly

    Materials

    • Soft Fun Denim in colour 518 (C1)
    • Soft Fun Aquarel in colour 809 (C2) 
    • 4mm needles for knitting in the round
    • 3.5mm needles for knitting in the round
    • Optional - stitch marker

    Instructions

    • Using 4mm needles and C1, cast on an even number of stitches (I used 36, but 30 would have actually been enough for this little jar, which I found after I'd cast on)
    • Join to knit in the round, being careful not to twist
    • Work in garter stitch (knit one round, purl the next) for four rounds
    • Switch to 3.5mm needles, then set-up as follows
      • Set-up A:  *Sl1yo, p; repeat from * to end of round, then leave C1 at the front of the work 
      • Set-up B: Using C2 *brk, sl1yo; rep from * to end of round, then leave C2 to the back of the work
      • Round 1: Using C1 *sl1yo, brp; rep from *  to end, leaving C1 to the front
      • Round 2: Using C2 *brk, sl1yo; rep from * to end, leaving C2 to the back
      • Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until the work measures 8 cm or is to the desired size
    • Switch back to 4 mm needles and MC to work garter stitch for four rounds (remember that the 'sl1yo pairs' count as a single stitch!)
    • Bind off loosely
    It's reversible!  

    Further Project Ideas

    By changing the number of stitches, you can use these basic instructions to make any tubular item such as a cowl, an earwarmer or headband, or how about boot toppers, armwarmers or legwarmers. Use your swatch to work out the gauge and then use that, and a measuring tape, to calculate the number of stitches you'd need to cast on for your chosen item. Remember that this fabric is very stretchy so you will need to account for that too.

    If you were in any doubt about why brioche is such hot property right now, check out the latest collection from Stephen West! I am completely in love with the patterns that have been released so far and can't wait to cast on.

    COMING SOON: Two colour brioche worked flat (back and forth) and then we can move onto shaping... once I've practiced that a bit more! Oh and if you like trying new things, be sure to also check out my previous post

    § My thanks to Scheepjes for supporting this 'Brioche Basics' series - in the UK, Scheepjes yarns are stocked by Deramores and Wool Warehouse, who also post internationally. Find a full list of international stockists here

    Fall in Love.... with Creativity!

    *This sponsored post includes affiliate links and a free trial offer*
    'Stamped & Sewn Valentine Pouches' with Courtney Cerruti
    For Valentine's Weekend, I'm sharing some of the things I love, so today I wanted to tell you more about Creativebug - many of you will know that I've been a member since I first reviewed their online video classes almost a year ago. Since that time, I'm pleased to note that this blog has gained a lot of new readers, and for anyone who missed my earlier review or posts, I've written a quick overview. This weekend is all about spreading the love so if you haven't used Creativebug yet, you'll also find a special code so that you can try it out for yourself (free) for a whole month.

    What is Creativebug? 

    Creativebug brings its members unlimited access to a fabulous selection of over 600 art and craft videos including knitting, crochet, sewing, painting, jewellery-making, quilting, and more. The classes are taught by leading designers and artists and offer something for all skill levels - from simple pompom crafts (you can even make with children), to more complex projects (such as fabric design) presented in weekly instalments. 

    'DIY Valentine's Day Love Bugs' with Courtney Cerruti

    Why Creativebug?  

    Creativebug offers unlimited access to ALL of it's classes for only $4.95 a month, so it's excellent value for money. Classes can be streamed via your internet browser or the dedicated app (available for mobile devices) for use on-the-go. The beauty of this is that I've found myself taking all sorts of classes that I probably wouldn't have tried if I had to purchase them individually - like the 'trace a t-shirt class', the Sailor Top (which I've now made three times), calligraphy and stop-motion video classes. 

    Each month, members can select an additional class to add to their personal library. Once in your library, these never expire. This means you can tailor your learning experience to your own interests and you will retain lifetime access to these classes.

    Tuition is excellent and the instructors are all well known artists such as Amy Butler, Fancy Tiger Crafts, Lisa Congdon, Twinkie Chan, Kaffe Fassett, Gretchen Hirsch, Cal Patch (see my earlier interview with her here) and many many more.  Seriously, it's like a who's who in arts and crafts!! 

    Each month more high-quality content is added and this is a mix of (timeless) skill-enhancing classes, and fun seasonal projects like those pictured. I always find a massive amount of inspiration here (in fact, my current knitting project was influenced by one of the painting classes I watched!) 


    How Do I Join? 

    This is the best part - throughout February, Creativebug will extend your trial period to a whole month (it's usually two weeks), and you will also get to add one free class to your personal library (to keep forever) by using the code LOVE - simply click on the image below to start browsing classes now! 


    Misconceptions (About 'Quick' Knits and 'Solutions')

    This week there hasn't been nearly as much progress on my big colourful project as I'd hoped - which means I'm still not ready to show it to you. My projects are typically quite small and when I decided to make something larger than usual, I reasoned that using big yarn and needles would make it relatively quick. Especially considering there are no more than 50 stitches on the needles at any one time. Heck, I even replaced my broken wooden needle with new metal tips which glide more easily through this yarn, and would help me to knit faster. 

    Yarn: Scheepjes Mini Nooodle* in four shades (so far), Needles: 10mm KnitPro Nova
    What I hadn't factored in was the relative lack of portability, and that the majority of my knitting is done while waiting around (outside the school gates, while cooking dinner, at LM's dance classes etc) and this just isn't that type of project. Not because it needs much concentration, but because of this:


    You might already know that I loathe 'balling' yarn and like to find DIY 'solutions' for things - one reader previously labelled it 'MacGyver-ing'.  As this project is using a lot of skeins, I had to find a work-around so that I could knit straight from those. My solution: to open out the working skein and place it around a plastic basket (pictured) which is just about the right size. With the addition of some bulldog clips at either end, the yarn stays on the container, and I can unwind enough for each row thus avoiding the need to make a ball. 

    It seemed like a great solution until I realised that it would only be realistic to knit on this at home, and in one place... and I was going away for the weekend. Of course, this is a timely reminder that it's important to have more than one project on the go at a time - the half term holidays are coming up. I must remember to stick to my own advice!

    *Scheepjes Mini Nooodle is available in the UK from Wool Warehouse (affiliate). 

    'Take Heart' by Fiona Alice / Pom Pom Press

    Did you know that the team behind Pom Pom Quarterly magazine have started printing books? The first is a collection by designer Fiona Alice, entitled 'Take Heart: A Transatlantic Knitting Journey'. I was provided with an advance copy in return for this honest review.

    All images used with permission (c) Juju Vail / Pom Pom Press
    The collection consists of eleven 'accessories' patterns ranging from the classic 'Take Heart' cabled hat (pictured below) to these shapely Pennard Castle legwarmers. As the book's byline suggests, the patterns have all been inspired by Fiona's own journey - she is from Nova Scotia but now calls London her home, after completing internships with Toft and Pom Pom Quarterly. 

    Pennard Castle - knit these legwarmers in a choice three sizes and two different lengths
    In her introduction Fiona writes that "knitting tells a story, and ... instead of writing it down with lines of ink, those lines are a piece of yarn" and indeed each of the designs is accompanied by a short heart-felt tale and hand-drawn illustration which describe the inspiration behind it. (Regular readers may know that this is something I love to read, and which I can relate to.)

    The pieces are all quite classic (hats, socks, a cowl, shawls, etc) but with a modern 'twist' in the form of geometric shapes and minimalist textures. The patterns are both written and charted and Fiona's sketched schematics are used throughout, to charming effect. Mostly DK weight, the samples are made in scrumptious yarns from both sides of the Atlantic, from the collections of Toft, John Arbon, Sweet Georgiathe Uncommon Thread, and more. You can find all of the designs listed on Ravelry here.

    Lunenburg Harbour Socks which use my favourite 'afterthought heel'
    Presented in a handy size softcover (a bit bigger than A5) the book will fit nicely into the average project bag. It is filled with beautiful photography by Juju Vail, as well as Fiona's illustrations. The ebook comes in two versions, and depending on your device you may prefer to download a single- or double-page view which also gets a 'thumbs up' from me. If you order the physical copy of 'Take Heart', the link and code to download an electronic copy are included (see this post and this post if you're not sure how to access this), or you can purchase the ebook version separately on Ravelry

    The 'Take Heart Hat' which started it all! 
    If you're attending Unravel festival*, you will find Fiona Alice and Pom Pom on their stalls in the Great Hall - I'm looking forward to seeing them there. In the meantime, I need to decide which of these beauties to knit first so I can add the yarn to my list of things to buy!

    *The prize draw for the Unravel ticket giveaway ends tonight at 8pm UK time. I'll be contacting the winner soon after. 

    A Very Creative (Thurs)Day

    Do you have a particular day of the week when you are more creative and productive? I just realised that I do... and it's Thursday! On Thursdays, my concentration seems better, and lots of things get ticked off my to-do list. Perhaps it's a subconscious 'clearing of the decks' before the weekend, I'm not sure - but it's typically a getting-things-done kind of day. 

    While the children were at school yesterday I managed to write a guest post (to be published elsewhere), to review a book, draft two blog posts and even to make a little bit more progress on my newest project. I'm really happy with how it's working out and while I'm keeping the details for the 'reveal' when it's finished, I can't resist showing you some of the colours so far.

    The yarn is Scheepjes Mini Nooodle*, which I also used for my Lowlands Bag (free) pattern
    Anyway, I digress. While ticking all the things off the list in my planner, I realised that last Thursday was also good. It was the day I came across a book by artist and blogger Marisa Anne Cummings and I have yet to mention it here. The book, appropriately named 'Creative Thursday', was published in 2012 but I hadn't heard of it until it came up as a recommendation, after reading Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Big Magic'. 

    At only 128 pages I devoured the entire book in one evening, and found a lot of really useful tips on daily creative practice. (In fact, there are almost ten pages of notes and reflections in my journal after reading it.) While Gilbert's best-seller is more of a series of inspiring essays and thoughts on creative living, 'Creative Thursday' is a blue-print - a step-by-step guide which covers setting your intentions, accepting resistance, inspiration, commitment, the role of perfection, finding your voice and encouragement and keeping track of how you're doing. 

    Available at Amazon (affiliate) and CreativeThursday.com
    This comes from someone who knows what she is talking about. When she was working nine-to-five, Marisa committed to be more creative - just once a week (on Thursdays) - little did she know that it would turn into a successful full-time business in art, fabric design and writing. I should stress here that this book isn't just for people who are interested in entrepreneurship, it's really for anyone who wants to make the time to express their creativity.  

    The underlying philosophy is that creativity renders our human existence more fulfilling, and that making the time to create and express oneself is as much a part of self-care as rest, nourishment and exercise. Making a commitment to this needn't be a grand gesture, but a choice to take small steps, such as a habitual creative 'time out' each week. Marisa says "if you aren't swayed to make creativity a regular practice for your benefit, then do it for the benefit of others." I can totally relate to this - the hum-drum chores related to running a home and family typically leave me feeling stressed and anxious. Taking the time to write a blog post or picking up my needles for some relaxing knitting is what restores my energy - and even though I know this, I still feel guilty for doing it!

    Anyway, I could talk about this book - and the ideas behind it - all day but it's probably easier to tell you that if this sounds like something you'd like, I think it's worth taking a look. 'Creative Thursday' is available in paperback and ebook from Amazon (it is included in Kindle Unlimited) and directly from the author's website where you will also find a great blog and some new podcast episodes.

    *Scheepjes Mini Nooodle is available in the UK from Wool Warehouse (affiliate).

    Show & Tell: Whoops, another knitting bag!

    Regular readers will know that I absolutely love bags! It would be fair to say that my bag collection is even more ridiculous than my yarn stash, but when I spotted this pewter knitting bag on Love Knitting a few days ago, I knew I needed one - you see it almost matches the brogues I bought following the recent Stephen West workshop (and I do love 'matchy' things). 


    *Enabling alert* Even if you didn't get the shoes (and several of you confessed that you did, when I posted them on Instagram) this is a really nice knitting bag, so I thought it would be only fair to share the love. As you can see it's a generously sized bag made from coated canvas - the front pocket is big enough to fit a magazine (I pulled this month's Mollie Makes out a little, so you can compare the colour of the stripes) and the inside will comfortably carry a sweater-sized project or lots of smaller projects, as well as your notions, notebook, needles/hooks.

    Here's a peek at the inside with 700g of yarn, plus my huge notions case. I put the magazine in for scale, and behind it you can just about see the small zipped pocket which is ideal for some spare stitch markers, a cable needle, tape measure etc. You can see there is still plenty of room for carrying other things too. 


    The grab handles are the perfect length for carrying in hand or in the crook of the arm, and without a coat it will fit over my shoulder. It's a lightweight bag, so even when filled with projects it's comfy to hold, and I think it would be a very cute way to carry yarn to a knit and natter, or to commute with a project, without it necessarily looking like you're carrying a "knitting" bag (if that's something that might bother you). The main section has a zip closure, but unless you stuff the top of the bag, I can't see that you'd need to worry about your yarn getting stuck in it as the bag is so tall.  Best of all, it's a great price - at the time of writing it is £26.65 which means it also qualifies for free shipping.

    TIP: If you haven't shopped with Love Knitting before, you can sign up for their newsletter first and you will get a code for 15% off your first purchase. Please note that I am not a Love Knitting affiliate, but I am a regular customer. You can also find some of my patterns for sale there.

    If you missed last week's announcement, there is still time to enter the giveaway for two day tickets to Unravel. Simply visit this post where you will find all the details. 

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