simplestylishknit2

There is a very definite correlation between how busy I am and how much I knit or crochet. The more stress there is in day-to-day life the faster the needles and the hook flies. If there are worries or concerns which I know might keep my mind racing into the night, then I might even force myself to dream in knitwear. Does that sound so very strange? Well those of you who are committed to the yarn hobbies, you will know what a joy, comfort, soothing past-time you enjoy.  Recently there have been quite a few research studies published about the benefits of knitting. I really don’t need convincing. But I was interested to read about the medical benefits of distraction, confidence building and increased concentration for patients who suffer from eating disorders or others which are being treated for drug or alcohol dependency.

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I enjoy flipping between crochet and knitting. Both have their own joys and strengths. When people ask me how they can start to learn to knit or crochet, I always ask them how they like to learn. You see for me I prefer self directed learning, not sitting in a classroom, but rather with a book or instruction manual in front of me so that I can take things at my own pace. The good people at Simply Stylish Knitting sent me a copy of their weekly publication this week and I wonder if you were thinking about taking up Knitting as a complete novice this magazine would be a good place to start. Now I have always committed to bring you good things on the blog. If I like a product, pattern or yarn I will share it with you. If I am not so keen I tend not to feature it at all. I must say I think they have done a good job with this publication. The instructions are clear and logical. The yarn and the needles which are included are of a good quality, which is both surprising and a delight. I think that the styling and the pattern choice is excellent. I don’t know who has styled or edited this publication but I must say I have been mightily impressed. I might even admit that I have learnt something new….

simplestylishknit3My own magazine vice is quite ingrained, but it would be worth seeing if you can pick up a copy at the supermarket because the projects are well explained and contemporary. I would also suggest having a look at the Love Knitting website as they have a special page where you can see the upcoming patterns and order the yarn to match.

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I made a cute mug cosy with the needles and yarn that came with issue 1 and it was a nice little relaxing distraction from the hurly burly of life. Tell me what you think about their pattern choice, because I think it looks ideal for the modern novice.

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patrickpandaMy return to knitting in my mid-twenties was jump-started by my close friends expecting babies. The joy and excitement of a new little human is enough to get the creative juices going. I have nearly come to the end of the creative part of writing my next book. I am so excited about this book and it has been a great ‘dream come true’. However once I had finished making designs I wanted to crochet something which was just for friends and had no need to be perfect or pattern checked.

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I found the enchanting work of Sandrine Deveze on Pinterest. Her work is so enchanting. I don’t have a copy of her book, Sweet Crochet, but I think I might put it on my list to borrow or buy. Inspired by her designs I made my own version. I started with Patrick Panda to match with our own monochrome fluffy friend, Stanley

Campbellbear

I’m afraid the making didn’t stop there, next came Campbell Bear and Betsy Bunny. Both ensure I have both bases covered when a new little baby arrives. If you know your crochet you can tell I used the reverse side of the double crochet stitch for the limbs and face and the right side for the jumper and sleeves. There is a nice contrast of textures – I have never utilised it before.

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I have had a lovely time using up the old stash of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino and I think that with a baby blanket and perhaps a sweet hat and booties these little animals would make a perfect gift for a friend and their little bundle of fun.

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pressflowers2

Firstly I am so sorry it has been such a while since I posted to the blog. I had such high-hopes for the New Year! I have been slightly thwarted by a few technical issues which meant we have been offline. But thanks to the brilliance of Big B we are back. Hurrah!

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The thing about gardening is that you have to have faith, you have to plant believing that something will bloom in the future. I have begun to realise is that to really make the most of your plot, you have to put some time into planning, to imagine what things will look like. I am not sure I am very good at that.

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However for the first time in years I planned to plant some bulbs in the autumn. There are some advantages to being a regular visitor to your  If you get so friendly/addicted the owner (Brenda) will remind you to do things ahead of time. A little time pottering about in Autumn has ensured that the depths of winter are not too colourless. I decorated our fireplace this Christmas in an array of pretty glass and pottery filled with hyacinths and paperwhites. The smell is intoxicating.

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I have no idea what prompted me to think about pressing some flowers. But at the end of the autumn I took the last fragments of colour from the garden and placed them between sheets of baking parchment and squished these within the pages of coffee table books in our living room. Oh how I yearned for my childhood flower press. Long gone I am afraid.

Little B couldn’t quite work out what I was doing….’But why? Seriously why?’

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‘Well I am not quite sure son, but if it works out well, in a few months I will have beautifully preserved flowers which will still have their lasting colour.’

I can remember as a child not having enough patience for the whole ‘pressed flower’ process. Now life is too busy and I easily forgot what I had done until the dark evenings of January. What a pretty treasure found within the pages of our books. Colour from the autumn, pressed, preserved and appearing like time travellers in the Spring.

The key for me is to stop, take a breath and plan – what can be sown or pressed now can be enjoyed in the future.

 

 

 

 

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garden mosaic15I have found myself looking back over photos of 2015 and I’m pleased that I started making a little camera album of the Garden. We are very fortunate in this part of the North West, although we have had a huge amount of rain, we have not suffered the dreadful flooding that so many people have endured.

When the rain has stopped falling, the mild temperature have beckoned invitingly to have a wee pootle in the flower beds. But it is far too soggy to venture out and as quickly as the wellies and garden gloves have been donned, the clouds darken and the skies open. So instead I have had enjoy looking back at the photos and perusing new garden books from Christmas. My pressies were very garden themed. I was delighted.

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I have to say that I had a bit of an inkling. While we were purchasing our gorgeous Christmas tree from our local garden centre, Little B dragged me over to a collection of beautiful galvanised watering cans. ‘What would you think Mummy, if you were ever choosing a watering can, would you think blue or pink? Just asking out of interest really’.

So I was delighted to find that a pink watering can was under the tree for me on Christmas day. There was only one problem, I didn’t realise what trouble I had let myself into having a garden orientated present list. My work colleagues were enquiring this week what I had received for Christmas;

‘Oh’, I replied, ‘I got a Haws watering can’. (The eyebrows went up). ‘….and a hoe!’

‘What type?’, my colleague quipped, ‘Alan Titchmarsh or 50 cent?’

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duffleI knew it wasn’t right. Nearly three quarter of the way through I still persisted on adding a few rows. I checked, double checked and the sinking feeling that I had made a mistake was becoming more permanent.  Now my friends, here comes the moment of decision – deadline versus perfection. Can you imagine a large clock ticking away. When you know something is not right, when you know you will regret not putting it right – that it could be better – you could make it better. The answer my friends is to rip it up or in this case ‘back’ and start again.

Now they say that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. I disagree. In fact perhaps one of the tragedies of modern life and more modern analysis is that we all get pigeon holed. I am not a perfectionist, but I am a finisher. When it comes to crochet and knitting I learnt a new trick, a new discipline. I think in a small way it has infiltrated other parts of my life.  I once read sage advice from the great American knitwear designer, Jared Flood on his blog Brooklyn Tweed. He said, (and I am paraphrasing now), if you know there is a mistake in your work, rip it back, you will know it is always there and for all the effort, time and care you have put into the garment it is better to right the wrong when you can.

Since then I have stuck to this ideal in my design work. You see I am not a perfectionist, but I can’t stand by if I know I have done a shoddy job. I do make mistakes, but when others rely on my designs and I know I could do better, surely I should try.

Today was a race against time, but I knew the hood on a small duffle coat was not right. I could see how I could easily make it better, what I should have done. Big B gasped in horror as I began to dramatically rip back an hour of hard labour. But when the hood was finished for a second time, it was so much better. The sense of satisfaction was greater and that niggling ‘not quite right’ feeling was gone. I might be a finisher, but why not borrow from the perfectionist just once in a while and have the best of both worlds. If a job is worth doing…..

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inbetweenI wake at 3am. Not a drowsy half-sleep, but fully awake. I can’t tell what has prompted this bolt from slumber. Is it my bedfellow? Actually very quiet at the moment. Perhaps my own body has given me a nudge to take a quick comfort break. Argh. I shuffle to the bathroom and then back, and then lay very much awake, gazing in the darkness. It is 3.15am. There is nothing for it, I will get up and crochet. I have a plan.

I sneak as quietly as I can down to my parents living room. We are in that wonderful time between Christmas and New Year, full of festivities and relaxation. Spending a few days with my folks in their beautiful home is such a treat. Love, hilarity, teasing, larks and excellent food.

They have put up with me crocheting on the sidelines. My poor son has put up with me crocheting in every grabbed minute. Oh how I wonder what his lasting image of me will be, it must be with crochet hook in hand. Ah well. Even though we are taking a break from work, my other job has not halted. I am careering towards a deadline. I need to submit half of my designs for the next book and time is slipping, sliding away.

So 3.15am seems a good time, a magical time to catch up. When you feel poorly, beside yourself with tiredness, when your child is ill, 3.15am is a desperate time of the morning. It is long, dark and lonely. When you have a plan, then it is good.

The living room is still cosy from the glowing fire. I switch on all the lights to keep the brightness up and grab a handy blanket. I cover my legs and prop myself with cushions. I surround myself with all the instruments I need to design a tricky jumper. ‘Ah’, I think to myself, ‘I can work for a good four hours before the rest of the house is up and doing.’

I work hard, but not under pressure, I know that this stolen morning will give me the freedom to crack a design-nut. I need this quiet, uninterrupted time to get the design right. At times I look across to see if the sun is rising, but in the depths of winter it is a very long time before the skyline changes colour. At 6am I get up and make a coffee. I know that any noise I make will not be too disturbing. This little treat is a reward for finishing a particularly hard design. I feel settled now.

I do not like to miss a deadline, I like to be way ahead of it. I like time to change, titivate, to alter the final thing. There is not pleasure or creativity for me in the last minute dash. I was no crammer at school or university. I was more of a worrier – age, experience and faith have tempered this trait now. But where worry has gone, the compliance remains. Well the in-between time has helped bridge the creativity gap. At 7am, sounds are heard throughout the house. I am weary now, weary but satisfied. I put down my tools and make a jigsaw with my nephew. We had a few stolen moments together – precious, magical in-between times.

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mosaic2015

Well I know I say it every year, but things seem to get busier and busier. I have really enjoyed my making this year. When I look back at last year’s post I note that I mentioned that I was not working on a book – but had an idea. As I speak I am rushing towards a deadline with that imagined book – how joyful to have a dream come true.

There seem to be more toys in the image collection. The little bunny in a bed set and the take-away play house had been an ambition for a while, so I am glad I got to make them this year.

I seem to have done more collaboration work for websites and yarn companies this year. All of this is non-paid work and in fact it would make more economic sense to work more with magazines, but that is just how it has all worked out.

At the beginning of the year I did some designs for Debbie Bliss. I was so thrilled with how these worked out and it is a joy to see the pamphlets in various yarn shops. In fact I have used the zig-zag pattern myself for several project. A personal highlight was seeing Debbie getting an M.B.E. from the Queen, which I believe is well deserved and a real boost for the knitting industry as a whole.

One of my favourite projects the ‘Garden Route Blanket’ during our South African holiday. This is definitely a road-trip project. When it returned from Black Sheep Wools a couple of weeks ago it held so many memories.

So there you go – not too unproductive. A year of colour and fun, which has removed some of the pesky deadlines and allow me to make when and if I can. I wonder what 2016 will hold.

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stilllifemosaic

In the quiet before the chaos, I have been looking at some images from 2015. In the past year I have really enjoyed arranging little collections of objects, flowers, things I have found and taking a quick snap. Probably it is the latent curator within me. I like a pretty picture. It brings a smile to my face.

Often I read about people feeling frustrated by a false beauty portrayed on facebook/instagram/blogs. Perhaps the best idea is ‘unfollow’. If something makes you feel negative, stop looking at it. If you feel inspired and encouraged then it is fine to keep reading,watching, clicking. I still enjoy magazines, pinterest and my favourite blogs. They fire my imagination.

This blog is not the complete reflection of our days. It is merely a little creative outpost in the chaos of a normal life. An image diary – edited, curated and arranged for joy. Nothing more, nothing less.

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penguinxmasjumper2

Well we are on year three of making a homemade Christmas jumper for Little B. I know that I could knit a new design each year. But time and the creative input of the wearer has always meant it has been much easier to work up a simple felt appliqué design sewn onto a sweatshirt. (You can see last years story here, and the previous year here).

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This year, work has been particularly hectic so I wondered if we might squeeze into last years jumper. When I mentioned this time/effort saving solution, Little B stared at me with a mixture of dismay and disgust. (It might be worth mentioning that last years design was based on our family cat Bernard – who unfortunately passed away this summer). Finally my exasperated son looked at me with a steely eye, ‘You surely can’t expect me to wear a jumper with dead cat on it for Christmas?….’

Good point….well made.

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So we discussed ideas, concepts, etc. Little B was quite taken with a baby sock design he had spotted in the Boden catalogue. A very cute looking baby Penguin. However he wanted to take the idea a bit further and have the back of the penguin on the back of the jumper and insisted on a small pom-pom for a tail. I not entirely sure this will be comfortable when seated on the sofa, but I won’t argue.

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If you think this all looks like too much effort, please don’t be too impressed. With the help of wonder-web this is the work of about half and hour and the sewing machine appliqué makes the design quite durable for the Christmas season. Will I make another next year? If he asks, you bet I will. Nothing makes me happier than making for my son, and I think it might not be long before these handmade creations are not acceptable. Who knows – but he certainly knows his own mind.

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