Oranges and Lemons…

For the very first time I bought my own marmalade oranges this morning. I have been making marmalade for about three or four years, but in previous years the oranges had always been bought by my mum and I would make the marmalade at her house, after which we would share out the jars. Last year was the first time I did it without direct supervision. Trusted at last? Yes, but also she could no longer stand in the kitchen for long enough and instead checked on progress from her reclining chair. It is sad that this year will be the first time in 25 years that her house will not be filled with the wonderful smell of marmalade making and that I cannot travel to see her. Another little cruelty of Covid. So, tomorrow I shall make the marmalade and put some jars aside for the time when I am again allowed to visit my mum.

Over the past few days I have been doing lots of other making:

I have knitted my Part One of the Llanberis MKAL and enjoyed seeing others begin to post pictures of their progress.

I am now on the final part of my Avix cardigan by Jennifer Dessau and can hardly wait to finish the neck / front bands later today. This will be the second time I have made this pattern – something I hardly ever do unless it’s my own design. It’s a great cardigan and I want to wear it as soon as possible!

Yesterday I spun the second half of a mohair and wool mix that I carded into rolags last week – it left a really strange residue on my hands, a little like the oily wax from the skin of citrus fruit. It will be interesting to see how it behaves once plied and washed.

Mohair and Wool Rolags

I have been busy creating charts for FOUR new patterns – Stitchmastery is such a great programme. I’ve also been looking at my pattern for the Beanstalk Throw as I regularly get queries about whether there is a written version of the pattern or a single full chart and I will soon be able to supply knitters with those which I’m really pleased about and will open up the pattern to those who don’t use charts.

And! I have drafted my first newsletter!! It will be going out on Thursday to my subscribers with a special subscriber discount code that can be used on ANYTHING on my website until the end of the month. So, if you fancy a great deal – why not sign up to my email list?

I think all this ‘busyness’ has been partly a way of stopping myself from doing an impression of Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream, over everything that’s going on in the world right now. Serious distraction and re-direction of attention along with doing things that keep my hands occupied so I can’t doom-scroll through the news.

Stay safe folks and, when you can, keep knitting and making stuff. It’s good for the soul. Kx

Let it snow! I’ll add another blanket.

Happy New Year! 2021 has begun here with flurries of snow and some crisp cold weather. Having taken the decorations down today and taken delivery of a new desk chair I have got my breath back and realised it’s quite chilly. 16.2 degrees in the house! Definitely calls for the ‘boost’ button.

The new desk chair is part of my push to look after myself a bit better – it’s a Humanscale chair, which are scarily expensive when new, but Sue got a reconditioned one last year from Corporate Spec and having discovered how supportive and comfortable it is (and that I can spin in it!) I have now got one of these as well. They are a quarter of the price of new – literally – and the ones we have had have been delivered in excellent condition. Yippee!! Hopefully the Voltarol will be able to go back in the cupboard!!

Lockdown is now UK wide, rather than just Wales and Northern Ireland as of last night. I hope it works and that everyone follows it properly. I will continue to send out orders as I get them as the post office is only a walk away, but I may limit trips to just twice a week.

It may just be the time to start a new project or treat yourself or a loved one to a ‘hug token’. They are available waxed or unwaxed (£2.50/£3.50) and can also be personalised (£3.50/£4.50). The one pictured is from old stock; the new blank hearts I have are slightly different; 5cm across and 2mm thick, with a very slightly different shape – a new photo will be uploaded soon!

Heart Shape with Hug Token burnt on

If you follow me on social media you will have seen that I had a happy dance this morning as Knit Picks sent an email promoting their blanket patterns in which both the blankets I had designed for them were featured! This was most exciting!

It’s a year and one day now since Nevern Throw was published and it seems to be doing well from looking at the ‘bestselling’ pages of Knit Picks website. You can even buy it as a kit from them. It’s definitely cold enough to put either that or Beanstalk on the bed this evening!

Don’t forget that Llanberis MKAL starts on Friday this week! There’s still time to buy the pattern and join in; you just need 25g of each of 3 colours of ‘sticky’ DK yarn and 3.25mm and 3.75mm needles (40cm circular and/or DPNS).

Next week I’m going to be introducing my newsletter to you. Subscribers will get regular discounts and special offers not open to everyone else, so it’s worth signing up!

Take care and keep knitting, K x

Somebody’s Everything

You may or may not have noticed that I’m tending towards using song titles for my blog posts. Music has been a huge part of my life ever since my mum used to hum into the top of my head to help me sleep as a baby. (And, of course, there were the 21 years when I was a music teacher for 11-18 year olds!)

I’m feeling quite sentimental today as it’s our 15th anniversary. We started off with a Civil Partnership and converted it on our 9th anniversary so that we became legally married. It’s the most amazing thing to know that someone has got your back through thick and thin and that you’ve got theirs too. And Dolly Parton’s song is also rather splendid!

Looking back over the past week I can safely say it has been eventful. So many people’s plans for the next few days have been upended and here in Wales ‘non-essential’ businesses have once again had to close their doors. There is definitely an air of increased caution in our town and most people are being even more aware of giving each other space.

It’s great that Yarn O’clock has several people already signed up for our next MKAL. As a reminder, Llanberis is a colour-work accessory, using no more than 25g of each of 3 colours of DK yarn, released in three parts and starting on January 8th 2021. You can buy the pattern on its own from me, while Anne is selling kits in the shop (and will post/do click and collect). If you buy the pattern on Payhip, just make sure you tick the box underneath where you type your email address (to allow product updates), so I can easily send you each section of the pattern as it is released.

There are new two new calls for submissions for me to experiment with which is perfect timing now that I have got my second Craftucation course up and listed, (of course, my brain has started planning the next course already…) and I’ve been doing more spinning! Lots of yarnie things to play with.

Anne was delighted with her yarn, created from some of the fluff she gave me.

Teal and black yarn handspun to about a sport-weight, lying on the sideboard

Today’s post will be the final one of 2020. I will write again on January 5th. It sounds like a long way off and who knows what the world will have brought us by then, but, in reality, it is only two weeks.

Until then, stay as safe as you can, enjoy Christmas and New Year however you keep them, and keep knitting! K x

She’s a Rainbow

My newest and most exciting news is that our new MKAL (mystery knit-along) launches next month – on January 8th! Llanberis is a small colourwork item in three shades and kits are available for £20 from Yarn O’clock. Alternatively you can buy the pattern on its own for £4 directly from me and it will be available to purchase in advance, although you won’t receive it until the launch date.

The pattern is being released in three parts on January 8th, 15th and 22nd. All you need is 3 x 25g of DK yarn in different colours, 8 stitch markers, 3.25mm 40cm circular needles or dpns and 3.75mm 40cm circular needles and/or dpns. It’s so good to have something to look forward to in the New Year – why not join us?

The picture above is the a little part of the quarry at Llanberis. We miss going there as we’ve not ventured far at all since March.

It’s also been a fairly intense week on the computer – but I now have all my recordings and notes done and uploaded for my second course on Craftucation. I’ve even put on lipstick for the first time in well over two years for the sections where the camera was on me.

Me with lippy!

Changing the frames per second rate to 60 from 30 made a massive difference to the image quality of hand close-ups, but it doesn’t half eat up the storage space on your computer! Before I had finished my 1TB storage was full and I had to go through my hard drive to delete the old and unnecessary. It’s amazing how much junk you transfer from an old computer to a new one without realising.

All that’s left now is for me to take stills from the videos to add to my notes and “Knitting for Beginners 2” will be submitted for listing on Craftucation. The website launches in just over a month – January 18th 2021.

My plan for my next course to go on there is “An Introduction to Lace Knitting”. If you have any requests for knitting courses do let me know and I’ll see what I can do!

I have been delighted with how my yarnie advent calendars have been developing. The flower wreath from Yarn O’clock is stunning and I keep thinking of new possibilities for the mini skeins from Bear in Sheep’s Clothing.

Yarn O’clock Advent Calendar Wreath
Days 1-5 Mini Skeins
Days 6-10 Mini Skeins
Days 11-15 Mini Skeins

So, it’s dark and chilly, but we have yarn and colour. I’ve also noticed that lots more people locally have put up Christmas lights this year, which is really cheering.

If you want to add any more colour into your life with a knitting kit then you have until the end of this week to order. After that I won’t be posting anything out until the New Year. Digital downloads of patterns are, of course, available twenty-four hours a day. ☺️

Keep knitting and remember to stretch. K x

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful!

The pervasive sound of pneumatic drills is going on outside, which has led me to write this week’s post earlier in the day than planned. You won’t hear it, but if I try recording anymore of my online knitting course right now it will be very audible on that. Maybe once they’ve gone home (they must be getting soaked) I’ll do some recording – or early tomorrow morning if the rain doesn’t let up too!

I had an exciting delivery yesterday – my new business cards from Moo. They are lovely and I’ve redesigned them to include my logo and website, neither of which existed when I had the last batch printed. Two have already been given out – one in an online order for a Hanging Heart Decoration and one to one of the people who came to service the gas fire this morning! She had been admiring the knitted nativity in the lounge window, but said she couldn’t knit, so I told her about the launch of Craftucation next month where I will have online courses for beginner knitters. You never know when you’re going to able to make a new knitter, do you?

I made the nativity years ago for my wife’s school, but it can’t be put on display there this year because of Covid, so we get to enjoy it at home for a change. My favourite is the donkey, I think – what about you? (Sooty, Sweep, Frosty the Snowman and the bearded gnome are not traditional parts of the nativity, but … actually I don’t really have an explanation for that. It’s just one of those things that happens here sometimes). As an aside the window isn’t really curved – that seemed to be what happens when taking a panoramic photo close up.

You may have seen the progress of my yarnie advent calendars on social media. I’m posting daily pics of the flower wreath from Yarn O’clock as I add one each day and of the wonderful palette of yarns that is emerging from Bear in Sheep’s Clothing. It’s a little moment of joy each morning opening the paper wrapping to see what colours are next. If you haven’t seen them – check them out! Links are at the top of the page.

There hasn’t been anything in the way of designing happening this week, but that’s probably due to my brain being focused on recording (thanks again, drills!), editing, transcribing, and knitting for the new course. There has been some spinning though! I’m not going to show any pics of it yet as it’s going to be a gift to the lovely person who gave me a whole bag of different fibres – I’m pleased with it and my ability to produce and maintain an even yarn is really improving!

I’ve finished re-listening to the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaranovitch (I do hope there’ll be more) and my mysteries have moved from the magical to the mundane as I’ve gone on to Val McDermid’s Broken Ground. I’ve read it before and it’s a cracking good tale with lots of subplots and jumping about in place and time while you put the pieces together.

If you’re knitting anything lovely at the moment or enjoying an unusual advent calendar I’d love to hear about it.

Take care, K x

It’s beginning to look a lot like Advent!

Several things have improved or moved along since last week’s post, which is great.

After bemoaning my lack of kit sales – I sold one (Heart in my Hands Mitts Kit)! Admittedly to a friend, but it was through the website/payhip shop and she gave me a great shout-out on Facebook too. My Beanstalk Throw pattern continues to sell well on Ravelry and Knitpicks and I’ve been able to help some knitters out who were less experienced with reading cable charts or who wanted advice on adapting the pattern for specific requirements. I find that some knitters are just desperate to make ‘the thing’, despite never having used a particular technique before and I’m always happy (within reason!) to give them advice and helpful pointers, although occasionally it does get to the “it would be a really good idea to contact your LYS (local yarn shop) and see if they run any classes on this” stage as there is a limit to what can be done by email.

Which of course is even more reason to be excited about the launch of Craftucation next month! Once I’ve got more classes up on there I can direct people to those if my initial tips aren’t enough to get them through their sticking point. The launch date has been announced – January 18th 2021 – and I intend to have two courses up by then. This morning saw me recording a big chunk of the second one (Knitting for Beginners 2) and I shall be editing those videos tomorrow.

Speaking of supporting your LYS (and, indeed, any local small shop), it’s really important if you can. I have been just as likely as anyone to take the easy route and hit the amazon site (although I am consciously trying to reduce this), but when you buy from a small business it does make a big difference. I think I have mentioned my LYS – Yarn O’clock – in most, if not all, of my blog posts! Anne, who runs it, is phenomenally knowledgable about the yarn she stocks (British where possible) and has supported me both as a designer and knitting teacher. She is also my yarn supplier for my kits!

My lovely wife treated me to two *amazing* yarnie advent calendars this year (I know! Two!) and one of them is from Yarn O’clock. I love the fact there is a pattern that comes with the yarn and it includes both knitted and crocheted options. The image at the top of this post shows today’s yarn knitted into a flower which is attached to a handmade willow wreath (made by the very talented Janet – another local craftswoman). It’s going to look beautiful as it develops over the month. My other advent calendar is from Bear in Sheep’s Clothing and I was blown away by the colour this morning. There isn’t a daily pattern that comes with this one, so I’ll show you the first week’s worth of colours next time.

In other good news, the hand (and back) pain has lessened, helped by some compression mitts, a laptop stand that helps my posture and a soft and velvety wrist rest to go along the edge of the desk. This, along with a new December decision not to make myself do the things that are just ‘too much’ in the present climate of Covid, sees me signing off as a more hopeful and cheerful knitter.

Keep knitting and remember to treat yourselves kindly, K x

First Aid Kit

Little strikes fear in the heart of a crafter as much as unexplained pain in the hands (ok, maybe moths). Both spinning and knitting are on my list for today, but I’m not quite sure if I’ll be able to do much of either. I have managed to mow the lawns, grabbing the opportunity of dry weather while I can. Hopefully the paracetamol will kick in soon, but forgive me if today’s blog post is a little shorter than usual.

This week my thoughts have been focused around knitting kits – specifically, when do people buy them, who do they buy them for (themselves or as gifts) and what patterns make the best kits. Currently a dozen of my 39 designs are available in kit form, but they don’t sell online as well as they could. Before Covid I had regular stalls at fairs and pop-up shops and kits always did well there. Maybe it’s the tactile nature of yarn that when people can see the items ‘in the flesh’ and touch the fibres they are more inclined to part with their hard-earned cash?

My kits always include a printed colour copy of the pattern, a cotton project bag, quality yarn in natural fibres in a choice of colour-ways and stitch markers (and for Calon Cariad, which needs 22 stitch markers, that’s how many you get!) and ribbon if required. So all you need to supply are the needles. If you were buying a knitting kit for yourself or someone else would the presence of needles make a difference? Even though it would increase the cost of the kit? Optional needles?

I would genuinely love people’s thoughts on this – please leave a comment here and, while you’re here, why not have a look at my kits!

Keep knitting, K x

P.S. While I’ve been writing this I’ve been listening to First Aid Kit – if you’ve not come across them before, check them out; they are fab.

OK Computer

The past two days have seen me pretty much glued to my computer adding still pictures to the notes for my first online course. I had previously selected all the images I wanted to use as stills from the videos, cropped them down and saved them in the relevant folders ready to upload, but then I discovered that they were too small pixel-wise, so it was back to the drawing board (or rather, iMovie) for me!

I am therefore very pleased to report that apart from uploading two small Word docs that are downloads, this course is done! It does, of course, need to be moderated and approved, but fingers crossed I’ll be able to move onto the next one. There’s loads of detail for complete and utter beginners to knitting, right down to how to make a slip knot – if you’ve ever fancied learning to knit, keep your eyes peeled for the launch of Craftucation in January.

Last week I mentioned ideas for the next MKAL with Yarn O’clock. Well, I had lots of fun with my coloured pencils in my bullet journal and have been swatching and the new pattern is born. This is a different approach for me as I usually play around with charts on my computer using Stitchmastery, but it allowed me to explore ideas whilst on the phone (don’t tell my mum!) and watching TV. I just need to knit it now and then do a bit of grading. I love using my bullet journal as you can probably tell from all the stickers and tape poking out of it and I’m eternally grateful to Felicity Ford’s (Knitsonik’s) bullet journalling course which encouraged it as a working space, not a thing of ‘perfect’ pages.

Have you ever upgraded your computer’s OS and then wished that perhaps you hadn’t? I installed Mac OS Big Sur at the weekend, only to find that it doesn’t play nicely with Stitchmastery yet. Grr. (I had already done my charting on paper – that wasn’t the reason I changed my usual routine). Of course, I did a full back up before the upgrade, but I’ve done quite a bit of stuff since then and am in two minds about whether to go back. If the fact that all my docs are stored in the cloud means they won’t get deleted if I revert then that might be tomorrow morning’s fun and games…

Wish me luck and keep knitting, K x

P.S. I’ve spun one bobbin of laceweight yarn (50g) and the second one will be started tomorrow. Can’t wait!

Looking Forward Looking Back

So, the world is starting to look a little more hopeful; there are signs of a vaccine that might work and a world leader who can speak calmly and in grammatically complete sentences. Closer to home I’ve been starting to think about the next MKAL (Mystery Knit-along) with Yarn O’clock – we had a quick chat about it last week and I’m going to enjoy designing this one a lot.

This week’s pic is a line up of my wheel spinning efforts so far, in order from left to right. The one on the right is my first attempt at woollen spinning as opposed to worsted spinning. I definitely found it easier to control, though it did require more prep beforehand. Unsurprisingly I have little say over the finished thickness of the yarn I’m spinning at the moment and so I have signed up to “Spinning With A Purpose” which is an online course by Katie of Hilltop Cloud which has the aim of helping you intentionally spin a wide range of thicknesses of yarn with consistency. It’s making sense so far (I’ve been learning about how to accurately measure wraps per inch today) and I think it’s important to be in the learner’s seat regularly – especially since I’m going to be offering online courses of my own soon.

I’m still uploading some bits to my first beginners’ knitting course for Craftucation and having great support from the website developer when things don’t behave as I anticipate, but I’ve already started mapping out the next and I expect I’ll be recording some of it soon!

Last week I told you about Outlander Knitting, edited by Kate Atherley. Well, I’ve had a chance to read it all and it’s a truly great book. There is background on the costume designer for the series and on the historical elements of the garments. I particularly appreciated how the designs in the book were inspired by a specific scene from Outlander and not only did we get a still from the show, it was labelled with the Series and Episode number as well! There were also sections explaining how, for example, a shield came to be interpreted as a Fair Isle hat design. There’s a wide range of knitting techniques, styles and skill levels in play throughout the book and it was lovely to see bios of each designer with links to where we could find more of their work.

I haven’t had as much experience of Zoom as many people have had during lockdown, but on Saturday I spent the day (10.30 – 5!!) in front of my laptop for the Knitting History Forum‘s AGM and Conference. This is normally something I’ve seen happening in a far-off place (like that London, or even further) and thought that I can’t really justify the enormous train fare or, when I was teaching, the time commitment of a whole Saturday that would inevitably involve leaving the house before 6am.

However, there have been some definite bonuses to the limitations on travel and this was one of them. I was able to attend virtually and learnt LOADS about a wide range of historical knitting from info about the Textile Research Centre in the Netherlands to detailed studies of 18th Century Abbesses gloves and knitting for money in Glasgow in the 1980s which only covers a fraction of the presentations. I love detail and information like the gauge at which the gloves were knitted (100 sts and 150 rows to 10cm!!) so it was right up my street, even though I am not used to sitting still for so long anymore. There were also presentations on some studies that current PhD students are conducting into “knitting as a thinking tool” (Michelle Hanks) and “knitting as a form of journalling” (Emily Rickard). Before the day was up I’d joined the KHF.

Writing all this makes me realise that I have actually done quite a lot this week, which is good as I sometimes feel I haven’t been ‘busy enough’. Perhaps I’m still adjusting from spending 21 years in the classroom – I’ve only been out of it for two years after all. My bullet journal is also good for this as a record is kept of what I’ve done in the day and it’s now that place that ALL my notes, ideas and plans go which means stuff doesn’t get lost because it was on a random piece of paper that got ‘tidied up’ (thrown out). One day soon I’m going to try the idea of a ‘done’ list rather than a ‘to do’ list – it’s said to be very empowering and we could all do with more of that!

Keep knitting and keep safe, K x

Plugging Away

Some days and weeks you get all the fun stuff, some give you the sticky end of the lollipop and some are a real pick and mix. We’re halfway through the Welsh ‘fire-break’ and, as I work from home and haven’t been going out much anyway, I haven’t noticed a big difference in the day-to-day, apart from not being able to visit the lovely Anne at Yarn O’clock.

Very early on Friday morning I had the email no designer wants to see, the “Thank you for your submission; unfortunately…” Quite why I decided to check my email when I woke up at 5.30am I’m not sure, but it’s not a habit I recommend! So, I’ve come to terms with that disappointment over the past few days and I’m now thinking about where else I could submit the design, because, heck – it’s a really good one! Advanced Lace Stole/Wrap anyone?

On the up side of things I’ve been in communication with a really great blogger (hi, Hanna!) and my work preparing my first online course with Craftucation moves on apace. All my videos for it are uploaded, some of the notes are too. It’s aimed at total and complete beginners to knitting. My wife (a non-knitter) has watched it and said that she would be able to follow the course which is really encouraging.

I’m totally in love with my spinning wheel still and I’ve been doing fancy stuff like experimenting with the drive ratios (get me!). This is basically moving the big elastic band that links the wheel to the bobbin so it spins faster or slower – like changing gears on a bike, but imagine manually moving the bike chain every time you want to change gear. Fortunately, it’s not something that needs to change mid-spin. I do seem to be spinning telephone cord (remember the twirly ones?) when it’s on the higher ratios, so I’ll stick to the slow one for now.

If you are a knitter of mitts (or know someone who is) you might be interested in the multi-buy pattern offer I’m running at the moment. If you buy my Ice Diamond Mitts pattern you can get any (or all) of my other three mitts patterns for 20% off. This offer works on my Payhip store and on Ravelry and applies to past purchases of Ice Diamond Mitts too (though on Payhip you’d need to contact me for a special code). I’m not linking to Rav because of the vision problems it is still causing some people since the new look was launched in June and I don’t want to cause anyone a migraine, but if you know you can use it safely the offer’s there too.

I have two sweaters, blocked and ready to photograph which I love and which fit me perfectly. The one in the pic is in Rowan Felted Tweed made completely out of leftovers which has pleased me no end. The pattern is On the Beach by Isabell Kraemer (link goes to Pinterest) and it was used as the ‘base’ pattern for my last live workshop (in February…!) called ‘Making Your Sweater Your Own’. Newly on the needles are some lush DK bed socks (pattern is Bob, friend of Dave by Rachel Coopey) – After doing lots of big projects it’s really nice to settle in with something where you can get half a sock done in two evenings.

Audiobooks are still keeping me company and I have just started re-listening to the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaranovitch and beautifully read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. I’ve also treated myself to the excellent Outlander Knitting book, edited by Kate Atherley. I’ll tell you more about that next week once I’ve had a chance to fully immerse myself in it.

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