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.

I’m Spinning Around

This week I finally got to grips with a craft I have wanted to do for a very long time. For my birthday (last week, remember?) I got a spinning wheel. It’s an Ashford Joy 2 which is portable (it even has it’s own backpack!), beautiful and goes like a dream. Because it really is a fancy-pants wheel I’m also getting contributions towards it from family for Christmas.

Sometime back in 2019 when we could do such things I went to an event at Ewe Felty Thing in Llandudno where I had my first go on a spinning wheel. I’d been looking at them at yarn shows for years, hypnotised by the movement of the spinners and wanting so badly to try, but too shy to ask. Fortunately the amazing Nikki Small at Ewe Felty Thing encouraged me that day last year and showed me the ropes. But then that was it. I didn’t believe I could justify buying a wheel; I thought it would take up too much space; I didn’t think I had time for another craft.

Until a few weeks ago when an old friend of mine (hello Helena Thomas!) advertised her wheel on Facebook. It was virtually unused. It was a bargain. Barely 20 minutes after spotting the ad and talking to Sue about it I’d messaged Helena – only to find she already had a potential buyer! But the fire had been reignited and would not die down. I did some online research and discovered that the wheel I really wanted (not actually the model from the Facebook advert) was out of stock in most shops. Apart from one – Fibrehut, which just happens to be based in the town where I grew up!! Serendipity? I think so.

So, this past week there has only been one day when I haven’t done some spinning. I’ve spun, plied, washed and skeined my very first yarn (pictured) and the second one is currently drying over the bath. Oddly enough, there is room for it in our little house – it takes up no more floorspace when in its bag than a multi-pack of loo-roll. I have found time for another craft – and I haven’t been ignoring the knitting! I uploaded my design submission four days before the deadline and I’m well on the way to finishing another wip (work in progress) that’s been languishing in the basket for a while.

The deadline for the design submission was yesterday and feedback is due by the end of the week. I’m really pleased with the finished design, but I can’t show it to you yet. I hope they say yes. The waiting is hard – but there’s plenty here to distract me!

Burn, Baby, Burn!

Today I want to tell you a little about the ‘other’ side of my business, the wood burning, non-yarny side.

In May last year I accompanied my wife up Snowdon Mountain Railway with a number of pupils from her school and their families. It was a great adventure, despite the cloud being so dense that we couldn’t see anything from the top. When we got back down to Llanberis we had a wander around and, as there was a triathlon happening on the same day, ended up in a small area with seating and a few shops near the slate museum to have our lunch. One of the shops sold lovely wooden items that had been decorated with pyrography. We bought a train whistle and pin cushion. Sue expressed the belief that she could do that and would like to have a go.

On return home we looked into getting a pyrography machine and some wooden ‘blanks’ to experiment with. We both had a go and I seemed to have the steadier hand and the patience for it. I burned some coasters for the families who travelled up Snowdon with us, celebrating our journey and some other items followed.

This led to some knitting related wooden treats that I sold at the Pop-Up Shop and craft fairs I attended, and, inevitably, some Christmas themed ones too. Christmas is coming once more, whether we are allowed to travel to be with our families or not, and I have added a wider range of Christmas themed gifts to my website and Payhip shop. They are all only £3 each and can all be customised/ personalised/ made completely bespoke for only £1 extra, plus postage.

I burn everything by hand, completely freehand. There are no stencils, prints or lasers involved. This does mean that there is variation in each item and a little irregularity on occasion, but they are truly hand decorated. Some of them are knitting-themed, some are not; the bonus of this is that you can support a small business whether or not you are, or know, a knitter! Go on, have a look. Make a one-woman business do a little happy dance. It is my birthday.


And just like that, the week disappeared.

Time is a funny thing – this week has gone by so quickly, and yet, when I look back at my journal, there are things that happened only a few days ago that feel like much further away.

So what has been happening? Different designs have been at various stages; I published my Ice Diamonds Mitts pattern, finished knitting and typing up another shawl design called Llandudno Promenade that I hope to share with you very soon, and I have swatched for the submission call I wrote about last week.

Oh, how I have swatched! I did 11 swatches in the end, having knocked that down from the 15 I initially wanted to try out. These have all been blocked and I’ve whittled them down to three that I think I want to include in my design. The shape of the stitch patterns is suggesting a long rectangular shawl which can be one of the most practical shapes to wear. Whilst swatching I found some more fab uses for washi tape, a thing I didn’t even know about until I started bullet journalling. I mark the sides of the pages in my journal with particular tape for each ongoing project and I used the same tape I assigned for this design to the pages in my stitch dictionaries where the patterns I wanted to try were lurking. Since you can also write on washi tape, I used a plain one to label each of the swatches with their page number, name of stitch pattern, number of stitches in a repeat and the needle size I had used. This has made it so much quicker to refer back to the patterns I have sampled and helped me choose which ones will easily go together.

In the midst of all this design work I kicked against ‘thinking’ knitting and made a hat last night in Rowan Big Wool that only took 150 minutes to make! That sounds shorter than two and a half hours somehow. I did change the pattern a bit as there was no way I was going to present my wife with a chunky hat with an even chunkier seam up the back, so I converted it to in the round. Hurrah for 10mm dpns (that’s double pointed needles).

Time being what it is I didn’t manage to do any gardening this week, although there are courgettes, raspberries and apples that all need harvesting – having written that it is now starting to rain.

I’ve been enjoying more Terry Pratchett audiobooks this week, most recently The Truth. There’s a line in that which says “The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret” – I’m trying not to let it, but it’s not always easy.

Stay warm, stay safe and keep knitting, Kx

Design Submissions

One of my favourite types of email landed in my inbox last night – a call for submissions. These have the effect of creating a serious case of ‘start-itis’, unless I’m up to my eyeballs in an existing project/design. Fortunately, I’ve reached the border on the shawl I’m currently designing for Yarn O’clock and I’m therefore allowing myself to be tempted.

Submission calls vary greatly. Some just have a word or idea, like ‘growth’, and these are the most open, but can also be the hardest to work with. Some come with big mood boards, showing inspirational pictures that are often nothing to do with knitting, but capture the theme or idea of the call. Some show knitted items in the style that would be welcomed, a kind of “this sort of thing, but not exactly this”. They all nearly always tell you what type of items are being looked for, what size range is needed, what type of knitted fabrics are wanted (lace, cables etc) and usually, but not always, what the ‘compensation’ is – how much they’ll pay.

The one I got yesterday is for ‘advanced lace’ shawls and wraps. This is right up my street and I love an excuse to get all complex! So, today I have begun my process towards submission. There’s always a lot to do, but I don’t mind that as if it doesn’t get selected then I’ll have a design ready and raring to go for someone else or for self-publication.

For the first time (influenced by my bullet journalling course) I have put a list down of all the steps I need to complete for the submission. I’ve done the first two, which might not seem much, but it’s an important start. For example, I try not to use silk anymore, so I’ve gone through the list of yarns available for this submission and selected ones that don’t contain silk. I’ve also rejected superwash yarns as I find they don’t keep their shape quite as well after blocking when working fine, open lace patterns. That left me with a choice of two! Using that I’ve gone through my stash (mostly looking at leftovers from previous designs/projects) and chosen some yarns that are a good match in terms of how they’re spun and what they’re made of (shown in pic at top). Now the fun can really begin. I think I will appreciate my list more and more in the next couple of weeks as there’s often something I will forget to do (like measuring the gauge – how many stitches and rows there are per 10cm).

My design submission job-list

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Keep knitting, K x

New Beginnings

Hi, I’m Kath. Previously a music teacher for 21 years, I became a full-time knitwear designer and knitting teacher in 2018. I love living in North Wales and getting thoroughly immersed in what I’m doing, whether that’s a project, book or border that needs weeding.

This website has been up for a whole week now! It feels as though that was an aeon ago, but when I think that it was 21st August that I registered my domain name and 22nd September (only 32 days later) when I pressed the ‘launch site’ button, I can hardly believe so much has happened in this short space of time.

The theme of this post is ‘New Beginnings’. September has seemed like the ‘New Year’ for me for most of my life – I was either in school, a student, or a teacher. It has always felt like the time to start afresh, create new resolutions and try new things. It’s only been two years that I’ve been out of the classroom so that’s been a well-established habit. On September 1st 2018 I dyed my hair turquoise for the first time as a marker that I was no longer a school teacher.

There are so many things I could say about 2020, but, for now, I want to focus on the recent good bits:

I took a bullet journalling course with the wonderful Felicity Ford in July, and this practice is revolutionising my life (and given me a good excuse to resurrect my childhood obsession with stationery).

In August I launched my first full collection – the March Brioche Shawl Collection. I’m really proud of this one and indebted to my wonderful tech editor, Deb Bramham.

As a result of not being able to sell at craft fairs and pop up shops because of Covid19, and because of the accessibility issues arising from my previous (and still, currently, main) pattern platform, I opened a Payhip shop, which in turn led to this website.

I’m also very excited about the upcoming Craftucation platform for online arts and crafts courses where I have been invited to be a tutor (and my first course is very nearly finished!).

So, there are many new beginnings that I am grateful for, even though a lot of things seem to falling down around our ears right now. My life has its complications as does everyone’s, but there is still enough on the ‘good’ side of the balance and I intend to share some of that with you all in the weeks to come.

Keep knitting, Kx

P.S. The photo is from one of my favourite places – on the Little Orme, looking over towards Penrhyn Bay and Rhos-on-Sea.

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