Thursday, 28 December 2017

John Arbon at the Bath Christmas Market

Bath Abbey Christmas tree

I hope you have all had a good Christmas and are looking forward to an exciting new year! 

As usual, we had no snow, but we enjoyed a quiet few days. Luckily, I have some more time off and I intend to spend most of it catching up on sleep. I am afraid I haven't knitted a single stitch so far, but I have every intention to make progress with my jumper.

A lot has happened since my last post, but illness kept me from updating you as usual. I intend to catch up gradually, so you remain in the loop with all things knitting, such as a woolly discovery I made at the Bath Christmas Market this year.

Sadly, I was only able to go once and I didn't get to see all of it. Unlike last year, the chalets were spread out further across the city. That was a welcome change because it allowed for more space and the market wasn't as packed as usual. I remember a year when you couldn't look at anything because you were stuck in a sea of people just sweeping you along.

This year there was lots of time to explore. There were more chalets than ever before, which made a nice change from the usual vendors. To my surprise, in a small street next to the Roman Baths I discovered someone many knitters will be familiar with: John Arbon Textiles! I am sad to say I didn't buy any of the socks they were displaying and I now wish I had! It was painfully cold on the day and I tried to keep moving. A pair of their socks would have come in handy, come to think of it. I hope the sellers stayed warm!

John Arbon Textiles

Have you ever been to the Bath Christmas Market? What markets in the UK would you recommend?

As it is nearly 2018, I wish you all a healthy, woolly, successful New Year. See you soon!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Christmas Gifts For Knitters: 2017 Edition

It's nearly Christmas and my favourite part about it is finding gifts for others. Now, we're all busy people and don't always have enough time to browse the shops, so I have made this list of my personal top 4 Christmas gifts for knitters to make things a little easier. Not sure what to get the knitter in your life? Check out these knitting essentials:

For the knitter who has everything

1. If they have everything they need, but you want to give them something to match their love of knitting, this knitter pin badge from Kelly Connor Designs is just the ticket. It's the perfect stocking filler and would look good on project bags, coats or shirts.

For the chaotic knitter

2. The Knitter's Keep from Cocoknits is a great tool that will make your knitting just that little bit easier. Its magnet is ideal for holding metal stitch markers, cable needles and other small notions you need to move on and off the needles sometimes. No more dropped or lost notions for you!

For the filthy knitter

3. Readers of this blog will have seen me rave about this naughty "I love a good fingering" project bag from The Knitting Goddess. It is still available, along with other great bags, so have a look around the website. Even knitting Whovians will find something to love.

For the wool lover

4. If you're thinking of giving the knitter in your life some yarn, you can never go wrong with one of Blacker Yarns' creations. I recommend Tamar Lustre Blend, a DK weight yarn that will keep them warm in winter. It makes wonderfully cosy jumpers and shawls, but is also suitable for smaller projects such as gloves and hats.

What's on your wish list this year? Have you got ideas for other knitters that we should know about? I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

My RosaFlora Wedding Shawl

RosaFlora Wedding Shawl

I promised you a decent photo of my RosaFlora wedding shawl in action and now I can finally share it with you. I love our wedding photos, all taken by John and Soph of John Barwood Photography. This is one of my favourites and it shows off the shawl nicely. It a worth every stitch and every bead.

The big day

We got married at sunset by torchlight at the Roman Baths. We had dinner on the terrace overlooking the Great Bath where we had our ceremony and, as clich├ęd as it sounds, everything was perfect. Well, I couldn't hear my entrance music, which was a shame, but in the end it didn't matter because our guests applauded and cheered as I walked towards them. I have to say, that was unexpected and  sent my heart soaring. I nearly cried when I finally reached Mark... and then the registrar told me off for kissing him since that was "reserved for the end of the ceremony". (Of course he was joking.)

What I wore

But back to the shawl! I loved wearing it and I think it rounded off the dress nicely. I didn't go for a traditional wedding gown at all and simply bought a white textured dress from Lovedrobe I found at Evans for all of £69. It's short and ends just under the knee, has a v-neck and back, but doesn't come with the sleeves I would have preferred. So having a shawl was a great way to cover up. Luckily the weather was fine - I was worried it would be too chilly in my outfit during the outdoor ceremony as we had had a few very cold days.


The shawl had just the right weight and drape thanks to the golden beads I added to the edge, and the silk lace adds a touch of luxury. I felt wonderful wearing it. I definitely recommend RosaFlora as a wedding shawl so if you are thinking of making it for yourself, go for it! 

I used the recommended yarn in a cream colourway with pink accents and am very happy with it. Please note that the yarn on the seller's site looks much more lustrous than it actually is. The pattern is fairly easy to knit if you like lace. I only made mistakes at the beginning because I didn't pay attention, but once you get going, you're off. It took e just over a month to finish, which is half the time I had planned. And the shawl is huge! I hadn't expected that.

Over to you

Have you ever knitted something for a wedding, either your own or someone else's? Let me know how it turned out in the comments.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Pixelated Pullover: Take 2

Knitting my first Pixelated Pullover

It's been ages since I first cast on my Pixelated jumper, it's embarrassing. In my defence, I had pretty much finished it once before, but decided to rip back nearly all the way due to the odd fit and the sleeve of doom. I was well aware of the fact that I hate knitting the same pattern twice, so it doesn't surprise me that it took a very long time to pick it up again.

And now I have! I made sure to finish up my Christmas knit before getting back into jumper knitting. Sadly, moths gnawed their way into the bag in which I stored it, but there doesn't seem to be any real damage. The jumper seems fine even though it was clear that moths had certainly been on it in places. Some of the yarn also had signs of moth larvae, but nothing more. We will see what happens, I guess. It's a good thing the yarn is DK weight and not anything finer that is easily chewed through!

So I am slowly plodding on and enjoying this knit again. I really want to be able to wear the jumper this winter, so I better hurry and hope that nothing gets in the way this time! My plan is to simply knit it in a boxy shape without alterations because the customised fit was the main culprit before. As this is my first jumper, I think keeping it simple may be the best idea for now.

What's your current knitting challenge?

Sunday, 22 October 2017

The Longest Sock WIP Ever

Knitted socks in King Cole Zig Zag 4-ply

You may remember I blogged about casting on a new pair of socks with King Cole Zig Zag 4-ply way back in May. While I blogged about them in May, I actually started knitting them in March, to be fair. If you want to know how little knitting I have done this year, this project makes it very clear. These socks are finally finished and they are the only thing I have knitted this year.

It's terrible! Not the socks, mind you, but the fact that a simple pair that usually takes me 3 days to knit if I set my mind to it took me till October to cast off. It's a good thing I started them as early as I did because they are a Christmas present. So, basically, I was right on schedule.

I have quite a lot of yarn left over and even though I am not a fan of this colourway (too busy), I think it will come in handy for some sneaker socks to wear inside my winter boots or for bed. If you have any other ideas for this leftover yarn, please let me know!

So now that I have freed up some needles, I can finally get back to some other WIPs. While these socks have been my longest sock WIP, they are not my longest WIP ever. I do need to return to my jumper, which I nearly finished once and had to reknit because of fit issues. Let's hope the moths haven't got to it yet!

What's the longest a pair of socks has taken you to finish? Please let me know I am not alone!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Wedding Bells and a Honeymoon

Rosa Flora knitted shawl

It's been very quiet on the blog for the past few weeks, but I have a very good excuse: I got married! Finally, I got to wear my wedding shawl, RosaFlora, and, most importantly, married the love of my life. We even had the venue of our dreams, the Roman Baths.

I haven't got many photos of the day yet, so I am sure I will be able to show you a better view of the shawl later on. For now, you can have a look at my project photos on Ravelry.

It was a wonderful day, topped off with a lovely, relaxing honeymoon in the south of Spain.

White gold wedding rings and diamond engagement ring

We both had a fab break, but now it's time to get back into daily life. So look forward to regular posts starting next weekend. 


Giant unicorn float Islantilla Spain

Sunday, 17 September 2017

3 Reasons For the Knitting Granny Myth

I know, I know. I heard that sigh.

The most common reaction from fellow knitters upon hearing "grannies" and "knitting" in the same sentence is a sigh of resignation and rolling of eyes. Most knitters I now, if not all of them, started knitting when they were quite young. Some were children, others picked it up in their late teens or early twenties. By comparison, I began quite late at 29, if I remember correctly.

So where does this common idea come from that only old people knit? Here's what I think may be  some of the reasons why the knitting granny myth still prevails.

1. They are our teachers

There are several ways people first learn to knit and most of the time, though not always, they have a teacher. This may be an actual teacher at school for those who studied Home Economics, but often we learn from an older relative. It comes as no surprise that mothers and grandmothers would be the most likely people to teach us to knit.

2. Knitting takes time

An older person has many skills to pass on and seems the most likely teacher, but this may not be the only reason they are associated with the craft. Knitting takes time and in these times when everyone needs at least one job to make ends meet, in addition to other commitments, sitting down for a spot of knitting isn't always possible. Generally, retirees have more time, so they may be seen knitting more often than younger people. Of course, younger knitters still find the time, but the perception is that grannies (never grandpas, of course) have little else to do and can spend their days knitting.

3. Women as primary homemakers

Similarly, the idea of women as the primary homemakers and men as the breadwinners still prevails. So women are thought to be the ones who make the home cosy, do the cooking and baking, tend to the garden, and pursue crafts like knitting, crochet and sewing. This idea is still ingrained in most of us and often goes hand in hand with the idea of knitting grannies. 

I think it will take time to overcome these preconceptions we have about knitters, if they'll ever change. In the meantime, younger knitters can look forward to one day being granny knitters - I doubt we'll stop just so we an put an end to the myth!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Join the #knittinghour Destash!

Our weekly #knittinghour on Twitter is always a fun hour to spend with fellow knitters. Two years ago we had a sock KAL for beginners, suggested by participants, and last week they came up with the idea of a destash. 

Of course we need to have a destash! Every one of us has some yarn  they no longer want, so why not let someone else enjoy it? All knitters are welcome to join in the fun.

How do I find #knittinghour?

Go to Twitter and search for the hashtag #knittinghour to see all our posts. Don't be shy! Say hi and remember to use the hashtag in all your tweets so we don't miss you.

When is the #knittinghour destash happening?

We will start our destash on Thursday, 14 September 2017 at 19:30 (UK time). 

How does the #knittinghour destash work?

Join us during #knittinghour and flash your (de)stash! Post photos and details of what you want to sell or swap. If someone is interested, they will reply to you directly and you can then discuss the details such as who pays postage, what payment or swap you would like, etc. Similarly, if you see something you would like, just reply to that person's tweet to let them know.

If you are a member of Ravelry, you probably know that you can add yarn you want to trade or sell to your stash. Post a link to your destash page on Ravelry and everyone will be able to browse your offer. Not everyone will be a member of Ravelry, so please do also have photos ready to tweet just in case.

And that's it!

Let me know if you have any questions that I haven't answered in this post. Now, please excuse me: I need to stash dive.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Knitting Separates the Wheat From the Chaff

knitters are great problem solvers

In my post about the 5 reasons why knitting makes you smarter, I mentioned that problem solving is one of the skills required to be a successful knitter. I believe that the way we deal with problems we face with any project determines what kind of a knitter we are, how far we will be able to develop our craft, and ultimately separates the wheat from the chaff.

Are you a knitter?

Honestly, not everyone is cut out to be a knitter and that's okay. Not every knitter is the same either and we vary in our skill levels and preferences.

All knitters, in my opinion, need patience, the ability to recognise a problem and find a way to solve it. Youtube will only get you this far, so sometimes you will be on your own. Of course we don't have all the answers from the start and we develop our skills over time with every problem we encounter. We read books, we ask fellow knitters for help, and we search the web for information.

Easy peasy?  Not always.

The problem may be as simple as picking up a dropped stitch, but even this can be harder than expected. Losing a stitch in a simple stocking stitch piece is easy enough to fix, but I remember the first few times I dropped a stitch in an intricate lace shawl or across decreases. It's still a challenge now and I have to be able to carefully read my knitting in order to sort things out.

How tenacious are you?

Such moments are when we find out if we are really cut out to be knitters. Do we sink our teeth into the problem and don't give up until we've found a solution or do we give up at this point? Ripping back is always an option and part of solving problems you encounter, so don't feel like you have given up or failed! You've seen that something went wrong somewhere, nothing else seems to work, so all that's left to do is to rip back and start over.

Even if you rip back straight away without first trying to find another solution, this can be a good thing. It may be less challenging, but it can potentially save you a lot of time. Especially knitters who are more interested in the finished project rather than the process will most likely opt for the faster method.

Do you give up?

It's whether you give up completely or not that matters. If you are a beginner and early mistakes completely throw you to the point that you go off knitting altogether, that's okay. Knitting may not be for you or maybe it just isn't the right time for this hobby yet. (I tried three times over many years till I got the hang of it.) 

Knitters persevere. They want to finish what they've started, even though it may not be entirely free from mistakes. Those can be ironed out over along the way as we gain more confidence and learn more skills. You won't even realise you're doing it and, one day, you'll look at what you've just accomplished and think of how you'd never have managed it just a few months or even years ago. 

Liam Neeson a particular set of skills meme

If in doubt, be a badass.

Of course, even tenacious knitters will sometimes take short cuts. I can't tell you how often I simply decided a wrong stitch in a lace shawl would just have to stay as it was because I couldn't be bothered to fix it. You can't always have perfection (says the perfectionist who undid her entire jumper and is still trying to adjust it to fit her body type).

As knitters we need patience, endurance, and a very particular set of skills. 

In the world of knitting, be a badass Liam Neeson. - Tweet that!

Saturday, 26 August 2017

An Irresistible Knitting Pun

I love a good fingering knitting goddess project bag

I love a good fingering! Sorry. TMI? Nonetheless, it seems I am not alone in this. Many of you could not resist this project bag by The Knitting Goddess because it sold out as soon as she added it to her shop. I only found out about it when it was too late. I was very disappointed because this bag brings together my hobby and my job. Wait, that might need explaining...

Knitting project bag, Ravelry badge, EYF badge

Some of you who follow me on Twitter know that I work for a company that is all about sexual happiness. So how could I resist this bag? It's perfect! I love the double entendre. One of my more innocent colleagues asked me in horror if I was going to use that bag in public - I have absolutely no problem with that. I think it's fun - and I am so glad I managed to get my hands on one of them from the second round of printing.

screenprinted project bag for knitting

This bag is just the right size for a sock WIP, yarn, needles and notions. The bottom is flat so the bag can stand up on its own, and this design makes it a little roomier than I expected. Perfect, if you ask me. The screenprinted design is flawless and the monochromatic simplicity makes you focus on the message. This bag has a sturdy zip to match the material, but I would have preferred a slightly less chunky zip, to be honest. Still, it does what it's meant to do and definitely won't break. 

According to the label, the cotton bag was made in a Fair Trade factory in India and The Knitting Goddess printed it in her studio in Harrogate. She uses eco-friendly water-based inks, too, so you really can't go wrong with her bags. I like little touches like the wooden tag attached to the zip, showing the company logo and web address. 

What do you think of this bag? Would you get one yourself - and have you? I have to say I am also tempted by the "I like big balls" bag now. I need to cast on more to justify another purchase first!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

5 Reasons Why Knitting Makes You Smarter

knitting makes you smarter
Image source
We've always known it, haven't we? Us knitters are a bright bunch and our hobby seems to help us stay mentally fit for longer. Knitting requires skills whose regular use encourages us to take the time to practice, again and again, those things that will keep us agile as we get older.

1. Focus

Knitting requires a great level of concentration, particularly if you are a beginner or trying out more complicated stitches. This attention to detail keeps our minds sharp as we work our way through patterns and make progress with every knit and every purl - not to mention yarn overs, increases, decreases, slipped stitches and on and on.

2. Cognitive agility

Every knitter knows that each and every project comes with its own problems. We are a stubborn bunch and won't stop until we have found a way to make things work. This may be fixing something as simple as a dropped stitch or finding a way to reknit an entire pattern repeat. We've all been there. We are problem solvers. The good news is this habit helps maintain our cognitive agility, which we will be thankful for in the long run.

3. Dexterity

Apart from our brains, we need our hands to knit. Clumsiness won't usually get you very far with knitting because it requires dexterity. Knitting every day or a few times a week helps to keep our motor skills at the same level as they are now. As we age, we may lose them to a degree, so having a crafty hobby that relies on the use of our hands will help us keep our range of movement.

4. Mindfulness

I already mentioned focus and it goes hand in hand with mindfulness. Focusing on one thing and letting go of whatever else usually occupies our minds is calming and relaxing. We become aware of what we are doing at that very moment and everything else slips into the background. We feel the yarn gliding through our fingers and hear the clickety-click of the needles. A cup of tea and the world is alright again.

5. Creativity

Knitting is an act of creation. Being able to make something out of string, only with the help of sticks, is quite a feat, come to think of it. Knitters are makers and creative people. This is only possible because of the four points above. Without focus, problem solving skills, motor skills, and mindfulness we wouldn't be able to create much at all. 

We should be very proud of this. Knitting is not an unimportant past-time. It is not as easy as people think and it is not just for grannies - though once we reach that age, we will be the sharpest, most agile grannies around.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Knitting Inspiration: International Elephant Day

Elephant knitting patterns

Yay, it's International Elephant Day and we are celebrating with four fun knitting patterns featuring our favourite pachyderm.


1. So let's begin with this stunning Elephant Cowl that I absolutely love! It is so intricate and the colour work simply looks gorgeous. Check out the designer's page to see how different gradient yarns can turn this already fantastic knit into the most precious thing you'll ever own.

Mini Make

2. Can a list ever be complete without a Mochimochi Land pattern? Probably not. Here's a teeny tiny Carnie Elephant, the perfect quick fix for knitters who like little projects and don't have a lot of time to waste. Bring the carnival to your town!

Cuddly toy

3. My favourite elephant toy pattern has to be included here, of course. I came across Elefante very early on in my Ravelry days and made mine from leftover yarn, mainly acrylic. It is a fun thing to make, doesn't take very long, and it isn't too fiddly either. 

Woolly Hat

4. After the heatwave we have had here in the UK, it is decidedly autumnal now, so looking at hat patterns is perfectly normal in August - right? Elephant Park is available in sizes ranging from baby to large adult, so there's something for everyone. Just look at those little elephants! Can you resist?

Toys and colour work seem to be the theme here. Which is your favourite of the four? Do you have any other elephant knits I should know about? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

6 Myths About Knitting

6 knitting myths
Image source
Call them myths, call them misconceptions, call them actual WTF moments. There are plenty odd ideas non-knitters have about who knitters are and what they do. I've put together six of the most common ones I keep coming across again and again. Which would you add to the list? Share in the comments!

1. Knitting is for grannies.

We all know he prevalent mental image that non-knitters have about the typical knitter: a little old lady sitting in an armchair knitting up a jumper. It is frustrating for younger knitters, knowing that they are seen as the odd ones out, a novelty. And yet there are loads of young knitters and the popularity of places such as Ravelry and the emergence of online yarn retailers like LoveKnitting and Deramores with their new community section and social hub, respectively, prove that marketing campaigns are aiming for a younger demographic.

The great thing about knitting is that is spans generations and brings together people of all ages and different social backgrounds. You can see this in your local knitting groups. The youngest person ever to join in one my local group was all of 9 years old and learning to knit a scarf. The oldest members were retired and most of us were somewhere in-between. So let's get rid of this image of knitting nanas. I'm looking at you, Shreddies.

2. Knitters are always happy to knit for you.

No, we aren't. Knitting takes time and skill, so we will only knit for people we really like A LOT and who we know will appreciate the work that has gone into it. Those of us who have knitted socks, shawls or even jumpers for ungrateful, unappreciative people learned this the hard way. We will be picky. We will decide who we consider knitworthy. 

3. Knitting is cheap.

This is an expensive hobby: Not only does good yarn cost a fortune, knitting also involves a lot of skill that should be appreciated. So don't ask us to knit something for you because we happen to be good at it and expect it to be for free. What's more, asking for a pair of hand-knitted socks will definitely cost you more than £10 so don't be surprised if the person you approach suddenly displays a nervous twitch. Back away slowly. Proffer yarn. Retreat in silence.

4. Are you pregnant?

Possibly, but probably not. After the common assumption that all knitters must be old and grey, another mistake is to assume young women (and what about knitting men?) only knit because we are expecting and the newborn needs to be wrapped in all manner of booties, cardis, onesies and the like. Luckily, we can knit whatever our plans regarding children. And this neatly leads us to:

5. Men don't knit.

Oh yes, they do! While the sight of a knitting man isn't as common as that of a knitting woman, there are lots of men who know how to handle yarn and a pair of needles. Knitters are familiar with designers like Kaffe Fassett and the Scandinavian duo Arne & Carlos whose work is particularly popular. See's top 10 men in knitting here.

Gender makes absolutely no difference in knitting. In fact, knitting used to be a male occupation, In 1527, Paris saw the founding of the first ever knitting union and women weren't allowed in.*

*Gardner, Sue, ed. A to Z of Knitting: The Ultimate Guide for the Beginner to Advanced Knitter. Woodinville, WA: Martingale & Company, 2007. 

6. Knitting is easy! I did it once at school.

Well done. But knitting consists of more than just casting on, knitting, purling, and casting off again. These basics are great and can be all you need for some projects, but you will have seen all the wonderfully intricate lace shawls or cabled jumpers and these are an entirely different ball game.

Knitting can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be and I think it is probably fair to say that those who knit for years and years will progress from the basics and keep developing their skills. I have heard many a crocheter say they don't knit because it is so much more difficult than their preferred craft. 

Saturday, 29 July 2017

5 Questions to Ask a Knitter

Knitters get asked  lot of questions and especially beginning knitters like to know what wisdom the more seasoned ones amongst us can share. So let me answer five of the most common questions today:

1. What if I run out of yarn?

Hahahahaha! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! Haha! Ha! 

Stop it. You never will. Your stash will be bigger than Trump and May's inflated egos combined. It will be as endless as time and space. Your storage box, closet, cupboard and/or spare room will be like your very own TARDIS. Your yarn will outlive you.

2. What kind of knitting needles do I need?

All of them. Ever single kind in every single size. Ideally multiples. You know, just in case you loose one or want to cast on the fifth project and all other needles in that size are already in use. And when you think you have enough, get some spares just in case, in all available colours. Oh, and don't just stick to one brand because you need to make sure you find the perfect set just for you.

3. How do I avoid mistakes?

Don't even try. You'll drop stitches, read the pattern wrong, create the weirdest stitch patterns and realise it's all futile anyway. But don't despair. Unpick, tink and pull up those stitches and carry on. It's going to happen again, so you might as well embrace it. Knitters are great problem solvers - and occasionally throw knitting into a corner in a rage. It's ll part of the process.

4. I won't take my knitting on holiday with me. What should I do instead?

I don't understand. You're obviously in need of this holiday because you're not thinking clearly. If you decided to leave your knitting behind (Why???), you're in luck. I bet your holiday destination has at least one yarn shop or general craft shop. Go! Do not waste another minute! Get your hands on some yarn, needles and any notions you might need. Bonus: You'll have the best kind of souvenir a knitter could possibly have.

5. Seriously. You're exaggerating, right?

Nope. If only.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

I Think I Have a Problem

It's inevitable: knitters have knitting books. I do, too, though not as many as I would like, and my collection is a mix of excellent resources, simple pattern books, and everything in-between. As a spinner, I also own a few books about wool and spinning techniques.

But there is an issue: I have all these books, but apart from looking at the pictures, I have read hardly any of them. I think I have a problem.

I love looking through my books and I should devote more time to some of them. When I find a new one, it goes one of two ways:

1. The mathematical daze: There is a lot I could learn from the book and I start reading about how to ensure perfect fit and use the formula to calculate this, that and the other, and my eyes just glaze over. I suspect it is the maths rather than anything else. Maths has never been my friend and just the sight of numbers makes me nervous.
2. Theory vs practice: I read the book, take everything in, and have a lot of theoretical knowledge - but I rarely put any of that knowledge into practice. This seems like a waste of time, although it is good to know that the knowledge is there should I ever need it.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever get into one of my mostly unread books and tackle it properly. But what about you? Are you the better-read knitter? Is there a book you would never part with? Perhaps there's something I need to add to my shelf... and eventually read.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

What Are Your Bad Knitting Habits?

bad knitting habits

Let's be realistic: We aren't perfect and will have developed a few bad habits over our lifetime. This does not stop at knitting, I'm afraid, and there are certainly some things I know I should or shouldn't do, but I always find an excuse to go right ahead the way I always have. My inner, stricter Nadia is shaking her head at the mere thought right now. Are you guilty of any of these bad habits?

Not swatching

Guilty! I rarely ever knit a gauge swatch. Actually, I may only have done this for a jumper - at least I can't remember any other time. I just like to give it a go and hope for the best. If the fabric doesn't turn out as I'd like, I simply unravel it all and choose a different needle size. 

Ignoring the recommended needle size

As I rarely swatch, I usually start out with the recommended needle size printed on the ball band unless I know from experience that a particular yarn works best for me with different needles. Personally, I think that since our gauge is different from person to person, a recommended needle size isn't all that important. It is a good guide, however, if you are new to knitting or are using a yarn weight you are unfamiliar with. 

Not modfying knitting patterns

Why not personalise the fit of a garment or the look of an accessory? I often tweak a knitting pattern a little bit unless I am trying something totally new. It works well with things I have lots of experience with, such as socks. I know where I have to go off pattern to make them fit better. If I am not entirely happy with the look of something, I may change the stitch pattern as well. So I don't think that this is a bad habit, but it may well be one if you do it and always end up with something you dislike or which doesn't fit properly.

Not reading the pattern first

We should always, ALWAYS read a pattern through from beginning to end before even thinking about casting on. I don't take my own advice and it usually leads to problems down the line. Sometimes I will think I understand what's going on, only to find further on in the pattern that I misunderstood a stitch and ended up with something different entirely. That is very frustrating and can be easily avoided. Learn from my mistakes, people! Read first, knit later.

Not blocking your knitting

Always block your knitting! You've probably put a hell of a lot of effort into your work, so make it shine! Blocking your knits will make the fabric more regular and even out the tension. It will also make the stitch pattern pop and you can adjust the fit and size as needed. Luckily, this is something I have always done because I started out knitting a lot of lace. Without blocking my shawls, they would have been tiny, shriveled hankies instead.

Not washing your knits correctly

Again if you have put in all this effort to create something beautiful, why ruin it by not taking care of it? There are lots of wool washes available nowadays and it is worth giving them a go to find what works best for you. These special wool washes won't hurt the fibres so you will be able to enjoy your finished object for a long time. My favourite is Soak, which comes in an unscented and several scented varieties. I am very partial to Celebrate and also use it to wash lingerie that I don't want to risk putting in the washing machine. 

What's your worst habit, do you think? I'm looking forward to hearing about it.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

My Favourite 10 Blogs to Follow

10 knitting blogs to follow

If you're like me, you'll have a list of favourite knitting blogs you return to regularly. A while back I started using Boglovin' to read them all in one place so I don't miss anything.

Because I love discovering new bloggers all the time, I'm going to show you my list of favourite blogs. It's not a complete list by any means, but the bloggers you find here are the ones whose posts I read most frequently at the moment. Let me know in the comments what you think I should add to my reading list!

So here we go. In no particular order:

1. Libby from New Zealand blogs, designs and records podcasts at Truly Myrtle and I just love listening to her. She has a fantastic way of speaking to you through her recordings that feels very personal and authentic. There is always something interesting to learn, be it about her life in New Zealand (the most beautiful and varied country I have ever visited), her designs, sewing and knitting projects, interviews, and latest yarn purchases. If you like audio-podcasts, give this one a listen.

2. Many of you will know Louise from Knit British. While I really enjoy her audio-podcast, the recordings are very long (roughly an hour) and I don't always have the time or attention span to listen every time a new one goes live. However, the podcast is always packed full of information about British wool and very educational.

3. Knitted Bliss is a varied blog by Julie from Canada. She posts about all sorts of things and structures her posts around set topics such as Modification Monday, Pin Ups, and Wee Wednesday. My favourite is Pin Ups which contains links to all kinds of interesting blog posts and articles. I have tried a few of the pinned recipes, for instance, and a few more are in the pipeline.

4. Mochimochi Land is so popular that it has a loyal following and it's easy to see why! The tiny knits are cute and quick to make. One of the best things about Anna's work is the fun ways in which she turns her little knits into animations. You may even have come across them as GIFs on social media - I like using them during #knittinghour on Twitter, for instance. The site has free patterns, too, in case you want to give them a go.

5. Scottish blogger Elise mainly blogs about knitting and her latest charity shop purchases on Elise and Life. Her blog is a fashion and lifestyle blog of a different kind. It feels more real, more authentic and not at all pretentious. Lately, Elise has been adding her own videos to some posts and I always look forward to what she's going to write about next.

6. Dive into knitting in the Netherlands with Woollen Wilderness. This blogger is a fast knitter and it's not at all unusual for her to post several FOs at once. She has an eye for colours and designs that suit her and there are always new patterns to discover. Whenever I see what she is working on at the moment, I go and search for the patterns and want to cast on something new. 

7. Skipping back across to Canada, we have Yarn Harlot blogging about all things knitting. This is a good blog for those who like to see what others are currently making and who enjoy reading more than just a few lines in a picture-heavy post. I read this blog occasionally and it has a large following.

8. Amanda from OwlPrintPanda designs knitwear and I particularly enjoy her photography and easy-to-read posts. She isn't posting that frequently at the moment, but when a new post goes live I always look forward to it. 

9. Becca from Knit Happens is the only blogger on the list I knew in person before I knew her as a blogger. We used to be in the same knitting group until I stopped going altogether and Becca moved. She knits and crochets and has designed a few patterns, too. The blog is updated whenever there is something new to post, so a great occasional read.

10. Not all blogs I follow are craft related, though. I've been following Seasalt With Food for some years now. I like the Asian recipes and straightforward videos. I have cooked quite a few things posted there and many have become firm favourites. If you love your food, too, check this one out!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

6 Ways to Get Your Knitting Mojo Back

Knitter's block? I know the feeling. Sometimes we just don't feel like knitting even a single stitch. This may be because we've knitted a lot lately and just need a break or because life gets in the way and we can't seem to switch off and relax. Whatever the reason, if you're having a hard time getting back to your favourite craft, there are a few things you can do to help you get your knitting mojo back.

1. No pressure

Easier said than done. When you know it isn't normal for you to not be knitting, you do put a lot of pressure on yourself. This just makes things worse and won't help you get back in the mood. So don't feel bad about it. Just do other things you enjoy doing and return to knitting when you feel like it again. Nobody is keeping score. You will find that changing up your routine actually frees your mind so that you can pick up your hobby with renewed energy later on. You deserve a break anyway, right?

2. Browse patterns

Maybe all you need is a little bit of inspiration to get those creative juices flowing. There's nothing quite like browsing knitting patterns or looking at what other people have been making to realise how much you miss creating something with nothing more than two sticks and some yarn. It's similar to what happens when I haven't written anything for a while and I read a poem or a book: Suddenly I feel that drive again, a longing to put pen to paper. Getting back into knitting isn't any different. So have a look around, go through your knitting books, browse Ravelry's huge pattern database and other knitters' projects and you will wonder why you ever stopped. 

3. Stash dive

Similarly, having a look at your stash might whet your appetite. I am sure that, like me, you have some hidden treasures in those boxes that you forgot you even had. I still have some pretty yarns from my first yarn shows and every time I come across them, I want to cast on something new. It never fails! If nothing else, a stash dive may lead to a little spring clean, which isn't a bad thing either. You can finally get rid of that yarn you know you are never going to use anyway because the colour is terrible, it feels awful, and what were you even thinking?

4. Sort your WIPs

Do you have a WIP or two (or ten) lying around all over the place, just waiting to be finished? Gather them all together, have a look at what's in those project bags and baskets, and perhaps you'll find something that you feel you really want to work on again. Even better if those are small projects that you know you won't have to commit to for long. This helps you stay motivated after a break. This is also the reason I have not yet dived back into my jumper and am plodding along with a pair of socks.

5. Go to your local knitting group

If you can't find inspiration while on your own, how about meeting up with your local knitting group? Bring a little project with you just to keep busy, but focus on your fellow knitters. After all, this is a relaxed social gathering and it gives you the opportunity to ask for ideas and see what others are working on or what yarns people are enjoying right now. There's bound to be lots of chat about what to knit next, what's just come off the needles, and what yarns were just too irresistible to leave behind in a shop. Embrace the community and the knitting will happen!

6. Just do it

Right. Maybe nothing you've tried has worked or you don't like the thought of being sociable and joining a group. If you are absolutely sure you need to knit again even though you don't feel like it right now, there's nothing for it: Just do it! Sometimes we only realise how much we like some things once we've started them, so there is a chance that once you've knitted a few rows, you'll find that you are rather enjoying it. The very disciplined among us will persevere, I'm sure, while others may knit a bit, only to put the needles down again for a while. And that's okay. You can't force it and, to be honest, as in all things creative, I don't think you should. If you don't feel like it, don't knit. You'll come back to it eventually. Needles and yarn are patient friends.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Knitting Inspiration: Unicorn Edition

Unicorn knitting patterns

Our love of unicorns shows no sign of abating! No surprise, then, that there are loads of knitting (and crochet patterns) available for us crafty people who want more rainbows in our lives. This week's knitting inspiration is all about unicorns and I have put together my top 4 patterns for you. Check them out now:

1. This unicorn hat is all kinds of awesome. The horn, the hair, the pompoms - it's perfect! If you love fun accessories that draw attention, then this is for you. The super bulky yarn (suggested: Malabrigo Rasta)  ensures that it is a quick knit. Embellishing the hat looks like a lot of fun, too.

2. If you're more of a mitten knitter and love stranded knitting, these Chance and Comet mittens just have to make it onto your to-do list. There are instructions for adult and child-size mittens, so you can make a pair of these for the whole family, if you fancy.

3. Am I the only one tempted to knit toys even though I don't really have any use for them? No? Good. Spark's Pony pattern is available on Etsy. Not only can you knit your very own pony or unicorn, you can even make your own Pegasus! Three patterns in one? Not bad at all.

4. Oh well. It's probably too late to warn you now. The Magical F-Unicorn is not a glove pattern as such. Instead, these instructions show you how to embellish gloves with a unicorn. Giving someone the finger has never been more satisfying!

Are you tempted? My favourite is definitely the unicorn hat - and I bet people who know me wouldn't be surprised if I turned up with one in winter. What would you make?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Spinning Wheel Spotting in Torquay

Tiny decorative spinning wheels in the window

It's been quiet over here lately - I've been on holiday. Shamefully, there was no knitting even though I took my own advice to heart and took a WIP with me. And yet, I knitted not one stitch and my project bag stayed in the suitcase.

We went to Torquay and spent a few hours visiting Cockington Village to see the thatched cottages and have some afternoon tea. At the Weavers Cottage Tea Shoppe, I immediately spotted the spinning wheel in the fireplace. This was the place for me! There were also tiny spinning wheels in the window, which I thought were a nice touch. It was a lovely little tea room and I was thoroughly confused by the frequent mention of my name in the kitchen. No, I am not famous. One of the ladies just happened to have the same name. That doesn't happen often at all and felt quite odd.

I shall leave you with this spinning wheel for now. Tomorrow is my first day back in the office and I wished I was still at the seaside. Have a good week!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

5 Tips For Your Summer Holiday Knitting

5 Tips For Your Summer Holiday Knitting
Image source

We’ve had a very hot week here in the UK even though the Bank Holiday weekend, of course, is a bit overcast and we’ve even had some thunderstorms. So instead of enjoying our first ever BBQ of the year with our first ever BBQ grill, I have been thinking about holiday knitting. Not holiday as in Christmas (despite my working on a Christmas project right now), but holiday as in summer, sun and beaches.

I don’t know about you, but I love the seaside and I miss it terribly here in the city. So I am especially excited that we will be going to the south coast again next month and I don’t even really care too much about the weather we may have there. The most important thing is that I can dip my feet into the sea again and, if I am lucky, I may also get to have a swim (unlikely, but you never know).

So with the approaching holiday, I have been thinking about whether to take any knitting with me at all. I will only be away for a few days and I am sure we will have enough to do so I won’t have the energy to knit much. Still, I will be on the train for a few hours there and back and having a knitting project with me just in case is probably a very good idea.

Choosing what to take with you isn’t always easy, so here are 5 tips to help us knitters decide what to take with us on a summer holiday by the sea. Let me know in the comments what else you think should be on the list!

1. Choose portable projects

Unless you’re planning a road trip and have enough space around you on the journey, a small knitting project is the most practical way to go. Nobody likes having to keep their elbows close to them when knitting and seat neighbours on trains, planes and coaches won’t be too happy about being jabbed with needle ends every so often either. So keep this in mind and take a project with you that doesn’t take up too much room. Anything that can be worked on circular needles is even better because you are less likely to drop them and having to crawl around on the floor to find them again.

2. Stay away from chunky knits

Unless it is a very small project such as a hat, it makes sense to not bother with chunky yarn in a warm climate because your hands will get very hot and sweaty very quickly. You won’t want to have something so warm heaped on your lap either, I expect. And that reminds me: Make sure to stay hydrated! We do get so engrossed in our craft that we aren’t aware of how time flies. I can’t even tell you how often I made a pot of tea, sat down with my WIP and totally forgot to drink any of it until it was completely cold. So have a drink within reach (and within sight) so you remember to stay hydrated. Any excuse for a nice cocktail by the pool, I suppose!

3. Leave your treasures at home

It may be tempting to bring one of your most precious yarns with you, but if you are in a salty, sandy environment like a beach it’s probably not the best choice. Take something along that you won’t mind getting a bit of sand on even if you have all intentions of being careful with your knitting. Things happen, you drop something, spill sunscreen on things, a gust of wind blows sand about… You’ll be glad you’ve taken a yarn with you that you can be sure can cope with it and can be washed without fuss. Think a WIP you won’t mind flinging aside for a quick dip in the sea.

4. WIP it

A holiday is the perfect excuse to get on with that WIP you just can’t seem to finish. If you’ve been procrastinating, simply haven’t had the time or haven’t been in the mood to work on something you started, this is the time to take it with you and get it done. To keep you from procrastinating even more, try not to take too many other tempting knits with you or you’ll end up choosing those over your long-term WIP. If all you have with you is that one WIP you’ve been neglecting, you just can’t avoid it any longer.

5. Remember your notions

It’s easy to forget that once you’ve finished the actual knitting part of your project, there’s still some more work to do. There’s the often dreaded weaving in of threads that comes to mind immediately. So if you plan to properly finish your WIP on holiday, remember to at least take scissors and a darning needle along. Your project may also require stitch markers, so make sure you have some with you just in case. Keep them all stored somewhere safe like a box or zipped case that won’t open if you happen to drop it or someone knocks it over. Again, don’t take your best notions along if you can in case you lose them for some reason. 

Happy knitting and enjoy your holidays!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Wedding Countdown: Knitted Ring Cushion

Knitted ring cushion using King Cole Bamboo Cotton

It's only 4 months to the wedding and I, for one, think time is passing far too slowly. I want to marry Mark now! Then again, what are a few more months after 10 years, eh? 

Our wedding preparations are nearly all done. We have the suppliers, the venue, insurance, the registrar, and most decorations. The last few things we need luckily aren't time sensitive, so we can relax now. It's surprising how few of the decorations are handmade, but I decided I'd rather not stress about things. Still, there will be a few handmade touches, of course, including my beautiful wedding shawl.

Mark's mum has also been busy knitting for the wedding and made me a bag for the day. I suggested it because brides tend not to have pockets to keep anything in and I am sure I may need a tissue at some point that evening! 

She also surprised us with this ring cushion in the same colours of the bag and my wedding shawl. Isn't it lovely? It is made from King Cole Bamboo Cotton, finished with a sewn lace border, two ribbons and embroidery. It's hard to tell from the photos, but this cushion is quite big. It will take pride of place at the wedding, though we probably won't be able to use it during the ceremony because we already had something else in mind. (Unless that goes wrong, which it might because it is something I want to add some finishing touches to.)

Did you make anything for your own wedding or a friend's? I'd love to hear about it (and maybe get a few more ideas).