Use Your Influence

There's a word that gets used A LOT in marketing, publishing and social media circles right now: INFLUENCER. The magical title bestowed upon those who have the ability to influence the behaviour or opinions of others. Brands want to work with them. Bloggers, Instagrammers and You Tubers want to be known as them. 

It's a modern phenomena I'm not entirely at ease with. 

I've spent a fair few years now, blogging & podcasting and social media-ing (totally a word). I've also been lucky enough to work behind the scenes with several brands brave enough to let me loose on projects and campaigns. A few years ago I started to quietly express my discomfort at a status quo that didn't feel right. A lot of white women. A lot of women in a narrow window of BMI that wasn't entirely achievable. A lot of straight women. A lot of women who on the surface appeared to live in a much more financially secure environment than I did. 

I got more committed to my supposed influence. 

If I am going to be the photographer or story teller, where I choose to direct that focus becomes a loaded dice, especially if it remains in the echo chamber of straight, beautiful, middle class, whiteness and what we are meant to aspire to. I sure as hell don't aspire there. If you do, let me know the appeal? Really. I did the school run today and realised I have a rip in the ass of my jeans that I bought on sale. I'm not getting it. 

Because out there are beautiful women, rocking 40 and looking fierce with it:

portrait by influencer

There's women who breezed past 40 and nailed their 50s with a style I find inspiring:

influencer portrait woman in 50s

There's queerness that is breathtakingly beautiful and needs to be known to exist:

Carla

There's Single Mama's who are my rock and are so beautiful I could weep:

single mama

There's a way of representing love that doesn't exclude age, disability, single parent families and a passion for politics:

If we are going to be so excited about influence, can we use it beyond our own means? Can we maybe not just focus on our own following and think about the women out there who we can very literally raise up? There's an exciting community out there that, personally, I find very inspiring. Gimme a few minutes while I work out how best to capture them though, hey? It's a challenge I'm really relishing if I'm honest. 

My Knit Tribe

You know how people online have quite a thing about 'Finding Your Tribe'? Is it ok to have more than one? I mean, it's good to have a solid group that always, always have your back and that's great but there seems to be this idea that we just have one place. One group. One shot at being 'in' the crowd. It reminds me a little of the idea of meeting your soul mate. 

My Knit Tribe- My lil sis & daughter. Cuties in knitwear always

My Knit Tribe- My lil sis & daughter. Cuties in knitwear always

I can't help thinking.... what if you never meet them? I mean, what are the chances? What if you never meet The One? Or in this case, The Ones? God all those wasted wine evenings on cold sofas, empty of your raucous laughter. Hideous

Maybe, just maybe, we're addicted to cliques. It's a high school thing, I'm sure of it. We want to fit. God above, who hasn't wanted to fit at least once a week? I mean, even if we have a don't-give-a-damn-attitude, there's always some little niggle somewhere that it won't always feel so damn hard to be part of a thing. Right?

Well, my crowd is.... eclectic. In my favourite group of people are bloggers, photographers, designers, writers, activists, social misfits (totally a job title), graphic designers, coffee drinkers (if that's a job, can I have it please?), shop owners, PAs, tattoo artists and a whole manner of things. We are a jumbled bunch of magical beings who trip over cracks in the pavement and giggle at being so clumsy and sometimes forget to renew our library books. 

You know who I have a soft spot for though...?

The knitters. 

Knitters send you a shawl because you once podcast about cold mornings and needing some comfort.

Morning Pages Shawl by Louise Tilbrook

Morning Pages Shawl by Louise Tilbrook

They knit a tunic for your daughter, knowing you'd never have time to make it. 

Magnolia Tunic by Josh Moll

Magnolia Tunic by Josh Moll

Knitters know the power of their work and the heartfelt, beautiful sentiment of it all. They just see others who know the beauty of what they've created. We offer our love in every damn stitch and it's amazing. When someone shrink washes a shawl, we quietly scratch them from the special gift list and give them a pair of shop bought socks. (Our greatest insult)

I have so much love for knitters. I'm quietly confident that given this threat of nuclear war, we shall inherit earth and rule them all with our ability to make from our own bare hands. We are bad asses. We really are an apocalyptic powerhouse. 

Love to the knitters. You absolutely will inherit the earth, I'm sure of it. ~x

 

Hope, after all

How do we find hope at a time that feels as if human beings have forgotten to have any? A daily onslaught of truly distressing and terrible news has left many of us lacking the faith we need in order to believe that deep down, we're all going to be ok. To be perfectly honest, some of us don't seem like we'll ever be ok again and it's hard to find a reason to be jovial without it seeming crass or insensitive while those people piece back together their lives. 

I found a reason to hope though and I had to share it. If you need it today, feel free to cling to it like a rock on a stormy night at sea. I know I have lately. 

My grandfather

My grandfather is one of life's special human beings. He fought in a war and returned home to become a factory worker, raising his 3 children and semi adopted niece. Working hard to move his family from a from a single bed house up to one in which a family could breathe, he believed in the joy of life and loved nothing more than a cheeky bet on a horse and a pint of bitter at the end of a working week. This man is the one who first taught me the power of story telling and would hold my sister and I captive for hours with his made up rhymes and long narratives about Jerry the Goblin. 

I remember my grandfather coming in from bitter cold evenings, warming his hands and muttering in the kitchen of my parents house about the "Damn Fat Cats" when he and his entire work force called a 5 month strike to support the unionised movement from a 39 hour working week to a 35 hour one. I watched proudly as his speeches were shown on the news and in slight horror that this story teller was out in the cold, yelling across the picket line at men in cars we could simply never afford. 

This man has been a hero to me my whole life. He smiled indulgently at everything I ever wrote and always swore he'd sit with a pint with any man so long as he wasn't cruel. He couldn't abide a person's cruelty. 

90th

So a few weeks ago I was more than slightly emotional watching him celebrate his 90th birthday. Age isn't kind and it has robbed him of his ability for speeches and to tell tales that make us cry with laughter. However, he still saved one very special lesson for me on his biggest birthday yet. 

Presented with his birthday cake, we gathered around him, cameras at the ready and waiting for him to blow out his candles. He seemed to lose his moment in time and gazed for a moment into a middle distance none of us could see. My aunts, eager for him not to forget what he was doing, called to him, reminding him to blow out his candles. Then I realised. 

"Stop. He's making a wish. Everyone just stop."

This man, who has lived through strikes, wars, recessions and all the trials of family life, still took his moment to make a wish on his special day. This man, who has seen more things than I will ever know, still believes in the power of wishing on a birthday candle. In a month that has felt like we really have no hope with the tragedies and terrible political games that we have seen, I am glad for that moment. Life can be hard and cruel, it can be uncertain and it can leave us gulping back tears at details in eye witness accounts but here's a man who has known such times and he still makes a wish. 

Farva.jpg

Be the 90 year old who doesn't give up hope. Make that wish. 

 

"What's the point?"

I just got back from the school run. On the way I asked 5 women if they're voting and they admitted they won't be. They said they've given up and didn't know who to vote for. They don't trust that anyone can keep them safe. They don't believe a single politician is listening. 

Is that you?

I get it. I do. I really understand how hopeless it feels. We've watched weeks of spite and lies being circulated everywhere. It's been relentless and for what? It's hard to know who to believe anymore. For those of us with mental health issues, it was more than we could bear at times. I hear you. 

I want to say this. Do not let them tell you that your voice isn't important. Even in an area where there is probably never going to be change, showing up and telling them we're watching and we have concerns is sometimes what the rest of us need to see you do. 

Vote today.jpeg

More than 2 million people registered to vote this month. For many young people this will be their first opportunity to vote. Please, don't let them down. Don't let them feel that we're not listening or we become part of the problem. Remember the first time you voted? You'd never done it before and you believed it would change the world. Please, don't teach the next generation that they can't speak up because then this feeling of being lied to over and over continues and they give up too. 

Then, when you've voted can you please talk to others about why you did it? Talking about politics is really hard for a lot of us and we fear conflict. I did this on my school run and my knees were shaking but I knew how important it was to encourage others. I'm not asking you to talk about who you voted for, I'm asking you to encourage others to get to a polling station today. Text around and plan to have a cuppa after you all vote if you're all feeling that way. 

 

And for my part, I voted for the many, not the few. I voted for a fully costed manifesto that promised to put police back on the streets that Theresa May took away. Don't let them lie to you. There is money for these resources and it comes from the sectors that can afford to start paying their tax bills. I voted Labour because I might be a little more comfortable right now but I haven't always been and many more of us won't be if we don't vote for our entire community. See? Your vote is multiplied by all those people. You are part of our team. 

 

Go on. Have that conversation. Ask someone for help if you're struggling. Please use a right that many people in this world simply do not have. Vote. 

From Dorset With Love

Can we take a moment to celebrate the power of female friendship please?

Flowers and friendship.jpg

Excellent.

I spent last weekend running workshops with a group of women so creative and amazing, I felt like I moonwalked right out of the teaching space. I jumped in a cab and checked my phone. I saw the happiest of news: my good friend is totally having her moment and causing a big buzz around her new collection launch. It felt so good to see women just owning their ambitions and working with clarity and focus to achieve them. 

I had the pleasure of shooting this special collection a few months ago. It was my first full shoot with models and I was more than a little nervous about getting my friend, Clare Devine,  what she needed. When the samples arrived, I was instantly inspired and moved them around in my hands, examining seams, hems, details..... the feel and look of each piece. The colour choices reminded me so much of the nature tones that inspire me here everyday and I felt a new confidence. 

'Lulworth Cove', available on Ravelry. 

'Lulworth Cove', available on Ravelry. 

I contacted friends to help and put together a day full of pictures, laughter and happiness. I really think you can tell how much fun we had. 

'Corfe Castle', available on Ravelry

'Corfe Castle', available on Ravelry

The collection is called, 'From Dorset with Love' and includes Clare's first sweater design (and it's a goodie). Each piece is a wardrobe staple, thoughtfully designed to make it a pleasure to knit and sit *just* right when worn. Clare is releasing these over the coming week and I have a special code for you today if you wish to knit your new favourite project. 

To enjoy 20% off at checkout when shopping on Ravelry, you can use the code '"APD20"

'Swyres Head' available on Ravelry

'Swyres Head' available on Ravelry

I'd like to shout out a few lovelies who also helped make this shoot special:

Model extraordinaire- Sarah Knight

White Striped Dress- STALF 

Beautiful Bouquet- Beards and Daisies (my go to florist, every shoot)

And my dear friend Elaine who doesn't have an online presence for me to link to for you to go and high five her, sadly. She's quiet and gentle and finds the big wide world of the internet a bit intimidating. Let's not tell her we're all pouring over her photos and finding her cute as a button shall we?

Happy knitting! x

 

New Workshops (& a confession)

So it turns out I'm headed to Ireland in May to teach A WHOLE WEEKEND OF WORKSHOPS. 

*breathes into a paper bag*

First up, let me share those details before I clean pass out and then I'm going to reassure you all why it's going to be ok. There will be 3 workshops for anyone looking to improve their writing, photography and social media skills. The dates are 13th-14th May and tickets are selling, now. This is a weekend focusing on making the best of what you put out there in the world whether you're a blogger who really wants to take better photos or a business owner determined that you're going to nail online marketing. I'll be hosted by the good folks at This Is Knit, based in Dublin. I hear there will also be some sort of partying and such. This pleases me enormously. 

Feeling vulnerable online

So now you know the details, let's get back to that paper bag moment. Putting yourself out there, whether it's online or in real life, can be pretty scary. You tell yourself all kinds of lies that one day, it will be easier. You tell yourself a magic number of Instagram followers that will mean you've made it. You tell yourself that when that blogger snaps herself clutching your product, you'll find marketing a complete breeze. Landing a feature article in that magazine you love so much? Oh it will all be so, so much easier to be out there because by then, you will be A Thing. 

I hate to break it to you but that's not a thing really. Some of the most insecure people I've worked with are some of the most prolific, talented, well known and respected people. We are all still working at it and trying to make it through the day without digitally falling flat on our face. Heck, I'd settle for just not spilling coffee down my front most days. 

Coffee

So you know what? I'm saying I'm going to be in a room full of people who feel just like me and my paper bag and that's going to be great for all of us. I'm going to be listening to what really makes people tick and what makes them feel they can't ramp up. In return for that, I'm going to be sharing all my experiences as a blogger but also as a brand manager and freelance journalist. It is hard. We can make it easier to feel less vulnerable when we share online and I'd even say, feel good when we do.  

Just know I'm right there, still working at it too. 

(Then come book those tickets because that helps immensely in getting this feel good out there. Here's those workshops again: Discover Your Writing Style; Telling Your Story Online & Getting to Grips with Visual Storytelling). 

 

Prym Ergonomics

Anyone who knows the pain of RSI will share my obsession with trying to find more ergonomic options. Between a screen habit and a craft habit, my wrists take quite a bashing and wrist pain is something I have to actively work hard to avoid. Just as you need to test to find a well fitted trainer for your body's needs before you head off on a run, you need to road test and try out what needles work for your individual knitting style. 

Prym ergonomic knitting needles

A few weeks ago Prym launched a new type of knitting needle and contacted me to road test them. The word 'ergonomic' stood out enticingly from the email so last weekend I tucked up with the dpns and cast something on. Prym Ergonomics needles are made of a polished high-performance synthetic material that's especially light and flexible. Having always opted for metal as I prefer the smoother feel, I was intrigued by this option. The surface reminded me of the metal in that it's smooth and easy to move stitches along but unlike metal, the synthetic material warms slightly in your hand a little like you might expect if you usually knit with wooden needles. It was light yet satisfying to work with. 

Prym Ergonomic Needles

A big plus point for me was the light colour- no distractions from your knitting! I have a few needles that are so busy and bright I find my stitches get a little lost. To me, I want to enjoy every stitch and the neutral white helped. However, this is where my love affair with the new material ended as the minute I started knitting, I noticed a 'catch' in one of the needles that caused a slight drag which was infuriating. I suspect it's just something about the manufacture process and some needles are perfectly smooth.  

The other interesting feature is the shape of the needles themselves. Both the double pointed and straight needles feature a drop-shaped needle point:

Prym ergonomic needle tips

This means that you never split the yarn with an overly sharp needle or suffer puncture wounds in your wrists while working in the round. I would be interested to see how these would work for very fine stitches but I like the way the 4mm double points picked up the yarn and moved down the needle. It felt easy and I haven't seen anything similar before. 

Both the straight and the dpn needles are also a longer size than many. For those knitters using a more Portugese style, where they place the straight needle under their arm and pick at the work in progress, this would probably be a good option and I'd be interested to hear from someone who has tried this. Being longer, the weight of the knitting is spread out a lot further but I still suspect a circular needle is the most ergnomic option for most knitters who hold a needle in each hand as the weiht of the project then remains in your lap. 

Intrigued? Well there's a video with more information for you just here:

As a rough guideline, these needles retail in the UK for roughly between £7-£11, subject to needle size and different stockists. I think given the price point, these are a good ergonomic choice for knitters. You can find your nearest stockist by visiting Prym's stockist listings:

As for my project? Well that's another hat coming up right there. I seem to be in a hat run and nothing is going to get me out of it; not even the promise of Spring. If you want to keep up with my making right now, pop on over to Instagram to join me and my cohost @ceramicmagpie in our new #wipsandblooms_spring join in. I'll be sharing more of these needles and projects there. 

This blog post is sponsored by VIRAL LAB who also provided needles for the post. Opinions expressed here are my own.