NEW!

With Spring rapidly approaching and the start of a new month, it is fitting that today I am welcoming Alana Dakos as this month's blog and podcast sponsor! Today is an especially good day because it sees the long awaited release of Alana's latest Collection, 'Botanical Knits 2'!

'Forest Foliage', (c) Alana Dakos

Here's a teaser for those of you who can't wait:

'Continue to embrace the beauty of nature with Botanical Knits 2. In this follow up collection, traveling cables, organic textured stitches, and lacy stitch patterns make a reappearance, along with easy to read charts and written pattern instructions. From the cables of a heavy sweater coat to the delicate stitches of a lace shawl, the essence of plant life is worked into each of the 4 sweaters and 8 accessories included in this book'.

'Bare Branches', (c) Alana Dakos

Botanical Knits 2 is available as an ebook ($18) or to pre-order in print ($22 plus shipping). Everyone who pre-orders the book in print will receive a complimentary ebook to download right away. Those who pre-order will a;sp receive a botanically inspired gauge measuring bookmark as well as a new complimentary knitting pattern designed by Alana Dakos with their book shipment in June. To get your preorder, simply click on the button in the side bar. 

The Botanical Knits Ravelry Group has KALS for each of the designs which you can find here

'Thicket', (c) Alana Dakos

Want to find out more? I'll be featuring the latest Collection in the next podcast and you can win a copy. So join me on 16th March 2014 to celebrate Botanical Knits 2. I can't wait to share it with you!

Wartime Farm Sleeveless Pullover, Fenella and Susan Crawford

I feel like I have weeks and weeks of blogging and podcasting material thanks to Unravel. I'm on about day 2 of recovery though so today is an indulgent, lingering kind of post about all things Susan Crawford

I've always loved to see Susan's booth at shows. It's a wonderful setup full of gorgeous samples, books and yarn but the thing that strikes me most, without fail, each and every time, is that I step in and feel like I'm in someone's sitting room. She brings wallpapered walls and period pieces to display her vintage inspired finery and the effect is not lost on me. I feel the crowds disappear and wish I was wearing a string of pearls EVERY TIME. I'm transported to another era and my mood is instantly lifted. 

Susan always looks the part, showcasing her designs and more often than not a fabulous, authentic hairdo too but I'm afraid to say it was her husband that stole the show this year. He was modelling the Wartime Farm Sleeveless Pullover that Susan designed, complete with hat and tie. This picture will give you an idea of why I sighed every time I looked down the hall and saw him in that booth of charm and wonder. I longed to show my Grandmother; I felt like I could hear my Grandfather humming 'We'll meet again' each and every time I saw him. (Which my Grandfather does interchangeably with 'Here We are Again' and it's a habit I adore)

WartimeFarmSleevelessPullover_02_medium2.jpg

(c) Susan Crawford

If you haven't heard about this wonderful sweater and the project surrounding it, you really should go and take a look

In the wake of the popular Wartime Farm BBC TV series, you can now knit your very own authentic Fair Isle Sleeveless Pullover, modelled on a 1938 original and as worn by Alex Langlands no less! 

For each pattern sold, a £2.50 donation will be made to the Women’s Land Army Tribute Campaign to help raise money for a permanent memorial to these forgotten ladies and their untold toil during the World Wars. There's a kit available featuring Susan's wonderful yarn that she's developed to help you achieve the most authentic garment possible. 

Talking of yarn, I was mid interview with Susan when I spotted this little bit of deliciousness peeking at me.....

fenella.jpg

'Myrtle'

This is Fenella, the newest recruit to Susan's unique yarn range. Susan understands that vintage inspired patterns require vintage inspired yarn as the modern day equivalents often don't behave like their predecessors. With this in mind, Susan has been working with British Wool supplier John Arbon Textiles to develop a yarn range that will allow knitters to create garments with authentic colour choices and achieve that perfect fabric. 

Fenella is a 2ply that knits as a 3 ply, a weight that many vintage patterns call for but has all but dyed out in modern milling. Available in 124m (135yds) per 25g, this is 100% pure new British wool, (70% Exmore Blueface, 30% Bluefaced Leicester). It's amazing and I'm currently pondering what it wants to be when it grows up. I guess I will have to indulge myself by curling up with one or two of Susan's inspirational books and see what I find eh?

All in the name of research and recovery. Obviously. 

Sunshine

OH this weather! Yes, I've kicked off a blog post talking about weather. I'm so British right now but do you know what? This wet weather is getting me down. Layers, miserable walks, no freedom for toddlers and absolutely no decent light with which to celebrate FOs. 

Luckily I had a skein of this wonderful stuff. It's Vivacious DK in the 'Sunshine' colourway and it has cheered some really miserable days let me assure you. I worked on two hats, ripping one back because I couldn't find a rhythm and starting afresh on the Evernia. It was the right decision because a) it had lace and b) POM POMS!

The yarn held up really well to so much pulling back so I'm hopefully it will wear well. The hat is a little slouchier than I'd ideally like as I cast on with the wrong needle size but a brim that can be pulled over your ears in this weather is no bad thing let me assure you. It looks even slouchier in these pictures because it's worn by my sister who is a dot of a thing in comparison to me. She was a good sport to let me snap pics on a sleepy Sunday morning after the Playful Tot had kept her awake all night. Ahem. 

Tori has written a fab pattern with multiple options. There's charting and writing instructions and everything is crystal clear and WORKS. I actually feel quite addicted to hat knitting right now. A designer I know proposes that a hat is the perfect medium for trying things out and practising technique. She's absolutely right as I got my Lace fix with the instant gratification of a hat rather than the sobbing that would have gone with full on Lace shawl. 

Oh and the variation in colour between pictures? Yeah that would be the lack of light and need to photoshop it to oblivion in order to see any stitches. urgh. Roll on Spring. 

In the meantime? More hats!

Carol Feller Along Progress

There have been some lovely contributions, chatter and enabling going on over in the Playful Group so I've selected a few lovely projects to share. I'm planning to show some more once the KAL is over too as they're regularly trickling in to tempt and dazzle us whenever we check in to see how everyone is getting on. It's still not too late to join us- there's even prizes just for chattering!

First I'm going to share this rather lovely cardigan knit by Rooboost. It's the Ravi Junior and I just love the contrasty buttons don't you? You can see all the project details here.

I am hugely tempted by this one: the Captiva Wrap which calls for squishy DK. I love this version knit by DebrisUK, the colour is stunning. You can check out her project notes here.

MissLillyKnits kept with the green shawl theme and knit a stunning Centrique. I just think it's so delicate and feminine and makes me pine for Spring.

Then there was a super fast garment, knit in bulky weight by the charmingly lovely Talesfromtheplain (check out her podcast btw). This is the Vivido Cardigan, a really quick and comforting knit. You can see all the project notes here.

As for me? I'm onto the foot of those socks and determined not to lose face!

In Response....

Today a blog post blipped up in my Twitter Feed that made my heart sink a little when I saw the title. I grimaced, nervous and then I clicked through and..... smiled.

Right out the gate I'm going to say I love Woolly Wormhead and have had the pleasure of working with her several times. I will continue to do so in the future and I chatted to her about writing a response to her blog post. I felt I needed to. After all, she was talking about a small part of what I do.

I haven't blogged directly about what it IS that I do before but rather, alluded to it in the hope I don't make anyone feel wary that I'm in the business of supporting other businesses. I've been cautious about mixing too much work and play but let's be honest, without A Playful Day Blog and Podcast (yup, I did just capitalise that), I wouldn't have that very job. So I decided it was ok to talk today. In fact I SHOULD talk about what I do because the topic is on the table for discussion it would seem. I once had a work conversation with the incredible Emily from TinCanKnits and she said very seriously 'never apologise for your work or what you do'. So here we go Woolly and Emily, this one's for you....

I guess you could say I work in marketing. I feel sick just writing that however. I don't like sales people, PR makes me nervous and that weird advertising for things like beauty products? Yikes. No thanks. When Woolly talked about selling a designer like a product, she was right. That leaves a weird feeling in my stomach and I get scared that we've forgotten the joy of being creative for creative's sake and that you can't own talent.

Allow me to explain what I do. I am in the very privileged position to work with several designers and dyers to support their business. I'm available to hire as a freelancer which means I balance precariously, respecting confidentiality and the sensitivity needed around developing new work and business. I prepare web copy, I help plan projects and collaborations, I technically edit patterns, prepare timelines, make introductions and organise via many, many, many, emails promotional things like Blog Tours and strategic releases. I work for other self employed people and I rely on them trusting that I can help.

Why do I do it? Because I love the indie world. I adore seeing someone achieve and there's a real Feminist streak in me that wants to shout about an industry largely made up of women, often mothers, being paid what they are worth. In an industry that is often trivialised by the 'hobby' tag, I want people to be shown the respect and attention that they deserve. It's not easy to do that for yourself. Being too close or not having that particular skill set can be a really common problem in creative industries and with my writing background, I was soon telling stories that I saw as a professional friend to these wonderful independent business women.

So what of that dirty word, 'Brand'? A brand can be an identity that you slip on to get you ready to push your business to the next level; like a game face you get on before you face the world. It can help those that are a little prone to hermitting deal a little better with being so visible in this Social Media dominated era. It can also help separate work and non work as the line can get so blurred when you're making your money from your passion. I am not a fan of censoring or veiling in any form though. Just redirecting the spotlight a little to make sure we're all looking where we should and leaving the person to deal with being a Mum or a part time researcher for example. What's more, when we buy from independent suppliers we, as consumers, often do so because we want something with more personality and more of a story. We want to invest in that person.

Do I edit people? GOD NO. I have been called a cheerleader, a mother figure, a best friend, a pain in the ass, a guide and a critical friend. I sit well in all of those because yes, if you're underselling yourself I can be a royal pain in the ass. It is often the case when I'm writing about the Creatives that I work with, that I get a slightly shocked reaction, when to me, I have simply written the person and their business as I see them. 'Really?', 'Is that me?' 'Oh that's a bit scary'. Then.... I rewrite it, tone it down and you know what I've come to realise? We almost always go back to the first edit and that person suddenly seems a bit more sure of themselves. It's not intentional on my part, more of a process I've watched and started to reflect on recently.

I do not however. sit well with the full on branding that sells perfection. I love to tell a story, that's why I write and it's the thing that pulled me in. I don't want to rewrite though. It's simply not my place or my inclination.

Rereading Woolly's post again as I wrote this response, I smiled and nodded as I've felt that pressure too. Why wasn't I blogging perfect pictures and joining the ranks of 'Mummy Bloggers'? I think it's largely down to the fact that I feel I'd be betraying how hard it all is: balancing work, learning to be a mum, still being a partner and a daughter and all the other things I was before and also? It's just not on. Ever. It pits you against your peers and that's just wrong.

So that's me. That's what I do and why I love it so much. I cheerlead other people and am happy to sit behind them, watching them be amazing. Because knitters are you know. I think you've heard me mention it before.....


Block Party

Blocking is not my greatest love. There, I said it.

I love its' magic don't get me wrong. The way good blocking can take a crumpled mess of yarn and transform it into smooth stitches and perfect shapes. I'm just so so impatient and actually, I realise, not very good at it. I get impatient with the wires and halfway through I kind of lose momentum and ponder if the shawl really needs to be that shape (it does).

So when I say I had a blocking party, what I actually mean was a slightly irritable morning pinning shawls to my futon while muttering that I should make more hats.

The results were kind of ok though....

The first shawl is

Knit Night

by Louise Zass-Bangham and is worked up in Fyberspates

Twizzle Silk

, their Merino: Silk singles base. It was my first time using a single and I'm very taken with it. I am pondering if this might be my version of all those halo/ fluffy yarns that I can't wear or use due to my asthma going wild each time I do. It's not fluffy but certainly not crisp either. I like! You can see my project page here.

The second is Nangou by Melanie Berg who I have fallen madly in love with for her chic simple style and I want to be just like her when I grow up. The shawl used up the long term stash Wollmeise and a donated sampling of TUT Posh Fingering too. A very grown up and yummy project. I'll talk some more about the outcome of blocking this shawl in the podcast this weekend. For now, the project page is here.

What have you been blocking lately?

A Little Stocking Filler

Just in time for Christmas I received a lovely email from Clare Devine, the designer behind

Sock Anatomy

which I mentioned in the

previous podcast

. She would like to offer a discount code to all Playful listeners and readers. How festively generous!

'Flexor', (c) Clare Devine

To claim 

20% off the cover price, enter the

 code 'aplayfulday1' when making your purchase on Ravelry. The code is valid through till 14th January 2014. 

'Planum', (c) Clare Devine

Happy Holidays!