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

 

Open Farm Sunday

One thing I've missed terribly this past year is growing produce for my family. There's a true joy in tending crops, soothing myself by digging hands into soil, learning from fresh challenges brought about by new weather patterns or pests. The best part though was always taking that all back to the table where a curious 3 year old will try something just because she's seen it grow. My daughter's curiousity about the changing flora and fauna in our new rural home is increasing almost daily but the joy of the first harvest of cucumber or potatoes will be much missed this year. 

produce growing at Goldhill Organics

It seemed inevitable therefore, that I made a beeline for local growers when we landed in Dorset back in November. I've been enjoying getting to know whose bees produce honey for our toast, and whose eggs are the best in the honesty box stretch we cruise regularly. When I stumbled over Goldhill Organics though, I had a feeling I was going to become loyal to their efforts very quickly. I'm delighted that my hunch proved correct. 

We now enjoy a regular supply of seasonal organic produce thanks to their vegetable box scheme. I tear open the box weekly and snap off stalks of celery to feed Little One who has undoubtedly appeared from nowhere to scrounge as I unpack. The family have been growing at Goldhill Organic Farm for over 25 years and it's a story of true passion that I've been dying to find out more about. 

Last Sunday, I packed Little One and I into a hot car and drove across beautiful countryside to visit their property as part of Open Farm Sunday. Open Farm Sunday is a charity event, encouraging visitors to learn about production in farms all over the country. From our first experiences of lambing this year, I knew it was something that would fascinate both my daughter and I so I was excited to attend. 

OPen Farm Sunday decorations
Open Farm Sunday decorations
Open Farm Sunday details

In between fields of cattle grazing, a prehistoric hillfort and meadows, is the farm itself. A family effort that has grown to the productive size it is today, Goldhill Organic Farm represents the word I've come to associate with our new environment: abundant. I stood enchanted as I watched fat bees buzz happily around some of the biggest Chive flowers I've ever seen and Little One helped herself to the coriander bed much like a child in a candy store. It's a magical place. 

retro ice cream van

The cafe and courtyard provided welcome relief after a fascinating, if slightly sweltering, tour of the raised beds and polytunnels. We treated ourselves to delicious ice creams from the retro van, stocked up on a little more produce from the farm shop and visited the studios on site. Local artists demonstrated glass blowing and their stunning paintings for visitors to enjoy and the atmosphere was a refreshing mix of nurturing and enthusiastic. 

When I began The Maker's Year, back in January, these were the stories I wanted to sniff out: local producers creating something truly magical that was sustainable and nurturing to both communities and the environment. Standing in the courtyard, I watched my daughter running excitedly in circles (thanks ice cream), families laughing together, farm members chatting about challenges and victories from this year's efforts and I knew I'd taken another step closer. There is something very special indeed about reconnecting with a growing cycle and knowing why this year the asparagus struggled but the beans have grown wild. I appreciate the fresh new crops just that little more and try to elevate my day to day cooking to make the most of it. 

Studio open day for Open Farm Sunday

It's really added to the pleasure of collaborating with the team for the new monthly recipes I'm developing as part of the Patreon rewards for the podcast. Each month, I'll be treating subscribers to a recipe that is seasonal, easy to achieve and includes tips for family meal times. I knew that these wonderful producers would provide just the inspiration I needed and Sunday's visit confirmed it. I'll be sharing sneak peaks of ingredients and trips to Goldhill Organic regularly on Snapchat, Twitter etc and you can also grab the monthly recipe by joining the A Playful Day community over on Patreon

Do you love growing produce? I know a lot of you do. Tell me how it's gone this year. I love these stories!

Announcing a Special Collaboration with WoollenFlower

If you enjoyed hearing from Jules of Woollenflower in the last podcast, I have a feeling that you will be as excited as I am by these new cowls she has created , inspired by our conversation. 

Woollenflower and APD Collaboration Cowl

Woollenflower and APD Collaboration Cowl

After Jules explained how she handcrafts each cowl, working up patterns on her vintage knitting machine, we got chatting about the different botanicals that you could capture on this knitted canvas. We soon agreed that a collaboration would be fun. Here's Jules to explain a little more: 

"Kate and I share a great love for hunting out wild places and the plants that inhabit them and so it was a joy to collaborate on a pattern for a cowl celebrating one of our favourite wildflowers... Cow parsley was an obvious choice, with its umbel flowers that are strong and sturdy and yet form such delicate and distinctive silhouettes against the summer skies. That circular form proved an interesting challenge to translate into colourwork as curves are one of the hardest thinad to capture but the end result should be instantly recognizable as the flower that so many of us have a soft spot for.
Cow Parsley (c) Woollenflower

Cow Parsley (c) Woollenflower

Worked in sturdy but soft lambswool in subtle, earthy colours, these cowls are double-layer to keep out the wind and cold with just the right balance between drape and structure to allow them to be worn loose and low around the neck or to pulled up when the weather sets in. All pieces are made in my home in Glasgow on a vintage, hand-operated knitting machine."
Sage Blue Woollenflower Cowl

Sage Blue Woollenflower Cowl

There will be a limited number of cowls available in the Woollenflower shop from 8pm Glasgow time but you can see a preview in the store now. I can't wait for mine to arrive in time for some Autumnal rambles this year. 
 

Straw Woollenflower Cowl

Straw Woollenflower Cowl

Wips & Blooms: October

Oh Autumn!

Autumn making

This is the month that makes my heart soar every year. The minute I feel September getting into its stride, I'm daydreaming about the leaves turning, the snuggly feel of wool and planning all the baking I possibly can. By the time we trundle into October, I'm bursting with excitement at all the best of the season. 

Wips and Blooms October

In my own making, I've been on something of a swatching journey. I spent a lot of the last month working on article commissions and material for the podcast, exploring local-to-me yarns. The journey has been soothing and fascinating. It has also been the perfect preparation for what I refer to as Knitting Season (yes, capitalised). 

To celebrate a little, Katie and I decide that this month's #wipsandblooms entries on Instagram should have the chance to win a seasonal treat. We would love to see the best of what October has to offer both in terms of sharing your process of making and the 'blooms' you've foraged and found. It's becoming sparse out there in the Northern Hemisphere; Winter is creeping in. However, there's still much to be found from rosehips to rosemary. We can't wait to see. 

All entries tagged with #wipsandblooms between now and October 31st will have the chance to win a special package kindly donated by Mimosa Street. I first discovered this independent store a few months ago and created a virtual wishlist for the new home when we eventually move. Most of Mimosa Street's products are handmade and they work closely with designer-makers to create beautiful items that can only be found in their store. 

When I asked for something to reflect October's foraged and found emphasis, I received the perfect items:

A Floella Vase: A fairtrade hanging vase made from recycled glass that would be perfect for little sprigs and blooms to brighten up indoors and outdoors. (I would love a little string of them on an outdoor snug!)

A poppy Seedball tin: Autumn is the perfect time to scatter poppy seedballs which were created by conservation scientist to offer a new twist on seed propagation. The wildflower seeds are rolled into little balls with clay, compost and chilli powder (to deter predators) and are a perfect way to grow native wildflowers that encourage bees and butterflies. 

Retro floral pocket notebook: Designed and printed in England and made from recycled paper, this pretty notebook is just the right size for musings on the move. 

wips and blooms October

So what will you be making this Autumn? You might even be preparing for warmer weather if you're in the Southern hemisphere of course! I'd love to see your making and crafting progress and hope to see your #wipsandblooms on Instagram soon!

 

 

The Life Offscreen Project

Last week I received some special mail that made me stop, smile and reminisce. A simple question: 'when was the last time you climbed a tree?' sparked a few blissful moments of nostalgia. 

Life Offscreen Post

In truth, it wasn't that long ago since I scrabbled up a tree because I like to earn my playful title. Since creating an online home that centres around finding a playful moment in everyday, I've been struck by the many opportunities there are to be a lot wilder and a little less contained. My online friend, Bryony agrees and she blogs about yoga, trail running, bike rides and more. Her instagram is full of cartwheels and views of the sea near her home. 

It's safe to say we hit it off immediately. 

Life Offscreen

Thus started 'The Life Offscreen Project', a simple action that we hope will cause a ripple effect encouraging more people to get outside and off their screens. The idea is really simple:

- send a snail mail reminder to a friend to get out & enjoy some seasonal activities

- Use your mail as a prompt to notice the little things, to gather and share some outdoor inspiration

Over the coming weeks you''ll start noticing other bloggers joining in with us and little pieces of mail being shared that we hope inspires others to live life on a slightly wilder side. You don't have to sign up and no one is going to hold you accountable. This is your moment to share and discover. If you have taken part in the project though, we would love to hear from you!

To start you off, we've gathered some of our other freedom seeking friends to help us create a Pinterest board with plenty inspiration for a Life Offscreen. 

See you on Instagram? #lifeoffscreen.

15 Mins With.... Hart + Honey

A couple of weeks ago I launched a new feature for the blog, '15 Mins with....' and have been having so much fun getting to know some of my favourite people. Today I'm sharing some words from Lily and Ashley, the creators behind Hart + Honey, a collective that produces a journal that I adore- Study

15 mins with Hart and Honey (Study)

 Please introduce yourself in your own words and what it is that you create. 

We are Hart+Honey Collective : a partnership between Lily (photographer) and Ashley (stylist+designer) that began in effort to explore the beauty of creative collaboration. We host an online space to encourage and provide resources for creative individuals and produce a single-topic nature journal STUDY which we release three times a year. 


Your journal places collaboration at the heart of it's success, from the way you produce it as a team to the other magazines and artist you work with. What does collaboration mean to you?

We began HH in 2013 after helping one another on various personal and professional projects. It quickly became obvious that when working together our final product was stronger -- more eyes, opinions, experience and encouragement made the process more fun and the results more interesting. Since then we've passionately encouraged other freelancers to join forces and work together! It can be exciting to go out on your own but quickly become a lonely endeavor when working solo. Collaboration means working together to create something bigger and better than either one could have achieved on their own. 

15 Mins with Hart + Honey


How has your collaboration made you stronger as two women working in the online/ publishing world?

When we approach other artists or companies with ideas and submission requests, having two names and an exposition product definitely adds some credibility to our work. It's like saying "look, there's already a second person on board with this, you should be, too!" They see our commitment to each other and our work and I think that gives them a basis of trust to collaborate with us. 


You host a segment online aimed at supporting creative communities and businesses. Why have you devoted so much space on your online home to for this?

We are passionate about people doing work that they love. Whether it's full time, part-time or the extra work they do in their free time. Featuring folks online introduces them to a whole new audience and encourages gives our readers a first hand, honest account of how other people are doing work they love. It's our way of giving them a big ol' twenty first century high five. 

15 Mins with Hart + Honey


Each study is a publication that practices a finely tuned focus on one particularly topic. How do you think this helps you find new talent to write and create with?

It's been so fun to seek out and be introduced to people in fields we might not otherwise overlap. For instance, our 2015 winter issue will study WOOD so we've been talking with a really talented photographer who happens to be a park ranger. For the Sea Issue we sat down with a good friend who spent a summer on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska. And spent two days on a sheep farm photographing for the wool issue.  It's been fascinating to learn about these respective fields offering a "behind the scenes" look at the things we all enjoy and consume but don't always have access to first hand. It's truly been a STUDY for us - like homework and field trips that we get to assign ourselves! 
And because each issue is a specific topic, people are really excited to suggest makers or Chiefs or stories that they associate with it - I think it feels more personal that way

 

 

Who would you like to see featured in 15 Mins With? Let me know, I love to discover new stories!

The Power of Collaborating to Nurture your Creative Business

This sponsored blog post is brought to you by Knit With Attitude and Of Cabbages and Kings. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, please do get in touch, it would be wonderful to tell your story here too. 

When I'm working with people to problem solve business solutions or map out progress, one of my big questions is always 'what networks are you growing around you to make your growth sustainable?' It would be easy to keep taking a booking from someone who needs that critical friend to think through business ideas and while there's a place for that, there is enormous power in joining forces in business in order to achieve.

Visiting Knit With Attitude and Of Cabbages and Kings is instant confirmation that creative solutions for small business owners are a great way to grow and nurture your ideas. I've had the pleasure of watching both Maya and Jess start their separate shops before they joined forces to create the beautifully inspiring space that they live in now. If you're in the neighbourhood, please do pop in and say hi. The light is fantastic and there's so many beautiful things to find. 

I asked them to share how collaborating has led to growth for both their individual businesses. 

Jess and Maya

Please explain the unique set up of your shops and what each business represents.

From the outset we wanted to divide the space up equally, but in a natural, cohesive way. As you approach the storefront you will see both business names above the door. The front and right-hand side of the shop is Of Cabbages & Kings, and to the back and left-hand side is Knit With Attitude. There isn't really a straight line division between the shops though, so you'll be looking at necklaces and then be looking at buttons. 

Of Cabbages & Kings is a gallery and shop specialising in limited edition prints, jewellery and homewares. Everything is made in the UK and there is a big focus on local artists (most of the artists are from the neighbourhood) and supporting local production and people. Exhibitions rotate on a bi-monthly basis with the biggest wall dedicated to that artist for the duration. 

Knit with attitude is a yarn shop with a focus on ethically and environmentally friendly yarns. I try to find out as much as possible about how and where each yarn is produced. There is then a lot of outreach on the blog and with customers about making more informed purchasing decisions and sharing that information. This means that I am working with more and more local dyers, such as Kettle Yarn Co, and farm producers such as Purl Alpaca Designs. There are unusual yarns such as soy, bamboo and milk, as well as traditional yarns such as wool, alpaca and silk. 

Sweet Georgia Yarns

How do these businesses complement one another?

It's more than just a shop – it's a creative space bringing people together. There is a knit night every month, and an art exhibition every other month. We host talks and classes covering a range of art and fibre subjects such as knitting, crochet and jewellery making. 

Both businesses have a focus on their communities. For Jess it is the artists and makers that produce pieces for the shop. For Maya it is the artists and makers that buy supplies from the shop. There is a lot of crossover in these communities especially when it comes to ethics and values.

Another way the businesses complement each other is by focusing on transparent supply chains. Both of us want to know where things are made and by whom. We want to know that people are being compensated fairly for their work.

The businesses collaborate on the window displays to create something fun, artistic and colourful to draw people in. Right now there is a giant arm knitting piece that we did in pink and white to co-ordinate with the colours of the Stoke Newington Literary Festival. 

Of Cabbages and Kings

What made you decide to share a shop space?

Essentially we had each outgrown our previous shops and were having trouble finding larger spaces that would suit. Tiny boutiques, no storage, a bit off the beaten track etc. Coming together gave us the opportunity to move to a busier high street location without taking on all of the overhead. This means a shared workload – and a shared responsibility.

As small business owners we both spend a lot of time working in the shop. By sharing the time and responsibility we are able to take holidays and weekends knowing that the shop is in good hands. This means we can come back to work less stressed and better prepared to tackle more important things. 

knit with attitude

How has this helped you develop your individual businesses?

Being on the high street means that the footfall has been much higher than our smaller, out of the way shops. In turn our customer base has grown and so have our businesses. It's hard to beat being next to the bus stop, free advertising while people wait. If the bus stops at the street light, then everyone gets to peek into the shop! 

The bigger space has meant being able to host more events and workshops, and an ability to have people come to us. We were also able to hire some behind the scenes staff for the first time in the winter. Natalie works one day a week for each of us and there's enough room for all of us to be on our laptops without everyone having to work at the front counter. 

We've also been able to lean on each other's experience and advice. Everything from social media campaigns and advertising to shop displays and events. We can get a sense of what may work first, without having to make the same mistake twice. Sometimes it's as simple as getting someone else's feed back first, knowing that we have each other's best interest at heart, as well as a solid knowledge of the other businesses first. 

Maya and Jess

What advice would you give other small business owners who are thinking of collaborating in this way?

We are fortunate in that the way we run our businesses is very similar in terms of our routines and our objectives. It’s essential that you find someone who is on the same wavelength.

Communication and compromise. TRUST! Your own business is your baby, you have to allow someone in to help nourish and take care of it. It means lowering guards and easing on control. 

How has collaborating made you stronger as women in business?

We both have different strengths and weaknesses and different skill sets so we can bring different things to the table. Customer service experience, film-making, computer or language skills etc.

We also push each other along, which means things that might have sometimes been put on the back burner if you were left to your own devices actually do tend to get done. There's more motivation as a team than on our own. 

There is a confidence dealing with the ‘bullies’ that come with running a business such as telephone companies trying to rip you off or dodgy landlords trying to screw you over. We had a bad experience before moving into this premise and it was invaluable to have someone else there through it. 

Running your own business involves many highs and lows and the brilliant thing about working in a partnership like this is that someone is there to pick the other up when they are down.

{Guest Post} My Creative Identity

Last month I  celebrated the amazing power of women when they join forces to make and create together and I was very fortunate to have my hand held online by super blogger Emily of MummyLimited. Her writing has been a huge source of nourishment for me since discovering her online home and so I'm overjoyed to bring you a guest post that speaks very close to my heart indeed. 

"I wrote a post recently about a campaign to get us all to unplug for the day, National Unplugging Day.  We are so often told to switch off and unplug. That our slavish devotion to electronic devices is bad for us and as a direct result, bad for our children. I get it, I really do. The picture of us not talking to each other and ignoring our children is a tempting one to believe. The Internet is portrayed as a dark and scary place, somewhere that takes us away from our real lives and makes us look inward not out. As someone who has been blogging for over five years and loves social media, for me, this couldn't be further from the truth.

My creative Identity

It is easy to judge someone when you observe a snippet of their day. If you could see me now, you would see a woman tapping on her phone, while her children play in the park. I look as though I'm ignoring them, but I am near, I can hear them, I am still listening and looking up, as I write. What they don't see is the 6am wake up, the refereeing of brotherly squabbles, the help with a board game, the scooting with my 4 year old, as he took me on an 'adventure'. They won't see the ice cream cones I will make once we're home or the solo bedtime I will do, or finally, after being on mum duty for 13 hours already, the hour or more I will spend feeding, rocking and soothing my baby to sleep. None of this is unusual to me and I don't expect or need praise for it, but nor do I deserve judgement for finding the odd moment in my day to connect with the digital and yet creative world.

My Creative Identity

The Internet and it's vibrant creative community has unlocked my own creativity in ways I could never have imagined. It's improved my skills and ideas, my interest in stuff and certainly my parenting. This resonates with so many parents, mostly mothers, many of whom have experienced the loneliness and frustration that parenting can bring. Parenting can often be a lonely pursuit, as in fact can making and creating and the support, honesty and humour I've found online has been invaluable over the last six years. Rather than make me look inward, the ideas and views I read make me better. A better person, a more patient and creative parent and a more proficient and inspired maker.

Before I started blogging and reading blogs, my creative outlet began and ended with knitting. Very basic and not very good knitting, i didn’t really push past the basics. It was through an online community that I found beautiful crochet did exist and it was far more than the 1970's inspired afghans that comes to most people's minds. I would never have picked up a hook without the Internet and now working with it is as ingrained in my being as reading or cooking.

My Creative Identity

Most creative people will say it's like an itch. Something they must do to feel at peace. That's how it is for me. A few days of not nourishing my creative being and I feel at odds with my world. The Internet allows me to do that and still function in a busy life with lots of responsibilities. Pinterest gives me lots of ideas, for acting on now, especially with the children or for later, for those days way into the future where I have time to explore new creative outlets. Instagram allows the very amateur photographer in me to notice and record the beauty in something or to tell the story of my day. There isn’t always the time to pick up a project in the day, there is time to fit in a bit of digital creativity.

Kate's theme last month was women as makers and it always strikes me how many inspiring women are writing online, about their creativity, their families, their lives. The women makers, I've found online inspire me and my digital life informs and influences my analogue life. We are telling stories, writing social history. The story of our lives may seem small, but it's important. It is a record of how we live, of who we are and of what we create. I want to record mine and I want to listen to others. The Internet allows us to reach across oceans, forests and miles of sprawling metropolis to find our tribe, to share our lives. I won't be told this is damaging and wrong. It just isn't possible. Sharing these things makes us, as women and mothers, stronger and that can only be a good thing."

 

Emily writes about her making, parenting and many things in between at Mummy Limited. You can find her all over the Internet as @emilyandmore. When not online she can often be found hooking with yarn, building Playmobil and breaking stuff.