Unwind and Dieuwke van Mulligan

If you're the kind of person who watches the 'What's Hot' lists on Ravelry regularly, you will have noticed a fair few patterns from this lovely designer. Dieuwke has been the kind of knitter that makes indie dyers very happy for a little while now: her projects are beautifully executed and carefully worked to showcase their yarns to perfection. It wasn't surprising that when Dieuwke turned her knitting attentions to design, the designs were incredibly popular. 

It didn't come as shock either that when voting for the Unwind design competition was announced, one of Dieuwke's designs was in the final short list. Even better news is that Dieuwke launched a new shawl today that is one of the official KAL patterns and it's a beauty!

Aileron starts with a triangle worked in short rows before short row sections keep the angled striping pattern. An icord edge, worked simultaneously with the shawl shaping, gives the semicircular shape a strong finish. The shawl comes as part of a collaboration with Juno Fibre Arts to celebrate the launch of the Milly Sleek Singles range at Unwind. I've been lucky enough to be involved in this process and it's part of what I love so much about Unwind: so many talented people joining forces and making beautiful knitty things happen. Hurrah!

I asked Dieuwke to share a few insights into her designing and knitting life and here's what she said...


What you're most looking forward to at unwind

Do I really have to choose? All the people! All the yarn! All the fiber crafts! All the classes! And all the KAL projects!

When Dani first announced Unwind, I was so excited - and it has become better and better the nearer we get to the event. All the activities and other things that make people come together in preparation is amazing, and I am very much looking forward to meet a lot of people I have chatted with on Ravelry, but never seen in real life. I am going to be completely high on socialising and yarn fumes! :)


Tellus about the inspiration for both Unwind shawls

The idea for Aileron has been in my mind for over a year. I knew exactly what it was supposed to look like, I just couldn't really get it down into physical form. When Asti of Juno Fibre Arts approached me, asking if I wanted to do a design in her new yarn base, Milly Sleek Singles, I knew this was the perfect yarn - so I spent a lot of hours trying out different techniques and methods. I've learnt sooo much designing this shawl, and I'm so happy about the way it turned out! As a side note, Milly Sleek Singles withstand a bit of frogging very very well ;)

Brighton Beach happened when Dani announced the design competition. I wanted something relatively simple but with some intricate details, so I looked through a stitchionary and found this stitch that looked very wavy and foamy. It looked perfect for the image I have of Brighton beach. It took some calculating and slight modifications of the stitch pattern, but in the end the shawl just flew off the needles!

How did you come to start designing? 

I have been knitting since I was very little - I don't remember the exact age when my grandma taught me to knit. She was always knitting beautiful things for all of us 10 grandchildren, most often colourwork or textured sweaters, and it really looked like magic to me. I don't remember my first knitting project, but I knitted quite regularly as I got older, using knitting as a way to relax. My mom supported me in this, and she also always had a WIP going. As Ravelry came about and I saw how much inspiration is out there, the designing just kind of started without me noticing it. As I learned more and more techniques, I had an urge to try it all out - resulting in new patterns! My main inspiration is what I see out there, and also my (ahem - kind of huge) yarn stash. I want everything to become something perfect, and very often the yarn tells me what it wants to become.

My grandma (now 94 years old) doesn't knit anymore as she has bad sight and numb fingers, but every time I see her we almost only talk about knitting. She is my number one knitting idol, and I love the way her face lights up as soon as she sees something new I'm working on!



If you'd like to win a copy of the pattern, I've got 3 copies to giveaway. All you need to do is leave a comment on this blog post by midday on the 5th June 2014 and I will announce the winners using random number generator. Good luck!

Slow Burning

A discussion picked up on Twitter the other day about the pleasure in a slow and steady knit. It was quite apt given the garment I just finished and FINALLY took pictures of but I'll talk about that a bit more in a minute.

What we agreed was that while wearing knits was wonderful, it's always with slight sorrow that we bind off. I find myself eager to get to that finishing point, to have my hat, to wear my shawl, to share it with other knitters who will 'ooohhhh' and 'ahhhhhhh' along with me at the clever pattern features and gorgeous yarn. However, I always feel slightly bereft at the point of cast off. I wish I was at the beginning again with all that fresh promise. I love the first few sessions of knitting on a new project. It's like making a new friend.

It's often when you're at the end that you've really hit your stride and can do the pattern repeat instinctively and of course, that's when it all speeds up and you're suddenly almost at the Bind Off. To be fair, there's also been projects that I've cast off and thought 'Oh thank God, I'm never knitting that again!' As a general rule though, slow meditative steps in our knitting should be celebrated as much as the 'quick knit' and the instant gratification that it promises. There's lots of workshops out there for you to speed up your knitting. I know I'm slow but I love every piece just as much.

If hats are fast and dirty, sweaters and socks are slow burners for me. I just don't knit that fast. It irked me when I first learned to knit as I wanted all my sweaters to be handmade and never to have to buy socks again. This is absolutely ridiculous at the rate I knit and even this far into knitting, with a back catalogue under my belt, I'd not make such a silly pledge.

It was rather lovely though to photograph these two slow burning projects at long last because I took them at a very steady pace which means I adore wearing them all the more.

Julissa in Miss Babs Yowza!

The first is my Girl Crush Sweater. I settled for photographing it on my sister (oh she had a lot of modelling to do that weekend) so this doesn't quite show it's full glory, but still, a special sweater all the same.This sweater saw me through the discovery that I was pregnant, the big move from North to South London, settling into a home full of some pretty enormous DIY projects, the arrival of my daughter and then finally settling into Motherhood and feeling I had run a marathon! Each stitch has a story and I smile each time I reach for this sweater. I will always think of the many moments I retreated into its' comforting lace and cables when there was some huge changes going on in my life.

Pyrite Socks in JFA Buffy Toughie

Then, finally, there is the Pyrite Socks and I adore them. I bought the yarn after a visit to Asti's farm and each time I look at the beautiful colours I think of that magical countryside holiday with close friends and our family. Meeting Asti was the icing on the cake and we've formed a friendship that I treasure.

So I am now slightly lost and a little perturbed about my next knitting plans. The Ravellenics always unsettles me, making me feel that I should run to keep up and then, as is so often the case, I shrug and retreat into my slow, plodding knitting and remember that I'm just not that way inclined. I prefer to be the person coaching the team; I'm better suited to enjoying other people's glory than my own. I won't even model my own sweater for goodness sake!


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.....