Essence + Alchemy

For me, candles are a rare and special treat. In the whirlwind of my home life, I use them cautiously, worried an excitable moment from my daughter will lead to disaster. I like a lit candle to help me concentrate while I create, which often means candles are tucked into the hours of the day that are just mine. During these darker months, I'm finding that candles begin and end my work days even more than the rest of the year. I seem to work best if I wake a little ahead of my family, slipping downstairs for uninterrupted tea and a catch up on my emails. I will often light a candle to wake my senses and bring me out of my sleep time fog. Then, at the end of a day full of screens and chaos, I like to wind down for 15 minutes or so with knitting on my lap and a sleep inducing scented candle nearby. The gentle flicker and glow really helps me reframe my busy thoughts till I'm finally ready to let go and sleep. 


Recently, I've taken to using Essence + Alchemy to signpost my daily rituals. I had the pleasure of featuring this small batch producer a few months ago when I wrote about them for Project Calm magazine. Impressed by what I read, I reached out to Lesley, the founder, who sent two candles along for me to try. 

At the start of each day I've been enjoying the WINTER BERGAMOT Candle. This is a hand poured candle with a wooden wick that means it crackles a little as it burns, adding to the atmosphere as I sleepily sip my tea and see what I need to get done for the day. All Essence + Alchemy Candles are 100% natural, blending the finest rapeseed wax and pure organic essential oils with no added chemical fragrances or additives. The part I like almost as much as the comforting smell is the fact the vessel is hand blown by a British producer and can be reused after the candle has finished. Although, I'm trying not to dwell on the idea of it being gone. 

WINTER BERGAMOT by Essence+Alchemy

WINTER BERGAMOT by Essence+Alchemy

At night, I use the 'SLEEP' Utility Candles designed with travellers in mind. The candle is poured in a large amber glass jar (also with a woodwick), and comes in a fair-trade sustainable cotton drawstring bag, which can be used to carry your travelling bits in. My favourite moment is unscrewing the lid each day and getting a heady waft of lavender, sage, bergamot and howood. Delicious. 

I'm so thrilled to share a discount code for you here as I think these will make perfect Christmas gifts and totally work with my Shop Small Christmas goals this year. To qualify for 15% off your purchase, please enter code APD15 at checkout. You'll need to move fast thought as Lesley's last orders before Christmas are 12th December 2016. Direct link to the shop here:


Post created in collaboration with Essence+Alchemy who provided both candles. Opinions and words are all my own. All photography Kate O'Sullivan


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!

Unwind Brighton and Kirsten Kapur

Thank you to everyone who entered to win for the first Unwind Brighton featured vendor/ teacher. I can't believe how contagious the excitement around this event is or how supportive everyone has been towards the inspiring teacher and vendors making up this event. It's really good to see and confirms (as if it needed any confirmation) that crafters are awesome people. 

As promised, here's another feature, this time of a teacher. Kirsten Kapur is the New York designer behind Through the Loops and will be teaching at Unwind. I love Kirsten's attention to detail and eye for colour. She's designed some of the highest number of 'in my queue since it was released' patterns! 

'Ulmus' by Kirsten Kapur 

'Ulmus' by Kirsten Kapur 

For those who don't know much about Kirsten (and if you don't, you should!):

Kirsten has been knitting, sewing, and creating for as long as she can remember. She worked for many years as an apparel and textile designer in New York City. Designing knitting patterns allows her to combine her love of garment construction and surface design. Kirsten's designs have been published in many books and magazines including Knitty, Petite Purls, Ply, Knitscene, Knit Simple, My Grandmother's Knitting, Craft Activism, Brave New Knits, Fair Isle Style, Knit to Flatter, and Knitting Architecture. You can find Kirsten's independently published patterns on her website. Kirsten lives in New York City with her husband and three college-aged children.

I asked Kirsten a few questions in the lead up to Unwind because I'm not the only one getting excited- the teachers and vendors are too!

Have you travelled to the UK/ Brighton before?

I have been to London several times, but never to Brighton, or any other part of the UK. I can't wait to visit Brighton which I've heard great things about. My sister moved to the UK last November. She will be coming to Unwind and taking a few classes. I know she's eager to meet other UK knitters, so if you see us wandering around Brighton, please say "hello". 

What do you love about teaching?

There are almost too many things to list here. I'd say one of my favorite things is having the opportunity to meet the people who knit my patterns. Teaching has made me a better designer and pattern writer as I learn from my students what areas give them the most trouble. I also love that moment when a new skill clicks for a student, and you see them make the connections to other ways that they may use this newly learned technique in their knitting. Finally, one of the most rewarding things about teaching is when a student writes to me weeks, months or even a year after taking a class and shows me what they have created as a result of what they learned.

What are you looking forward to the most about Unwind? 

I'm really excited to meet knitters from the UK and Europe. This will be my first time teaching internationally. I love the way this craft has connected me with people from all over the world, I am really looking forward to the opportunity to meet some of them in person.

'Germinate' one of Kirsten's shawls from the annual Mystery KAL

'Germinate' one of Kirsten's shawls from the annual Mystery KAL

Kirsten has just launched her annual Mystery Shawl KAL and is offering 5 patterns to 5 lucky winners! The Through the Loops Mystery KAL begins on June 1st, with presales of the pattern beginning on May 15th. The pattern will include a few video tutorials for techniques and stitches that might be new to some knitters. As always, Kirsten is offering the pattern at a discount during the presale period, which runs from May 15 - June 1. After that knitters may still join the KAL, but the pattern will be full price. There will be one clue released per week for 5 weeks and knitters will find lots of sharing, chatter, help, and encouragement in her Ravelry group, Fans of Through the Loops

To enter, please peruse Kirsten's design page's and tell me what your favourite design is. Winners will be chosen by Random Number Generator on Saturday 24th so be sure to enter before midday GMT on that day. Good luck!

Unwind Brighton and Eden Cottage Yarns

Unwind Brighton is almost here and I'm so excited! There's something about this event that seems to have really drawn together some of the most inspirational teachers and vendors in the fibre community and really got people buzzing. The sense of international community that Dani, Unwind Creator, has captured is really charming and something I'm really motivated by. I am constantly in awe of the way knitters and crafters support one another so I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to spread some excitement and cheer about the many talented teachers and vendors attending the show. 

Even if you're not attending, my hope is to bring a little Unwind into your day!

So here's the first (of many) features about one of the Unwind folks that I'll be making a beeline to say hi to on the day: Victoria from Eden Cottage Yarns. Following her guest post and a huge response on Ravelry and Twitter (thank you), I asked Victoria to tell us about some of the British Breeds she includes in her yarn ranges and there's a chance to win a skein too!

Victoria wearing Brampton, her own design

Victoria wearing Brampton, her own design

Victoria is the dyer (and designer) behind Eden Cottage Yarns. The Eden Cottage Yarn range offers a wide selection of bases, all in Victoria's trademark muted and subtle colourways. The colour palette is inspired by nature and you'll often see pictures shared on Facebook of Victoria's inspiration, whether it's cherry blossoms in the Spring or the greens of the trees that surround her Yorkshire home. Updates are regular and I love how active Victoria is both on social media like Twitter but also attending events. She really interacts with the knitting community and that's something really impressive when she does all the dyeing too!

Now about those yarns and colours.....

'Copper Bucket' on Bowland DK

'Copper Bucket' on Bowland DK

First up in the British Breeds is a big softy: Bowland DK. This DK is Victoria's Superwash Bluefaced Leicester base and is one of those yarns that gets softer the more it's worked and used and as with all Blue Faced Leicester, has a gorgeous lustre. I had a hard time choosing between this base and the Polworth that I actually came away with at Unravel because it looked incredible in the skein and the price was so reasonable for the yardage (£16 per 245 yards per skein). 

'Blossom' on BFL Sock

'Blossom' on BFL Sock

Next is her BFL Sock, which is a generous skein at 436 yards per 100g. Again, this is a yarn that wears well and blooms nicely with a wash so it works perfectly for both garments as well as socks and mitts. I really like the roundness of this yarn in the skein (yes, I spent a lot of time at Victoria's stand at Unravel, cooing over the yarn. Does it show?)

Ullswater on Milburn 4ply

Ullswater on Milburn 4ply

Another yarn of interest, with British roots is the Milburn 4ply range, named after a pretty Cumbrian Village (Victoria's originally from Cumbria). Victoria has been working with a mill to have these 50g British Bluefaced Leicester and Silk skeins dyed in typical Eden Cottage Colourways. With so much handdyeing and wholesale, Victoria collaborated with a mill to produce yarns that could be dyed in an Eden Cottage palette and complement her hand dyed range. Pretty smart and already pretty popular!

Like what you see? As well as being sure to check out Victoria's stand at Unwind, you can also win a skein of one of the 3 skeins mentioned above. Leave a comment below, telling us what skein you would like to win  and what colour by visiting the Eden Cottage website and I will pull one lucky winner with the random number generator. Be sure to enter by 18th May 2014 as I will be posting the results on Monday and announcing a new vendor/ teacher feature and giveaway!

Good Luck!

Love Our Indies

It's no secret that I'm a fan of independent producers. Why? For me it's a lifestyle choice. When I interact with an independent producer I can see who is producing my yarn, pattern or pie. I like to know about their process, where things were sourced and how they were put together.

The other thing about being in the independently produced habit is you find yourself drawn to a certain aesthetic and it becomes about crafting your personal style and way of living. Like many, I buy into that element too; I see myself as part of a certain tribe of women that dig handcrafts, love being outdoors, are practical and whose children run free and wild. Fine, I'm actually a more than slightly frazzled working Mum who rarely gets time to sit and craft these days but it's an aesthetic I'm drawn to nonetheless. 

We all do that right? We all like the idea of our purchases reflecting who we are whether you're a 'global tribal' or 'urban modern' kind of woman. These are just a few of the phrases I see bandied around in advertising and I smile every time because in the choices we make as consumers, we are aligning ourselves with certain ideals whether I buy from a store (Whole Foods vs Tesco) or choose from the rich variety of independent producers out there. 

It's why I do the work I do. Working with a host of independent designers, writers, publishers, dyers, and more means I am constantly in contact with some truly inspiring women who deserve to be successful. (Note: I say women because this is an industry that is predominantly but not exclusively made up of women working in their home, more on that later though). Successful means a many things: coping with their work load, being paid what they're worth, interacting with customers in a way that is fulfilling, balancing their business around life and family commitments. If I produce web copy or plan some publicity that helps make this happen, I'm a happy bunny indeed. 

So I've decided to host a series of guest blogs and invited some of the most interesting indies currently working in the industry to talk about some of the issues that they feel strongly about. I'm hoping to start a conversation and I'm really hoping you will join in too. This might be a useful resource if you're thinking of starting your own business, food for thought if you're a consumer and hopefully a source of inspiration for all. 


Let's love our indies!


Tomorrow I will be featuring a piece from Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns and why she's concerned about the Women's Institute's recent campaign featuring HobbyCraft.