I’ve thrown pretty in the trash. I’ve thrown the idea of being beautiful in there too. I simply don’t care.Read More
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.
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.
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:
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.
This sponsored blog post is brought to you by Yellow Lolly. Opinions and views expressed here are my own.
Shopping for my daughter has become a task that fills me with dread. Whether it's new shoes, summer shorts, arts and crafts supplies or a new picture book, 9/10 I will return home empty handed and downhearted. Instead of an abundance of choice, I find myself woefully casting my eye over a sea of pink and references to ballerinas and princesses that bores me to tears. Finding her something that she can play with or wear that allows her to shape her own sense of identity feels like an impossible task. My friends with sons tell me it's not much different their side either with naughty little monkeys, endless cars and blue, blue, blue.
That's why meeting Ellie from Yellow Lolly was such a blessing. She nodded sympathetically as I ranted about leopard print glitter shoes and agreed that if I wear clothes that are more ethically produced, my daughter should too. She suggested sending us some samples to road test to see what we thought and I was blown away by what arrived.
What's more, patterns and colours that were stylish and easy to pair with everything else in her wardrobe. I often buy plain tops and leggings as the more detailed options for girls seems to come with a wild array of buttons, ribbons, embellishments and more. I just want something fun without all the fuss and these hit the spot perfectly.
We decided to put these new clothes through their trendy paces.
If you are ever at a loss for a low cost rainy day out in London with a little one, I can highly recommend the Sky Gardens. You need to book a little in advance but it's well worth the fore-planning. There's plenty to see out of the windows and space to run in. All of it was perfect for an active little girl, excited about her new togs.
She climbed, danced, jumped and balanced for about 3 hours. (I took a video on the day which I've shared for you to see on Instagram). To say she tested the sturdiness of these new clothes is an understatement.
They held up just fine.
What's more, when I threw them in the wash, they maintained their size. I can't even tell you how many tees have become messy play tees as they skirt daintily above her belly button after just one warm wash to remove dirt or paint.
The icing on the cake for me was these were guilt free clothes. I am often alarmed by how cheap and throw away clothes manufactured for children can feel. Sure, they grow fast but I'm not sure I wish to damage the planet because my child is shooting up like a weed. The dress, trousers and two tops felt soft and snuggly and like they were built to last. The fact that they are sustainably produced and made in organic cotton is a definite plus for me.
I couldn't be happier and apparently.......
..... neither can she.!
If you'd like the chance to win some Papu Stories for your little one, please head over to Yellow Lolly on Instagram where they will be hosting a giveaway to celebrate our collaboration. Good luck!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This sponsored blog post is brought to you by Wendy Fowler Pottery. Opinions and views expressed here are my own. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, please email me using the envelope icon on the bottom left of your screen.
If you've been following me here, on Instagram or Twitter for any period of time you will recognise my yarn bowl. My yarn bowl was my first ever Mother's Day gift and I loved it instantly. I spotted it at Unravel and while I wasn't looking, my mum swooped it up to present to me a few weeks later. I loved it instantly, presenting it with my current sock wip for it to house in all it's splendour. I've used and used this beautiful handmade bowl and snapped it many times to show my current knitting project or yarn obsession.
I wanted to share a little about Wendy's talent for creating yarn bowls that not only look stunning when holding my current wip on the sideboard but also don't snag. These bowls are high on wow factor, often attracting admiring comments, but they're also totally functional. This is something that pleases me enormously. Tools that make life just a little bit easier and prettier are pretty much perfection in my mind! I pop the cake of yarn inside, thread my working yarn through the hole and it spins along merrily, snag free and stops anything from getting snarled and angry. Calm and pretty knitting- divine!
Wendy creates each unique bowl by hand using stoneware clay before adding a beautiful glaze. I fell in love with the different glaze effects the first time I saw them and blame Wendy for my growing obsession with hand thrown, hand glazed ceramics. I love the bumps, nubbs and little fluctuations that makes each piece to individual.
"I started making yarn bowls about 4 years ago after I was asked to make some by Helen at Woolly Chic. She wanted some to sell on her crochet stall at wool shows. I had quite a bit of technical difficulties at first and very nearly gave up! But after experimenting more I got it sussed! I then started making them to sell myself and that started on my road of many woolly shows! I throw the bowls on the potters wheel and when they have dried a bit I trim the base and then cut the slot and holes. As I am a knitter I like to think I know what is needed in a yarn bowl. I make them deep enough for a good sized ball and always make sure they are lovely and smooth so they don't snag the yarn. I find I'm thinking of new designs all the time, I've recently added small holes to the bowl to attach stitch marker rings to hold stitch markers to the bowl. I make doubles and recently a triple bowl. These are good for holding multiple balls of yarn." - Wendy Fowler
"My Sea houses bowls are inspired by my visits to our coast and the quirky sea side houses that can be seen. I love the free painting and the use of ceramic wax crayons to outline the houses. They all have a row of bunting around the top. I love making yarn bowls and have some lovely feedback from happy customers!" - Wendy Fowler
As someone who crafts, I really love the fact my tools and notions are handcrafted too. It feels like a circle of makers, supporting our creative endeavors- it really resonated this month when I'm thinking about my own Creative Identity and what that means to me. I think I can safely say that I much prefer purchasing from creative businesses where you can really see the way their hands have worked to make something special. When I work with beautifully made items, it inspires me to complete projects as best I can. I want to make inspiring things too!
If you want to learn more about Wendy and here work, you can visit her website here to see an impressive portfolio of exhibitions. She'll be vending at Fibre East this coming July and also has an Etsy store, Wendy Fowler Pottery.
This sponsored blog post is brought to you by Swiss Wulle. Opinions and views expressed here are my own. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, please email me using the envelope icon on the bottom left of your screen.
Almost anyone who knows me will tell you I get the WORST decision paralysis. If you put an endless number of options in front of me, I freeze, barely able to compute them all and definitely incapable of making any actual decision. Yes, I am that irritating dinner companion who looks longingly at your steak after choosing the salad. This is one of the many reasons that ordering a side of chips has become my default because chips are like a decision regret buffer which I'm clearly in need of.
So imagine my delight when I was presented with a two colour shawl by one of my favourite knitwear designers and the yarn to knit it with. It's like the universe heard that I was restless for a new cast on and also knew that I would spend hours trying to come to a decision. The universe has thrown me a bone and I have gladly grabbed it.
I now have in my possession the first heady hit of a new kit that's just launched for pre order. The kit has been created in order to celebrate the forthcoming Swiss Wulle Festival. Organised by Fides of Siidegarte yarns, I was kind of hooked from the moment Fides explained that it will take place in Zug, a beautiful lakeside town with all the medieval charm that continental Europe does so well. In my mind there shall be knitting, alfresco meals by the bucket load and great scenery. So far, I'm sold.
Under the Same Sky is a collaboration with native knitwear designer Nadia Crétin-Léchenne and is a crescent shape shawl that combines lace and garter stitch, using two colour’s of Siide-Fideel, a 50/50 Silk and Merino fingering weight yarn that is hand dyed and sourced locally by Siidegarte. The shawl features a knitted-on border with a beautiful wave edging that lets the silk and handdyed colours really shine.
The kits have just been launched, ready for a knitalong to celebrate Swiss Wulle's love of the fibre arts, the festival’s beautiful location and all the friendship this event has already created. The knitalong is open to everyone and there will be prizes for finished, photographed shawls (see further KAL details here). Kits are now available for preorder from the Swiss Wulle website, and cost 62 SFR. Each kit contains:
- 2 skeins of Siide-Fideel
- A printed copy of the pattern (available in English, French and German)
- A Swiss Wulle Festival Tote bag (keep an eye on the Swiss Wulle instagram account for sneak peek of what to expect very soon)
Orders will ship in mid July, ready for the 1st August cast on date. Available colour options are:
My colour options are Silberdistel and Himelsröösli which will surprise no one I'm sure. I'm getting ready to cast on once I'm finished here so you can get a sneak peek of the yumminess in progress over on Instagram (where I'm @aplayfulday) very soon.
No chip regret buffer needed for this knitter!
This sponsored blog post is brought to you by The Fibre Co. and views expressed here are my own. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, please email me.
One of the biggest responses that I have ever had to my podcast came from a throw away comment that I made recently, stating that there is a vast difference between the wardrobe I picture wearing and that which is actually in my wardrobe. It sparked a series of interactions from listeners who agreed that they needed some new wardrobe essentials that they could feel stylish and comfortable wearing each day. So when I interviewed Hannah Fettig recently for the podcast, I was really struck by her commitment to hand crafting a wearable wardrobe. I felt like Hannah understood the term ‘uniform’ without making me feel frumpy. I want go to sweaters that swing softly and fit well; Hannah’s latest book assures me that I can get there.
Home and Away is Hannah’s latest (and entirely self-published) book. The fact that the book is dedicated to Knitters and Adventurers let me know that while I will cuddle into my beautiful sweaters, I’m not meant to stay at home but live and explore in them. These sweaters are meant to be enjoyed and look good at the same time.
In these pages you will find knits that will become
wardrobe essentials—nothing ornate or precious,
but pieces with simple lines
knit in wonderful, well-wearing wool.
- Hannah Fettig, intro to Home and Away
I looked at the digital copy of this book and instantly liked the smart features- easy navigation within the book, quick links to Ravelry and also linking to useful tutorials and other places to find Hannah such as Twitter and Instagram. The beautiful styling and incredibly helpful advice sections however are making me crave a paper copy- this book will get pulled from a shelf time and time again.
There’s a few things that make this a new staple for my knit book collection for me:
- Smart advice- peppered throughout the book are sections such as yarn substitution, gauge issues and how to solve them as well as fit and finishing advice. This goes beyond a pattern book and somewhere much closer to a how-to for sweater knitters. With my recent commitments to a handmade wardrobe, I can see these pages becoming heavily thumbed as I return to sections for support.
- Alternative construction- I love this flexible approach! Hannah offers both flat and seamless construction and talks you through the how and why you might want to go this route. I found this really educational as I have a real aversion to seaming which means I automatically reach for in the round instructions rather than thinking about which construction might flatter my shape more.
- A new uniform- Hannah admitted that she tends to wear the same sweaters in her own daily life and I can easily see these patterns becoming staples in mine. The shapes are elegant and feminine without fuss or questionable details that might not age well. Highlights for me are the Moto Jacket, Rosemont and Boothbay for their flowing lines and great use of simple stitches that let beautiful yarn shine.
A note from Daphne at The Fibre Co explaining why she is supporting the distribution of Hannah's latest release:
I first met Hannah through a LYS in Portland, Maine during the early days of launching The Fibre Co. It took no time at all to realize the depth of her knitting talent and we soon began working together. Hannah started the I Heart The Fibre Co. group on Ravelry back in the day when we were all figuring out what we wanted to do and how we wanted to engage with our new way of connecting. I was there when the editor of Hannah’s first book recognized her talent at a trade show while Hannah was helping out in our stand. My connection to Hannah runs deep.
When the opportunity came along to distribute Hannah’s books and patterns across Europe, I jumped at the chance. I knew that my time involved with Hannah’s publications would be enjoyable, but most importantly, I wanted to play whatever role I could to introduce Hannah’s gift to a wider audience. There isn’t a single design of Hannah’s that I wouldn’t knit and wear. With its nine highly wearable and very knittable designs, Home & Away is full of ideas, inspiration and heaps of thoughtful advice. The book is now available from The Fibre Company (UK) Ltd.