The Gift of Making

One of my favourite things about being a maker is the powerful resources that I have available to me to show people in my life or community that I care deeply about them. There's a real joy that comes from selecting just the right small gift that communicates to someone "I remembered you got cold hands when you cycled to work to teach my daughter last week" or "You Little One is your most precious thing, they deserve to be wrapped in the rich natural fibres that I sourced just for them". 

Thanks to the ability to make, I can craft unique gifts that layer meaning so that not only is it just right for a problem the recipient might have been trying to solve but also has a little detail like the motif of a much loved flower. Rough gardeners hands and cold feet find perfect solutions and allow me to gift something that fits into the everyday fabric of their lives. It makes me smile to think of them reaching for those cycle gloves on cold mornings and remembering my gratitude expressed in knitted warmth. I love it best when I create a useful gifts but one with no less beauty for all its practicability and careful consideration.

'Chai' hat by Clare Devine awaiting its pom pom, Little Sprout Bonnet by Melissa LeBarre on the needles

'Chai' hat by Clare Devine awaiting its pom pom, Little Sprout Bonnet by Melissa LeBarre on the needles

When I launched The Maker's Year, I pledged to consume less which meant that gift times have prompted me to look around my home for resources that are ready to become something special. Two little friends birthdays this month meant that my eye fell on some newly acquired balls of Classic Elite Big Liberty Wool. Chunky and machine washable, this did everything I needed on the fast and practical front so that I could whip up two quick gifts for these tiny bundles of joy that I've watched grow over the past few years. 

Big Liberty Wool, KT Robbins Ceramic Succulent Pot & 'Chai' hat by Clare Devine

Big Liberty Wool, KT Robbins Ceramic Succulent Pot & 'Chai' hat by Clare Devine

To me though, the gift of making goes further than producing beautiful hand mades. Appreciating other makers need to create means that the gift of new resources can be just as vital. When I visited someone's family recently, I remembered that The Grandma (yes capitals, she's awesome) was an avid knitter. It's rare to see this matriarchal figure without knitting in her hands as she holds court amongst the huge volume of friends and family members who visit her throughout the day. Showing my appreciation for her need to make felt right for my visit this weekend.  

So before I set off to join the crowd gathered in her front room, I picked out some wool that I knew to be soft and durable. I wanted her knitting to be a pleasure as she worked and a welcome break from the squeaky acrylic that she so often chooses for its convenience. Having worked with Milla Mia before, I reached for a selection of colours I knew would soon bedeck tiny baby feet and heads as this wonderful knitter whipped up gift after gift of her own to bestow on friends and family. 

Milla Mia gift

Gifting resources and hand mades is one of the easy ways I'm managing the tendency to acquire yarn that I want to knit with "soon". Too many skeins have disappeared into plastic tubs as I wait for this magical time when I will knit faster and have more time to choose just the right pattern. Crafting with intention is something I've been enjoying reflecting on thanks to Felicia's Stashless Challenge at The Craft Sessions. If you've not discovered Felicia yet, I thoroughly recommend you spend some time getting to know her philosophy on craft and using your stash to enhance your making not weight it down. She inspired this post and I'm extremely grateful. 

 

With thanks to Love Knitting for providing yarns that feature in this blog post for review purposes. Opinions here are my own. 

Toasty Volume 2

There's a certain sweet spot that some designers hit where they produce knitting patterns offering enough of a mix of soothing comfort and challenge that I'd (eventually) knit a whole book of their designs. When a copy of Toasty Volume 2 by Rachel Coopey arrived recently, I knew I'd found such a book. 

One of the biggest problems I have with my knitting is decision paralysis. I like so many yarns and designs that I get overwhelmed and in the face of having to choose, just end up getting a bit melty and plod along slowly on the same thing that I've been knitting for ages. This time though, this time, I cast on....

Handwound ball of Dovestone DK

Last Summer, I took a learning journey to discover some British wool producers and in doing so found a skein of Baa Ram Ewe's Dovestone yarn. Dovestone is a delicious mix of Masham, Bluefaced and Wensleydale wool. At the time I swatched and enjoyed the new to me sensation of Masham. It gives a slightly hairy texture on the fingers, not unlike mohair but instead of that dreaded ethereal floof mohair exudes, you get a bit more bite to the fabric that locks the fibres together in the twist of the yarn so no sneezing. I've revisited that swatch often, rolling it between my fingers to enjoy a sort of textured softness; robust but gentle. It's a truly fascinating blend both on the needles and in a fabric. The hand wound ball however, remained unused for months. The arrival of Toasty Volume 2 prompted me to rifle back through my knitting basket full of oddments waiting for me to decide what their fate might be. 

Toasty Volume 2 collage

Toasty Volume 2 is full of projects to sink your teeth into. Rachel offers nine accessory patterns with either undulating cable patterns or appealing colourwork that change colour when you're least expecting it. I'm currently on a colourwork kick so initially thought I would opt for a stranded design but then these mittens caught my eye. 

Padeside Mittens image courtesy of Jesse Wild

Padeside Mittens image courtesy of Jesse Wild

I think this is what I like about Rachel's design work so much: she offers choice. Most of Rachel's designs tend to involve lots of interesting details that travel around hats and socks beautifully but she doesn't forget the simple pleasure in a soothing knit project that just works. The Padside Mitts are a mixture of garter and stockinette and so casting them on offered a palate cleanser to the two colourwork projects I'm also dipping into whenever I have time. 

Progress is slow on this project, largely because I've had so little knitting time but also because I keep finding myself flipping back through the rest of the Toasty collection whenever I have it sat on my lap while I check directions for the mitts. I'm really drawn to the colourwork hats, especially those where the colour changes in a place that feels a little unexpected. It's really encouraging me to finish my current pile of works in progress and get to them. 

Toasty volume 2 (2).jpg

In the meantime though there's glorious Dovestone in a sumptuous blue named 'Eccup' and hours of pleasing garter ridge bumps. Magical. 

Useful links:

 

With thanks to Baa Ram Ewe for providing both the skein of Dovestone and copy of Toasty Volume 2 for review purposes. Opinions here are my own. 

Why It's Ok to Take a Blog Break

I have a confession. 

I often fall down right after all my best intentions. 

Before my trip to Berlin, I read up on how to take a break from your blog. I packed a journal with the intention to  plan out how I will rewrite the website copy and restructure the pages. I set my email out of office to tell people I'd be checking in when I could. It all seemed very organised and I was going to be the person who had her stuff together and glided through a vacation with no blip in content or contact. 

Life got a bit, well, 'lifey' just before I left and those scheduled posts and up to date emails didn't happen. Berlin is distracting. A silence fell over me and I've not fought it. 

Easing in to some good relaxation time can fill you up again with creativity

Easing in to some good relaxation time can fill you up again with creativity

Instead I've built new nests in new surroundings and walked through the city with no real sense of purpose, just letting life wash over me a little. 

Why it's ok to take a blog break

It's felt good I won't lie. 

So what is my lesson from this? Blogs can be like a city break- you feel you need to cover all your bases, keep the momentum going and seize every opportunity. That can become particularly true when your audience and following is growing rapidly- suddenly you're aware of those eyes on you and it starts to gather a pace that even you don't know if you can keep up with.  

So be all means, schedule those posts, pre schedule some tweets but also? Just wander. Aimlessly wander and see what happens when life surprises you. You might just find yourself lost in it and longing for a little more time to notice the small things like the way a stitch catches the depth of a hand dyed yarn. 

Then you know that you're on to a good thing. Trust me x

Colour Infatuation

I think I have a problem..

green yarn inspirations

A quick look through the last 5 projects and the next two confirmed it: I'm in a green phase. If you asked me what colour I love more than anything I'll answer 'GREY' in a shot but the green on my needles is telling a different story. 

First there's the garter stitch 'wearable blanket' I'm plodding through...

green garter stitch work in progress

I'm a sucker for garter stitch too. I just love the way it looks but I will admit, I'm craving something other than plain knit. It might be time to break out this green and plain knit rut!

green sweater wip

Yes, that's my second wip- a sweater I've cast on 8 times. EIGHT! I'm not a fan of ribbing either so it's been like some sort of crafter's torture to keep redoing it. 

If you want to know more details about these green projects, I'll be chatting about them in next week's podcast but for today I just wanted to illustrate how out of control green appears to have got in my making. I decided I should look into my wardobe and see what I am planning on pairing all this green with. 

green clothes & accessories

Yep. 3 items of green. It seems I don't actually wear green? I'm going to style this out as my creative right or something. Next winter, my wardrobe is clearly getting a big green thumbs up!

 

Shawl Fever

There is an affliction that I am currently in the full grip of. It lurks beneath the surface and when you are feeling the most desperate for something to knit, something to love and stash to release into a new life, it hits. There's nothing you can do. 

Yes, I have shawl fever. 

I went from having nil inspiration to ALL the inspiration and now everywhere I look, I see shawls. Walking through meadow gardens earlier with the Tot, I found myself thinking of colour possibilities for shawls I'd fallen in love with. My eyes are drawn constntly to new and old shawl patterns and I'm head over heels in love with the idea of a new shawl draped around my shoulders. 

So I cast on...

.... and there's more on the way. 

This could be bad. I might need more needles.