Prym Ergonomics

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. 

Prym ergonomic knitting needles

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. 

Prym Ergonomic Needles

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:

Prym ergonomic needle tips

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.

Knit Love

I dedicated this year to improving my skills in making. I wanted 2016 to be The Maker's Year and so far I think I've done pretty well. I've improved a lot of my existing skills and grown more confident in trying out new things (have you seen my wreath obsession? It is out of control). However between you and me, my one true love will always be knitting. 

knitting flat lay

It's that time of year when I start to receive messages from others who don't normally knit but have dug out some yarn they meant use to make a sweater for their child. I see knitting appearing in my timeline with increasing regularity. I smile knowing why: the cold and need to nuzzle, clothe and protect ourselves and our little ones. For me though, knitting is a constant low rumble of need deep in my belly. I see a world where we can create things from beautiful natural resources and I wish I could knit faster. 

That's why this Autumn I have cast on my New Favourite Project. It started with an introduction to Ioana of Moeke Yarns, our sponsor for this month's #wipsandblooms join in on Instagram. As we spoke, we chatted about her passion for making and before long 4 skeins were whispering their magic to me and I knew what I wanted to knit. 

Moeke yarns

Each morning I wake hours before my slumbering tot. I creep downstairs in the dark, flip on the kettle and start the familiar whir of my laptop. It's time to work again. Sat at our farm table, a soothing brew by my side, I type as dawn breaks, pouring all the first energy of the day into writing. These early starts are increasingly cold and I long for a shawl to pull around me and perhaps become the companion I need in those dark hours of creative solitude. 

These four skeins have begun their journey to be just that project: The Comfort of Lines shawl designed by Melissa Schaschwary. It was a magical moment as I scooped the skeins out of the box Ioana kindly sent to me; I felt an instant connection to a story and a crafter far across a sea that understood the tactile joy that comes from a yarn with character. It would be easy to fall into cliches about rustic glory but there's a depth and crunch to this yarn that is utterly charming. The nature of its plies means that as a fabric, the stitches won't sit smooth and uniform but twist a little, give a little and tell a little of the sheep from which the wool came. 

Moeke Yarns on the needles

Moeke Yarns are produced from Romanian wool, with traditional methods and no harmful chemicals, spun in a traditional fiber mill and dyed using plants. My skeins are Elena, a 100% Romanian half-bred Tigaie wool and Heritage, a blend of the Tigaie and Romanian produced merino. Their undyed colour is partly why those skeins spoke so strongly to me that day. Emptied onto my marked and dented farm table, I smiled, feeling a connection to something I understood. Living life bestows marks, wrinkles, nubs and bumps. I was  utterly charmed and haven't been disappointed on the needles. This has become a project I linger over, smiling as my fingers find little specks of straw, a slightly thicker ply and watching the fabric shift and change with these little details. 

So while I work at my desk, shivering a little each morning, I smile too, thinking of the big shawl to come. I will clothe myself in a material that has already weathered winters out on Romanian pasture and I will know that it won't be just my cooling tea bringing me comfort soon, it will be wool. 

This sponsored blog post is brought to you in collaboration with Moeke Yarns. Skeins were recieved for review purposes. Views expressed here are my own

Botanical Style & WipsandBlooms

If you caught the last Season's podcast, you'll know making a home has been a pretty big theme for me. Having just moved, I've now got a blank canvas to explore and decorate. I have a new garden and am surrounded by beautiful scenery that I'm delighting in getting to know each season. 

I wanted to be able to reflect the Nature Baby in me that rejoices with the changing weather, no matter what the season. I seek out new flora and fauna and I'm almost always called out on saying "those are my absolute favourite" to each new bloom. I love the way Magnolia heralds the entrance of Spring and thick blossom promises Summer just round the corner. It wasn't until I discovered Selina Lake's book, 'Botanical Style', that I realised I could bring all this joy into my home. 

Botanical Style by Selina Lake

Botanical Style by Selina Lake

'Botanical Style' is a celebration of nature, plants and florals in the home. The book explores Selina's love for botanicals and includes styling and decorating tips for your home. I love how rich in photography the book is, meaning I could leaf through, deciding options that felt more like "me" and my home when the world of interior design felt new and unfamiliar. The book is also helpfully divided into different style sections such as 'Boho Botanicals' or 'Vintage Botanicals'. 

It's meant that once the furniture started going into place, the next thing I turned my mind to was fabrics, plants and little details that brought that happy feeling I get outside, into my home. Things started creeping in...

And then some more things crept in....

Botanicals in my home

It seemed perfect then that this month, Katie and I will be hosting a giveaway for our #wipsandblooms monthly join in on Instagram, giving away a copy of the book. To date, this is my largest Work In Progress: an entire home, decorated to make me feel a sense of joy and security. I'm using a lot of Selina's tips and styling ideas as I turn my attention to places I can put a little texture and tone that reminds me of times spent outside, enjoying the best of the season. 

Find  wipsandblooms  on Instagram

Find wipsandblooms on Instagram

For your chance to win a copy of the book, all you have to do is post an image on Instagram that shows your current making and include a favourite bloom (or plant- keep it truly botanical style!). It can be big or small, styled or natural. It really is all about the process. Add the hashtags #wipsandblooms and if you like, tag Katie (@Ceramicmagpie) and myself (@aplayfulday). You can even let people know it's for a giveaway because that's just a nice thing to do, right? At the end of the month we will pick a lucky winner!

Happy Making x

My copy of Botanical Style was kindly provided by Ryland Peters, Selina's publishers. Views expressed here are my own. To find out more please visit the following link:

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. 

Wipsandblooms... Adding More Blooms

With the Christmas decorations taken down last week, I spent some time looking really closely at our new living space and pondering what I can to do to add a little cheer until we move into our final home in June. It's hard to put your stamp on a temporary space and yet I find myself needing to settle in somehow. I work from home, I take pictures almost constantly and I like to have a little corner to nestle into and read, knit or pour over recipe books. Having only just moved and then Christmas, I haven't yet felt that sense of belonging that I need to call the place we dwell our home. 

I peered closely at the walls that will form a constant background to whatever I do and whatever pictures I wish to take for the next 6 months. All but one are painted in dark colours that feel more than a little oppressive on gloomy overcast days like today. I started to feel a little despondent just looking until I realised this needs to become a place to nestle into on those dark days. On light filled days I know we will head out as much as possible to explore our new surroundings. I think I need to think of this as a space to recharge after such adventures. 

dark walls

So I started simply and looked at what I already had. Candles here and there, a few prints on the wall that I could enjoy as I pause from typing and editing were a good place to start. I added some lighter fabrics on places like the kitchen table and knew instantly that what I really needed was some pretty sprays of flowers to pick up dark corners. I've found it hard to find a florist here yet so when my Wips and Blooms cohost Katie emailed to share the news that Bloom and Wild would love to support our creativity this month, I was overjoyed. 

Adding a little something to the kitchen table that is the hub of our daily life felt like a changing moment this week. I've always loved cut flowers in my home, almost as much as pottering in the garden. We don't have our own garden here so the need for flowers felt more important than ever. Bloom and Wild send you a seasonal bouquet in the mail (yes really, it's just perfect) and when it arrived I immediately pushed aside my laptop and started creating little pockets of joy round the home. Just the act of cutting the flowers and stepping back to look at how I was arranging them left me feeling calmer and happier. 

arranging flowers

From moments spent pondering new projects to taking a calm 5 minutes knitting between editing jobs, my kitchen table began to feel like I had at last found a little sense of home. It's so simple and yet so satisfying to watch the Alstroemeria slowly open to reveal delicate hues and those Wax Flowers have been particularly bringing me joy all week. 

'The Isla' bouquet kindly provided by Bloom and Wild

'The Isla' bouquet kindly provided by Bloom and Wild

Bloom and Wild have kindly offered a 3 month supply of flowers for our favourite #wipsandblooms image this month. To take part, simply take an in process shot of what you are making with your favourite flower or foliage to share on Instagram. It can be any craft and any bloom you feel like. Just remember to add #wipsandblooms and tag myself (@aplayfulday) and Katie (@ceramicmagpie) so that we can see and enjoy your work. If you need ideas and inspiration, you can look at our WipsandBlooms pinterest board here to help you. 

My current wips&blooms- Hugni by Ysolda Teague in Isle Yarns

My current wips&blooms- Hugni by Ysolda Teague in Isle Yarns

I'll be sharing more Wips and Bloom images too over on Instagram across this month to encourage you to take a moment to capture your making. I can't wait to see what you create. 

Getting to Know Me

Since interviewing Marlee for this week's podcast, I've spent some time exploring her blog. I was really struck by how she has been able to invest in fully learning about herself during her journey to recovery. Marlee has just launched a series called 'On Self Care' that immediately spoke to me. Two prompts included in the first post triggered a lot of reflective time for me this weekend and I decided to open up a little about something I find hard to manage. 

what does self-care mean to you?

try to write down all of the decisions you've made in a day-- which ones helped you thrive and which ones didn't?

- 'On Self Care' via Have Company

Self care is closely related to my crafting and it's noticeable that when I feel the most chaotic is when I've not carved out a little time for knitting. It's a tell tale sign of the lack of value I place on my own free time. I don't make allowances for errors and instead soldier on feeling like I just have to get through the next hurdle, the next and the next. 

It's one of the reasons that I love co hosting the #wipsandblooms hashtag so much: so many beautiful pictures like this one by Pinneguri that offer a moment of calm. Scrolling back through these images shows a timeline about investing in a process with little blooms that naturally show the changing of seasons. It's been acting as a constant reminder to navigate hurdles with a gentler spirit and to invest in myself a little more. 

#WipsandBlooms image via Pinneguri on Instagram (you can join us & find more details  here )

#WipsandBlooms image via Pinneguri on Instagram (you can join us & find more details here)

When I look back over decisions that I've made in the past year that were not fruitful or in fact caused me the most harm, they almost certainly stemmed from my own insecurity. Unable to articulate my own anxieties or wracked with self doubt, I've turned down opportunities or withdrawn from relationships that I feared didn't have my best interests at heart. I have a tendency to run away when I lack confidence and in these circumstances I don't employ my usual strategy of 'always assume the best'. In an effort to make good, I will often over explain things and that's when things start to become a little strained. 

This has led to rifts and strains in places that I once found friendship in this creative community. It can be an uglier side of our online lives that doesn't get talked about much and honestly causes me the most anxiety of all. There are emails and small snippets of conversation that I look back at with deep regret. I acted with honesty and a genuine heart but not always with insight. I have been truly sorry ever since. 

Taking time for the little things in life (photo taken by my friend with a big heart,  Clare Devine )

Taking time for the little things in life (photo taken by my friend with a big heart, Clare Devine)

Part of my self care has become about slowing down not just the pace of my life but the pace of my decision making. Sitting on things for a while often provides me with common sense answers to some of my worst fears. No, I will not fall down and fail if I try. No I will not offend others by choosing to support one particular project over another. No, I can't own a person's decision to not assume the best. There are some things that with time, you can learn to let go. If I had given myself more time in the past to account for my own self doubt, I feel confident that most misunderstandings wouldn't happen.  Of course, there I go again, taking all blame and rooting all mistakes in my own actions. It's a daily occurrence that I'm learning to keep in check. 

There's little that can be done about rifts I'm realising other than putting positive energy into healing when you can, letting time do it's thing and accepting that you got something wrong and now there are repercussions. That last one is something that I find the most challenging of all. My anxiety is constantly triggered by the feeling that I've let someone down, caused offence or upset someone in some form. Once anxiety kicks in, I fumble my words, make decisions that usually involve quick withdrawal and become hyper alert to any sign I was right to do so. 

My decision to assume the best some months ago has served me well and really helped keep anxiety at a lower level. If an email can be read one of two ways, why not assume the most positive? Isn't life richer for doing so? I'm also making a concentrated effort to let people know that I think highly of them instead of assuming they don't care what I think. After all, who doesn't like to hear that something about what they're doing right now brings you joy? I know that we could all doing with hearing it from time to time. 

I hope this coming week brings you happiness and a little time to create and reflect too xx