For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb
Psalm 139:13

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

8 inspiring podcasts for creatives

For me, listening to a podcast has the same sweet, immersive escapism as getting lost in a good book. It's a chance to get your mind to halt its frantic whirring for a little while and focus on something else instead. If I'm gym-going (pah!), walking to the office or stitching away at my To Be Adorned desk, I'll always whack a podcast on. It's like minimal-effort multitasking. Here's what's been in my ears lately. What do you love listening to? I want your recommendations!

This is one of those 'why didn't I already know about this?' kinda podcasts. You NEED to give it a listen. Blogger and Instagram duchess (you're probably already following her as @meandorla) Sara Tasker shares really valuable and honest insights on creative social media for bloggers, small biz folks and anyone who loves Insta. Without the spambots. She's had some stellar guests on already and I always come away feeling encouraged and with some practical ideas to try. 

Host Tara Swiger is from a yarny background, so I instantly knew her podcast would be my cup of tea. On this weekly podcast, she talks business – frank advice and insights for creative folks who are selling their stuff. She's not afraid to talk money and numbers, or to give out some tough love, but it's always passionate, jargon-free and encouraging. I've not been listening to this one for long, but I've already found it really helpful for my Etsy side hustle in terms of goal-setting, social media and audience. Ooh, and Tara often posts Instagram live vid while she's recording the podcast, so you can get a bit more interactive with it. 

Pardon My French
In a series of inspiring interviews, plus giggly chats with her Atelier Dore team, Garance Dore talks all things lifestyle. I'd long been a fan of Garance's beautiful illustrations and blog, so I kind of freaked out when I realised there was a podcast, too. This one's my go-to for walking to work. Garance has a brilliant warmth and honesty to her, so you feel like you're listening in on a natter between friends. My favourite guests so far have been Linda Rodin and Elle McPherson.

Get It On
Dawn O'Porter is #bobgoals AND she's way into vintage fashion, so I gave it a listen and it quickly became one of my faves. Each episode she talks to a pal (usually of the showbiz variety) about their personal style. Rather than being super-fashiony, it's more about why people wear what they wear. And it's a riot. When I'm laughing out loud with my headphones on, it's probably because I'm listening to this. After hearing this, you'll probably have urges to ransack your wardrobe for the brightest thing in there. Or maybe that's just me? 

She's a deep thinker, that Tavi Gevinson. I loved her Style Rookie blog and really admire her Rookie mag work (although maybe I'm too old now?!). It very much feels like an audio version of the online magazine, which is fantastic. It's aimed at teens, but feels relevant for everyone. Also, there's a WINONA episode. I WISH Rookie had been around when I was a teen.

Blogtacular superwoman Kat MOLEsworth (you'll know what I mean when you listen in!) hosts this  natter with indie business owners and bloggers. You could say it's an extension of the Blogtactular conference, with an aim of inspiring and connecting bloggers and content creators. It's in interview format, but Kat also answers listener questions as part of the show, which is so useful! My favourite episodes have featured Kristabel, The People Shop and Nikki McWilliams

Magic Lessons
Eat, Pray Love and Big Magic author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about finding passion, purpose and inspiration. She's all about exploring the soul connection we have with creativity and how to overcome what stands in the way of us doing our thing. And it gets pretty emotional, you guys. There haven't been any new episodes in a while, but there are plenty to catch up on. 

The Cheerful Visit
Prepare yourself for some VERY Texan accents. I heard about this podcast via One Social Girl. It's a faith-based show for creatives hosted by Pollen Events florist Andi. With an emphasis on living out your calling with integrity, Andi interviews fellow makers about their creative journeys and what keeps them encouraged. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

off the hook: over the rainbow crochet blanket

It's no secret – I've been AWOL for some time because I've been busy making all of the things ever. One of which is this crochet blanket. The fab news is, not only is my latest blanket off the hook, I designed it and the pattern is in the new issue of Simply Crochet magazine! Wahoo! Grab a copy of issue 56 if you fancy making it (shameless plug). 

Blankets are always a bit of commitment. They're a labour of love, really, as they take such a long time to make. But when I first clapped eyes on these fantastically over-saturated, Crayola-esque colours, I instantly felt a crochet blanket coming on. Have you ever had that feeling? When you discover a new yarn and it just shouts it's intentions at you? Sometimes it's "I NEED to be a cardigan!" or "I'm a shawl! I'm a shawl!", but it could equally be "Keep me in your stash and squish me". In fact, most yarns seem to say that to me. 

Not KnitPicks Shine Worsted, though. These babies were destined to become a rainbow crochet blanket and no mistake. Zig-zagging ripples were the order of the day, so I played with a few different stitch combos and settled on this repeat with clusters and back loop details to highlight the colour changes in the stripes. The texture and colour changes are what kept things interesting through this project. I just couldn't wait to see how the pattern would look in the next shade of yarn, and the next, and the next. Colour is very exciting, you guys. 

Naturally, I fell head-over-heels for this yarn during the process. The sheen, smoothness and depth of colour in KnitPick Shine Worsted is amazing, and it's loosely plied without being splitty at all. I'm currently plotting what to make with the leftover scraps. Maybe some granny squares for a rainbow cushion? I'll keep you posted.

Mr P kinda loves this design too. He keeps asking when we'll get the sample back and we've decided it'll take pride of place on the sofa for lap blanket duties. I often joke that I'm never happier than when I'm in a blanket, but in a rainbow crochet blanket of my own design I'm sure to be ecstatic. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

baby bootees and a handmade legacy

We owe so much to the women who taught us to knit, don't we?

Nannie, now in her nineties, and Auntie Maureen, who we miss, would never have described themselves as knitters, but it's the skills they passed on to me that give me that identity. In their generations, almost everybody was handy with a needle and thread or ball of yarn. Now they're the kind of skills we have to seek out. 

A couple of weekends ago, I headed south to the seaside town where my parents live. I'd been invited to a baby shower for my friend Beth who's about to pop (so exciting). Naturally, I'd done the knitterly thing and stitched a pair of baby bootees – these ones by Marianna. In the past, I've knocked up little pairs of buttoned Mary Janes using the Saartje's Bootees pattern. They are very cute and it's a good excuse to raid the button stash, but I found this design a lot less fiddly.

The pattern is free (always a bonus), they're so easy to knit and look really adorable. I'll definitely be making more of these! I used DROPS Cotton Merino for this pair, which is a soft DK that's machine washable. I was keen to make them in natural fibres and this yarn fitted the bill nicely. Get all the deets on Ravelry here.

I was pretty chuffed with my handmade gift, but it was by no means the most beautiful or meaningful one given. We gathered round and Beth started unwrapping gifts for her little one. The first present was a pair of breathtaking handknitted blankets. One had a colourwork pattern with hedgehogs and a moss stitch border, the other was a delicate circular blanket in fine white lace. Both were lovingly and painstakingly stitched. The lady I was sat next to had made them. Her name was Jean. She was wearing a beautiful handknitted cardigan - periwinkle blue with complicated cables. It sounds cheesy, of course, but you could tell how much love she'd put into the making those blankets. Jean told me they had taken weeks to make and described how she'd made the round one with circular needles. She'd been knitting for years and had made many, many blankets in her time. Jean said she was even making blankets now for the children of people she'd made blankets for before they were born. That's an incredible legacy of heirloom knitted blankets.

Mama-to-be Beth is a very creative lady, so I know those beautiful blankets will be treasured for years to come. Her mum explained to me that Jean was a family friend who'd taught Beth how to knit when she was younger. It got me thinking about the impact that the older women in my life have had.

Nannie and Maureen taught me to knit. It's a simple thing, but it's had a huge impact on my career, my creativity, my identity, the people I've made connections with and how I think about my creator.

There have been some very significant pseudo-grandmas in my life too. Dodie, Nannie's best friend, gave me some vintage knitting patterns and my first tapestry needle years ago. I still use it to sew in all the ends on my projects. Mary gave me and my sister old books that her children had read, which helped kindle my love of reading at a young age. And Gwyn, who taught me about the power of prayer, even amid heartache, and how it's never too late to learn something new or find joy in an unexpected place. I'm so grateful to all of them.

Who do you owe your craft skills to? Let's celebrate them.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

in the studio with Letty McHugh

Long-time Knit Happens readers will know about Letty McHugh. She's an artist and writer who is fearless, funny and also a dear friend. Her weakness for clogs knows no bounds and her approach to creativity always challenges and inspires me. 

At the end of last, year, I visited Letty in Yorkshire. We ate parkin, visited the Bronte parsonage, laughed till we cried, talked each others' ears off and drank tea in our pyjamas. We also visited her studio space in Hebden Bridge and had a very long chat about print, crochet slippers and inheriting textiles skills. Prepare for serious workspace envy. 

So Letty, what do you make?
Oh man, that's quite a question. I make art, I guess, and write things. I do print making and textiles and illustrations.

What's the last thing you made?
I did some illustrations for my blog a few weeks ago. The last proper big project I did was for my MA, called This is Your Inheritance, which was 70m of printed fabric.

Letty and her This is Your Inheritance project

What was the story behind that?
I started with stories from my own family. I had a lot of handmade textile objects that I had inherited from my great grandma. I inherited her treadle sewing machine as well, that my mum and her mum had learnt to sew on. I wanted to make a project that would celebrate them and investigate whether the textile skills that have been passed down to me were a common thing in other families.

How did this come together in a print project?
I did some experiments exposing the textile objects directly on the screen. I also interviewed 130 women online, and researched the idea of spectacle. When people look at doilies for example, they dismiss them.

You wanted to show these textile objects in a different context?
Yes, to transform them enough so they'd be considered in a new way, but still be recognisable enough that they'd retain their original associations. By printing them in an installation the same dimensions as the Bayeux Tapestry, a really significant historical object, it makes people recognise the objects and their meaning. I was keen to work on a large scale and prompt people to reconsider textile as something important, rather than frippery.

The idea was to make people think about the objects and the skills that had gone into them. In my family, these are skills that kept homes warm and put food on the table, rather than just, 'oh look, a pretty doily'. I still don't think we value these skills as a society. If you paid an electrician to come and fix your light, you'd be paying a lot more.

This is Your Inheritance

How long have you been in this studio?
I moved in in February 2013, so four years.

What was the first thing you did after moving your stuff in?
That's when I was doing big, inky drawings and was looking at doing more surface pattern designs.

What are you working on now?
I'm just starting a project called A Seaworthy Vessel about how we recover from trauma.

What form will that take? 
When my grandad was in the merchant navy, he was in an industrial accident and lost two and a half of his fingers. To rehabilitate his hands, he learnt to knit and made slippers for his family. It was less creative expression for him than necessity – he just got on with it. I've been thinking about how we use textiles to cope in our lives. I'm planning to crochet slippers and make them into little boats, possibly screen printing on the sails.

And what's one thing you can't make without?
Music and a view out of a window. You need time to sit about and do nothing to have the space in your mind for ideas. I try not to take work and books on the train with me.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

the social heart project yarnbomb

On Valentine's Day I took part in One Social Girl Meredith's annual yarnbomb for the fourth time. It's always such a lovely thing to join in with - spreading a tiny bit of handmade and a message of love where you live. This year, the #sheepishheartbomb became #thesocialheartproject and it was another chance to do something positive in real life and see the results of everyone's efforts online. Here's what I got up to over lunch in Bristol. 

Yes, I felt super self-conscious taking a bunch of crochet hearts out of my pocket and tying them to a gate, you know, just in the park in the middle of the day. But I'm hoping maybe this encouraged somebody. And that makes the small gesture worth it. 

Check out the #thesocialheartproject hashtag on Instagram to see everybody's crafty love notes out in communities around the world. Did you join in? I'll be stitching and sharing again next year!

Friday, 13 January 2017

hello 2017

2016, it's been real. A little too real. I'm so glad it's 2017. 
I hope you managed to have a bit of a break over Christmas and New Year. We had some down time and as usual I'm feeling a little reflective now it's January. 

It wasn't the best year. With all the worldwide negative and dramatic goings-on, as well as some struggles with striving, comparison and not finding contentment myself, it did suck in quite a few ways. But I'm still a silver linings kinda girl. I know there's a plan for me and that I am very blessed. I just need that to sink in properly in 2017. Having a look back over the last year is a good way to bring the positives and milestones back to light.

As always, there were some firsts: visits to Italy and Scotland, gym membership, difficult goodbye, blogging workshop, sponsored post, clay pigeon shooting (don't ask), trip to A&E (unrelated), x-ray, soup run, big festival, serious hangover (never a good idea), falling in love with spreadsheets, 

There were births, deaths and marriages, joyful, rowdy gigs, there was some wobbly mental health, Mr P learnt to drive, I finally visited the wonderful Letty and we went to the Bronte parsonage (literature geek achievement unlocked!), I crocheted my way across Loch Ness with some marvellous colleagues, I had my long hair cut off (finally), we celebrated our third wedding anniversary in Sorrento, went for a windy Christmas Eve walk on the beach and saw in the new year with friends. 

Last year I challenged myself to, among other things, finish two garments. And I totally did! Orange You Glad was my first adult-sized crochet garment and Miette my first knitted one. I'm pretty proud of them both and now have plans for a knitted jumper. I also managed to tick off another crafty goal – designing a blanket. I'll keep you posted on that one! 

I carried on running and yoga-ing, too. With a running buddy, I ran further than ever before (no-one was more surprised about this than me) and am planning a longer run with my sister in 2017. 

By far the biggest stepping-out-of-my-comfort zone moment was launching my To Be Adorned shop in 2016. Here's what I had to say on the matter. It's all been quiet on the western front around these parts lately as most of my free time is now spent dreaming up new designs, crocheting, wrestling with my glue gun and trying to figure out how to run a tiny business armed only with an iPad and a whole load of yarn. I have a feeling 2017's going to be a busy one. 

In the year ahead I'd like to knit a jumper, make the shop a success, pray more, love more and find joy in the everyday. But who knows what adventures are ahead!

Have you set any goals for 2017?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

yarn along: The Night Circus, Elegance and a baby hat

It feels like it's been a while since we caught up, so what better way to check in than with a natter about reading and knitting? Ginny's yarn along is always a joy, but especially now it's so dark and cold that all I want to do is curl up indoors and ward off the encroaching winter with yarn and books. 

What are you making at the moment? This tiny stripy baby hat is fairly fresh off my needles. It's a Simply Knitting pattern from their Hand Knits for Baby booklet. The pattern is called Hats Off and I made it for a special little lady who hasn't been born yet! It's a pretty straightforward, knitted flat pattern and I figured out my own sassy stripe sequence. The yarn is Bessie May Smile – a squishy merino DK that is SO soft. You can see more on Ravelry here

I've finally finished The Night Circus (sooo good - message me if you've not read it and fancy my copy. I like to pass on good books). The colours black and red have an important presence in the story and there's an amazing bit near the end where a knitter gives one of the characters a beautiful red scarf. Check it out:
"She hands him a red wool scarf, the one she has been knitting on and off. It is longer than Bailey expected from watching her knit, with intricate patterns of knotted cables at each end.
"I can't accept this," he says, part of him deeply honored and the other part wishing people would stop giving him things. 
"Nonsense," Elizabeth says. "I make them all the time, I am at no loss for yarn. I started this one with no particular reveur in mind to wear it, so clearly it is meant for you."
"Thank you," Bailey says, wrapping the scarf around his neck despite the warmth of the train."

It's just brilliant when knitting crops up in a book you've fallen in love with. So what's next? I'm about to start on Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro. I've not read anything else by her, but I friend passed it on to me so I'm giving it a go. I'll keep you posted. 

I'd also like to share something exciting that happened earlier this month - the lovely Sarah of Crafts from the Cwtch featured me in her 'In Conversation With…' series. We had a good old chinwag about Knit Happens and my Simply Crochet day job. You can read it here

What are you knitting and reading at the moment? 
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