Joy: rediscovered

It’s been a while since you heard from me, and there’s a good reason for that. As you know, I tend to speak only when there’s new work to celebrate or when I’ve something worthwhile to say. However, having shared so much of myself online in the last couple of years, I took a bit of a step back to re-evaluate my life. Yep, another re-evaluation. As if multiple bouts of cancer and brain surgery weren’t enough, losing Mum and Sam in such close succession meant the last three years have been….well, challenging tends to be the current term of choice. But to me, a challenge is something you choose to take on.

Never in all my worst dreams would I have chosen to lose my mother and husband within a year of each other. So ‘challenge’ just doesn’t cut it for me. It’s been beyond shit.

It hasn’t exactly made me question myself, but I did question where the ‘old me’ went. The joyful, celebratory, optimistic Jeanette. The one I failed to recognise despite the many times I looked back at pictures of myself cuddled up next to Sam or my precious Mum. What I’ve learned from the hard lessons of grief is that the ‘firsts’ are hellishly tough: the first birthdays without them both, the first wedding anniversary as a widow, the first Christmas without the world’s best gift-giver. And Sam was annoyingly good at both finding and wrapping gifts. The pain of those firsts began to define who I was, or at least I’d started to let that happen. Starting conversations with “my husband and Mum died” created an expectation that all you are is a sad, grieving entity, and the weight of that was making my heart ache. So I chose to do something about it.

I needed to re-frame myself as an individual. As well as a knitwear designer, writer, maker and founder of BIPOC in Fiber, I was also a sister, daughter, aunt, grand aunt, friend, primary carer to Mum and a life partner to Sam. Those last two roles had played such a massive part in my life that I’d lost my sense of self without them. As a result, I felt rudderless. And that needed to be addressed if I was to move into the next phase of my life.

Taking myself away on a retreat seemed the most helpful thing to do, so I set about searching the internet. I quickly decided against a grief retreat. They may be appropriate for others, but having come through the raw immediacy of Mum and Sam’s deaths, I didn’t feel that sitting amongst strangers and discussing my saddest losses was the best thing for me. This may well be oversimplifying the process or doing those types of retreats a great disservice, but the thought of someone possibly telling me ‘they were in a better place’ meant I gave them a hard pass. So instead, I looked for a wellness retreat. Something that would offer me space to breathe, to look after my physical and emotional health, perhaps even get a bit of sunshine and hopefully rediscover my joy. Perhaps a new joy.

After a week of searching the web, I eventually found the *Glow Retreat. And having just returned from it, I can’t think of a better name for what it is and the magic it’s worked on my life.

Susie Howells (above left) and Sarah Oliver (above right) run Glow Retreats at various villas and venues in Ibiza, Greece and the UK. What I hadn’t noticed when searching (despite it being clearly stated on the website) was that the retreat was focused on yoga. However, looking back, it was meant to be. I’d zoomed in on the mention of daily mindfulness and breathwork, and the retreat taking place in Ibiza – somewhere I’d never been with Sam – offered my first opportunity to travel alone to somewhere new and start making my own memories. Yes, those firsts just keep coming.

I chatted with Susie and Sarah over email, and they assured me that the yoga sessions would be within my capabilities. When teaching, they encourage each person to only do what they can in order to make the practice their own. This was exactly the encouragement I needed, but I finally committed when Susie assured me there’d be plenty of laughter. They say it’s the best medicine, and I was up for an overdose.

On Thursday, May 11th, I was up at the crack of dawn, heading for Gatwick and into the Ibizan sun. Completely out of my comfort zone and with my big girl knickers pulled up high, I dived into five days of yoga, breathwork, mindfulness and mouth-tinglingly delicious veggie food. Each day began with a gentle wake-up breakfast of overnight oats/yoghurt and fruit – eaten around the pool – before we eased into the morning yoga session. What I love about Susie and Sarah is their ability to hold space for everyone while making each person feel like they’re the only one in the room. Even an unbalanced, tight-shouldered novice like me.

At this point I should mention the villa we stayed in because stunning doesn’t begin to describe Can Verru. It’s away from the hippie/clubbing nonsense that Ibiza is so famous for and instead it offers a haven of peaceful calm set among wild fennel, lemon trees, rosemary and olive trees. I couldn’t get enough of the plants and flowers as you can see from the pictures I did take. More importantly I felt able to immerse myself in each moment spent in these grounds rather than mindlessly taking hundreds of ‘Gramworthy’ pictures just to ‘check in’ and say I was there. I really WAS there.

The yoga felt inclusive and achievable, not posey and worthy. And I mean, I’ve seen posey yoga; I live in Hove, remember. But, above all, it was enjoyable, so much so that I’m still practising daily now I’m back home. With the fantastic food prepared and cooked by Rakhee and Martha and the gentle presence of Marta, who seemed to know my needs even before I did, I feel restored to a new me. As well as the complimentary full body massage, I also treated myself to a session called ‘Energy Transformation, Trauma Release and Somatic Re-Integration’. This treatment works on the Meridian channels and reflexology points in the feet and hands. I really can’t begin to understand how it achieves results, but after nearly two hours at the hands of my therapist Marin, something changed. And I mean dramatically.

Without going into further detail, it’s enough to say that despite not knowing what to expect, my openness to the process allowed me to heal. I feel like a new part of my heart has been unlocked. Of course, it was emotionally and physically exhausting, so much so that I went straight to bed afterwards. But within me, something has definitely shifted: for the better. I feel lighter, I’ve lost weight, and I look different, according to friends I’ve seen since coming back.

Much to my surprise and once again out of my comfort zone, I also discovered I like kayaking. After supper on the beach on Sunday night – our last – we paired up and took to our kayaks with our superb guides, Paolo and Christian. According to Mel, one of the other ladies on the retreat, I looked petrified getting into the boat (well, I’m a crap swimmer, and the sea was FULL of jellyfish). But I went for it, and after a few minutes of paddling with my kayak buddy Sarah, I loved it. Watching the Ibizan sun setting for the last time, this two-hour trip hugging the island’s coast gave us all a chance to admire its beauty from a new perspective. Perhaps I should have titled this blog post, ‘Lost Weight, Gained Perspective’?

Thanks to Susie, Sarah and their glorious retreat, I’ve connected to a new joy and rediscovered my love of food and cooking. Those precious five days have proved that:

I don’t need to eat (so much) meat.
I like drinking lots of water.
The occasional tea and coffee taste better without the synthetic taste of sweetener.
Not eating in front of the telly means I can focus on the taste of what’s actually going into my mouth.
I like kayaking!

Since coming home, I’ve eaten a lot of salad and finally found a use for those dates lingering in my baking cupboard for so long. It seems Date, Orange & Cardamon Energy Balls don’t take long to prepare; even better, they stop me from reaching for the junk while I’m working. I’ve bought lots of healthy snacking ingredients from Grape Tree and even dug the dehydrator out of storage to try making crackers and other snacks to keep me away from the Pipers (sheds tear). I’m not saying I’ll never eat certain foods again, but I’m riding this change for as long as possible.

Right, I’d better go do some work. Have a great weekend,

J xx

*This post is in no way sponsored by Glow Retreats and is an unsolicited account of my experience as a genuine paying client.

Adventures in Silver

Over the last 8 months my work has understandably taken a back seat while I adjust to a life I didn’t anticipate and certainly wouldn’t have chosen. As many of us have had to accept, sometimes life just happens and if we’re lucky, we somehow find the strength to adjust. If we’re very lucky there are people around to help us when we fall, listen when we scream and hold us when we cry. There have been days when I could barely lift my head off the pillow and others when life feels entirely normal, but Sam is never far from my thoughts. Or my heart.

The process of making – whatever the craft – has always helped me to heal. Whether recovering from breast cancer surgery or brain surgery, being creative in a practical sense has always helped to centre me. You might imagine that as someone who gets paid to write, I’d commit my thoughts and feelings to words, but not so. Making is the thing that always enabled me to find a path through days of physical pain and mental exhaustion.

Then, along came grief.

The dark bitch that has floored me twice over the last 18 months, first with the death of my precious Mum and then with the loss of my wonderful husband. For me, bereavement combined the worst physical hurt with acute mental weariness and interspersed it with periods of emotional paralysis so severe, I couldn’t process what happened to me. I’m doing much better now but there are still days when I can’t believe that Sam has gone.

Friends and family have been remarkable in their support. I’m truly blessed to have the most thoughtful, kind, loving and often funny support network around me. I say funny because if I didn’t find time to laugh, I’d really never stop crying. One particular friend, jewellery designer & maker Laila Smith offered me a chance to heal in the most unexpected way when she invited me to participate in one of her jewellery workshops. At first I thought, what do I know about jewellery? I think the older we get, the less likely we are to open ourselves up to anything that takes us out of our comfort zone. But given that my world had already been turned upside down AND inside out I thought, ‘exactly, what do I know about jewellery? Nothing. Then I have nothing to lose by going to a class’.

The first exercise on the morning of my first class was to explore mark-making using a set of textured stamps and a small piece of copper sheet. This remarkably straightforward task opened up a completely new world to me. Handling a material so far from the soft, easily manipulated world of fibre that I’ve inhabited for over 30 years was like taking a kid to a sweet shop. I was instantly hooked.

I’m not one of life’s natural squealers but I was lost in what I was doing and giggling like a child. Laila is an excellent teacher who guided me through the use of the basic kit with tools like the hide mallet, binding wire, piercing saw and files of varying shapes.

Before long, I’d learned how to measure correctly for my first ring. This process comes so naturally to me now but at the time it felt like I was learning magic. Choosing the right thickness of wire (the correct term for the lengths of metal used to make a ring), accounting for that thickness when cutting; there are so many elements to consider. Especially if like me you choose to work in silver. With precious metals, nothing should go to waste.

What I also thoroughly enjoyed was documenting my thought and making processes with photographs and my sketchbook. Looking back over these shots as I write this post, I’m instantly back at the bench in the workshop. Immersed in what I was making. Without being aware of it I was healing with each piece I made.

It would have been so easy to stick with rings and to date, I think I’ve made four in total. But the more classes I attended the more I wanted to push myself to see if I could achieve even more. There is something truly magical about taking the germ of an idea and, over time, lovingly applying a combination of annealing, cutting, soldering, filing, burnishing and polishing. Looking at my finished pieces I can recall every decision that determined how they came to be.

This sterling silver bookmark was made for a close friend who loves to read
This sterling silver pendant was a gift for the friend who brought Sam and I together
And these sterling silver initial keyrings mark my first attempts at gem setting
These sterling silver earrings are a work in progress, haven’t quite got the balance right yet…

I’ve loved my adventures in silver. They’ve seen me through some of my darkest times and the results bring me joy because they’ve enabled me to pass love onto both friends and family.

Thank you Laila for sharing your skills, your limitless patience and introducing me to a world I hadn’t imagined I would love as much as I do. I won’t be giving up knitting any time soon but you know, with a bullion dealer just down the road in Brighton I know where to get silver in a hurry should I take a notion to start classes again.

Laila regularly teaches short courses at West Dean College and if you’re looking for original handmade jewellery you’ll find her work for sale through her website Laila Smith Jewellery.

J x

Knitstrips Giveaway – and the winner is…..

Congratulations Pauline Lofkin!

You’re the lucky winner of a brand new, stash-busting copy of Knitstrips – the world’s first comic-strip knitting book. I’ll be in touch by email to get hold of your shipping details and, depending on your location, the book should be with you by the end of the week.

Thanks to everyone who posted a comment, I really appreciate you reading my blog.

J x

Book Review: Knitstrips – The world’s first comic-strip knitting book

This book feels like it’s been in the works for absolutely ages, and to be honest, it has. 

Back in February 2019 I received an email asking if I’d like to contribute a design to what was billed as ‘the world’s first comic-strip knitting book’. The message was from the creative partnership of Alice Beltran and Karen Mar who created the Knitstrips feature on the Modern Daily Knitting website. To be honest I hadn’t seen the feature so I had to pop on over and have a look. You should too, it’s a genius concept where the instructions are presented in comic-strip format, tearing apart the traditional knitting pattern which is text heavy and image light. The email dropped at a time when I’d already done a lot of publishing work in the preceding months. Having completed my collection of lace designs for the Modern Daily Knitting Field Guide no 15: Open and co-edited the Warm Hands collection with Kate Davies I was really brain tired. But, intrigued by the Knitstrips concept and up for a challenge to my usual work process I said yes. 

Nearly 3 years on and the world is a very different place and sadly my personal circumstances have changed beyond recognition. But receiving this bold beautiful book through my letterbox this month brought a huge smile to my face. It takes me back to a time when I could share my work with both Mum and Sam and they’d give me honest feedback. (Sometimes brutally honest in Sam’s case “you know I like everything you do, why are you asking? Stop worrying and just do it”). 

So you may be wondering, what is Knitstrips really like? Is it worth the hype? Is the format user-friendly? What are the projects? Who are the designers? Well read on and I’ll tell you…

The format

Knitstrips is based on the concept of IK (pronounced eye-kay) or Interactive Knitting. That’s where the patterns are: 

  • Yarn neutral – so you’re free to play with different yarn weights, colours and textures.
  • Based on the wearer’s body measurements not a defined set of dimensions.
  • Presented with specific instructions while at the same time allowing you to personalise the project to suit your personal style.

The book opens with a foreword written by founders of Modern Daily Knitting Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, followed by an explanation of exactly how  you should work from the comic strip instructions (this is particularly helpful as we’re so used to page after page of nothing but text). Then to set you up, there’s information on the different types of yarn, how much you’ll need, knitting needles and other necessary tools before exploring tension (gauge), various types of fabric covered by the patterns and how to finish your projects. Once you’ve read all this you’re all set to jump into the 4 collections or themed comic books that contain the Knitstrips patterns. 

The patterns and designers

Each themed comic book is named to give you a taste of what to expect:

  • Issue 1 is OMJOM (One More, Just One More). Have you ever kept telling yourself that you’ll stop after the next row, then you don’t? Well these are knits you never want to finish.  
  • Issue 2 is Focus Pocus. The projects feature the kind of techniques that take a bit more focus while you’re  making them. 
  • Issue 3 is STASH (Skeins That Are Special and Here). Lots of patterns that can be made from what you’ve already got hidden all over the house.
  • Issue 4 is Bucket List. These are knits of a lifetime, you know the kind you might choose to knit for someone else? 

I’ve just realised this is turning into the worlds longest blog post so rather than describe every pattern in the book I’ll just give you a run down of who – other than myself – has designed something for this book. It’s a lovely diverse group in terms of ethnicity, ability, design signature and skill level:

Ana Campos

Casey Rich

Cecilia Campochiaro

Hikaru Noguchi

Julia Farwell-Clay

Julie Kornblum

Rebecca McKenzie

Natalie Warner

Lauren McElroy

Norah Gaughan

Alice Ormsbee Beltran

Karen Kim Mar

The designs range from a slouchy oversized tunic that cleverly turns into a sweater with the addition of sleeves, to a bobble hat worked in sequence knitting. Or perhaps you fancy a pair of toe up, short row heeled socks, a drop sleeve custom cabled sweater or a two colour brioche cowl – that’s my humble contribution. You’re probably asking how patterns that are so technically dissimilar can make sense as a comic strip. Well, that’s the genius of this book, they absolutely do and if you’re someone who’s previously struggled to make sense of the large bodies of text used in conventional pattern instructions you should check out this book. Hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 

This book encourages each of us to think a little more outside the box when knitting from the patterns is contains. It doesn’t give information about the specific yarns used but instead gives an idea of the yarn’s weight, characteristics and an idea about how the gauge should feel. That could mean yarn with a light, airy yarn handle, a hardwearing wool or even a gauge that’s ‘medium to chewy’. No I hadn’t heard of that one either! 

At the back of the book you’ll find lots of other helpful hints and tips along with a gallery of bios on every contributing designer, the authors and illustrators who have created the most wonderful comic portraits for everyone involved. 

Here’s my comic portrait

There’s so much that makes this is an exciting new style of knitting book and from moment I noticed the brown hands on the front cover I knew I was going to love it. Alice and Karen, thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this beautiful thing called Knitstrips. I hope there’s a second one on the way. 

J x

KnitPro J’Adore Giveaway – And the winner is…

Well, happy Tuesday! Or at least it will be for one of you.

Thank you so much for the lovely comments on my review of the KnitPro J’Adore Gift Set. It was interesting to read which needles you each prefer and the reasons why. The wonderful thing about our craft is that we can (hopefully) all find a technique, tool, style, fibre and colour that suits our individual needs. After all, that’s what inspires us to keep the craft alive.

Anyway, thought I’d pop in as promised to announce the winner of my first (I think) Blog Giveaway, and the winner is…… Anna! (All the names were put into a numbered spreadsheet in order of posting and the winner was chosen using Google’s Random Number Generator)

Anna will receive the set I road-tested last week which I received from the lovely people at KnitPro, along with a special something extra from your truly. All I need Anna is your full name and address and I’ll get the set out to you later this week.

Don’t worry if you weren’t lucky this time, there’ll be another Blog Giveaway next week. Details to come. As you know I’m not yet back to work full time but today I’m interviewing someone for a special piece I’m writing for Vogue Knitting Magazine. So I’d better rush…

Have a great day,

J x

KnitPro J’Adore Gift Set – Product Review & Giveaway


Let me start by saying, yes, KnitPro asked if I’d be interested in posting about this product in exchange for being able to keep the set. Now, over the last few years, my Instagram following has grown considerably from when I initially set it up to ‘post some random pics’ of the nonsense I do from time to time. And, since reaching over 10,000 followers I’ve been approached by an often bizarre range of companies from sportswear brands (if you’ve seen me you’ll no I’m no athlete) and even more curiously a hair care company who clearly hadn’t noticed that I have no hair. Bless ‘em.

So why did I agree to this marketing collaboration with KnitPro? Because their Zing and Smarstix Interchangeables are my needles of choice, I use them all the time. And, I thought it might be nice to give some of the items away. As my late husband Sam used to say, “sometimes it’s just nice to be nice”. 

Ok so what do I think of the J’Adore Needle Set?

Just in case you’ve never heard of it J’Adore is a special edition gift set of square interchangeable needles. Made of wood and shaped just like the KnitPro Cubics they come in 6 sixes (4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 5.5, 6.0 and 8.0mm) with matt gold connectors that contrast nicely against the lavender colour of the needle tip. Needle sizes are laser printed in both US and Metric on the metal connectors and, just to be doubly sure, again in Metric only on the flat side of the needle tip itself about half inch / 1.5 cm from the base.

Each of the six sets of needle tips are snugly kept in place with elastic on a fabric covered board that pops nicely into the velour case that looks more evening clutch bag than knitting needle storage case. I must admit I’m not a huge fan of purple but this presentation is really eye-catching: the colour of the metal fixings pops nicely against the deep berry tones as do the end stops and heart shaped stitch markers (a combination of gentle pink and rich magenta), and the purple aluminium stitch holder. I know that as a purple lover and the person who taught me to knit, my Mum would absolutely have loved it.

The knitting experience

As someone who’s knitted on round needles for over 40 years, working with square needles takes some adjusting. My usual knitting technique is a hybrid style – I suppose I’d describe myself as a ‘Continental thrower’, that is although right handed, I throw my yarn with my left hand rather than tensioning the yarn over my left finger and picking the yarn through the stitch with the right needle tip. I’ve knitted like this for as long as I can remember. It’s a style that suits me perfectly well, not particularly pretty to watch but relatively quick and it gets the job done. But one thing I’ve noticed is that there are usually little irregularities in my knitted fabric. Slight twists in the row – every so often – that niggle me because I like everything to look ‘perfect’, But, you know what? I’ve come to accept those indiosyncracies as being characteristic of my hand. Oh I should also mention that I’m a dedicated metal needle lover. I like the slipperiness of them, the clicking noise they make and, being me, I like them even more when they come in bright, pretty colours.

So this J’adore set is a real departure for me: not only are they square but they’re also made of wood. And they’re all the same shade of purple. Still, I cast on with an open mind and eager hands.

It’s been said that cube shaped needles are better for arthritic hands but initially I found the square corners of the needles felt…well, odd. This really affected my knitting speed. It felt slow and uncertain. However my hands soon settled into a natural hold with my thumb resting easily on one plane of the square needle and the inner surface of my fingers finding another. It wasn’t long before my work passed easily along the cable then up and along the needles for transforming into one new stitch after another.

When I first opened this set I was a little surprised to find they didn’t come in the same sized increments as my other KnitPro sets. So when Swatch 2 came up noticeably tighter than Swatch 1 I thought I’d go up a size to knit Swatch 3. In this case, that next size is an 8.00 (rather than a 7.00 mm) and the largest size available in any of the KnitPro Cubics ranges. It may sound odd but this 2.00 mm increase in size made me much more aware of the ‘blockiness’ of the needles. 

Here’s a comparison of Swatch 1 (knitted on 6.00mm round KnitPro Zing Interchangeables) and Swatch 2 (knitted on 6.00 square KnitPro J’Adore Interchangeables). As you can see there’s a marked difference in tension between the two swatches, in fact I noticed the fabric felt tighter whilst knitting, after just a couple of rows. After blocking and steaming both samples the fabric of Swatch 2 feels firmer (than Swatch 1) but not too tight. Plus, there are fewer of my usual random twists occurring in the rows. 

Knitting the blue sample (Swatch 3) my tension was noticeably looser than usual, both in terms of the yarn passing through my fingers and how the stitches formed on the needles. The fabric felt laggy and I found it difficult to tighten up, despite pulling tighter on the yarn with each stitch. I couldn’t help feeling that a 7.00 mm might have given the result I was after so I’d be genuinely interested to know why the range skips certain sizes. 

Sliding the stitches along the cable towards the tip of the needle also felt cumbersome with the larger 8.00 mm size. You might imagine that join – where the round threaded metal section meets the wooden tip might be a little like matching a square peg into a round hole, but not so with the smaller sizes. There’s a tiny section of the tip that’s engineered to change smoothly from round to square with little to no snagging – that is except on the larger size. That’s the point where I found my stitches got stuck and I can only imagine this would be worse on anything from 9.00 mm upwards. 

Are square needles comfortable to use? Yes but expect it to take a little time to settle in. 

So would I use these needles again? Yes definitely. 

My current WIP, the Aimée Cardigan designed by Joji Locatelli was chosen as a restorative project, something I didn’t need to think too much about. Instead it’s been started no less than 5 times, simply because I couldn’t get gauge. Not exactly mindless or relaxing. I swatched and swatched, even trying to work with two different sizes of needle tip but in the end (after much frustration) I opted for a 3.75 mm needle and a larger than normal size.  Given the marked effect these needles had on my usual tension during this test, they might have come in handy to help put the (p)leisure back into this current project. 

Now, would you like to win this KnitPro J’Adore Gift Set? You can, by entering this giveaway. Rules, terms and conditions are given below.

To Enter

  1. Simply leave a comment below telling me your preferred needle type and why you’d like to win this set. 
  2. Follow @jeanettesloan and @knitproeu on Instagram
  3. Check out the full range of KnitPro products on the KnitPro website
  4. (Optional) You may also want to sign up to my newsletter to keep up to date with my designs and future giveaway. To sign up CLICK HERE


  • Giveaway closes midnight (UK time) on April 23rd 2002. 
  • The winner will be selected at random and will be announced both here and on my Instagram feed at 9.00 am Tuesday 25th April 2002. 
  • Giveaway prize is the KnitPro J’Adore Gift Set shown here in pictures. Prize generously donated by KnitPro EU. No alternative prize or cash alternative available. 
  • Prize has been tested and used in a home with a very friendly cat. (Just so you know).

Good luck!

J x

Teaching at West Dean College

I’m very excited to share that on the weekend of 4th – 6th March I’ll be teaching my first weekend course at West Dean College. 

Located just up the road from me, near the city of Chichester, West Dean or to use it’s full name, West Dean College of Arts and Conservation is part of The Edward James Foundation. A registered charity comprising of West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio.

The college is renowned for being a centre of excellence and through its tireless work aims “To inspire creativity, champion traditional art and craft practices and advance the care of heritage objects.”

In addition to full time degrees and diplomas in subjects such as horology, fine art, tapestry weaving and building conservation, the college offers a number of short courses covering a broad range of disciplines. Held over a weekend, from Friday night to Sunday lunchtime these short courses enable students to fully immerse themselves in a creative subject. And, because students stay overnight in the college’s own accomodation there’s plenty of time to learn while experiencing the history and magic of this unique building where both art and craft skills are nurtured and honoured.

As you know from my Knit Stars Beaded Colourwork Masterclass I love anything bead focused but this class is diferent as it’s aimed at those at the start of their bead-knitting journey. That means all you need is a good knowledge of knit and purl plus of course, lots of enthusiasm. We’ll be working from charts but don’t worry if you haven’t used charts before, I’ll cover that along with lots of other techniques and tips. In fact I’ll have you beading like a pro before you know it. 

Visit the West Dean College website for lots more information and to book your place. I really hope to see you there. 

J x

Waltham Abbey Wool Show – goodies revealed

I know it’s been a few weeks since I opened Waltham Abbey Wool Show but it’s never too late to have a good old nosey at what I brought home. So enjoy!

The day started with my main duty as VIP, cutting the ribbon to open the show at 10.00am. Here I am with the lady Mayor of Waltham Abbey, Jodie Lucas – both of us desperately trying not to be upstaged by the show’s sheep mascot.

I’m not easily tempted at yarn shows however this time I was shopping with purpose; gift hunting for a close friend who’s a talented colourwork knitter. There’s something particularly satisfying about buying with someone else in mind and imagining the reaction when they’re finally unwrapped.

Fab stationery from Julie Tilly Flop

Laser cut birch coasters from Under The Olive Tree Knits

Shea butter crafters balm from The Lonely Knitter

A ball of Bica by Rosarios 4 from Yarnsulike. This yarn is made from sugar cane! Yep I know, my mind was blown too. To find out where Marcia will be selling next follow Yarnsulike on Instagram

Ceramic mug by Emily Cross

Here’s to a year where we can finally get back to enjoying in-person events – Covid permitting of course. Stay safe and well. Next show for me is Unravel next week. Maybe I’ll see you there,

J x

New beginnings

It feels like so long since I wrote a blog post that I’m honestly not sure where to start. If you regularly follow my posts you’ll know the last few months have been extremely difficult as I adjust to a strange new life without my husband Sam. And like many of us, my body and brain are so hardwired to be constantly on the go that it feels strange not to be working on a new design, updating the BIPOC in Fiber directory or writing a column for Laine Magazine.

I’m learning to accept this strangeness as part of my journey of grief into a new phase of my life. One that still isn’t clear to me as yet and, will no doubt take a while to reveal itself. I’ve come to accept that one day will be better (I’m not quite ready to describe those days as ‘good’) and others will seem unbearable. And, I’ve learned from my daily mindfulness practice that however intense those emotions feel, they are transient. Something that’s particularly important when the days aren’t so good. On those days I snuggle up with Mum’s blankie, the cat and if I’m up to it, some knitting. If not I’ll rest and hope the next day is a better one.

Over the new few months I’ll continue to do this and whatever else I need to look after myself. It means I may be quiet but I won’t have gone away. When I treated myself this above 2022 diary from I wanted something that would be joyful, both to look at and to use. I aim to fill it with activities that will nourish my brain, heart and body; be that self care, crafting/making, gardening, reading, walking along the seafront or journalling. And, while I’m not taking on any new work projects for the foreseeable future I’m looking forward to fulfilling work commitments arranged over the last year. The first of these is opening this Sunday’s Waltham Abbey Wool Show (WAWS).

Doris, the Waltham Abbey Wool Show mascot

Having attended the very first WAWS as a vendor I opened last year’s online event and am genuinely excited (and more than a little nervous) to be opening this weekend’s show. As their VIP guest – God bless them, me, a VIP – I’ll be judging the Handmade Toy Competition and having a wander around the show before returning to my stand where I’ll be selling copies of Warm Hands alongside some must-have BIPOC in Fiber merchandise. BIPOC in Fiber is still very much alive but as I hope you’ll understand I need to take time out in order to come back with some semblance of strength.

So if you’re coming to the show on Sunday please come up and say hi. I’m happy to sign your copy of Warm Hands, talk about BIPOC in Fiber, see what you’re making or what you’ve bought. I know it’s been a while since we were able to mingle in-person but the show’s organisers, Kate Towerzey & Diana Bensted are doing all they can to make the event as safe as possible and I plan on doing my Covid lateral flow test beforehand. The show takes place at the Waltham Abbey Marriott Hotel and opens when I cut the (pink) ribbon at 10.00am. To find out more visit the Waltham Abbey Wool Show website.

Look forward to seeing you there,

J x


Thanks to Molly Plummer The Mimo Yarn Co for these handmade dryer balls, I look forward to trying them out.

Looking at them I realised how accurately they sum up my feelings towards this festive season.
Because two weeks today I will be experiencing my first Christmas without Sam. The first in 22 years.

Thankfully I won’t be alone (Omicron permitting) but of course it won’t be the same without him, how could it be?

So why post a picture of balls on my feed? Because that’s how I feel about Christmas cards this year. Each one is a reminder that as a recently widowed woman, I am without my life partner.

So please, no Christmas cards.

If you want me to know your thinking of me, ring.

If I have the emotional energy I’ll answer.

If I don’t, leave a voicemail.

Give the money you would have spent on a card and postage to a charity – at Sam’s funeral we asked people to donate to Men Walk Talk instead of sending flowers. They need the money more than I need a card.

#dealingwithbereavement #dealingwithgrief