Overwhelm

I’ve been off my game recently because – like many others – I’m finding that life has become more than a little overwhelming.

The recent dementia diagnosis of one parent and the failing mobility of the other has added to an already overactive mind. It also hasn’t been helped by too much exposure to rolling coverage of the Covid 19 pandemic. So I took the decision to step back for a while. Why? Because when the previously pleasing process of creating a post for #thepattinrepeatgame feels like an added pressure rather than a thing of simple joy, you have to accept that something is wrong. And that’s how it felt. Like another heavyweight task on a seemingly endless to do list. Pressure on pressure.

So I’ve been keeping quiet and trying to look after myself. Having sought help I’m reading, practising mindfulness and pottering in the garden: a beautiful vibrant outside space for which I’m particularly grateful at the moment.

As a newbie gardener I’m finding my way, growing veg from seed and trying to outwit my arch enemy. A seemingly cute squirrel who lives in our olive tree who insists on digging into every one of my bloody pots to bury whatever treasure it’s found it’s travels.

As someone with a shockingly bad memory, limited horticultural savvy and no garden design skills I try to label what I’ve planted because I usually forget what I’ve planted and where I’ve put it. I buy a few cheap plants (just incase my over attentiveness becomes the kiss of death) and have been gifted others (thanks for the Geum @wendyswalksandboard)

so up to now that’s meant the garden is predominantly purple, pink. This morning however, I discovered something I didn’t know was there and certainly don’t recall planting. Like a burst of sunshine it’s appeared in a sea of purple, reminding me that even on the darkest days there can be glimpses of beauty, positivity or kindness that can lift your heart, encouraging you to keep going. This single yellow bloom did that for me this morning and I wanted to share it’s beauty with you, just in case you’ve also been finding life difficult. Please know you’re not alone, and it’s ok to ask for help.

J x

Pre lockdown larks and Kristy Glass Knits

I’ve been feeling a little low lately. I miss the days of close contact with friends. It seems like years since January when I was in New York at Vogue Knitting Live, making real life connections with friends old and new. Real life connections, remember those?

That was back in the days before social distancing, Zoom meetings to check in on family members, that weird dance we now do to avoid anyone walking toward us and the often hopeless quest to find flour because now we’re supposed to be staying at home everyone is baking.

I’m being a bit flippant but of course Covid 19 isn’t a laughing matter. Hearing the daily toll of those who have died with Corona virus is heartbreaking. And, the constant barrage of rolling  news coverage, although meant to be informative makes me feel slightly anxious on a day when I’m feeling pretty resilient and utterly depressed on days when I feel less able to cope.

Like many others I’m trying to navigate my way through these very strange times and I’m very grateful for the little rays of sunshine when they occur. So I was really happy (although very nervous) to see my interview with Kristy Glass Knits has recently gone up on her YouTube channel.

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The lovely Felix Ford and Lorna Hamilton Brown in The Big Apple

To give some context I visited Kristy along with Felix Ford and Lorna Hamilton Brown just a couple of days after VKL New York and I have really fond memories of that day. It was very cold, crisp and wintry. As we made our way to Kristy’s apartment New York looked absolutely stunning in the early morning sunshine and when we got there she was incredibly warm, welcoming and genuinely interested in each of us. Oh yes, she also lays on a mean breakfast.

It’s tough being interviewed with two of your closest and smartest friends in the room. Felix and Lorna are phenomenal women who I’m blessed to have as friends and you can also watch their interviews on Kristy’s channel. In fact go now, make yourself a cuppa or grab your favourite tipple and head over to YouTube now to watch them all.

Kristy, it was lovely meeting you, thanks for having me.

Stay safe and well my lovelies

J x

 

You’ll find Kristy’s YouTube channel here

Hunkering down and baking: Granary bread

IMG_3637At the moment I’m feeling an even stronger desire to make, I mean more so than usual. Not just to knit which is normal in my line of work but to sew and as you’ll have seen on my Instagram feed, to bake.  If you follow my posts @jeanettesloan you’ll know that the only thing I like more than cooking is filling my ever greedy face and, whether it’s batch cooking meals for my parents or using back-of-the-fridge leftovers to create masterpieces like the brussel sprout omelette and if I’m please with the results I’ll post about it. I do however have ‘off days’ when I’m really too tired to bother or there’s been some sort of culinary disaster and though they are few, you really don’t need to see those. After all this is the perfect world of social media. 

But this weekend the knitting stars aligned and like many others currently feeling that knead to bake ( thanks coronavirus ) I was inspired to make some bread. I won’t be entering Bake Off any time soon but I got so fed up with eating crappy, pappy, poor quality shop bought loaves that I really craved something gnarly, nutty and tasty. So I attempted my first granary loaf and the results were pretty good even if I say so myself. I’ve made white bread before but was a little apprehensive about granary – I was nervous that what I thought of as ‘heavier flour’ would produce a boulder like loaf that would be impossible to slice. But no, the bread was blooming when it came out of the oven and as I was asked to share the recipe, I’ve included it below along with my own tweaks and observations. 

I know we’re currently living in scary times and as I’m no virologist I don’t have any expert advice to offer but I’m limiting how much of that coverage I expose myself to. Why? Because being bombarded with information and misinformation about coronavirus has a variety of effects ranging from unsettling to nightmare inducing so I guess my need to make is one response to it. 

Thankfully I work from home but I’m limiting how much I socialise with other people not just for myself (and them) but also because with parents who are 90 and 96 with a number of underlying health conditions I can’t put them at risk. If we look after ourselves and each other we can get through this. Please don’t stockpile supplies – e.g. toilet paper, pasta, baked beans, paracetamol – think about the impact of your actions on others. 

Enjoy the recipe and if you give it a try let me know how you get on

J x

 

This is based on Paul Hollywood’s Malted Loaf recipe from How To Bake

 

I used

500 g / 1 pound granary bread flour ( I used Hovis granary bread flour )

5 g / 1 teaspoon salt

10 g / 2 teaspoons fast action dried yeast 

30 g / 1 ounce butter, softened ( the original recipe called for unsalted butter but I didn’t have any)

300 ml / 10 fluid ounces cool water ( I actually used tepid water )

Olive oil for kneading

 

How to make

Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and tip the salt onto one side and the yeast onto the other side. Now the original recipe says ‘add the butter’ but gives no details as to how. So i softened my butter for 30 seconds in the microwave then cut it into small lumps and dotted it around the flour before mixing it in with my fingers and gradually adding the water. The flour should gradually come away from the sides of the bowl and into the mix, if you need more water add more – I had to, probably about another two thirds but be guided by your mix. It should be soft but not soggy, when it is kind of rough in texture use it to clean the inside of the bowl.

F11C6B5F-6499-4E0D-8BBC-081B6BC171FBCoat a clean work surface with a bit of olive oil and tip the dough onto it then knead. This bit was hard. I mean really hard ( perhaps my mix didn’t have enough water at this point – I’ll adjust this next time) so I kneaded it for 20 minutes. Yes 20 minutes, I’ve got the arms to prove it (no baking pun intended). The other thing I found as I was kneading was that the seeds in the mix shot outwards covering the kitchen in a bizarre shower of edible shrapnel – I put it back in, kneaded a bit more and back out it came. In the end I gathered it in a small bowl for adding back in later. If you can’t bear to knead for 20 minutes do it for at least 10 or until it feels smooth and ‘silky’. You should get a feel for the change in texture.

Next lightly oil the inside of a large bowl and put the dough into it, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for at least an hour. It needs to double in size. I left mine for 3 hours in front of a still warm woodburner stove (full of smokeless fuel FYI).

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Line a baking sheet with enough baking parchment to cover then lightly flour a clean working surface.

Now scrape the dough onto the work surface and knock all the air out of it by folding it in on itself – here’s where I re-introduced the seeds that were previously rejected at the kneading stage. When the dough is smooth, form it into a ball and place in on the baking tray. t prove for the second time place the tray inside a large clean plastic bag. I have a clean bin liner that I keep for this and I place a small drinking glass upside down in each corner of the tray to keep the plastic off the bread as it rises. Leave to prove for a further hour, the dough should double in size and spring back quickly after you’ve given it a loving but light prod with your finger. 

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Now it’s time to bake so heat the oven to 220ºC / 428ºF. Dust the loaf with flour or in my case I brushed it with milk and offered the top some more of the rejected seeds before putting in the oven for 30 minutes. Check that it’s done by tapping the bottom of the loaf – if it’s ready it will sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

 

Knit Now ‘Knitter of the Year’ 2020

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Last week the winners of Knit Now magazine’s Knitter of the year Awards were announced, and guess what? Thanks to the votes of their lovely readers I’m one of three winners in the Online Innovator category. To be honest when I wrote about the lack of diversity in crafting and created the POC Designers & Crafters List I hadn’t expected, over a year on, that my life would have taken it’s current path. But with the BIPOC in Fiber website now so close to launch I’m both excited for you all to see it and humbled that people appreciate the work I do.

Thank you so much for taking the time to vote for me. You’ve made an old, bald lady very happy.

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In addition to ‘Online Innovator’ Knit Now readers also voted for their ‘Local Superstar’, ‘Charity Hero’ and ‘Designer of the Year’ and I’m very honoured to be amongst such incredible company. Three winners were chosen in each category with us all invited to the King Cole headquarters in Skipton to attend a very special prizewinner’s day out on Thursday 26th March. Now sadly I won’t be able to attend but by way of thanks to all of you who voted I’m offering someone the chance to take my place.

If you’d like the opportunity to visit King Cole HQ on Thursday 26th March all you need do is pop over to the Knit Now blog where the winners were announced and comment on their post. They will then pick a name at random and get in touch with the lucky winner to give them the details of what happens next.

You’ll find the King Cole post here

Please do not comment here to enter. For clarification this is not a sponsored post. The winner will be selected at random by Knit Now magazine and neither myself nor King Cole are involved in that selection process.

Thanks again for your votes and good luck!

J x

 

 

 

 

Unravel 2020

Yes I know what you’re thinking. That you normally have to wait for what seems like YEARS to see any of my pictures after I’ve been to a festival. But oh no, not this time.

I’ve attended the Unravel festival several times both as speaker and vendor but this year was slightly different as it was my first year teaching and also exhibiting as part of BIPOC in Fiber. It was lovely to be able to catch up with lots of old friends, make new ones, share my love of Beaded Colourwork and of course my passion for the BIPOC in Fiber project alongside the rest of the team. I won’t go into too much detail about BiF here as there’ll be a blog on the website when it launches (which is so very, very soon) but as you can see we had a great time.

Thanks to everyone who came along to my class on Sunday and to everyone who stopped by the BiF stand.

Keeping this post short as I’m off to see the Old Folk

 

J x

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Packing up BIPOC in Fiber merch

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Our amazing tech wizard Alyson Chu on the BiF stand

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Myself and Alyson look fresh faced on Friday (well she is)

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Me with our graphic designer Jimenez Joseph

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Welcome to Warm Hands

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A bit later than I’d hoped  (ok 3 weeks actually) I’ve finally found the time to blog about a project that consumed much of my 2019.

Warm Hands is a collection of 15 fresh glove, mitten and fingerless mitt designs which I co-edited with Kate Davies. The patterns have been created by a global collective of 15 designers and each use either Milarrochy Tweed or Ard Thir from Kate’s own range of yarns.

Although I’ve written four books before this it was the first time I’d collaborated with anyone on a publishing project and of course because everything produced by KDD.com is done to such exacting standards, I knew the results would be good. I just didn’t know how good. Or how much I’d enjoy working on it with Kate and the KDD team.

In this, my first-time role as co-editor, I had creative input right from the beginning. This book is special because it brings together a mix of newbie designers (who were invited to submit designs in an open call on Instagram and Ravelry) as well as more well known designers. With the work of BIPOC in Fiber always in mind it was important to me that new BIPOC designers (black, indigenous and people of colour) felt encouraged to submit and, having creative input into the look of the book, I felt it was essential that they be represented in our choice of models too.

Trying to curate a collection of designs that Kate and I felt was balanced in terms of technique, style and skill level meant going through a pretty rigorous selection process. From over 100 submissions it meant  looking and re-looking at each design and evaluating them in isolation, then how each would or wouldn’t fit in with the other design submissions. At this early stage I only knew of a couple of the designers and kept losing track of which design belonged to whom so as we gradually whittled them down to the final 15 I found that drawing the designs helped my shockingly poor memory. What I didn’t foresee was that when it came to the final layout these sketches would actually find a home in the introduction pages of the book.

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Initial sketches of the selected designs

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More of the initial sketches

Toasty Cosy is my own design contribution to Warm Hands. Like the majority of the patterns in the book it’s knitted in the Fingering weight Milarrochy Tweed but of course, being me I chose to use it held double rather than single. The back of the design is worked in columns of two colour calliper cables which, in the doubled yarn produces a really dense, warm fabric with a slightly ribbed texture. This is contrasted by a subtle slip stitch texture in stripes that echo the colour changes of the cables but this time on both the palm and thumb.

As I’d never previously worked with any of Kate’s yarns there was of course swatching to be done. I know many of you roll your eyes when I talk about swatching and tension but I find it a really enjoyable and necessary part of my design process. In this case I knew I wanted to make a mitten and fingerless mitten option and whilst the combination of Cranachan and Buckthorn immediately worked for the mittens the first combination I chose for the mitts – Cowslip and Garth – really didn’t work at all. It looked sludgy and sad so I ended up replacing Garth with Hirst and the results are much fresher.

Oh and why the name? Well Toasty Cosy is the term my best friend Margo uses to describe when she’s just perfectly warm. Seems appropriate don’t you think?

Warm Hands Photoshoot 2 Studio-599

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I hope you’ll enjoy Warm Hands. Aside from being the brightest book KDD has ever produced (yes, my work is done) a lot of thought has gone into how the finished collection looks. Kate and I pooled ideas – and clothing – to style the designs with a contemporary feel in order that you could see yourself (or your loved ones) wearing each of them. Those ideas were captured and brought to life by the fantastic photography of Tom Barr (Kate’s husband) and it was his invaluable local knowledge that kicked off the ‘in your face’ vibe for the location shots . As well as regular KDD models Fenella and Jane it was a pleasure to work with new models Samira and Mimi for whom this was their first job but who behaved like absolute professionals – even when I was trying to get them to relax on command while art directing the photoshoot. And lastly what brings all of that together so beautifully is Tom’s skilful graphic design that ties all the designs together but at the same time gives each one space and allows it to shine.

The details:

Warm Hands 15 fresh designs edited by Jeanette Sloan & Kate Davies

Format: Print copy

Price: £20.00

Each print copy comes with a download code for the ebook on Ravelry.

To order your print copy visit the website by clicking here

With Storm Denis on its way to the UK tomorrow I’m wishing you a weekend of Warm Hands and even warmer hearts

J x

VKL New York 2020 – pt 1

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Since arriving home from New York week over a week ago  I’ve been battling a combination of jet lag and the dreaded lurgey. It’s meant the excited re-telling of all the amazing things I did at Vogue Knitting Live, all the wonderful people I met, the inspiring work I saw and the delicious yarns I drooled over won’t now happen. Why? Because sadly my head is full of snot and my body so achey it makes long periods of concentration nigh on impossible. Somehow – and I know how ridiculous this sounds – despite all the life threatening illnesses I’ve been through, the common cold is the thing that floors me most.

So before January gives way to February (yes as you can see since it is now February I even failed there) and these pictures languish unloved in a forgotten corner of my MacBook here are some of my Vogue Knitting Live 2020 highlights. More to come.

I’m off to blow my nose. Again

J x

 

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I travelled over to the States with (most of) my dream team of Felicity Ford @knitsonik, Lorna Hamilton Brown @lhamiltonbrown and Alyson Chu @alysonhere. Sadly the last member of BIPOC in Fiber Juliet Bernard @julietbernard couldn’t join us as she was in India with Knit For Peace.

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Vogue Knitting’s DAC

I’m really proud to a member of Vogue Knitting’s Diversity Advisory Council and over the last 9 months we’ve worked really hard to make the Knitting Live! events and publications much more inclusive and welcoming. As we’re spread across the globe much of this involves long conference calls so it was great to finally meet as a full council to help celebrate 10 years of VKL. Just in case you’re wondering the full council shown above are;

Angela Tong @atongdesigns

Louis Boria @brooklynboyknits

Cecilia Nelson Hurt @creativececi

Ana Campos @circlestitches

Lorna Hamilton Brown

Felicity Ford

Me of course

Diane Ivey @ladydyeyarns

You can find out more about the work that we’ve been doing over on the Vogue Knitting website here