The story of the blues

img_3345We all have a favourite yarn, season, stitch, technique or colour don’t we? For me the yarn would be anything deliciously soft and expensive, the season would be winter, the stitch would be mmm…you know I’m not so sure, I guess it depends on my mood. As for colour it would have to be orange…..or pink…..or better yet a combination of both. So it’s a little strange to have so much blue yarn sitting on my desk this week.

I like blue but I don’t LOVE it…. unless it’s a really vibrant turquoise bringing to mind warm tropical breezes, cool rum cocktails and soft white sandy beaches. In general blue tends to leave me a little cold and it although it doesn’t feature largely in my wardrobe there are some notable denimy exceptions. I mean who doesn’t wear denim in one form or another?

As for the fate of all this blue yarn, the chunky baby alpaca is for a friend’s surprise birthday gift that I’ll be hand knitting tomorrow. The variegated sock yarn is for Sam’s ribbed scarf that will be machine knitted later today and the denim yarn is for a magazine commission that’s been lingering around for a while. (I was due to submit it last year but got waylaid by the brain squatters). I’ve loved working with Rowan’s Denim since I was a student and am definitely looking forward to knitting with it again. Not only can you machine wash it at 60ºc but it can also be  tumble dried so it’s pretty indestructible plus it ages beautifully with every subsequent wash which adds wonderful character to the garment. This for me makes it a classic and a winner.

The week started off a little wobbly yesterday but I’m hoping I’ll catch up as my diary is pretty full.Thankfully though it’s a good mix of work and play and to get me in the mood I’m going to start by listening to The Mighty Wah! whilst I work

What story will be told by the yarn you’re using this week?

Neither young nor funky

31 Day Challenge Day 30

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‘What came first’ Copyright Kyle Bean

I don’t really like to going to networking events. People who don’t know me will laugh when I describe myself as shy but I am in situations such as these. I just can’t help feeling awkward. Anyway on Friday night Sam and I went along to a Glug meetup that was held at Patterns in Kemp Town. Organised by Crush Creative and Agency Rush the meetups are designed for young and funky creatives to get together, drink, chat  and collaborate.  Yes I’m well aware that I’m neither young nor funky but our friends Ben and Ceri are and Sam worked in the creative /advertising industry for over 20 years.

So in order to inspire us guest speakers are invited  down to give short presentations (actually more like chats) about their work and on Friday night the first speaker was a London based artist called Kyle Bean. Now normally I’m more than a little cynical about the advertising industry having been around it in Edinburgh and seeing a little of how it works. The Glug blurb described Kyle as having “a passion for handcrafted design and tactile illustration” and to be honest I had no idea what to expect from his talk. Well I’m so happy that I dragged myself out of the house because I loved his work and his attitude to it. He’s a true craftsman in every sense of the word and his work is often playful and witty.  In a world where lots of the advertising images thrown at us are comped together in Photoshop or created using CGI his ‘illustrations’ often use simple coloured paper (in varying grades) but could also include other random media such as toothpaste, plastic piping, vegetables or egg shells. I absolutely love the hours of work and the level of detail that each hand made piece demands. He’s worked on campaigns for Moo, Emirates, Google and Wallpaper Magazine as well as creating installations for fashion brands like Matthew Williamson and Hermes at Liberty, London. In particular you should watch the Honda ad which was filmed using the same stop frame photography method used for ‘My First Tv Ad‘.  You can see more of his work on his website here

Enjoy his work and all going well there’ll be an extra post today to catch up. Then there’s only one more day to go!

J x

Yarn snobbery and the element of surprise

31 Day Challenge Day 23

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Every month a package of yarn is delivered to my door. Now that’s not unusual, I’m very lucky to have been Knitting’s resident yarn reviewer for some years now and surely, it’s every knitter’s dream job isn’t it? Playing with yarn and then getting to write about it? For each issue the yarns are selected and ‘themed’ by my editor Christine so I’m never quite sure what to expect from the mysterious package until it actually arrives. And you know what, I love that element of surprise.

Because we work a few months in advance the yarns don’t always chime in with the weather at the actual time of writing. I could be knitting with chunky wintry wools in the middle of August or slinky summery cottons in December. (Today it’s a cold, foggy day and there’s a mix of cottons and wool with a touch of mohair thrown in). It’s also really interesting that the yarns reflect just some of what’s available on the market and the thing that really challenges me is that they’re not always yarns I’d choose to knit with were I knitting for myself. Ok I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a yarn snob. On a personal level I prefer natural fibres such as wool, cotton, viscose and bamboo and as for the luxury of fibres like alpaca, silk and cashmere well, that for me is fibre heaven. I’m drawn to strong colours because they literally make my heart sing with pink, orange, red, lime and turquoise among my favourites whilst washed out, pale shades..well, they just make me feel a little sad. I don’t mind if a yarn is roving, plied, twisted, chainette or eyelash in it’s construction or commercially versus hand dyed in it’s colouring but I’m not a huge fan of 100% synthetic fibres. I think it was learning to knit with nylon as a child (it literally set my teeth on edge) but I understand that they’re durable, can add strength to other fibres and are easy to care for so they have their place allowing lots of people with tighter budgets to knit away to their heart’s content.

The monthly knock of the postman followed by the cry of ‘MORE yarn for you’ marks the arrival of the next 8 yarns that may just shake up my yarny status quo. And rightly so, it’s too easy to get stuck in a rut. I don’t get to choose so they could include all, or more interestingly, none of my ‘got to’ favourites but it really doesn’t matter. My job is to explore them all and tell you what I make of them.

So would you admit that there’s a yarn snob in you? And what, if anything, will you do you do to challenge it?

I’m off to challenge mine, see you tomorrow

Jx

Love at first sight

31 Day Challenge Day 17

 

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I first came across John Arbon’s Alpaca Delight way back in 2015 when reviewing it for Knitting Magazine (issue 154). Writing yarns reviews is a job I really enjoy as I get to ‘play’ with a wide range of yarns from a variety of spinners and dyers, some big and some not so big. I can’t begin to think how many I’ve swatched over the years but I fell in love with this yarn at first sight, well actually it was first touch. It’s a 4ply blend of 70% alpaca 30% Falklands merino with an incredibly soft feel and just the right amount of blur.

Now you may imagine that I’ve got the world’s most mountainous stash (Sam already thinks I have) but no, thankfully I return the yarns to my editor Christine once the job is done and it’s just as well otherwise I’d be the mad, bald, wool-stashing woman of Hove. Somehow though this yarn never quite made it out of the house (coughs) and it’s destined for a one hank design that I’ll be working on today. Not quite sure how that happened (coughs again) but I do love my job….

J x

Goals and milestones

31 Day Challenge Day 16

Back in the first of my 31 day challenge blog posts I talked about how my work planning now needs to be more detailed in order not to overly stress my wobbly brain. I remember at the time thinking I needed to make some new years resolutions but given that mentally I can only cope with one thing at a time, it all became a bit too much to process and so none were made.

I recently started following Kristine Ofstad (@blogitbetter on Instagram) who offered some encouraging and inspiring thoughts on setting yourself goals. Based on studies done by the Dominican University the thinking is that we’re more likely to achieve our goals if we actually write them down. More than that (apparently) we’re even more likely to achieve them if we write a progress plan and share it with others. Gulp. To be honest that seems more than a little scary to me, I suppose like a lot of us, fear of failure and disappointment is holding me back. With this in mind she suggests setting short and long term milestones to chart progress (such as what do you want to achieve and by when) and share it on your blog to make yourself accountable. What? That’s even more scary!

So, as I said to myself before I went for my recent level 1 cycle training session ‘it can’t be more scary than having your head sliced open’ so I made a list of goals and milestones for 2017 and here they are. (Some are work related goals, some projects I’d like to make from my Ravelry Favourites and others are personal fitness goals).

Read 6 books in 2017. This may not seem much but I still have problems with concentration.

Start driving again before the end of February. I had to stop driving when my tumours were diagnosed and haven’t driven for 7 months and the longer I leave it the more nervous I’m getting.

Walk from Hove to Rottingdean by 1st April 2017. 7 months off work has meant I’ve put on a lot of weight. I’m horribly unfit and need to shift my bum.

Cycle from Hove to Kemp Town by 1st May 2017. I never cycled as a child but learned as an adult and am hilariously wobbly on two wheels.

Knit a top down garment. I’ve been in love with Bristol Ivy’s Svalbard for a long time now so this will probably be the design for tackling this technique

Design a stranded colourwork garment using some of my Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumperweight stash.

Design using the double knitting technique. I recently learnt to do this intriguing technique and loved the results

Complete the 31 day challenge then commit to blogging regularly twice a week

Publish 12 new designs by the end of 2017 whether independently, collaboratively or in a magazine

De clutter my office of excess knitting books and my loft of excess yarn by the end of 2017. Contrary to popular belief you can have too much.

All I can say is watch this space

J x

Put simply..thank you

31 Day Challenge Day 11

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First I must apologise for this post being a day late and once you’ve read this post I hope you’ll understand why.

Having used a PC for more years than I care to remember, after a LOT of nagging from Sam I eventually made the move to Apple last year and treated myself to a MacBook. Fast forward 14 months and I still haven’t really got to grips with how the damn thing works and yes, ok so there’s been a very good reason why. Whilst the day to day stuff is very straightforward my brain just ‘flatlines’ when it comes to loading new programs as this works very differently on a Mac compared to the Windows platform. So with some design work to complete I needed to invest in some new charting software and thought, having heard lots of good things about it, that I’d give Stitchmastery a try. Well TRY I did….and try…and try…then I gave up because my brain had had enough….then I tried again (and just to clarify the fault lies with me not the program). Throughout this process I emailed Cathy at Stitchmastery for technical help and though I must have driven her to absolute distraction she was prompt in replying, patient, polite and incredibly helpful.

So Cathy whilst this isn’t the most innovative use of your genius charting software (I hope you’ll excuse my first attempt at using it) I just wanted to say a huge thank you