Crafts from the Cwtch is the virtual home of Maker, Designer and Doodler, Sarah Knight. As you might expect, the blog includes lots of knitting and crochet and occasionally a little bit of sewing too. New posts are published on average three times a week and include tutorials, reviews, interviews, patterns and more!
On a personal level, this has been an amazing year for me - and although it may not look like it on the outside, I feel like a completely different person to the one who was sitting here a year ago. With 2017 almost over, I've been focusing on bringing closure to various things, ready for 2018. I'm intentionally doing this on both a physical and mental level, and unintentionally other things are also popping up as part of the process.
This is one project I am planning on finishing - for fun!
On the physical level, I've been clearing things out - sorting my shelves, boxing up books, donating clothes and putting old notes away. It's very cathartic and is literally making space for the year ahead. I've also been clearing myself. It's been about a month since I've had alcohol or meat, and I've almost completely cut out caffeine (a few times I've forgotten, and ordered regular tea) which is fine - I'm not saying I'm giving it up, but working on a day to day basis and 'just for today'* I don't need those things.
Following the first part of my Reiki and Seichem training, I've been practicing daily self-treatment, and meditation. I feel much better for it, despite the fact that an essential part of healing is dealing with the things that come up. One of those is needing to get closure. Like clearing the shelves, it's about making space for the new. I have lots of plans for the coming year including further training, starting a new business in the Spring, and juggling everything else a 40-something wife and mother (with an epileptic dog) has to deal with, not to mention all the things I haven't even dared to imagine yet.
This week brings the opportunity to heal and move into a new level of harmony and joy. The Father of Cups represents a stability and emotional maturity that will help you to deal with something that is coming up (again!) for you this week - maybe it's something you keep pushing down rather than dealing with it, or perhaps you haven't yet acknowledged that this 'thing' has been recurring because you've buried your head in the sand about it.
If you follow the Father of Cups' example, you will keep your head up and maintain your focus as you deal with it. Stay calm and centred. You see, you really have only two options - you can let the energy transform and release it, and experience the lightness and freedom of healing. Or you can put a lid on it, confining it to a dark and heavy place where it will become increasingly stagnant and toxic. While the metaphor works well, it's important to remember that it's not really a jar with an airtight lid - it's a place INSIDE you. Do you really want things to fester there? Or are you willing to take the opportunity to let them go?
I don't know how this will manifest for each person reading this, but the Throat Chakra card suggests that the healing process will involve speaking out, honouring your truth or letting go of something you've been swallowing back down when it arises. If you are attentive this week, you'll know what it is when it comes up, although you may already know.
However much you've been resisting dealing with this issue, know that on the other side of this healing there is something so much better. The 10 of Cups give a sense emotional completion, interconnection and joy. It's about being in energetic balance and harmony. When you find yourself in this position, be sure to share your light because that can help others too.
As I sat down to work on the 2018 Shining Life Workbook yesterday, one of the things I listed as needing to 'release' was the guilt over this blog. And then I realised that was MY thing which has been coming up and pushed back down. You see, I have an increasingly troublesome case of 'Blogger Guilt', which goes something like this:
Feeling bad about not keeping to a regular posting schedule (which I managed for over 6 years, but has gone to pot this year).
Not making things for fun any more, because I should be making things I can post here...
... and I should really be finishing the things I've already started before I start new projects for fun.
I'm turning down collaborations with lovely people and brands (that you'd like and that they'd benefit from) because I'm just not blogging very much and I don't want to commit to deadlines. I love connecting people, so this has been a tough one for me.
Not wanting to deal with the hundreds of spam comment notifications I get each week.
Knowing that half of my old posts now have no photos (they were hosted on Photobucket which now wants over £300 a year to show them) and that it would take WEEKS of work to fix the posts or even to remove them. It's such a big job that even if I had the time, I'd quickly lose the will.
So you see, this has all become a huge energy drain and I'm recognising the potential effects of that.
It's funny how you can see things much more clearly in others. A friend wrote something similar to me in an email (not about a blog, but a work situation), and I was unflinching in my advice to her. Her issue is taking up too much energy that would be better focussed elsewhere - she has to cut the ties that are holding her back. And then it hit me - I know what I need to do and I've been avoiding it. For months!
Deep down I know that I need to release the burden of this blog - maybe not forever, but certainly 'for today'. It's no longer serving me and it's time to cut the ties that leave me feeling bad. Once I'd written these thoughts on paper, a couple of things happened. First, my head started to ache. Then I got an email from someone telling me that lots of my photos aren't showing up. Then I got a load more spam notifications. If there's one thing I have learned this year (and I think there are a lot more than one) it's that the Universe will keep throwing these things at me until I deal with the issue at hand.
So this is a very (typically) long-winded way of saying that I'm winding things up here. For today. I may well be back, but I don't know when, and I'm giving myself the freedom of not feeling guilty for it. I'll keep the archive (including the patterns and tutorials) live but will turn off all commenting at the end of the year. My CftC Instagram account will still be going - I have some fun things to share with you that I haven't written about here and I'll be making my annual pilgrimage to Unravel in February - but for today, I'm officially hanging up my knitting needles.
It's been such a blast to get to know so many of you online and in person over the last (almost) 7 years. If you resonate with the changes I've been documenting here, you might like to follow me over at The Curious Cardslinger and on Instagram (my favourite). I have a new Facebook page too, but I don't like that as much as IG.
Before I sign off, I'll leave you with a final note, because sometimes I listen to my own advice. I'd like to invite you to look at anything in your own life that you really need to deal with. What is coming up for you again and again because you don't want to deal with it? How is it draining you? Imagine how much better you'd feel if you could let it go. Why don't you give yourself the gift of healing this Christmas?
*The Reiki Precepts are:
Just for today, do not be angry
Just for today, do not worry Just for today, be grateful Just for today, work hard Just for today, be kind to others.
There's nothing quite like the first weekend in December! The Elves have returned, the Christmas Tree is up and the house suddenly feels so much more magical - the children are even being lovely to one another. It's fabulous! We have grown our collection of decorations since we were first married, so pulling them out of the box feels a bit like greeting old friends. We have reminders of our first home together, of the kids' first christmases and things that have been made at school or posted on this blog. So they may not be colour co-ordinated and perfect looking (I even let the kids decorate the tree this year without rearranging anything!) but they each hold lovely memories and are part of our family history. There was just one thing I wanted to change this year - our wreath. The products used for this wreath makeover were kindly supplied by John Lewis. Affiliate links are included.
I didn't have the time (or inclination) to go to a wreath workshop (which I notice are becoming 'a thing' around here) so I did a bit of online ordering and spent a happy hour at home with a Christmas playlist in the background instead.
My aim was to introduce more sensory aspects to our new wreath - not just some colour but also light, sound, fragrance and texture. To start with I found a simple Premium Wreath (above) and removed the large plastic fir cones. I gathered a selection of objects for the makeover, (including some metallic twine) but there's only so much space on a wreath and my initial plans were a bit ambitious, so I have enough left over for additional projects too. If I have the time there'll be a new garland later this week.
I started by adding some red berries for colour, and scented ornament sticks for fragrance (I overdid these a bit by using two, broken in half and dotted around. One stick would have been sufficient, actually). It was easy enough to attach all of these onto the wreath without any glue, simply by tucking them into the backing.
Frosted fir cones were then added for their lovely natural texture and shape. I used a hot glue gun to attach these as the irregular shape needed to be stuck onto several pieces of foliage to stay in place.
The children fell in love with this adorable dog decoration, and although it's not the same colour as our Schnauzer (who is now black and silver), I couldn't resist adding him with some hot glue too.
Finally, I added some LED lights. These are the indoor lights with a battery pack (which I wrapped in a bag and stuck to the back of the wreath, which is fine as I'm using this in a covered porch (if they were out in the elements, I would have had to find an alternative).
Above you can see how it looks with the lights on. Below you'll see how it looks on the front door in daylight. I'm really please with how it turned out. The scent - if still a little overpowering - was a nice addition and I love the lights. The bell makes a satisfying noise when the door closes, too. Decorating the wreath was a lovely start to a memorable weekend - the first of a Christmas where the eldest child knows ALL about the real magic behind the festivities and is happily joining in to make it very special for his sister.
The cold weather always brings with it the desire to cast on new projects. When the urge struck me at the weekend, I looked at the unfinished projects already on the shelf and decided whatever I started would have to be finished in one sitting. There was only one thing for it. Big needles, chunky yarn and something incredibly simple! In fact, I had it finished and on my head within a couple of hours.
After raiding my stash, I decided on Lana Grossa Lala Softness in colour 006 - from LoveKnitting (affiliate). It's a blend of 40% Polyamide, 40% Virgin Wool and 20% Mohair and has a hollow-mesh tubular construction so it's very soft and warm but very lightweight. The recommended needle size for the yarn is 9mm but I used 8mm with cosy Moss Stitch. I used just under 33g so have some left from one 50g ball.
Moss stitch requires an odd number of stitches and I wanted something quite wide to keep my head warm (even with a ponytail) so I cast on 21 sts. That gave me a width of 15 cm. My head measures 48 cm around the place I wanted to wear this accessory, so I bound off after 46 cm, leaving a tail for sewing the ends together.
After sewing the ends, I made a second smaller rectangle with 7 stitches and knit for 16 cm, then wrapped it around the join in the main piece, stitched the two short ends together and secured in place with a few stitches.
Two rectangles. Hardly any time at all. Perfectly cosy for walking the dog! If you want to make one, either with the same yarn or by raiding your stash, here's the summary.
Decide on the required width and measure around the area of your head you'd like to wear it - for me, that's from the nape of my neck to the middle of my forehead.
Make a swatch to work out how many stitches you will need to cast on for the required width (I admit that I guesstimated the number so that the item was my swatch, and it was fine so I carried on). See how much the swatch stretches - do you need to allow for stretching with the finished length, if so, adjust your measurements accordingly.
The stitch pattern for EVERY row is as follows: (K1, p1) to last stitch, k1
Make the large rectangle a few cms smaller than the required length, bearing in mind the amount of stretch in your swatch.
This post is not related to crafting, but as Crafts from the Cwtch has been the place I've shared about my life journey as well as my explorations in yarn craft, it feels like it belongs here. It was originally published on my other blog, but it's really a follow up to this post, THIS ONE, this one, this one, and this. Since the post went live, I've had the nagging feeling that it needed to be published here too and that posting it might even help with the particular 'ouch' I've written about below. If there's one thing I've learned this year, it's to follow my intuition, so here goes!
Rebecca Campbell recently said the things that got us to this point may not be obvious, except in retrospect - when we look back on our path and can make out the invisible thread that joined the dots to our current destination. Each point along the route - each 'dot' - prepared us by educating and guiding us, providing a stepping stone to the next thing. All of which culminated in the current point, itself merely another step.
Deck: The Enchanted Map (trimmed) by Colette Baron-Reid, illustrated by Jena DellaGrottaglia
On reflection, I can already connect some of my dots and I see they form a strange and deviated line which stretches waaaay back. For many years I heard whispers that I didn't quite understand. There were nudges. I felt drawn to certain things that deeply touched me and I'd open my mind for a while, only to have it close again amid the busy-ness of daily life. Yet I stashed books that I didn't read, I held onto certain articles, and made notes of random things in my journal. I wasn't paying conscious attention but I was unknowingly nudged along regardless, putting things aside until the time was right. Over the last year or so (since I've been developing my intuition / spiritual connection), I often found unread books on my Kindle, or handwritten notes with links to helpful websites scrawled in margins on exactly the topic I wanted to explore. In some cases, I'd already connected to people who could help me.
At 43 (43 years as a practical, factual, non-religious person) I've started reading Oracle/Tarot cards, learning about Reiki healing and universal consciousness! If I think about it rationally, it seems too bizarre to be true however in my gut (that most knowing of places) I finally feel as though I'm stepping towards my calling. In her first book, Rebecca Campbell encouragingly wrote:
You're never too old to answer your calling and it can never be too late. For the truth of the matter is that your soul is always calling, it was calling yesterday, it is calling today, and it will be calling next week.... Answering the calling of your soul isn't a one-time act; it's a perpetual conversation. It's not about doing one big thing, or finding one single answer to the big question 'What's my purpose?' It's doing hundreds and thousands of little things in that direction, one after the other. It's through following each and every little call - a step here and a leap there - that we find ourselves living the life we are called to live. - Light is the New Black (p105)
My 'dotted line' has delivered me to this point at which I have a commitment to work on myself (through daily meditation, energy healing, developing my intuition, Tarot and so on) and to helping others. That's apparently something else I've been accidentally doing for some time. All of this has been showing up in my personal card-readings and in my choice of books for a while. It still is. After trimming The Enchanted Map deck I pulled three cards, which I posted on Instagram with the following interpretation.
From The Enchanted Map, details above
What are you being called to Heal? Yourself, others, the planet? The truth is that they are all aspects of the same thing, so you can't truly heal one in isolation. When you recognise this, it is clear that you must start with yourself.
It's not something to take lightly, because it takes commitment and a conscious intent to heal your 'Ouches' and it likely begins with forgiveness and acceptance (of yourself and then others). The Commitment card usually indicates a partnership, but here I see it as a reconciliation - a bringing together of all the parts of yourSelf that need healing - of accepting your 'inner child' and forgiving all that has happened, and gone before. Being in a loving partnership with yourself, then.
The good news is Universal Energy (Source/Spirit) is your co-creator and it enables you to manifest your thoughts as your experience of reality. To heal, you need to use your thoughts *intentionally*. The clue is in the title - a Gentle Gardener nurtures the new life that's growing by removing weeds, pruning things that have grown unruly, and protecting the crops from threats such parasites and harsh weather. You can do the same with your thoughts - you'll be manifesting them anyway, whether they are for the greater good depends on your intentions.
The numbers here are interesting - if you work backwards you can see that mindful co-creation (2) + commitment (36) = Healing (38).
I often 'micro-blog' little three-card readings like this on Instagram, and I don't usually go back to them, but when I clicked through to see a comment someone had left, I re-read the words and could hardly recognise myself in them. Or rather, I recognised so much of my real self in them, it made me feel uncomfortable that I'd posted. There felt like a disconnect when I suddenly recognised this as an(other) Ouch I need to deal with. The feeling I had (of self-doubt) hit me so hard, other things started to make sense too. For example, I had an Energy Healing session this week and the practitioner had said "everything is there, and ready to flow, but something is blocking it, and the word I got was Confidence." In everyday life I'm sure I'd be described as a confident person, but in this area, I'm not. Yet.
With perfect timing, Rebecca Campbell was running a Facebook Live Q&A session as I typed up this post. Someone asked a question and Rebecca's answer was about speaking your truth, putting your work out there without being attached to people's response to it. I know that, and have said it myself to others, but in this respect it still feels a bit 'ouchy'. I'm working on it.
While I do, I'll leave you with this question - which Ouch(es) do YOU still need to heal? You can find the 'Heal Thy Self (Healthy Self) Spread' here, and the 'New Moon in Scorpio Spread' here, which might be helpful in figuring it out. If you don't use Oracle or Tarot cards, you might still use the questions as journal prompts, especially if you 'freewrite' - even though we are out of the new moon phase. You can learn how to freewrite here. If you'd like to read more posts on the topic of Oracle cards, Tarot, insightful exercises you can try at home, and reviews of products related to all things 'woo', take a look at The Curious Cardslinger Blog. You can also find a new page on Facebook and I'm on Instagram - I tend to post there most days so feel free to come and say hello. I know some you you already found me there and I love to hear from you.
When Sara Millis told me her new book was about starting a Craft Business*, I intended to post a review - I know lots of readers are considering this, or already running small businesses, and considered it might be useful. While reading the book, however, I invited Sara to join me for a conversation about her background and how she built her own business with just a £100 investment. I hope you will enjoy the interview and Sara's tips. At the end of the post, you'll find a link to receive a sample chapter from her new book.
Hi Sara and welcome! For those who haven't 'met' you before, can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself and your background?
Sure. Hi, Everyone! My name is Sara Millis and I am the founder of My Indie Life Blog, a place where I run courses to help creatives build their own sustainable craft businesses. I come to this from running my own successful craft supply business for 11 years, called Sara’s Texture Crafts.
All photos (C) Sara Millis, My Indie Life Blog
I didn’t start off in business for myself though, I actually started out working as a Fashion and Textile Designer working for some famous British Fashion Designers, running their diffusion lines. It feels like a world away now, but that is what I trained for originally. In 2005/6 the fashion industry changed and economically things weren’t going so well for most companies. The changing weather made the traditional seasonal collections hard to sell at times and as belts started to tighten socially, the high street was feeling the pinch. Around this time I transitioned from working with one Designer to another, where I would be relaunching the fashion line for the big time. After three months I found myself redundant, due to the company closing as the Designer preferred to remodel a multi-million dollar home instead of reinvesting in her new fashion line, proving to me that I was not immune from the fantastical whims of the fashion world. I took this as my opportunity to go freelance, partly because of the lack of full-time work and partly because I was able to choose where I worked and for how long.
Freelance design work is a wonderful thing; you get paid handsomely for a few days’ work a week. The flip side is that you work exclusively for the one company at a time and so you can find yourself twiddling your thumbs for the rest of the week. For most this would be great, but for the workaholic in me it made me itch to try something new and it wasn’t long before I found the next thing! Some friends of mine had started small businesses on eBay, which was all anyone could talk about in 2006 and they seemed to find it very easy to make money and so I played with the idea of starting my own experiment. I took £100 and invested it into some bankrupt haberdashery stock and started my own on-line eBay shop. This is where Sara’s Texture Crafts started.
The next 11 years was to prove life changing for me. I took on more stock, bought a competitor and refocused my range to work solely with wool in all of its aspects; from fleece to finished yarn. I moved from London to Devon and ensconced myself into the wool industry. By the time I sold that business back in May this year (2017) I had turned my £100 into almost 7 figures of turnover.
That's fantastic! So what prompted you to make the move from running a Craft Supplies business to mentoring others?
Whilst I was running Sara’s Texture Crafts I would get asked lots of questions about how I ran my business and often I’d help people out with advice here and there. I loved helping, I guess that’s why I loved teaching wool crafts so much. There’s a really lovely moment when you see the lightbulb click and the student ‘gets’ exactly what you have been teaching. I live for that!
In 2015 I developed some serious allergies to wool that would affect my being able to work with it in various forms and so I trimmed back my stock lines, axing the fleece I hand sourced from farms and most of my fibre braids for spinning. I had hoped this would be enough and that 2016 just being yarn would mean I could keep going. Unfortunately it wasn’t the case and so making the decision to sell my business was a hard thing that I had to take some time over… to heal.
I’ve been there and worn the ‘OMG, how did I miss that!’ T-shirt!
I was scratching around trying to think of what I could do next, what inspired me. All I really knew at this point was that I didn’t want to work for someone else and that I also had some health issues that could make me less than the ideal choice for most prospective employers anyway. Then it hit me - running your own business is really hard and there are so many mistakes to avoid. I have seen plenty of businesses falter so early, when they needn’t have. Here I was 11 years in and 11 years of learning everything the hard way. I could see a need for a mentorship programme.
Since working with Craft-Business Owners, what are the most common elements that people seem to struggle with?
Most creatives will say it’s social media, or the act of ‘selling’ that’s hardest for them, but the underlying issue for all of us creatives is understanding that we need some very basic, but essential business foundations; simple systems and strategies that will help us carry out our business in a better way today, so that we can still be here tomorrow. So it’s having a strategy for growth, or having accounting systems that are quick and easy to utilise and so on.It’s essentially the difference between building your craft business out of straw, or out of bricks. This was probably the biggest lesson I learnt from running my own business and that I see others struggle with.
How can you bring your own experience into helping to deal with these issues?
In 11 years I’ve probably come across most things that younger businesses struggle with. I’ve been there and worn the ‘OMG, how did I miss that!’ T-shirt! I’ve also had some big successes too, so there’s a bit of experience to work with there.I strongly believe that you should always be open to learning new things and that’s essential in business. So in my new business I’m not starting out all, look at me I’m big-time, instead I’m listening and learning all the time.
In your new book, you talk about how to find ‘Your Customer’. Who do you think is the ideal customer for your services?
My ideal customer is anyone who really wants to take their business idea seriously and turn it into a self-sustaining career.
But in my Academy I’m creating classes for those who are already in business and need to upskill themselves in certain areas. I teach foundation strategies and systems that will help not only teach them a subject in the moment, but also a way to adapt the lesson to integrate that new knowledge into their business going forward. I enjoyed 11 wonderful years of trading and I want others to reach and surpass that too. I also run mentoring sessions for those businesses who want a more focused, one to one help.
I enjoyed reading ‘How to Start a Craft Business’ - you have a refreshing no-nonsense approach and provide information clearly and concisely. I can imagine that even those who don’t consider themselves ‘business-minded’ would find it a useful starting point. At what point in their business would someone get the most out of reading your book?
Thank you… yes; I really wanted it to be more of a guide. I’m not a flowery person, I teach in a straight to the point manner, because I think there’s value in being clear on the lesson and so I am thrilled that came across. It’s also very important that readers feel they can achieve a sustainable business and we don’t have to be truly ‘business-minded’ from the outset… we can learn this as we grow.
I originally wrote the book to help those starting out, but have had an interesting first reaction from some of my existing clients who have already been in business for a few years. They are taking time to read the book and introduce some of the foundations I set out.
In your retail business, you went back to basics after initial success, to refine your approach. What other help can you offer to those who are already up and running, but need advice on certain aspects of their enterprise?
Always be open to learning something new. Sometimes we get stuck doing what we know, even if it’s not working and this will never get you better results in business. So if you are feeling stuck, sit down and take the time to work out what it is that’s not working for you and what you need to do to change that. Then go and learn how to put it right.
Finally, can you give us your three Top tips for anyone who is thinking about starting up their own Craft Business?
I am working on a FREE guide to help anyone with this question and in that I look at 3 things essentially;
- Understanding what your business idea looks like. - Choosing the right business model for you. - And then creating a step by step process to make your idea happen (which is the book).
It’s incredibly important when you are starting out to know exactly what you want to do, because being clear and focused from the beginning attracts and excites potential customers. It’s also important to know exactly how you will serve them, in other words deciding your business model. Many people think that running a craft business is just about making stock and selling it, but we live in an interesting time, where we can create digital products too, like knitwear designs, or self-published ebooks. So choosing a business model from the beginning will focus your creative idea further.
When you have these things in place it’s time to sit down and plan. Plan every stage of your start-up process, from; designing your brand, to setting up your website and really taking time to do each of these things. I didn’t start with any of this as Sara’s Texture Crafts which meant I had to make massive changes a few years in. Fortunately for me that worked out, because I understood my customer and the market, but for many it sees them close, which is a great loss to our creative community.
Bonus Tip: It never hurts to sit down at regular intervals and ask yourself two things; what do I need from my business and what does my business now need.
I hope that’s been helpful. If you are starting out and need more help, please contact me over at My Indie Life Blog. Thank you very much for having me Sarah!
Thank you, Sara - I wish you every success with the new venture!
The book is available on Amazon in the UK and US. If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, the book is available as part of your subscription. Sara is also offering the first chapter for you to sample. All you have to do is head over to this page, enter your email address and she will send it to your inbox. You'll also find lots of business advice and tips on Sara's blog and can follow her on Facebook and Instagram. *Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.
After not very much knitting at all, there has been knitting! Hoorah! I have been (past tense) making great progress with a new project which combines Scheepjes Stone Washed XL with their new River Washed XL (the same content as Stone Washed, but with a coloured central fibre and coloured outer layer). It's smooshy, made up of relaxing knits and purls and is in my favourite colours - project perfection. I'm planning to publish it as a beginner-friendly pattern pretty soon. By which I mean 'whenever it's finished'.
The sample-knitting might have been finished already had The Book of Dust not arrived on my Kindle first thing this morning (while I stalk Amazon for delivery of the hardcover edition). Until that's finished, all bets are off. I'm currently wavering between devouring it really quickly to know the story, or savouring each chapter slowly. Perhaps both, in that order - delayed gratification isn't something I'm good at.
There was another knitting delay last week, though. I had a mini-holiday in Brighton with the 'besties' I've known since I was 11. It's been FIVE years since we had a break together and there was a lot to catch up on - our regular Sunday night FaceTimes are great, but aren't the same. I didn't even take so much as a 'handbag sock' or a sketchbook with me, so they could have my full attention - they deserve it after 32 years. We realised quite how much we've been through in that time. Births, deaths, marriages - everything, really. These are friends for life.
Brighton is teeming with colour and life, even when overcast
Despite being the same age, we are at different stages of parenthood - my son is the eldest so I'm dealing with the transition from child to teen (he changes daily - seriously - it's very disconcerting) and taking those first tentative steps beyond the familiar (new school, new friends, going out with those friends unsupervised - eek!) meanwhile the youngest of my friends' children is just two - that's a whole different level of parenting that we left behind some time ago. It's good to chat about it all, to help process the changes and challenges and to celebrate what's going well. And a lot is.
Personally, the last few weeks have brought a great deal more clarity and although I don't have a destination in mind, I've made a few decisions regarding my next steps. One of those was finding a Reiki Teacher, with whom I'll commence training next month. As recently as a few years ago I would have poo-pooed any notion of "healing" using Reiki, which probably tells you a lot about the changes in me. The shift that has been happening slowly, but has come to the fore over the last year or so.
No one has ever had the complete, perfect plan. There is no end destination. There is no right or wrong way to do it and you do NOT need permission from anyone else. Don't put so much pressure on yourself. Forget about the outcome, the plan, and just start now by following one thing that fills you up, that gets you out of bed and you're enthusiastic about. And then reach for another. It doesn't have to make sense - the best things never do.... As Steve Jobs said, 'It's only in looking back that the dots begin to connect,' but first, you gotta get busy creating some dots. - Rebecca Campbell, Light is the New Black p111.
The story of the 'dots' that got me to this point is probably one for another day but in the meantime, I wish you a wonderful weekend! I'll be back soon with a reader giveaway and some great new products you might like to consider for gifting season - I'm not sure whether I'll run an official gift guide this year, but I do have some lovely things to show you.
STOP THE PRESS: I almost forgot to mention that I have been nominated in the dotcomgiftshop Blog Awards - thank you so much to everyone who has already voted and to those who might like to. Placing your vote here also enters you into a prize draw!
Following the success of her (gorgeous) mix-and-match monster book, Kerry Lord's latest offering is a beautiful collection of doll patterns, in the form of Edward's Crochet Doll Emporium*. Available from today, you will have plenty of time to 'get your crochet on' for the festive season and I suspect that once you start making these gorgeous characters, you won't want to stop.
All photos by Kirsty Noble, used with permission of Pavilion Books
The patterns are based around two standard templates - one for complete beginners and one for more advanced crafters - with the main differences being in the detail of hair construction, the addition of fingers etc. There are 23 different head and costume options which can all be mixed together easily, using the split pages (it's a flip-book), to create a mini version of anyone!
Kerry Lord... and Kerry Lord!
Of course, you can also go beyond the patterns to personalise the clothing, hair and accessories as much as you wish - you can really let your imagination run wild. Kerry also suggests embroidering make-up and tatttoos to make a perfect replica of your person.
The book isn't just about making crochet versions of 'real' people though - the dolls would make lovely playmates for children. I think many will choose to make one or two dolls and a whole wardrobe of different outfits, as they are all removable. There are 25 different dolls in the Gallery section for inspiration.
Full patterns and detailed instructions are provided for all aspects of making and finishing, and they are arranged in order of complexity so even if you haven't tried amigurumi before, you'll be able to make a start with more basic options to build your confidence.
The book itself has a hardcover with spiral-binding so it lays flat for easy reference. With a clear font and layout, it's easy to read and full of beautiful photography from Kirsty Noble. It's a real beaut and I think would also make a lovely 'coffee table book' for flipping through, between use. Or a beautiful gift for a crocheter.
The Long-Tail Cast On is one of my preferred methods, and when only a few stitches are needed, it's pretty easy to 'guestimate' how long the tail should be, plus it doesn't really matter if it's a bit too long as you can always cut it when sewing in the ends. However, there is a little 'trick' I was taught by a friend when I first started to knit. She advised me to estimate the tail length when I need to cast on a lot of stitches, because it's really frustrating to cast on a few hundred stitches before you realise you don't have enough!
Wrap the required yarn around the needles you will be using TEN times (you can use any number, but ten keeps it easy). Then unwind the yarn from the needle, keeping a note of the length used.
Once you know how much yarn you will need for ten stitches, it's easy to estimate how much to leave before making the first stitch in your Long Tail Cast-on. Be sure to leave a little extra to allow for sewing in the ends. In the example below, there is enough to cast on 80 stitches.
I just used this method for a new project, which will become a beginner-friendly pattern - stay tuned for more information, or you can already catch a few sneaky peeks on my Instagram feed.
As a big fan of meditative knits, I often find myself zoning out while I'm knitting. Usually it works out fine, because I favour simple projects, but as I was reminded last week (while swatching), it can be easy to lose track of the pattern repeats when you're not really paying attention and knitting in the round. Prior to starting the real project, I'll be sure to make 'Pattern-Repeat' Stitch Marker - they are so easy and take a few seconds to prepare but can save a lot of frustration! It doesn't look like I've ever shared this tip before, so here goes...
Click the image to enlarge/clarify
As you can see from the pictures, you only need a small piece of yarn in a contrasting colour. The actual amount will depend on the needle size and number of rounds in the pattern repeat, in this example I've used Scheepjes BonBon and left spaces which are big enough for a fairly large needle, for a four-row pattern repeat, but you can customise it to suit any project.
To use the marker, simply put the first loop/section at the beginning of the first round of the stitch- pattern, then when you get to the marker again, change it so that the second loop/section is on the needle, and so on. Continue until you have worked the final round of the stitch pattern.
When you need to restart the pattern repeat simply put the first (top) loop of the marker back onto the needle.
Note that beads add extra weight which can be nice, so it really depends on the size of the project whether it's worth adding them. I put these on as a reminder that you can make your marker as fancy as you like.
There comes a point when it's been so long since you've written anything, you're not quite sure where to start. This is the position I've found myself in, and it seems as though there is now too much to catch up on, so I'm just going to dive right in. Contrary to the evidence, neither this blog or the blogger have expired yet, but the reason for the provocative title will become apparent.
Portuguese tomatoes, as seen on Instagram
I can't believe it's already heading towards the end of September and the Autumn equinox*. The kids have settled quickly into the new term and routine, including MB who has taken to Secondary School like a duck to water, despite all the homework... and the hormones! My husband is onto another (stressful) project in London, and I'm sitting here with the dog (whose epilepsy seems to be under control, thanks to twice-daily medication) and a million ideas zooming around in my head. Our incredibly relaxing family vacation already feels like an eternity ago.
Loulé Market, Portugal
It always takes me a while to adjust after the Summer - the house suddenly seems really big and empty and I find it difficult to settle when the sun is still shining outside. However today's early morning chill meant I was able to wear my Soundwaves Cowl and it made me feel quite excited to get some new projects on the needles and hook. In fact, it was reassuring because I haven't been in the mindset for yarn-crafting for a while - mostly due to a combination of warm weather, a million other things to do, and residual aches from a bout of repetitive strain. New things will be good!
Scheepjes Rhythm in Mohair & Alpaca - find it at Wool Warehouse & other stockists
Speaking of new things, did you see that you can now import your Ravelry patterns to use on the LoveKnitting App (reviewed here)? For me, this is great news as I hate printing patterns out and have an extensive Ravelry library accumulated over the last six years. I love that I can access the patterns on the LoveKnitting App on my iPad and iPhone (I don't go far without my phone) and I'm thinking of making it easier to access some of my patterns which I've provided for free on the blog, by making PDF versions available for a very small nominal fee. What do you think? Would that make it easier for you to use them?
Anyway, let's come back to the title of this post. I keep hearing that 'blogging is dead', that 'no one reads blogs anymore'. That micro-blogging and social media are the way forwards. It's certainly true that it's quicker and more immediate to share something on Instagram these days. See something that catches your eye? SNAP! It's shared with your followers in a matter of seconds. And they respond in a way that isn't happening here anymore - where once there would be loads of feedback and community comments, now there are just a few reader comments and lots of SPAM. Another plus for Instagram.
The last few Dahlias have already been picked
Being a stubborn (Taurean) Blogger, I refuse to believe that blogging is dead, however I'm also thinking about the way that content is delivered to you in the future. My earlier foray into Periscope broadcasts was fun and I am considering Facebook Live and Instagram Stories as I prepare the Autumn and Winter schedule - there may be a few changes accordingly, although I'm still weighing the pros and the cons (such as me and my studio needing to look more presentable than we currently do, and preferring to be behind the camera). Of course, there's another issue - video content is easy to share and consume, but I actually LIKE TO WRITE. The process of doing so gives me clarity that I don't get from talking at myself on a screen. It's the reason I keep journals too. So I'm still not sure about the future, but would love to hear your thoughts. Is blogging a waste of time? Would you prefer bite-sized snippets on social media instead?
For today though, it's good to be back at my desk and to find my fingers flying over the keys like I haven't been away for so many weeks. I have some yarn and book reviews coming up very soon, as well as a few new patterns that I'm working on, so I'll certainly be back before too long.
* I've written some personal development prompts for the equinox here - they are presented in a Tarot spread format as I use Tarot to help with my journaling, but would also work as straight journal prompts if you don't use any cards. Feel free to use the questions in any way that works for you, if you're so inclined.
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