photographs

Making a new (or several) new starts

This used to be an active blog with plenty of updates about projects, making, yarns etc - and then it wasn't.

Part of the reason might have been the amount of blog content I was writing elsewhere, but the main reason was that life happened.

2015 was a tough year. It is one that I will always associate mainly with grief and physical pain. 

Which isn't to say that there weren't any highs. There were opportunities to take on new projects that draw on a range of my skills, I won two competitions for knitting design, chances to visit new places and great times with family and friends.

image from www.lapurplepenguin.comMy wining design for Knitting magazine

But grieving and dealing with pain used up a lot of energy and as much as I am by nature a battler, I ran out of steam. So much so that for a while I was finding it hard to pursue opportunities and even to set fingers to keyboard. My head was still buzzing with ideas but I wasn't always getting them out there.

As  result I entered 2016 needing some change and the first quarter of the year has been focused on achieving that.

Some of that has been physical. The start of the year featured a lot of physio and rehab exercise which means I'm in less pain and am more active. Last week I attended my first fencing session in nearly a year. Getting back to those particular pointy sticks was energising and gave me a boost for other activities.

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But mainly the change is about my work focus. I have stopped working on something that I was no longer enjoying and which was perhaps stopping me chasing other opportunities - and already I'm replacing that lost income from new projects and expanding existing one.

Although I've laughed at the Japanese idea of decluttering by holding each object in your hand and only keeping those that give you a feeling of joy - it would probably take a life time to go through my clutter - I have been doing something similar mentally in terms of work and goals.

Part of this process is giving time to (and keeping that time) for doing what makes me feel positive lifewise as well as workwise, which means:

  1. Setting aside time to blog regularly including:
    - completing the promised set of posts on decoding cable knitting
    image from bromiskelly.typepad.com

    - talking more about the creative projects I'm involved in and why you might like them too
    - sharing the development of designs and patterns
    - reviewing the new yarns I try
    It may also means reviving a second blog for my political and social issue musings

  2. Making part of my working week about my own designs which means:
    - sorting out my sketch book and the assorted other scraps of paper
    - writing up designs I've already made
    - giving myself a kick up the backside about actually submitting designs to magazines etc. I did this in the last few days and have a commission as a result. Just need to do it more
    - taking more pictures
    Sketch book

  3. Teach more. I love helping people develop new or improve their skills whether that be knitting and crochet, business and social media or other crafts such as jewellery or braiding. So I will be developing some new workshop ideas and looking for opportunities to teach. If you are looking for a tutor for an event check out what I can do and get in touch.

  4. Allow myself time for learning and creativity. Some people might think that someone whose working life involves writing and working with knitting patterns might have plenty of creativity going on already. But stimulation beyond work is important to keep you active and fresh.
    Towards the end of last year I took a couple of online photography courses. This meant setting aside time to join online seminars and to do my homework. I found that not only did I learn a lot from the classes but the homework time was stimulating for all my creative projects.
    So the plan for this year is to have some time each week to do more online courses or attend a workshop and also to explore new sewing and jewellery-making techniques. With this in mind I've signed up to a sewing magazine and started an online wire weaving courses, so expect more posts on these topics as well as more experiments in resin.

    Wire weaveEarly wire weaving attempt

Even writing this has made me feel positive so I'm looking forward with new energy and new plans. Roll on the remainder of 2016 and beyond.


Old rope to shawl: Inspiration to design

I've been thinking about inspiration a lot recently and how it strikes.

It is difficult to explain how a piece of washed up rope or the beach you played on as a child turns into a shawl in your mind. And I'm still working on how to express the process.

But while I'm thinking I though I'd share a few examples of inspirations and the knitted object that emerged.

Complete inspiration collage


Missing-in-action penguin returns

I've realised that since London 2012 the Penguin has been very quiet. 

Some of that was being happily exhausted when the Paralympics finished and having 1,000s of Games photographs to edit.

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Peacock versus Pistorius - the men's T44 100m final

And a lot of it is down to being very busy with work - some of which I haven't been able to talk about, and a lot which involved writing articles and blog posts for my various professional roles.

So this post will serve as an update list of what I've been up to - at least as much as I can tell you.

So plenty of writing in the past few weeks from social care policy to new knitwear designers - look out for my pieces in The Knitter and Simply Knitting in the coming months (obviously the social policy stuff will be elsewhere).

I now also work part-time for the London Jewellery School - the place where I learnt most of my jewellery making techniques. I look after web and blog content, social media, press, advertising and membership which means I've been writing plenty of blog posts for that site instead of here. It's very educational and inspiring being around the classes and seeing the work of all the students wether doing one-day courses or a full diploma programme. So I've been working on my own jewellery which means I'll hopefully be updating the etsy shop soon.

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Agate and wire necklace

Meanwhile I'm also blogging over at Planet Handmade where I'm working on the content our full launch. If you don't know about Planet Handmade, I'd recommend follwoing the link and having a look at our blog but in summary it goes like this...

Planet Handmade is the brainchild of former editor of The Knitter and all round craft PR guru Juliet Bernard. It is an online hub for designer makers across all the handmade sectors - from metalwork and woodturning to jewellery and ceramic with of course plenty of yarn and textiles in the mix. Planet Handmade will support designer makers by providing relevant business and other information and promote them to retailers, stylists and the press. It will also campaign abpout attitudes to craft skills and the handmade.

One of the first things we've been getting exercised about are the changes to how textiles - especially yarn - have now to be labelled. The new EU rules have been drafted by someone who clearly knows nothing about yarn or textiles. If you want to marvel at the stupidity of rules that make no distinction between superfine merino and the cheapest coarse wool, do have a read. In the course of looking at this issue, I appear to have become something of an expert on the matter...

Knitting has also been featuring heavily in both my working life and downtime - now there's a surprise. I've been working as a tech editor on a number of interesting projects brining me into contact with some beautiful patterns - which probably deserve a post of their own once I check what has been released so far.

I've also been knitting for a London College of Fashion project. I can't reveal even a glimpse of what I'm working on but I can say that it is a new an exciting challenge because I'm interpreting the designer's drawings to create full garments with unique features. It requires a problem solving ability, knitting skills and an understanding of how fabrics behave. I look forward to being able to share the results and to talk about the experience in full.

IMG_2586As with the jewellery, all this exposure to design in the raw has sparked my own creativity.

Current swatches range from the super-fine for a 1920s inspired idea to super chunky (below).

The super-fine idea came from seeing some beautiful yarn and catching up with some TV drama in the same day. I was already besotted with the yarn and then I fell for a sweater on TV. Moare as the idea develops.

Meanwhile I was swatching for the secret LCF IMG_2616project when I started thinking about what it would be like to knit lace this big.

So I got some of the yarn for myself and started experimenting, and a bolero jacket using shawl shaping techniques was born.

I'm not quite ready to reveal the finished product but using shawl techniques in big wool adn needles raises some interesting thoughts. Is lace itself, plus provisional cast-ons and short row shaping, difficult because we think of doing it in fine yarn and on tiny needles? Would it be a good introduction to these techniques to do them "big"?

Despite all of this I did make it to Ally Pally last week. And I even know what most of the haul is for. The purple Fyberspates yarn is for long gloves for a December wedding, the brown Nimu will be a scarf for Mr Penguin and the Rowan Lima had to be bought after I was talked into buying a copy of Designer Knitting containing some fabulous cable patterns.

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So now we're up-to-date, I'll no my very best to post interesting and informative - or at least yarn-obsessed - items on a more regular basis.