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.


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.

Off the needles - knitting through life

The last month has been eventful Chez Penguin - some good, some bad. Involving a lot of travel - some expected, some not. There has been a fair amount of stress and a lot of emotion.

But through these things one calming and comforting factor has been knitting. I find it relaxing when I travel, occupies my mind when I'm waiting around and calms me down.

With the result that quite a few projects are off the needles or making a lot of progress.

This non-stop period started with a holiday in Austria. There was less skiing than there might have been due to me picking up a knee injury at the National Veteran Fencing Champs the week before - I'm such an action woman. But that just meant that when I wasn't on the mountain there were more opportunities to sit with my feet up in the hotel enjoying delicious cake and working on a few yarnie projects.

Which, in turn, meant my vintage inspired hat and mittens were available to wear on the colder days.


And I was able to make a start on my Surf on Slate shawlette using some fab Eden Cottage Hayton 4ply which has a touch of cashmere and is a delight to knit with. 


This is an idea I've had for a while and is part of a series of shawls inspired by childhood experiences in Donegal.

The next few weeks were a sad time for my family and indeed took me back to Donegal. So the shawl was soon off the needles, as were an as yet unnamed pair of fingerless gloves - an unlabeled ball of sock yarn orphaned in a project bag was very clear on what it wanted to be.


Gloves of all types make great portable projects as do socks so I've made good progress on a couple of pairs - Hot Cross Socks  (well it was Easter) pictured in the wonderful Regia Design Line Sizzle colourway and also some with a leaf design.


And in case I got bored, there were swatches and prep for the workshop I'm teaching in France this coming week.

Now I have to figure out what projects will go to France with me and what I might get off the needles. There are Eurostar journeys and coach trips, so let's see if I can get some more socks finished and perhaps make some significant headway on one or even two lace projects. 

Emerging from the bubble - or surviving Tron

There hasn't been much in the way of activity on this blog of late. One of the main reasons is this:


This is the fencing arena for the London 2012 Olympics. Its coloured lights outlining the pistes Trondrew comparisons to a certain sci-fi "classic". Becoming known to some as the "fencingtron".

And certainly volunteering as a London 2012 gamesmaker does take you into a different world - one of long days, excitement and exhaustion in equal measures, one off experiences and lots of smiles. And I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

In my case I was actually working in the arena as a piste minder - fecning's equivalnet of a Wimbledon ball kid, I guess. My job included running up the steps on to the piste during the breaks with a chair, drinks and towels for the athlete - developing some interesting juggling skills in the process; making sure armourers, coaches, equipment etc were in the proper places; keeping things tidy and safe; and plugging and unplugging athletes into the scoring system - a task that brings you into close contact with fencers' bums and occasionally finds you fishing between their legs.

It also meant that at times I was only inches away from a gold medal adorning an excited athlete. 

It is hard not to get excited around sportspeople who have worked so hard to reach an Olympic Games. In the cases of fencing only around 30 people made it to each event, so this was a very special moment for them all as evidenced by the highs and lows of emotion. Teams almost flattening all around them as they celebrate reaching a final - I was briefly under a scrum of Romanian sabreurs - or an individual sprinting around the arena in joy. A real contrast with the loser so devastated they could barely be persuaded off the field of play.


Plus I was able to witness close up, the best and brighest in a sport I love - what could be better, especially when it is accompanied by making new friends and learning about how the behemoth of the Olympics actually functions.

In just a few days I'll be returning to the London 2012 bubble for wheelchair fencing at the Paralympics but before then I hope to share a few more of my recent experiences - some sport-related, some not.



Knit yourself for the Science Museum

The Science Museum has asked London knitters through Stitch London to craft 6inch tall models of themselves for an exhibit in June. 

The stages of mine are likely to feature here and on Ravelry. It will feature either a turquoise or a pink tunic dress, Rowan Tapestry hair & black leggings but could do with a suggestion for the shoes. I'm also wondering about making a fencing mask or sabre for it to carry...hmmmm

Welcome: Knitting and fencing but rarely together

Blueshawl (12 of 29)Hello, I'm Bronagh aka Lapurplepenguin a Northern Irish born, London-based knitting designer, tech editor and journalist 

I love my pointy sticks and when I occasionally put down my knitting, I am sometimes known to pick up a sword - or at the very least help others indulge in some sabre fencing by helping my club organise competitions and events.

Although superficially different knitting and sabre fencing share some surprising common traits (apart from getting you odd looks on the train) - storage requirements, specialist kit, strange languages and of course the pointy objects.

The blog is mainly about adventures in yarn and jewellery but will occasionally feature a spot of swashbuckling.

One thing I should explain is the name. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Ravelry as lapurplepenguin and on Instagram it is bromiskelly_lapurplepenguin so this blog belongs to a penguin with pointy sticks (knitting needles and swords). There's lots of knitting on all these feeds so do please follow me.

Purple Penguin has been an all purpose name I've used for years - long before I started a second career as a knitwear designer. It first started I think when I needed a name for a quiz team or the like. Someone said think of a couple of things you like: obviously purple and penguins.

But it then came in handy as a code in relation to knitting and dressmaking. If you are wearing a garment you made and someone compliments it, and you admit you made it, there are sometimes odd reactions. But if I say "it's a purple penguin" they nod or say really. And so my knitting superhero identity was born.

You can find more about my work and designs at lapurplepenguin.com

Shawls collection collage