Saturday, 12 March 2016

Friday, 12 February 2016

Welcome to the Knit Nurse Pattern Reading Clinics

One thing I often hear from knitters, whether complete newbies or 'old hands', is that that they sometimes struggle with following knitting patterns. If this is an area that has proved difficult for you too then read on…..

Often knitters will just assume this is a failing on their part and they lose confidence and heart in their knitting which is a terrible shame, especially as it’s something that can easily be remedied at least to some extent, and may not be their fault at all. There may be a number of reasons why knitting patterns may be difficult to follow, not least of all the challenge for designers in translating their creations into written form and the limitations this poses when trying to describe practical activities. I’ve listed some other challenges below:

There is no single standard format
  • There are strong conventions but no set/fixed rules.
  • There are geographical/cultural preferences  and variations.
  • There is good practice but no standardised template for what should be included.

There is a need for keeping it concise
  • Includes a need to limit use of space when printing for economical and ecological reasons.
  • For clarity - too much ‘waffle’ is like white noise and you can keep losing your place - it’s easier to follow if instructions are simple, line by line and not free stream of consciousness!

They assume at least some existing level of expertise
  • One of the things I love about knitting is there is always something new to learn. However when writing a pattern it would not be feasible to start from the absolute scratch each time and it would be tedious reading for those with even a little more experience.
  • More experienced knitters will have preferences for certain things like how they work their increases, how they work their selvedges (side edges) etc. 
  • However a good pattern should try to bridge the gap a little to help the less experienced knitter, such as writing in the pattern where and how to work your increases.

Quality of the pattern
  • It is great that we can now access so many patterns on line, but the downside is that the quality if not always as good as it could be  - Check out my blog called 6 tips for writing your own knitting patterns for a little more about this subject.
  • Even with an experienced designer and the best efforts to ensure a quality pattern, it is inevitable that sometimes errors will occasionally creep into the publishing process - it’s not as easy to spot a mistake on a pattern instruction as it is when you are reading a normal sentence or paragraph for one, and also things can go awry in the layout process.
  • It will also depend on the sensitivity of the designer/writer to the needs of knitters and their commitment to ensuring the pleasure of the knit for the person who knits it.
Having difficulty in following a pattern is such a common problem for knitters that I am starting a series of Knit Nurse Pattern Reading Clinics  (I am a nurse and I knit after all!) to help you to get to grips with just that. I’ll be kicking off next time with The Anatomy of a Knitting Pattern, as this will get you off to a good start on your pattern reading journeys. Over coming weeks I hope to demystify the process for many and to increase your confidence and enjoyment in your craft. 

What I’d really love to be able to do though is to help you with what you may struggle with when it comes to following patterns. I'd love to know things like:
  • Is there something you found impossible to fathom? 
  • What do you think makes for an easier or more pleasurable knit? 
  • What often trips you up or at least makes you have to think really hard to figure out what you should be doing next? 
  • What are your pet pattern peeves, or indeed pattern passions? 

Go on, don’t be shy and please join in the conversation by leaving a comment below, via my facebook page, or drop me a line. If not for your own benefit then for mine so I can make the best patterns available to humanity! As a designer I strive to ensure all my patterns are as clear and easy to follow as possible. I also like them to be concise and uncluttered to help this process, but not so concise as to leave the knitter feeling uncertain - and the best way to learn how to achieve this is by listening to what other knitters like yourself struggle with. 

To be sure not to miss any future posts, I’d like you to invite you to join my free Knitters Club. As a Knitters Club Member, you will receive no more than 4 emails per month, and often less - I don’t like a crowded inbox, and I imagine that’s the case for you too.

I usually send an “Updates” newsletter on the first Friday of the month. It’s basically a re-cap of what’s been going on over on my blog, as well as a run down of What’s Ocurrin’ locally to me and also further afield. You’ll also be first to know of any new creations or offers, and you'll have access to a members only area which I’m gradually adding to with additional content and resources exclusive to members, including the occasional free pattern.

Every now and then, I will send out additional emails if I have any extra news that I think would be of interest to you, but don't worry - nothing spammy and I will never pass on your details to third parties. 

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Thursday, 4 February 2016

Coffee Morning Fundraiser For Swansea Festival of Stitch

This August will see the 1st Swansea Festival of Stitch when Swansea will be celebrating all things Stitch and the city will be taken over by creative textile artworks for 2 whole weeks. The organisers have gathered people interested in Patchwork, Quilting, Knitting, Crochet as well as their passion, Textiles, to come together for the two weeks from the 5th to the 19th August. 
We will see Swansea bedecked with textile street art, a Makers Market, a Shop of Skills and the key exhibition centres in the city will house Textile Art. There will be a series of six workshops held in Swansea Museum from a wide range of dedicated tutors including Becky Adams and the well-known textile artists Bethan Ash and Amanda Hislop, and also Smith & Jones Knits (AKA Alison Crowther-Smith and myself). The full details of the festival are on the website:- 
To show your support for this exciting event, please come to a fund raising coffee morning at Gorseinon Institute on Sat 13th February. Entry is just £2 which will include coffee and a cake. There will be the opportunity to purchase small artworks and unique gifts you would not find on the high street, and to chat with some of the creative stitchers about their work.
Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Cultivating a Healthy & Creative 2016

I love the feeling of a fresh start that the New Year brings - a lovely blank slate that I can doodle all over with plans for the year. If you saw my New Year's post last year you'll know I'm not keen on making New Year's Resolutions as such, but I do like to have a short list of things I'd like to achieve, and I like to have a couple of life enriching principles/philosophies in mind.

Last year I was inspired by Paloma Faith's song Ready for the Good Life as an invitation for fostering optimism & positivity and being receptive to 'good stuff' instead, and I wasn't disappointed. 2015 was a fantastic and successful year for me, particularly on the hand-knitting front. I publishing my first Knitting book, Elements, with other half of the Smith & Jones Knits collaborative,  Alison Crowther-Smith. However it was also RIDICULOUSLY crammed, so much so that many other areas of life, such as home and physical fitness have been sorely neglected, so for me 2016 will be about redressing that balance. 

I had also intended to undertake a major declutter - and I made some headway with this in the early part of the year but this all came to a halt as I got so busy with other priorities - so it's going near the top of the list again......

This year my theme is Cultivation - I intend to cultivate some helpful habits, replenish my reserves, weed out anything that is not joyful, and trim back any dead wood ready for new growth.

This will mean taking a little more time for some rest, tending to my health and well being and ensuring I get some rest as well as physical exercise. It'll involve getting out in the fresh air more which will recharge the batteries and also provide inspiration - like many creatives I am hugely inspired by nature, and a good old 'soak' with the 'green stuff' does wonders for my energy levels. 

There will be careful 'weeding' of what currently fills up the space of my life, in terms of physical environment as well as what takes up time. So that's where the decluttering will come in - and I live in hopes of rediscovering the surface of my studio table which I think will require a major excavation!

Look away now if you are of a nervous (or OCD) disposition.....................................!

This will then allow space and energy for some new growth, and this year I'm planning to:
  • Get up to more creative antics with Smith & Jones Knits - you can take a peek at what we have planned here
  • Learn some new skills including improving my computer tech skills and getting to grips with creative programmes such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Teaching some new workshop topics such as Entrelac knitting
  • Develop further artistically and create some exciting creative textile pieces for the Swansea Festival of Stitch in August
If you have any plans, resolutions or themes for 2016 I'd love to hear about them, so do feel free to leave a comment below.

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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

As 2015 comes to a close....

Christmas is a busy and exciting time for most of us that celebrate it, with all the preparations and 'to do' lists and parties and events (if you're the social type, or a parent of social kids!), or if like me you may prefer to keep things simple, once the whirligig of gift shopping and preparations ceases, I batten down the hatches with my husband and moggy to enjoy some rare time for quiet and reflection. As one year comes to an end and a new one begins, it seems a very natural time for taking stock, resetting the compass and making plans for what I'd like do over the forthcoming year - yeah, I know how to party!!

Highlights of 2015

It's been a hectic and exciting year for me. I've continued to enjoy teaching workshops in Swansea including Magical Christmas Knits. We had a really fun and relaxed day in November making small gifts and ornaments including these beaded baubles -and one of the participants (who wishes to remain nameless) really got the bauble bug and has made several more, ringing the changes and making each one slightly different - aren't they great?

Another workshop highlight was Fathoming Fairisle where those that were brave also took scissors to our knitting to cut steeks. This proved to be a highly popular workshop with several folk left disappointed at not getting a place, so I'll be repeating it in April. Here's Clyde, the steeked version of the fairisle cowl I designed for the workshop.

I love teaching workshops and get a real buzz out of inspiring and enabling others to master their craft, and also learn a lot and find inspiration from others in the process. I'm looking forward to next year's workshop programme which which I've now put up on the website.

Another highlight of the year has been publishing my first book Elements in collaboration with Alison Crowther-Smith - we are known collectively as Smith & Jones knits and we have plenty of other collaborative projects in mind for the future. I designed 12 projects for Elements including the Cockleshell Cardigan featured in The Knitter magazine, shown left.

One of my favourite designs is of course the Garden Song Cushion and Blanket - I love colour work and was really pleased at how this heirloom piece turned out. Many of you have seen this design in progress and endured my shameless (and endless) tit jokes!

The book has been well received so far, and I can't tell you how exciting it is to see my designs being brought to life when I see them knitted by others. It was also a first for me to do a fashion show of all the designs with Alison and also the wonderful Martin Storey who's a pleasure to meet and is as lovely in person as his designs.

In addition to publishing Elements I've also been involved in pattern checking and tech editing for other designers and publishers. I enjoy this immensely as, not only do I get to fully indulge my inner nerd, it's really satisfying to work with others in this way to ensure the patterns and instructions are as clear as they can be, which ultimately feeds into my love of enabling other knitters to enjoy and master their craft.

As well as knitting I've continued to enjoy making textile art with Stitches Coven, a creative textiles group that I help facilitate. We held A Stitch in Time, our 3rd annual exhibition over the summer, which focussed on memories including a joint project we donated to the Alzheimer's Society. You can read more about it on our blog, and here is one of my pieces, Irka's Gingko which relates to my Polish Grand Aunt Irena.

I've had a pretty full on 2015 with some really steep learning curves, and am grateful for all the support I have been given by others - it's been a great year for me in terms of meeting new challenges and having a fun time with other folk in the process. I'm looking forward now though to having some much needed rest & recreation over the festive period. I'll also be making plans for 2016 which I'll share with you in my next post. in the meantime I hope you have a lovely Christmas if/however you choose to celebrate it, and I'd love to hear about it so do leave a comment below.

See you next year!

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