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, 24 January 2016

On the Needles: Twinkle Mitts

At the moment I’m knitting up my latest design,Twinkle mitts. It’s actually the second pair as the first pair were made for a birthday present for a friend. These mitts are about as girly as I get - I think they are unashamedly feminine but still practical and not over fussy, so should hopefully appeal to a lot of different tastes.

 They are knitted in the round using the magic loop technique with a longish circular needle, but you could also knit them using a set of DPNs (double pointed needles) instead. Personally, I favour using the Magic Loop technique as it feels a little easier than wrestling with DPNS, particularly at the start before you have knitted many rounds, and also if you are knitting on the move you won’t have the risk of losing one of your DPNs underneath someone else seat on the train etc……. (Let’s not mention the Port Talbot to Paddington train incident shall we?……). I also love that with just one type of needle you can knit flat or in the round, even for small items like socks and mitts.

I’ve used one of my favourite yarns too - Rowan Felted Tweed - I just love the rustic tweediness and that it’s in a slightly finer than standard DK weight which is great for keeping your hands warm but without hindering your movements or dexterity.

This project is small and achievable - an experienced knitter can achieve these within a week so it’s great for gift giving. It’s no dull knit however, and is packed with design details and techniques which make for an interesting knit. First you have the little bell frilled edging, and then you work twisted rib with beaded lace panel until you reach the thumb which is fully fashioned.

You can find plenty of tutorials on YouTube for these techniques - just do a search using the following phrases:
Magic Loop
knit through back loop
knitting with beads
increases and decreases

However, if you live in or near South Wales and you are someone who prefers to learn new techniques face to face then you are in luck -  I have a workshop in Swansea on 27th February called - surprisingly - Twinkle Mitts.  We’ll be covering all the techniques used to make the mitts, including a cute little gift bag to put them in. So long as you can knit & purl and follow a simple pattern, I’ll be able to help you to master all these techniques in no time. Workshop attendees will of course get a copy of the Twinkle Mitts pattern before it is available for sale via my Ravelry pattern store in March. It’s also a great way to spend a day out having fun with others who share your love of knitting. To ensure a quality learning experience places are limited to a maximum of 10, so early booking is recommended. You can click here book your place here.

I’d love to hear about what you have on the needles - or if you are between projects, what are you thinking about doing next? Don’t be shy - leave a comment below.

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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.

If you’d like to be kept informed of future posts and other news, sign up below for monthly updates and  access to a private subscribers area for exclusive additional content.