The words, they will not flow.

A large part of my work this year has been pattern designing. Off the top of my head, I can think of seven patterns which I have designed and have yet to be published. Why? Mainly because there seems to be a barrier between the knitting part of my brain and the descriptive, writing part. Look see, I’ve even forgotten the word I wanted to describe being able to transfer one’s thoughts coherently into words! Oh dear.

I am a visual learner. Charts are my jam. Give me a lace chart or a cable chart and not a lot will phase me. Written knitting instructions (unless it is as simple as “knit the next twenty five rounds”) really slow me down. By the time I’ve finished reading a line on a complex pattern, I’ve forgotten the first half!

I think that I have a similar issue with pattern writing. I would love to chart everything, publish the .pdf and say “voila! Enjoy!”. However, if I want to charge for my patterns (and on the whole I quite like earning a living!) I need to offer them as well written as I can.

I have a wonderful tech editor who can make sense of the most nonsensical sentences that I can write. In at least two of my patterns I have muddled and fudged my way through an explanation of a stitch pattern and Maria has taken them and turned them into something that people outside of my brain can understand! This skill cannot be minimised, and is all the more wonderful (and humbling!) given that English is her second language!

Currently I am preparing to publish a selection of patterns designed specifically for our new Cartref Yarn line. The idea was to have the patterns ready to sell at Wonderwool Wales when we started selling the yarn. However, life and all its accoutrements got in the way and so I am still writing the patterns.

In no small part is this a result of my brain weasels being especially nasty and derogatory so far this year. A lot of my yarny friends seem to be struggling with their own mental health this year and I can sympathise completely. Add to that the sort of brain fog which leaves me struggling to separate and order my thoughts, and this has not been conducive to lucid writing.

I’ve buckled down today though. I’ve sent two patterns to my tech editor, and I’m part way through another. Which sent me here to moan and whine at you. The pattern I am currently working on is for colourwork mittens in the Scandinavian style, but I’ve added my own influence to them. Influence isn’t the word I want; what is it? Flavour? Style? (Do I have a style?!)

The mittens use two colours of yarn; in the pattern I recommend our natural undyed and then any of the colours of Cartref Yarn that you fancy to pair with it. They would all work equally well! I have made the charts and will not be writing out line by line instructions, but by necessity there is some writing and I’m really struggling. It’s the writing equivalent of the way you talk when you’re really drunk and really tired. You go round in circles for ages to get your point across when you could have used nine words and got the job done, saving much reading time, paper and ink. Much like this blog post in fact. Meandering. That’s a good word.

Maybe it’s exhaustion. Maybe it’s the three children (and the dog) taking up so much of my brain, there’s only the tiniest bit left for logical thought. Maybe I’m not actually someone who is good with words (stick to the yarn, Jennie). Maybe it’s all the depression. Whichever one it is, while Maria is willing to plough through the pattern drafts I send her way and while ideas are struggling to get out of my brain into the bright sunshiney world I will keep trying to commit those ideas to paper. You never know, one of these days I might get the hang of it!

 

How is it May already?

In my head, the year is in the form of a clock. I’ve always visualised the year like this, for as long as I can remember. However, sometimes my calendar-clock lets me down.

IMG_20190505_113734540

For instance, here we are now at approximately 26 minutes past 2019. In my brain, it’s about ten to 2019, or 2018:50 if you will. This is very problematical when I’m working to longer range deadlines. As you can imagine, I am continually being shocked by time having moved more swiftly than my brain can compute!

Since I last wrote here, lots has changed. We got a dog! Her name is Molly and she is half poodle, half Golden Retriever and is a beloved addition to the family.img_20190504_192432817839970868862274483.jpg She has been featuring quite regularly on my Instagram account if you follow me there. Also, I am now the mother of an official adult. My oldest turned eighteen at the start of April and, to reinforce the point, he received his first polling card through the post yesterday!

In business news, Work-Wife Zoë and I have launched a whole new yarn line! This accounts for my radio silence over here, as the first few months of this year were largely spent on writing patterns and creating colourways. All of which were a secret until after Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March, which was the arbitrary date we had given ourselves to tell the world about Cartref Yarn. I’m really proud of this yarn. It is 100% Welsh, the fleece having been sourced in Wales, then gone through a Welsh mill to produce the final gorgeous yarn. We then brought it home to Cardiff and Barry Island and dyed it here. It hasn’t yet crossed a border, with the exception for a few trial miniskeins that we sent out for review! That yarn will be launching online next Friday, so if you like a proper woolly wool, please have a look at our website and our Instagram account.

img_20190427_0953436497884231828034996893.jpg

I know a lot of you enjoy the vlogs that Zoë produces about our trips away, so you’ll be glad to hear that there’s one for our recent trip to Wonderwool Wales. The usual shenanigans and tomfoolery can be expected!

Finally, I’m in the midst of planning a lovely big shop update for next Saturday evening. I’ll be sending out a newsletter to announce the exact time once I’m confident I can get all of the pictures taken and listings written!

Four new patterns!

Well, what a busy couple of months! Since I last wrote we’ve had our first Knit-Tea Retreat, which was wonderful! I’ll be writing a couple of posts on our website soon if you’d like to hear all about it.

In Owl About Yarn news I’ve been to a couple of yarn festivals this last couple of months. West Wales Wool show is always a delight to be at, and I was at Festiwool for the first time on this past weekend. But now I’m all done with yarn festivals for the next few months and so I’ll have time to focus on my online shop and on designing.

I have four new patterns out that I wanted to tell you about, all available on Ravelry and shortly in my Etsy shop too. First up, is a cowl I designed for the recent retreat and published in the retreat booklet for our attendees. The Insole Court Cowl is a simple DK weight pattern which knitters at every stage could manage. If you can knit and purl, you can make this!

20181007_213045

The second and third patterns are a set, although available individually. The Raining Sideways Hat and Raining Sideways fingerless mitts are again in DK weight, featuring a variation on a herringbone stitch. If you put them both in your basket and buy them together on Ravelry, you will get the second pattern at half price.

20181005_113112 1 20181005_113826

Fourth and finally, last week I released the Christmas Bauble Mitts pattern. It’s the perfect festive knit, easy colourwork and you can shop from the odds and ends of 4ply weight yarn in your stash. Or, if you’d prefer, you could have a look at my next shop update and buy my 2018 Christmas bauble! In it you will receive the pattern, the yarn you need to knit the small size mitts, stitch markers, a progress keeper and a couple of Lindt chocolates! It would be a wonderful Christmassy cast on.

20181108_092106

If you’re signed up for my newsletter I’ll be emailing you about the shop update to let you know exactly when it will be. If not, why not sign up now, and then you won’t miss out!

Summer holidays

When I left school, I really thought that my life would start following a cycle of a calendar year rather than an academic one. However, what I didn’t account for was becoming a parent and my year being inextricably linked with that of my children for an (as yet) undetermined amount of time! And so, a new year is about to begin. My three children have all had their long summer holiday, during which we have managed to do both too much and yet not quite enough.

What I’m referring to is the working parent’s guilt. Of course I’ve spent time with my children, had a little holiday, gone on the odd day trip, had movie afternoons and surprise ice cream excursions. And so not a lot has happened at work because of the lack of continuity and shortened working hours. And yet there is also that guilty feeling of not quite having spent enough time with my children. The questions arise in my brain about whether I should shut down entirely in school holidays, devote myself entirely to them. But that’s not how business works, that’s not how the world works and so we muddle on through.

We’ve had a lovely holiday to Yorkshire, dropped by Nottingham and Wollaton Hall on the way home and had lunch in Sherwood Forest! There was lots of knitting time on our various journeys and while we relaxed in our wooden lodge on the North Yorkshire moors, so I did a bit of pattern designing for the upcoming knitting retreat in October and I knitted gift socks too.

Speaking of the knitting retreat, Zoe and I have found time (somehow! In between catering for the 6 children that we have between us!) to launch and sell almost all the places at our second knitting retreat which will be in Stratford-Upon-Avon next June. The third retreat (back in Cardiff for October 2019) is in the planning stages and we have some very exciting tutors lined up!

I’ve managed to squeeze in a couple of shop updates over the holidays with batts entering my shop for the first time, along with a great big wodge of gorgeous DK yarns, self striping sock yarns and gradients.

There has been other behind-the-scenes work going on, like show applications for next year, pattern designing (I have four patterns that will be coming out in the next couple of months!), stock planning and kit planning – I’ve got at least two and maybe three kit ideas in my head, one of which I plan to release this autumn, so keep your eyes peeled! I’ve been very much like a swan (minus the elegance and beauty) with not much to see but lots of work going on under the surface!

So, it’s back to school week. New uniforms have been acquired, I’ve sold a spare kidney to pay for shoes, transport has (almost) been sorted out (don’t ask, it’s a very long story!) and by the end of the week all three kids will be out for at least six hours a day and my working routine can re-emerge from the summer haze.

But first, gin!

 

Fibre East

This past weekend marked my first excursion to Fibre East, both as an exhibitor and an attendee. The journey was long (and mildly frustrating – going round the M25 and M1 on a Friday afternoon is never much fun!) but I had the company of my younger son and we chatted all the way.

It was so incredibly hot and humid on Friday. It was just the end of the heatwave but luckily I’d had the forethought to buy a couple of fans which we moved around with us while we set up the stall so that we could get a little bit of a breeze at least.

Before and after…

PicsArt_08-02-06.56.50

We had a slight issue in that the weather broke right as we were setting up. It was lucky that we were still there as the rain swiftly found its way across the floor inside the marquee and left a nice stream across the floor of my stall area! The stall was OK though. I sped up and got everything hung up on the gridwall hooks really quickly, and the only things we left on the floor were plastic boxes. And because we’d seen the main direction of the water we were able to avoid the stream when placing the boxes! Also, we were able to make very sure that the fabric I use to cover the stall at night didn’t get near to touching the ground. Imagine if I’d come in and the sheets had soaked up rainwater which had then transferred to my stock?! That would have been challenging!

We met tonnes of lovely people, some of them for the first time, others were familiar faces. But thanks to the wonders of the internet, we weren’t strangers because we’d been talking to each other for ages on Ravelry! It was really lovely to put faces to names.

PicsArt_08-02-06.43.51.png

I only had a modest haul myself from Fibre East. The bumble bee needle felting kit was bought for Zoe as per her request. The two balls were from the Yarnistry stand and contain yarn and stitch markers, a sort of lucky dip. I’ve not opened them yet because one of them is for Zoe and so I’m waiting until I see her at the weekend. The Hot Socks pearl yarn is to make a pair of socks for a very lovely kind lady. The West Yorkshire Spinners and the Yarnistry stitch markers will be going in a swap parcel to America. Finally, the fluff in the bags at the top left is angora bunny fluff and I’m really looking forward to spinning it. I’ve not spun angora before, but it was recommended to me that I spin it finely and then ply it with silk. It’s going to be gorgeous.

I think you’d agree I was very restrained! If only because almost everything I bought was from neighbouring stalls, which limited my shopping options considerably!

Of course I managed to visit the sheep before we left each day. Now I live in a city I do find myself drawn towards the animals when I get a chance to see them! Rio the rabbit on the next stall was lovely to chat to as well, although my son Ben did think I was mad for saying good morning to him!

Ben and I both enjoyed Fibre East. It was Ben’s first experience of a big yarn show, but I’m sure he’ll be back with me again if another occasion arises where Zoe is unable to come with me. He was invaluable help in that I could take a break outside from time to time, and he kept me caffeinated and hydrated! Also, just having company to work these sorts of festivals is so lovely. I’m very blessed that my best friend can come with me so often, but it’s good to know that my son has proved an able stand in.

Finally, thank you to everyone who came and saw me, bought from my stall, told me that they enjoyed mine and Zoe’s podcasts and who brought me cake (Melissa, it was sooooo gooood!!). It may have been my first trip to Fibre East, but I really hope it’s not my last!

Hot Right Now – their shawls and my yarns!

If you are a member of Ravelry you are probably familiar with the Hot Right Now pattern list. I decided it would be fun to look at some of the patterns in that list and see if I could pair them with some suggested yarns from my shop. For this blog post I am looking at shawl patterns.

Frosting by April Reis looks to be a wonderful pattern for variegated yarns. Its garter stitch construction and reversible cable edging would mean that you could pick any multi colour yarn and enjoy the knit and the look of the colours all progressing. And that tassel has to be great for fiddling with, right?!

Les Amis Shawlette by Nona Davenport is right up my alley for the sort of shawl I enjoy wearing. It calls for just one skein of 4ply/fingering weight yarn (perfect!) and is almost a cowl in that, as far as I can see, it is worked in the round for a certain amount of time and the designer mentions pulling it over your head for ease of wearing. So no shawl ends disappearing off at the first gust of wind!

The designer recommends solids or speckles. How about one of these from my shop?

Artesian by Romi Hill is another gorgeous pattern. This has been out for a few years now but is still popular on Ravelry so you might have come across it before. I think I’d enjoy knitting this from a gradient or a yarn with long colour changes. I love the geometric lace panels too.

Reyna by Noora Laivola would be another good choice to show off some variegated yarn. With the alternating mesh lace and solid panels it is enough of a pattern to keep your interest whilst showing off your multicoloured yarns! I would knit this in a bright yarn I think, but then you might have guessed I’m not much of a one for neutrals!

Finally, Bark Lines from the very talented Joji Locatelli would look good in a whole variety of yarns. My personal preference for this would be a tonal colourway. And probably purple because I gravitate towards purples every time! Do you have a dominating colour in your yarn collection?

So, that was my first collection of patterns and yarns which I hope has inspired you! Next week I will be publishing a post about garments which call for 4ply/fingering weight yarns and doing some yarn matching there too.

All photos are copyright of the designer unless otherwise specified. Please go and buy one or all of these patterns to support terrific indie designers!

Spanglish Socks are coming!

20180410_100814

My new sock pattern will be released this week! Now that I have uploaded all my new yarn colourways into the shop I can focus on something else for a little while. This sock pattern has been tech edited and test knitted, and I’m so very grateful to all my wonderful test knitters! It was lovely to see such a range of yarn colours knitting up my pattern.

preview
Socks knitted by (from l to r) Lilangelsg2, Cailleach412 and annele76 (Ravelry names)

Spanglish Socks will be released on Friday 25th May and for the first week of release you can buy the pattern with a 50% discount, no code needed at the Ravelry checkout. Going forward the pattern will also be available in my own Etsy shop and on LoveKnitting.com but the initial discount will only be available in Ravelry.