Throwback Thursday

I was doing some research online for a blog post the other day and I came across an old guest blog post I forgot I'd written for the Canadian Living craft blog a few years ago.

The magazine and their online have been through a bit of a shift over the years, as magazines do, but it was a treat to go back and read what I'd written - never guessing that almost exactly a year later I'd be headed for the UK and seemingly continuing what I'd started with those blog posts!

The giggle I've had reading over these posts though, is what I called them: the great Western Canadian yarn crawl. Written in three parts, it's a little travelogue-y with mini-reviews of the five yarn shops, weaving studio, and hand-dyed yarn studio I visited over ten days in the summer of 2011. And you'll never guess who's hand-dyed yarn studio it was...!

Since the second annual Great London Yarn Crawl kicks off this weekend, it seemed appropriate to re-post these blogs for Throwback Thursday. Enjoy!

The great Western Canadian yarn crawl, part 1

The great Western Canadian yarn crawl, part 2

The great Western Canadian yarn crawl, part 3

 

Knit all the things!

Wow. Is there anything like fall to ignite a serious case of start-itis in knitters?

With the cooler temperatures here in the UK (although it's been grey-ish low 20s with peekaboo sunshine the last week or so) it's been getting harder and harder to spend time in my office with my stash whispering seductively from the sidelines. 

This gorgeous beauty has been telling me that I need a new hat for my new winter coat.

This gorgeous beauty has been telling me that I need a new hat for my new winter coat.

It didn't help that Kate from the A Playful Day podcast has been hosting a craft-a-long this month in her Ravelry group. They're harvesting - reaping all those WIPs and other things that might be languishing in stash and project bags... And those lovely folks at L'Oisive Thé are starting a Color Affection knit-a-long. This is a proejct that somehow I never managed to knit when I bought the yarn for it when it was popular the first time around... Finally, Soak has been hosting a daily photo challenge on Instagram (search for the hashtag #soakphotochallenge) which has been getting me reaquainted with old projects, my tools, my stash, and my plans for said stash!

Madelinetosh, patiently waiting to be turned into a Color Affection shawl.

Madelinetosh, patiently waiting to be turned into a Color Affection shawl.

Then someone mentioned the C-word (Christmas!) on Ravelry and that got me all in a tizzy as my brother and his wife are coming to visit and they are definitely knitworthy! And I still haven't finished Mr. H's Harry Potter sweater which was also destined for this Christmas. Or at least it better be, as I bought the yarn in last year's post-Crimbo sale at John Lewis! And then of course there's the spinning that I've been doing with the loan of Rachel's e-spinner and the Mind the Gap socks that I've been working on for this year's GLYC (which aren't going to be done so have been shockingly abandoned!).

Progress has been made on Mr. H's Christmas sweater. On now to the sleeves!

Progress has been made on Mr. H's Christmas sweater. On now to the sleeves!

Which is all to say that I basically want to cast on EVERYTHING and KNIT. ALL. THE. THINGS.

I've been managing to hold on to a modicum of control though, thanks to another wee distraction in the form of gearing up with Rachel for the second annual Great London Yarn Crawl. It's been a lot of fun putting it together this year as we have more shops, more routes, more sponsors and more participants! It means we'll raise more money for Refuge, and really - that's fantastic!

I'll still be knitting these Mind the Gap socks at the Great London Yarn Crawl - at least this project is portable!

I'll still be knitting these Mind the Gap socks at the Great London Yarn Crawl - at least this project is portable!

There's less than a week to go, thank goodness, as I feel that the thin thread of my control is close to snapping at this point. In the meantime, I'm determined to carry on as best I can until the end of the month. But October 1st, all bets are off with regards to starting something new!

How is your autumn knitting coming along?

This one's mine

A while back I was gifted a lovely skein of Tanis Fiber Arts Red Label by my friend Jen. Seeing as how it's one of my favourite colours (Garnet, a blend of deep reds with hints of purple), and that the Red Label is a smooshy single of merino, cashmere and silk, I knew that this yarn had to be destined for something really special.

The glorious Tanis Red Label cashsilk single. Photo: Tanis Fiber Arts

The glorious Tanis Red Label cashsilk single. Photo: Tanis Fiber Arts

Not long afterwards in a happy coincidence, Tanis herself blogged about the Cloud Illusions shawl by Boo Knits and how wonderful the yarn was with the garter stitch body. Voilà, I thought to myself, that is what this yarn wants to be. Isn't it nice when the yarn speaks to you like that?

I eagerly cast on last summer and was humming away on the pattern until I got to the lace bit, which we know is not my forte. After getting a little bit of help and using copious amounts of stitch markers, off I went again to tackle the lace border, complete with beads - a new knitting experience for me. Alas, the lace and beads combo and vacation proved to be too much and this sad little shawl went into timeout.

For readers of this blog I'd like to make quite clear that my issues with lace, and beads, are all user error. Mine. This really is a lovely pattern!

Until this summer's holiday when, I was pulling out projects I thought would be quick finishes while away, and realised I only had a few rows to go. Surely, I thought, I can get past whatever the issue was? I vaguely recalled that I'd sorted myself out back to a point where there were no mistakes and was ready to continue on...

Cloud Illusions - photographed in the Moat Garden at Windsor Castle

Cloud Illusions - photographed in the Moat Garden at Windsor Castle

After a couple of false starts thinking I had the markers in the wrong spot, I re-read the pattern. Then in a rare display of cleverness, I remembered to look up people's project notes on the pattern on Ravelry. Lo! The stitch markers move on some of the rows of the lace border! And armed with this important bit of info, I was able to finish the shawl in no time. And even my nemesis of a picot border couldn't slow me down!

The garter stitch body of Cloud Illusions is perfect for the round smooshy single of the Tanis Red Label yarn.

The garter stitch body of Cloud Illusions is perfect for the round smooshy single of the Tanis Red Label yarn.

Moving the stitch markers might seem like an easy thing to an experienced lace knitter, and I hope to get there one day in the end. I guess if you know what you're looking for, making the lace pattern stack up on top of the previous stitches, it's intuitive, but I just haven't got there yet.

I love how the iridescent pale purple beads shimmer and pick up the reds and purples in the yarn.

I love how the iridescent pale purple beads shimmer and pick up the reds and purples in the yarn.

I will one day though! In the meantime, I'm so pleased with how this shawl has turned out. And I'm incredibly delighted that it's for me! So many of the things I knit end up being given as gifts and go off to live with other people - and don't get me wrong, I love knitting for my family - but this shawl is particularly special because it's one of my first successful lace projects, and definitely my first project with beads. Might have to find another one to do now!

The Creative Blog Hop

My BKFF Rachel over at Porpoise Knits wrote for The Creative Blog Hop and tagged me and another pal, the lovely Linda at Kettle Yarn Co., to participate next. If you've found your way here through either of those blogs, or anyone else participating in The Creative Blog Hop, welcome!

The blog hop asks the following questions and I'm laying them out here first, mostly so that I don't forget them:

1. What am I working on?
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
3. Why do I write/create what I do?
4. How does my writing/creating process work?

Let's dive in, shall we?

What am I working on?
These days it feels like I push the the ball forward a little bit every day on a lot of different projects. Knitting and many other crafts have always been my hobby but since moving to the UK I've been fortunate enough to have them become part of my professional life as well.

I've worked as the UK and EU sales rep for Canadian indie yarn dyer SweetGeorgia Yarns since moving to the UK almost two years ago. At the beginning of this year I added two more brands to my portfolio, Soak Wash and ChiaoGoo Needles, by becoming the account manager for their UK distributor Purlnova. In the spring I also made a return to my marketing communications roots and began working with clients in the knitting and yarn industry. This work has ranged from research and strategy to execution and everything in between, as well as digital and social media which was was what I did professionally before moving to the UK. It's been nice to be back at it and stretch my brain in other creative ways.

My Yarn in the City co-conspirator, Ms. Brown.

My Yarn in the City co-conspirator, Ms. Brown.

Then, since we all seem to wear a lot of hats in this business, I also co-organise the Great London Yarn Crawl with Rachel and as part of Yarn in the City we've got a few other projects in the works. This includes everything from releasing the pattern we designed in celebration of  Unwind Brighton to figuring out how we're going to make next year's Yarn Crawl even better and a few other sooper-sekrit projects besides. And because I'm a believer in life-long learning I'm also in the midst of taking a course on tech editing and learning more about web design.

All of this means that I have as little time for knitting personal projects as I did when had a "regular office job" before moving here, and in fact it's often less. (It *is* a bonus to be able to knit at work now though!). I regularly have "start-itis" and so there are generally a lot of things on the needles, all at the same time. The things that I'm actually focused on at the moment include a pair of socks, getting back to my spinning a little bit, Antiprism, and finishing up a sweater for Mr. H for Christmas (he's getting the Harry Potter sweater with the H on it). I also had a couple of finishes while I was away on holiday, but I'll show those off in another post.

A recent summer holiday FO: Mimosa Shawl by Boo Knits in SweetGeorgia Merino Silk Fine. Knit for my mom because she loved the Melon colourway.

A recent summer holiday FO: Mimosa Shawl by Boo Knits in SweetGeorgia Merino Silk Fine. Knit for my mom because she loved the Melon colourway.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That's an outstanding question, especially as I think the lines are blurred somewhat (so much?) between my work and play.

For the most part, I think that my personal crafting work, be it knitting or spinning or any other craft, doesn't differ all that much. While I venture off the straight and narrow a lot more now than I used to, I'm still very much a knit-by-numbers kind of gal, and I'm okay with that. I think that the reason I like to knit so many things in the yarn called for is because I figure that's part of the attraction for me, what made me want to knit it in the first place. I'd hate to knit something in a different yarn or fibre base than was called for because I know that the designer has chosen it for a specific reason related to the construction or drape and overall look and feel of the garment.

Now I'm starting to get more confident about modifying patterns to be a better fit size-wise or use techniques from one item because I prefer to knit that way but I still stay with the directions as they were written, for the most part.

For my marketing work that's little harder to answer. With social and digital media and the kinds of tools that are readily accessible to people now, it's very easy to do your own website or PR or advertising or whatever. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you should. And for that matter, in a creative-focused industry where everyone is working so hard and wearing so many hats and has such entrepreneurial spirit, do you really need one more thing to do?

As makers it can be really difficult for us to realise that even with doing something that we love for our "job", there is a business side to it that needs to be taken care of - namely the promotion of our brand. I'm guilty of this too. I've been fortunate to be busy with a variety of different clients since stepping back into marketing and as a result, my own brand suffers from neglect. The difference is that my business happens behind the scenes and is a lot less conspicuous than someone who is more forward-facing and dealing with the general public as their customer.

Either way, the really great thing that I see about my marketing side of things is the change that is starting to happen in our business. There's a real energy that has been building and bubbling with folks who are saying, "I'm going to make a go of this." Or, "It's going to be my job and it's not something that I'm going to do part time or on the side." Or even better, "I'm all in." And these people recognise that to get ahead, they need marketing support and that they really can't do it all and in fact are smarter to ask for help so that they can focus on doing what they do best, which is being creative with their own business.

I realise I haven't exactly answered the question for the marketing side of things so I'll say it like this: where things are different is that there is now an openness to and awareness of the necessity of marketing support and that promoting oneself or one's business isn't a bad thing. That means there's work for me in the knitting world and plenty to go around for my colleagues who do similar stuff. These are exciting times!

Knitting taking me to great heights: on the Sulphur Mountain Gondola in Banff National Park. The queue for the ride down the mountain was a solid hour. Good thing I had my knitting with me!

Knitting taking me to great heights: on the Sulphur Mountain Gondola in Banff National Park. The queue for the ride down the mountain was a solid hour. Good thing I had my knitting with me!

Why do I write/create what I do?
Possibilities and ideas excite me. They're the reason I get a head rush in a yarn store. Or a stationery supply store for that matter. Hell, I still need a reason, a list and an escort to go into a Michaels because if there's not anything I'm looking for, I could be in there for hours just thinking about all the things I could make.

Marketing too is a form of creativity for me. It's a challenge. I hope this sounds confident and not conceited when I say that I am a natural born marketer. I love to share ideas and tell people about something or someone awesome that I believe in. And I love helping them tell their own stories or figuring out the best time and place and way to do that. That's probably the biggest reason I have for being thrilled that my old and new professional lives have come together.

And it all makes me haaaappppyyyy!!!

How does my writing/creating process work?
For me the process is all about relationships - building them and maintaining them. It's a lot of work making those connections and nurturing them but it's also a lot of fun meeting new people and hearing and learning about their own process and what they're working on. I often meet a lot of people who say they hate "schmoozing" or "networking" - but then they don't see the look on their own face when they're engaged in a conversation about something that they are equally passionate about. They're doing it whether they realise they are or not!

Amy and Brenda at the P3 retreat in Wales, October 2012. More proof that you never know who you're going to meet or how they will inspire you in your own creative journey.

Amy and Brenda at the P3 retreat in Wales, October 2012. More proof that you never know who you're going to meet or how they will inspire you in your own creative journey.

I think that's the key to working in a creative industry doing something you love - surrounding yourself with likeminded people. People who inspire you, challenge you, and push you out of your comfort zone creatively. One of the single best things about my work and my process are my relationships. Be they knitters or designers or dyers or shop owners or publishers or other promoters, bloggers or podcasters - I love making connections and introductions and the collaboration that comes from them.

* * *

Many thanks to Rachel for tagging me to play! I'm going to throw things across the pond and tag the lovely Austen of The Marmalade Jar to carry things along on The Creative Blog Hop. Austen's writing is gorgeous and thoughtful and so is her knitting. Looking back, Austen was also probably one of my earliest inspirations for my moving forward into the knitting and craft industry professionally as she let me write some guest posts for a craft blog she edited for a well-known Canadian magazine. The rest, as they say, is history! But that's a story for another day.

Then on this side of the pond I'm tagging Kathleen from Knit Like You Mean It. Kathleen and I met at P3 in Wales when I first moved over to the UK and I'm happy to have her as one of my knitty friends here. Kathleen is a wonderful knitter, blogger, and designer with a number of patterns under her belt, as well as the mastermind behind Silver Screen Knits (vol. 1 and 2). Volume 2 was released this past spring and the designs are just as, if not more gorgeous! than volume 1! In fact, Franklin Habit had this to say about the collection: "Watching a history of cinema and browsing 'Silver Screen Knits' by Kathleen Lawton-Trask. Making me wish I had more time to knit. These are collections with a lot of solid, classic work. Stuff to wear again and again because it's fun and versatile." Enjoy!

Unwind Brighton recap: #thanksdani

Thanks for your patience with the blog folks. Looks like the new app I downloaded works like a charm. (Actually, check that. It's now taken me well over two weeks to get this post edited. The technical challenges of trying to post from my iPad thwarted me so I basically was forced to wait until I had my new computer. Hopefully it will help me do more remotely!)

Ah... summer in Brighton! Photo credit: Jordan Thistlewood

Ah... summer in Brighton! Photo credit: Jordan Thistlewood

With August suddenly here (holy cow, how did that happen?!) I feel like I can finally write about the magical time that was Unwind Brighton last month.

The lovely Dani sneaking in some knitting time (and work!) during a pre-Unwind visit with Rach and I in the spring.

The lovely Dani sneaking in some knitting time (and work!) during a pre-Unwind visit with Rach and I in the spring.

I had the good fortune of visiting Brighton way back in late January/early February when Unwind was quickly becoming more than a twinkle in Dani's eye. Dani, for those of you who don't know, is the indie dyer behind Lioness Arts. She is also a lovely sponsor of the Great London Yarn Crawl and one of the kindest people you could ever hope to meet.

Dani walks Rachel and I through Brighton's charming streets.

Dani walks Rachel and I through Brighton's charming streets.

Dani had told me a little bit about what she was thinking of for Unwind but knowing how close Brighton is from the station right near our flat in London, I hopped on the train one afternoon to pop down and see Dani and hear all about her plans for the festival. This one-woman powerhouse (with a strong team of friends and supporters) had a VISION! and I was completely captivated by the vibe and energy of Brighton, not to mention it's unique architecture and winding lanes.

There's a quiet strength to Dani and thoughtfulness to who she is. She's a do-er. With little to no fanfare Dani's one of those people who just sets out to do something and gets it done. And not just done, but DONE WELL. It was easy to see how wonderful her plans were and a no-brainer to get involved as a vendor, making the introduction for Felicia to come over from SweetGeorgia and teach also. 

Arriving in Brighton with the most of the fixin's for a booth of SweetGeorgia yarn-y goodness! (Lucky for us, the yarn was sent ahead, and Jacqueline from Soak was along to help us with everything else!)

Arriving in Brighton with the most of the fixin's for a booth of SweetGeorgia yarn-y goodness! (Lucky for us, the yarn was sent ahead, and Jacqueline from Soak was along to help us with everything else!)

On the Friday before the show, with everything packed up including my guys, we headed down to Brighton on the train. The guys were going to have a boys weekend of rides on the pier and exploring down on the beach while mummy worked.

Spending some time with my boys down at the beach before work got underway on the weekend.

Spending some time with my boys down at the beach before work got underway on the weekend.

Since this wasn't my typical show visit (in that I wasn't there for the day, wasn't taking classes, and had next to no time to look around or shop), I can't tell you what the Unwind experience was from a typical visitor's experience - although SO many people told me how ace they thought the event was, how much fun they were having, how great it was to meet so many knitters, designers, dyers, and so on, have a chat and in general just how awesome everything was! - but what I can tell you is that from a vendor perspective, it was pretty magical.

I know I only have one other show as a vendor to compare it to, but even for that I was going down each day, not staying over, and as a first show I think I wasn't really sure what to expect. 

Putting faces to names: Felicia from SweetGeorgia and Aimee from L'Oisive Thé et Tricot finally meet after knowing each other for years online!

Putting faces to names: Felicia from SweetGeorgia and Aimee from L'Oisive Thé et Tricot finally meet after knowing each other for years online!

Knowing how hectic a show can be, Dani and her organisers had thoughtfully arranged a dinner for the vendors to attend on the Friday night (many with their families!) before we could get access to the venue to start setting up. It was a wonderful way to put names and faces to people, and meet some of the kniteratti who would be teaching but not necessarily have a booth at the event.

Our colourful Unwind Brighton booth ready for visitors!

Our colourful Unwind Brighton booth ready for visitors!

The load-in and booth set-up were pretty uneventful - my guys helped get things loaded in, Felicia and Dan and baby Russell helped put together fixtures and Jacqueline from Soak (who's booth was next door) helped unpack yarn. It wasn't long before the booth was set up and ready to go!

The very lovely Jacqueline Sava in the Soak booth.

The very lovely Jacqueline Sava in the Soak booth.

Once the show began on Saturday, the rest of the weekend is a bit of a blur of knitters and yarn-lovers and fibre enthusiasts. Everyone had such nice things to say, from how well-curated the exhibitors were, to how much they had learned in the workshops, or how exciting it was for them to meet designers and dyers and put faces to names that they had only seen online. And knitters came from not just all over the UK but also Scandinavia, North America and other parts of Europe too.

Clockwise from top right: happy knitters in the SweetGeorgia booth, Catherine gets some delicious yarn for a new project, a very chuffed knitter with a sweater's worth of Tough Love Sock.

Clockwise from top right: happy knitters in the SweetGeorgia booth, Catherine gets some delicious yarn for a new project, a very chuffed knitter with a sweater's worth of Tough Love Sock.

This wonderful knitter had bought some SweetGeorgia fibre at Unravel, spun it and then plied it with another bit of handspun before knitting it up in her own design.

This wonderful knitter had bought some SweetGeorgia fibre at Unravel, spun it and then plied it with another bit of handspun before knitting it up in her own design.

Chatting with knitters is my favourite part of any of these events, whether as an exhibitor or when I'm just visiting. It's always wonderful to hear what people are working on, or planning with their latest stash acquisitions. At Unwind I also had the happy pleasure of knitters and spinners coming up and telling me how much they had enjoyed knitting or spinning with their purchases from Unravel earlier in the year.

Half of the Seaside Shindig - there was another room in the basement of the bar filled with knitters too!

Half of the Seaside Shindig - there was another room in the basement of the bar filled with knitters too!

On Saturday night the fun gals from Pom Pom Quarterly hosted the Seaside Shindig. A lovely get together for everyone to hang out and knit, and with goodie bags and a fun pub quiz! I was happily part of the winning team - a competitive dream team that consisted of an editor, a designer, an indie dyer and a couple of sponsors. There was good-natured grumbling from other teams after we won, but as one of our team members commented on her blog, "when we saw our prizes we got over it!".

New stash: my pretty selection of the Seaside Shindig prizes - a skein of linen yarn from Sweden called Kalinka. I was happy to win as the weekend was so hectic I didn't get a chance to browse or shop properly with any of the amazing vendors!

New stash: my pretty selection of the Seaside Shindig prizes - a skein of linen yarn from Sweden called Kalinka. I was happy to win as the weekend was so hectic I didn't get a chance to browse or shop properly with any of the amazing vendors!

Sunday was another happy day meeting knitters but it seemed like it was over way too soon before we were packing everything up and getting ready to make the trek back to London. 

A huge shout-out to Dani and her team of volunteers and co-organisers. I'm hopeful that they are still enjoying their post-Unwind summer and look forward to hearing about any plans for next year. I'm in!