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!

The Wilds of Canada

Okay, so that's a slightly dramatic title for this blog post. But yes, I am in Canada for the next few weeks! After last summer's four cities in 7 weeks tour, I'm happy to be staying put (mostly) in Calgary this time around.

So much for staying put in Calgary: Mr. H and I had an inadvertent 5-hour layover in Vancouver on our way to Kelowna so we were happily able to meet up with my brother and his wife for lunch. Who says you can't do it all?

So much for staying put in Calgary: Mr. H and I had an inadvertent 5-hour layover in Vancouver on our way to Kelowna so we were happily able to meet up with my brother and his wife for lunch. Who says you can't do it all?

Of course in saying that, I'm writing this from my in-laws in the lovely Okanagan valley where the weather is deliciously hot and there's a lake with a beach that beckons this afternoon. There's also a lovely LYS that I'm hoping will have the perfect buttons as soon as I finish the sweet baby sweater that I've been knitting on this trip. 

While I'm mostly over my jetlag, I'm still taking the time to rest and recharge my batteries on this trip. I also keep thinking about how wonderful Unwind Brighton was and am hanging onto those memories a little while longer before sharing them here. But really, it was amazing and fab!

More soon... 

PS - This post was written using a new app for my blog platform. I hope the formatting is okay! If anything looks weird, please email me or leave a note in the comments! Thanks! xx 

Return to Woolfest

In a fit of insanity week before last I somehow found myself booking a train ticket back up to Woolfest for the day from London. For my North American readers, allow me to explain the insanity.

Early morning scenery when it felt like the rest of the world was still waking up.

Early morning scenery when it felt like the rest of the world was still waking up.

Woolfest is held in Cockermouth, Cumbria - a gorgeous part of the UK known as the Lake District. It's kind of in the middle of the UK, and to be fair, London is kind of near the bottom. Google Maps puts it about 326 miles between the two, which is about 524 kilometers. And that my friends, is a lot of distance to cover in a day in one direction, let alone two!

Did I mention that Woolfest has been running for 10 years now? Amazing support from the UK's knitting community!

Did I mention that Woolfest has been running for 10 years now? Amazing support from the UK's knitting community!

But part of our adventure in living in London is about embracing opportunities when they come our way, and let's face it - as someone who is running her own business and also has the business of being a mum, getting away for any longer period can be more difficult timing-wise, and is also more expensive, so you just do what you gotta do.

The train to take me to Woolfest - or at least part of the way. Probably my favourite train operator in the UK.

The train to take me to Woolfest - or at least part of the way. Probably my favourite train operator in the UK.

So a day trip it was and at 4am I cursed my alarm, got up and was ready for the cab when it arrived at 4:45am to take me to Euston station for the 5:30am train towards Glasgow. Looking back at this time on the blog last year, I think I missed posting about Woolfest because well, my brain was probably mush from all of the faffing about it took to get up there, and the delays, and then re-organising the journey back.

This is the large. Note to self: a small will be fine next time, hell, the small is probably perfect!

This is the large. Note to self: a small will be fine next time, hell, the small is probably perfect!

This year I had the advantage of knowing where I was going, and also what to look for on the Ravelry boards in terms of people sharing rides, or organising buses. And to be frank, I got lucky. I happened upon a lovely little knitting group that had organised a minibus from Blackpool, which would be passing through Lancaster, and then onwards to Cockermouth. Lancaster is on the main train line up to Glasgow, and a straight three hour shot thereabouts on the train from London. All good!

Victoria Magnus welcomes knitters to Eden Cottage Yarns.

Victoria Magnus welcomes knitters to Eden Cottage Yarns.

Aside from a dubious introduction to stinging nettles when I had to beg the bus driver to stop at the side of the road (the result of an overly large cup of coffee. Note to self: don't order the "large" at Euston station - it's freakin' ginormous!) - the trip up was relatively uneventful and meant that we arrived around 11am at Woolfest with plenty of time to wander around and see everything.

I think I take a picture of sheep or alpaca at almost every show I go to!

I think I take a picture of sheep or alpaca at almost every show I go to!

I wish I'd thought to duck outside and take some pictures of the beautiful hills and area where the auction mart is. It's incredibly gorgeous and the weather was so wonderful. By comparison last year it had been chucking it down and the show was so busy on the Friday that one could hardly move up and down the aisles to see everyone's stalls.

Beautiful woven scarves from Laura's Loom.

Beautiful woven scarves from Laura's Loom.

I squee-ed when I saw these lovely vintage sheep.

I squee-ed when I saw these lovely vintage sheep.

My favourite Viola yarn from John Arbon.

My favourite Viola yarn from John Arbon.

The numbers of people enjoying the show seemed down, although organisers said they were on par with last year. As someone on Ravelry posited, perhaps last year there were more partners and children increasing the throng of people as they couldn't really go out and about with the weather so awful! Whatever the case though, it made for a lovely day wandering the stalls with the ability to stop and have a chat with folks for a bit and catch up.

hese lovely knitters were having a great chat when I crashed their party. Lea is wearing an amazing Bohus that she knit herself! So gorgeous!

hese lovely knitters were having a great chat when I crashed their party. Lea is wearing an amazing Bohus that she knit herself! So gorgeous!

This was my favourite part of the day - just having a chance to sit down and meet new knitters and see what they were working on and learn more about them and where they're from. And of course I always love seeing familiar faces too.

A ticket mixup meant I was pleasantly surprised to be in First Class on the train journey home. Might as well enjoy it!

A ticket mixup meant I was pleasantly surprised to be in First Class on the train journey home. Might as well enjoy it!

And now it's on to the next. There's a brand new show on the knit-erary calendar this summer. Unwind Brighton makes it's debut this weekend, 12-13 July 2014. I will be there on the SweetGeorgia stand, and Felicia will be there too - doing a couple of talks on Saturday and her spinning with colour class on Sunday. Come by and say hi!

The posts in my head

I've been having problems with my iPad since around the time that I was in Japan so it's been a tad difficult to blog on the go. And "on the go" I have been! My sincere thanks if you still continue to pop in periodically to see if there's a new post up.

How have I been keeping busy? Well during my lovely holiday and with all that thinking time, I've been sorting out the Champagne Communications side of my business and making things a little more formal. Which, wonderfully, has led to work for some new clients and it feels amazing to be flexing the creative muscle on marketing projects again.

Then there's this year's Great London Yarn Crawl to be planned. Rachel and I have once again been working on the logistics and sorting out some new surprises, new routes, and adding new shops to the mix to keep things fresh and fun for this year. Tickets go on sale on Tuesday, 8 July, and you can mark your calendars now for Saturday, 20 September for the Yarn Crawl itself. 

_MG_2897.jpg

Rachel and I also have a couple of other projects in the works, and tested those waters with our first design collaboration - maybe this summer we'll have time to work on a few!

At least I finished the Lady Eleanor Entrelac Shawl!

At least I finished the Lady Eleanor Entrelac Shawl!

And then of course there's been the usual knitting, quilting, traveling and yarn shop exploring! And I really, really promise to get some posts up about all of that soon. I just have to get through Unwind Brighton first!