Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Caleb's Blanket

Today I’ve got something very special to share with all of you. During the final few months of my pregnancy, I decided to improvise a simple cotton blanket for C, using textured knit stitches and a few basic crochet techniques (for the border). I got a lot of comments on in and even a few questions as to how I made it.

So I've decided to publish the pattern (as a free Ravelry download) in case any of you are interested in knitting it up.

If it's at all possible for a knitting project to accompany one on the journey into motherhood, then this would be the project. It was with me as a WIP in the final few months of pregnancy, it came to the birthing center with us (to use for bringing C home) and it was a constant through those early postpartum days where everything was slightly foggy and I really was just doing my best to grow into a new role that didn't fit quite right yet.

When I look at this blanket I remember all this. We don't use it much anymore, but every once in awhile I pull it out and think about how far we've come in a year. We've watched our baby grow but we've also seen ourselves grow right along with him.

And yes, this is just a blanket- just stitch upon stitch, row after row. But as is so often the case with knitting, I'm finding that these stitches add up to so much more.

You can find the link to the pattern here, if you're inclined to do so. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Vancouver Yarn Crawl II

I was so blessed to go to Canada not once but TWICE in the past four months. This has never happened, and realistically will probably never happen again and I am so SO grateful to have had this chance. Of course, while there, I got up to plenty of yarn & fibre related activities, including visiting wonderful yarn stores and attending a fibre festival with my mom. It's so much fun to hunt out these special places on my travels and I'm so glad that my mom was willing to trek around with me to each of them. 

So at long last, today I want to share with you all about the yarn-y places I was able to visit on these last two most recent trips to Canada. Obviously, this is just a small number of the amazing places there are to visit in and around my hometown, but I'm very pleased that we managed to make it to so many! I'll start with the yarn stores and then move onto broader, more "fibre arts" related places. 

Of course, I was horrible at getting any photos, so below are some shots of the yarn I walked away with from each of these spots instead...well, some of it at least, haha! I'm planning a post soon on Canadian yarn, which will talk about a bunch of these in more detail, so stay tuned for that! 


Valley Yarn - Surrey
This was such an amazing yarn store- and one I'd never even heard of until my friend Natasha took me there while I was visiting over Christmas. It's tiny but packed (literally) floor to ceiling with delicious yarn. Lots of Madeline Tosh (some of which came home with me!), Hedgehog Fibers, The Fiber Company, Mineville Wool Project, and various other assorted wonders. Worth stopping by if you're anywhere near the area.

88 Stitches - Walnut Grove
I was so happy to return this Spring to 88 Stitches (first wrote about this shop here). My mom and I visited on Customer Appreciation day where there were door prizes and deals galore. They've got a great selection of sock yarn as well as plenty of Canadian hand dyed (hellooo Sweet Fiber!) and even some more rustic woolly wools to choose from. 

Three Bags Full- Vancouver
Stopped by this shop quickly while on Main Street with my sister over Christmas. I'd been to this shop before (and got the yarn for my Tamborine cardigan), and while they do have quite a nice selection, it seemed to me that they've started carrying a lot of the more expensive yarns and I couldn't find anything that was in my price point that really caught my eye. (The Woolfolk yarns are simply stunning though!)

Beehive Wool Shop- Victoria
So SO happy to have made it to this lovely gem of a yarn shop on Vancouver Island. I took Caleb on the ferry with my mom and siblings for a mini road trip to Victoria. We had such fun wandering and of course one of the highlights was stopping in here (pictured above). I just spent ages pondering what of the many MANY lovely yarns was going to come home with me. They've got plenty of rustic, sheepy wool (a weakness of mine...), including all the Brooklyn Tweed. We definitely picked up some of that, as well as some Hinterland Watershed and Ancient Arts sock yarn (yay Canadian yarn!)

Fibre Arts: 

Birkeland Bros. Wool - Abbotsford 
This was such a fun little shop to wander around. It's mostly a spinning store and they had wheels & tools and, of course fibre galore. But the coolest part was the giant carding machine they had in the front of the shop (and I mean GIANT). Although we didn't see it in action, it was so cool to get a peek at it up close and to read about it's history- how it made it to the West Coast and where it all was before that. Also if you DO stop in here, make sure you go to Old Hand coffee right around the corner! 

Maiwa Textiles- Vancouver
One of my favorite spots ever and an absolute gem right in the middle of Granville Island. This is a little fibre arts shop full of natural dyes, fabric, yarn, tools and books. I stop in here every time I'm in the area and always enjoy browsing. Over Christmas I picked up some undyed yarn to maybe try my hand at natural dying- we'll see how that goes!

Fibres West Festival- Cloverdale
My mom and I were so excited to learn that there was a fibre festival while I was in town. We took Caleb for the afternoon and it was a perfect early Spring sunny day. We so enjoyed wandering through the stalls, looking at all the local Canadian wool and fibre and making our thoughtful purchases. Such a highlight of my most recent trip for sure! 

So there you have it- if you're interested, here's a post I did about my first Vancouver Yarn Crawl. And you can also read about the yarn shops I visited in Scotland here and my trip to Tolt Yarn & Wool here

Sunday, April 2, 2017

April's Quote

"What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are."
- CS Lewis (from The Magician's Nephew)

Thinking about this in relation to my own, quiet, everyday life and beyond into the greater context that we find ourselves in. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Springtime Reading List

This year I decided to mix thing up a little and get more intentional about the books that I'm reading. In my pre-baby days I used to average about a book a week, depending on what was going on and what season we were in. Last year I read less than half of that, and honestly, I'm completely okay with it. However I was looking for a way of picking better books- going for quality over quantity I suppose. My hope is, like many a reader I'm sure, to read not only widely & deeply but also interestingly- to choose a variety of things that will help me learn and grow and broaden my horizons. 

So. All that being said, I decided this year to read one fiction and one non-fiction book a month. These past few months, I've found that my picks have been complimenting each other nicely and I'm really enjoying what I've been reading. Here's a little list of what I'm hoping to get to over the next few months: 

Anne of Green Gables // Lucy Maude Montgomery 
I'm a little embarassed to admit that I've never actually read this one. I've seen the movies and even read an abridged young readers edition when I was learning to read BUT I've never actually read the actual novel. When I saw it on my mom's bookshelf while in Canada last month I decided it was time to pick it up. I'm so enjoying it- such a good Canadian classic.

As Always Julia // Julia Child & Avis DeVoto
This book is the collected letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. I'm enjoying this and would recommend it to anyone who likes Julia Child or who enjoyed My Life in France. It's pretty long though- and I find myself skipping over a few of the sections when they're referring to mutual acquaintances of their's. 

Lab Girl // Hope Jahren
A little out of my wheelhouse but I'm excited to give this a try.

Flight Behavior // Barbara Kingsolver
The newest novel from Kingsolver (though already several years old) that I found in a second hand bookstore on Commercial Drive in Vancouver last month. I've not read anything by her in ages and I'm excited to start this one.

The Magic of Motherhood // Ashlee Gadd (Coffee & Crumbs)
So SO excited for this. Seriously.

Wonder // AJ Palacio
Heard about this on a podcast recently. It's a middle grade novel (of which I read few to none) so I thought I'd give it a try.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven // Chris Cleave
Been hearing lots about this one. I've read a few of Cleave's earlier books and found them well written, entertaining and sensitive in dealing with not all too easy subject matter. So I'm exited to give this a go.

Four Seasons in Rome // Anthony Doer 
Have been wanting to read this one ever since I finished All the Light last spring. It's a memoir of the year Doer spent living in Rome, working on that book, with his wife and newborn twins. Fascinating! 

To see all the books I've been reading this year, you can check out the hashtag I've created on my Instagram: #whatruthisreading2017 

Monday, March 27, 2017

here and there

This video was made by my cousin as part of his Biking Around the World trip- and it includes knitting! 

This pattern by Manderine's is just so beautiful. I'm seriously loving crescent shaped shawls right now and this one is at the top of the list!

This interview with the owner of Wollen Berlin (a LYS in Berlin) was a very inspiring read

This magazine is everywhere right now- and for good reason. I devoured my copy. 

This pattern was part of the bonus patterns in the WOODS crowdfunding campaign. As soon as I saw it, I knew I'd be making it. Planning to cast on this week! 

This interview with Andrea Mowry on the Sweet Georgia show was one of the MOST inspiring podcasts I've listened to all year. Seriously. Loved it.

This article from the Wool Days website was so interesting and informative. You can really feel Megan's passion and love for wool!

Loving the look of this project- something for spring maybe? 

Also, not fibre related but I cannot wait to get my hands on this book. So so excited.

And not to be forgotten:
that notebook is probably the thing I get asked most often about and I absolutely love it. I use it for all my pattern writing and any projects/patterns that I improvise or heavily modify.

that yarn bowl was a gift from my mom & is handmade on the Sunshine Coast in BC (sadly, I don't know by whom!)

and... Quince and Co Owl -need I say more? 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

creative chat: Siobhan Watts of Bless the Weather

This morning I'm very excited to kick off the third (!) year of my creative chat interview series! Today I'm chatting with Siobhan Watts of Bless the Weather. Siobhan is a UK based writer, photographer and knitting instructor whose words and images evoke such a strong sense of wildness and creativity. When I first discovered her blog, I quickly fell down a rabbit hole and read through all the archives. Today we're chatting a little more about her creative journey and the story and inspiration behind what she does. Grab a cuppa and join us! 

You can connect with Siobhan over on Instagram or via her lovely blog.  

1. If we were having this conversation in person in a cafe what would you be drinking? are you a coffee or tea person? (or both..?)

If it didn’t mess with my sleep, I’d drink coffee all day and night. I’ve actually gone cold turkey on the caffeine right now because I was drinking too much. Like mamas everywhere, when my baby has sleepless nights I turn to coffee to get me through the day. I just went a bit too far and I was having real trouble with headaches, anxiety and insomnia, which is not like me at all. So now, I’d be drinking a cup of Rooibos with soya or almond milk, maybe a peppermint tea.

2. Tell us a little bit about what you make/do. How did you get started on this particular creative journey?

Im primarily a photographer, shooting documentary style with families, creatives, small businesses and brands. I’m also a knitting teacher and I dabble in the occasional bit of freelance writing. This particular journey of mine started with my blog, Bless the Weather, back in 2009. I’d been interested in photography since I was a kid, I studied it at A-level and loved shooting and developing my own film. The darkroom was my hide out at school and university. I got lost in the transition from film to digital, I’m not really sure what happened but I pretty much stopped taking photos for a good few years. Then my parents got me a digital camera for my 24th birthday, a Canon 450D, and I just started clicking the shutter again. I started my blog to share the (very bad) photos I was taking, and I hoped that by sharing my words and pictures I’d get better and keep doing it. I guess it worked, because eight years later I’m still going! About four years ago, I started to take photography a bit more seriously and tried out shooting portraits, weddings and anything anyone wanted me to do. I’ve honed my skills and style over the years, and am now very happily working as a freelance photographer. It’s been a long old journey, but I’m finally on a road that feels good for me. 

3. I was so inspired when I stumbled across your blog- your words and images blend together so nicely and seem to really compliment each other. Is this balance between photography and writing something you intentionally set out to create? 

Well, this makes me SO happy that youve said this, thank you. It is most definitely something I work hard at. I have been writing my blog for almost eight years, and in the beginning there was a real disconnect between my words and images. It's something I’ve got better with over time, it comes easier now but I’m still conscious of everything looking cohesive. I’m at the point now where my images and writing influence each other. Sometimes I’m inspired to write something because of the pictures I’ve taken, and other times the words come first (or at least the idea for a post) and I try and shoot something that fits. Have you seen ‘The Gap’ by Ira Glass? It really wonderfully illustrates this, how for the first few years when you make stuff there’s a gap between what you’re doing and what you really want to be doing. But you have to push past that until the gap starts to close. I cry every time I watch it because it’s so true. For me, the gap is starting to close and that’s a great feeling.

4. Obviously, being a knitter myself I'd love to know how knitting and fiber arts fit into all this. How did you get involved in teaching knitting workshops/classes? What's been your experience around this? 

My mum taught me to knit about twelve or so years ago, and Ive been fascinated with the whole process ever since. I used to manage the events for a charity in East London, and I started a community knitting group and would teach people who showed up and wanted to learn. I realised I had the patience and a knack for teaching, and I so loved being able to share my skills with others. About four years ago I decided to offer beginner’s classes from my home, to make a bit of extra cash alongside my day job. I taught them every few months for a couple of years, but then when I got pregnant in 2015 they fell by the wayside. Then when my daughter was six months old, I connected with a venue in North London and began teaching all their classes - beginner’s, cables, pattern reading, socks, hats and fair isle. I also teach at a venue in South London too, and am really hoping to get my own back up and running again this year. I love, love, love teaching. It’s so wonderful and just fills my heart with joy to host classes.

5. I'd love to chat a little more about how place affects your creative process. Can you tell us a little bit about where you live and how this influences your work?

I live in South East London, between Brixton and Camberwell. Im lucky enough to have a flat tucked away on some quiet streets next to Ruskin Park, so even in a really busy part of the city where I live is very peaceful. I find living in London quite stifling these days, and I do yearn for space and nature and a slower way of life. My favourite places to go in the city are the parks, gardens and wild spaces, and I’d always prefer to shoot in those surroundings too. I probably don’t take enough advantage of what the city has to offer. I’m always trying to convince my partner that we should run away to the mountains in the South of France, but he’s not so keen! I need nature to feel creative, so I go for a lot of walks in the parks around me. South London is very green, and there are some really special places to be found in the city if you know where to look.

6. How did The Wildness Tonic (#thewildnesstonic) come about? 

The tag itself is inspired by the Henry David Thoreau quote that begins “we all need the tonic of wildness”. I’ve used it a few times over the years on Instagram alongside pictures of woodlands or the seaside, when I’ve retreated to nature to get respite from the overwhelm that finds me every now and again. It only just occurred to me on a recent trip to Northumberland to start #thewildnesstonic and encourage others to share their images and words around the same theme. It’s something that resonates with so many people, retreating to nature to calm their souls and put things into perspective. I love browsing the pictures everyone has been sharing. It really inspires me to get outdoors, even if that’s just to my local park. Trees, flowers, grass, fresh air…it’s all a wildness tonic. 

7. What are you currently up to? Any exciting plans (that you wish to share about) for 2017? 

In all honesty, starting a freelance business while caring for a toddler full time is so hard. There’s so many plans I’d like to be working on, but my main aim for 2017 is just to get through the year in one piece! That said, I am hoping to start up my own knitting workshops again, and I have some vaguely sketched out ideas for photography workshops. Aside from that, I just want to spend time with my daughter and go outside as much as possible. A year for my soul, I think.

Thank you so very much Siobhan for taking the time to chat and for sharing more about your work with us. If you'd like to see more of Siobhan's work or connect with her make sure you do so via the links above. 

Note: all photos courtesy of Siobhan Watts.

This interview is part of my Creative Chat series, where I sit down for a virtual coffee or tea date with makers and creatives to talk about their creative processes, journeys and the inspiration behind their work. You can read other posts in the series here.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

monthly quote recap (& a few thoughts on blogging...)

As I always do this time of year, I'm taking a look over the past year in quotes. This year (at the beginning of April) my blog turns four. In that time my life has drastically changed, I've learned so much, and shifted my focus here multiple times. 

I know that blogging is kinda over- everyone's quitting and using their time to focus on things like Instagram or podcasting or whatever else is out there that I don't even know about yet... But I love this space. I still take the time to read my favorite blogs and I don't want to only read things that I can quickly scroll past (much as I do love Instagram...). My posts here have become sporadic and a little disorganized- I have no semblance of a posting schedule and just post when I want to and when I have something to say. This means some months I post once and others I post three times in one week. 

And I'm okay with this. For now, I'm going to keep showing up in this space because it's still a valuable creative outlet for me, regardless of whether the trend is shifting away from blogging. I've got a few plans this year to reshape several things (including this space) but for now, it's not going anywhere.

And now that that's been said- on to my year of quotes! (you can see past recaps and quotes here)

April: "do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
-Theodore Roosevelt

May: "always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder."
-EB White

June: "things are what they are and whatever will be will be"
- from the book The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared

July: "mothers carry their babies not for 9 months but for eternity"
- Elder Holland

August: "joy comes to us in ordinary moments. we risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary."
-Brene Brown

September: "now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good." 
- John Steinbeck (East of Eden)

October: "all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." 
JRR Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)

November: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming..."
- Theodore Roosevelt

December: "there is no need to be perfect to inspire others...Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfections."
-Robert Tew

January: "Instructions for living a life. 
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it."

- Mary Oliver

February: "what's coming will come and we'll meet it when it does" 
-Hagrid (from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

March: "Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit... it is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions..."
-Ira Glass

As always you guys are more than welcome to share monthly quotes on your own blogs (and even do a little recap post if you'd like once you've collected some!) Please make sure to leave a comment here if you do share so that I can find your post!