Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Never ending story - my January round-up with audio podcast

Hello everyone, how are you all. It's almost the end of January - can you believe it? Time is definitely flying by this year.

I've recorded my January Edit over on Sound Cloud and hope you can find somewhere quiet to sit and enjoy it, with a cuppa and a slice of cake.

Here are the links to the various people and projects that I've have chatted about:

My Never ending shawl using a Scheepjes Whirl and my own design:
Disclaimer: Yarn was provided by Black Sheep Wools, Warrington.

It’s a work-related WIP as its eventually for Black Sheep Wools and it’s a slightly different/bigger version of my Faithful Shawl, which is a nice, simple and mindful knitting project. It uses garter stitch and an eyelet pattern to create a crescent-shaped shawl. A Whirl has 1000m of yarn per skein/cake and that's a lot of knitting. I really thought I was almost at the end, but then when I weighed the remainder of the cake, I'd only knitted up just over half of the yarn. I was a little bit deflated to say the least. It's never-ending!!!!! Even it if does look beautiful, with it's gentle fading from one colour through to the next.

January lace socks:
Pattern is Basic Lace Socks by Christine Perry (winwick mum) and free online to all.
No disclaimer needed: I purchased all products and props 

 I'm really enjoying this simple pattern. There are four rounds of the pattern repeat and it's very easy to remember, so I can just knit and knit. They're a great mindful project because there is a 6-stitch repeat, which I can say over and over as I knit, counting through the stitches. Before you know it, I've knitted a good length and also practised my mindfulness too and I'm left feeling nice and refreshed.

Teeny crochet squares:
Own pattern. Qing Fibre yarn for main colour and selection of 20g minis from Riverknits for contrast.
No disclaimer needed: All purchased (my own stash).
An accidental project, which started after a mooch in my stash where I unearthed a gorgeous skein of Qing Fibre yarn which I bought in Loop, London, last year.
I didn't mention it in the podcast, but Lucy of Attic24 has a great tutorial for the join-as-you-go method.
I want to try this cute little pattern with a few different yarns, so watch this space. I can't wait to try it out with some super chunky yarn and some 4ply cotton from my stash.

Free Pattern on Ravelry for my Teeny knitted hearts: 
Whole Lot of Love by Lynne Rowe. 
You can knit these up in a jiffy with just a few grams of yarn oddments. Turn them into a brooch or embellishment, or use them to cover holes or worn areas of clothing. They're really fun to make and I've been adding a brooch back and attaching them to birthday gifts as a usable part or the wrapping.

No disclaimer needed as these are genuinely some of my favourite podcasters who keep me going when I'm knitting and crocheting.
The three main podcasters that I listened to this month were:
Emma Potter (Potter and Bloom)
Crafternoon Treats (Kathryn Senior)
Beautiful Things (Claire Mackeness)

And that's my January round-up. I hope you enjoyed my podcast and do let me know if there is a specific subject that you would like me to include in a future podcast.

Happy crafting,
Lynne xx

Here are the links to the pages mentioned:
Black Sheep Wools
Winwick Mum (Easy Lace Socks)
Qing Fibre
Loop London
Lucy's join-as-you-go method (Attic 24)
Teeny knitted hearts pattern
Emma Potter (Potter and Bloom)
Crafternoon Treats
Beautiful Things

Monday, 14 January 2019

Inclusion and acceptance

Hello everyone. I do hope you're feeling good and your start to another new year has followed a nice smooth path so far.

I've been in a bit of an emotional whirl with one thing and another and I feel as though I've been thrown into a wind tunnel and pummelled around. In particular, I've been following and digesting all of the posts and discussions about the issues of racism and inclusion (or lack of) in the knitting and crochet industry and wider community.

It saddens me when my BIPOC friends and neighbours tell me that they've been the subject of racist comments. It's such a poor reflection of society. If you haven't come across the term BIPOC or POC before, the acronym refers to Black, Indigenous People of Colour, or People of Colour.

As someone who works within the knitting and crochet industry, I've been reading with interest and thinking about my experiences, and how I can make sure that I always include and welcome everyone to my small corner of the crafting world.

Having worked previously in a large organisation where inclusion was top of the workplace agenda, I fully accept that the knitting and crochet sector can do a whole lot better, and we all have a part to play, including myself.

I have always welcomed everyone and will continue to do so, here on my blog, on my website and my audio podcast. I will continue to feel proud to both engage with and teach people from all different communities, from any gender/ethnicity/race/religion/level of income and also including people with physical and mental disabilities. I will continue to grow and build upon my past experiences to help you all to learn and develop your knitting and crochet skills. Sometimes I have to think quickly when I'm teaching people with learning disabilities or where our first language is different and we might struggle to understand each other, or where people have physical disabilities and need to find a more comfortable way to knit or crochet. But in most cases we persevere and work through it together with a successful outcome. I've realised that knitting and crochet can surpass language barriers by using exaggerated hand movements, or repeated actions, over and over. We usually find something that works, which is always a pleasure, both to me and my pupils, and the best part is that we usually end up smiling a lot as we engage and learn new things from each other - not just about knitting and crochet, but about ourselves too.

My main priority is for everyone to enjoy the process of knitting and crochet, not just for the therapeutic benefits it can bring, but also for the building of self-confidence and self-worth.

Another important thing to remember about is that everyone has a different level of income, as well as time, to spend on their hobbies. Some people have lots of spare cash to spend on yarn – which is fantastic and I love to see what they’re buying and what they're making; it can be both interesting and inspiring, as well as supporting a huge area of the knitting and crochet sector, including indie dyers and wool manufacturers. But at the same time, there are many crafters who have a considerably tighter budget, as well as crafters who simply don't want their hobby to cost them a small fortune as they have other higher priorities to consider. Knitting and crochet should be a hobby that can be enjoyed by everyone without any prejudice or judgement.

Over the years, I've taught many people who have lost their self-confidence for various reasons, and the most rewarding thing for me is that when they leave me after a 5 or 10 week course they are so very proud of what they have made and eager to continue with their new-found crafting skills.

I know from personal experience that having nothing and losing self-confidence is really hard to deal with, but knitting and crochet can help to make people feel proud of their abilities and give them a small feeling of self-worth and achievement - just something to hold onto in times of hardship. I love that knitting and crochet can make such a change to people's lives and help improve their mental health. Whilst it doesn’t solve problems, it does make people realise that they have ability, determination and creativity hidden within, and this in turn can sometimes be pivotal in helping people turn a corner and start to re-build themselves.

It has saddened me over the past few years that the knitting and crochet community has also become incredibly judgemental and has become somewhat overly competitive - particularly the social media side of things, and this can be off-putting to those who want to join in and celebrate their knitting and crochet love. I feel that if knitting and crochet is to remain an all-inclusive hobby then there needs to be less judgement aimed at people who cannot buy expensive yarns to use, or who simply prefer more affordable yarns, for whatever reasons. We shouldn't ask and we shouldn't judge, and we certainly shouldn't be nasty.

Being made to feel that you're not good enough, or to be pushed away or excluded from a group or community can be soul destroying and there is a lot to be done within the knitting and crochet community to make sure that everyone is welcome, regardless of the yarn they use.

For some crafters or potential crafters from minority groups, there are often barriers to engaging with the knitting and crochet sector, either because they are financially, physically or mentally unable, or perhaps their first language isn't necessarily that of the country that they are living in. I would love to see everyone being welcomed as an equal part of the knitting and crochet community and feel valued and proud of their achievements and contributions. 

In truth, we all share the same skills – we pick up our needles or hook and yarn, and want to make lovely things, either as a necessity or as a hobby. Whether we make amigurumi or colourwork jumpers, whether we make things for ourselves or for our families, whether we make gifts or knit for charities, everyone should be able to feel proud of what they’ve made and feel as though they can share their progress online, without fear of any negativity. Nobody should be made to feel bad or worry about risking criticism or judgement for sharing their knitting and crochet online.

Conversely, those who love wool and love to knit and crochet with wool, should also be able to show off their makes, without being judged for spending more money than others, or for having a larger stash of yarn, or for their genuine love of wool. We're all different - we all have different priorities and different amounts to spend on our knitting and crochet activities. In essence, we're all doing the same thing and looking for the same enjoyment and fulfilment from our crafting experience and we should celebrate our creativity together.

I hope we can all play our part in making our industry inclusive and fair, and free of judgement, exclusion and negativity. We won't all agree on everything, and we can agree to disagree - there's nothing wrong with discussing different opinions or sharing how we feel about things, and often it's enlightening too, but responding in a nasty or aggressive manner won't help the knitting and crochet sector to move forward in a positive way.

I have so much more to think about and learn about, but please be assured that I will be doing my best to make sure that I'm inclusive, welcoming and approachable to you all. 

My main aim is to help everyone enjoy and celebrate the process of knitting and crochet and I will do my best to make sure that I reach a wide and varied audience. I will do more to use all qualities of yarn, and to share my makes and reviews. I will start to include a variety of yarn options for my designs, so they can be made to suit a range of budgets.

I send out a couple of newsletters each month to my subscribers which, in truth, tend to be a little rushed. I always link to another designer, blogger, maker, creative influencer or indie dyer and in future I will be making sure that I spend more time to research, communicate with and showcase creatives from all sectors of society and I'll be using Jeanette Sloan's growing list of POC (people of colour) designers as a starting point (link is below).

I'm looking forward to enhancing my social media feeds by following a more diverse range of designers, makers, knitters and crocheters - I've already found many amazing, inspiring and creative people that I didn't even know existed. I will be making sure that my writing style is inclusive and welcoming so that everyone feels at ease.

I'm always available if you have any questions and I will always do my very best to help.

I'll keep you updated with my thoughts and changes and look forward to crafting with you all in 2019.

Lynne xx

For links to read more about POC designers and crafters, please head over to Jeanette Sloan's website. Her informative blog list is here: POC list of designers and crafters by Jeanette Sloan

Friday, 14 December 2018

A box full of joy

Hello lovely readers - how are you all? I hope you're enjoying the festivities of December and managing to create some handmade gifts for your friends and family. I've made a start with my own festive socks and a few simple woolly stars. These crochet stars are so cute and I see a few more being made over the coming weeks.
I had a lovely November, celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary and also my 55th birthday (eek!!! am I really that old????). Mr. Rowe and I had a wonderful weekend on our mini cruise to Bruges. Mr. Rowe surprised me with a beautiful eternity ring with 25 diamonds - I confess I cried.

We had a lovely day in Bruges, investigating the amazing architecture and stunning Cathedrals - not to mention the chocolate shops.  Bruges will always be one of my favourite cities to visit.

There were so many delightful window displays - although most shops had 'no photography' signs in their windows, which was a shame, as I couldn't take photos of the ones I really loved. I wasn't sure though, how much of the chocolate was truly handmade as most shops were selling the same things. But then I spotted a pretty window display (sorry no photo allowed) and felt instantly drawn into the shop. It wasn't just the handmade chocolates that had attracted me - it was the very pretty boxes that I wanted a closer look at.
I was reliably informed by a lovely couple that this was the best chocolate shop in Bruges and that it's the only place they buy their chocolates from. I like it when other customers share their opinions as it really helps you to decide what to do. Along with a yummy sample, kindly offered by the owner, my mind was made up.

I decided that I had to have one of those pretty boxes - they reminded me of Victorian times, and the owner told me that they were based on the very first boxes that were original used in the 1890's when they were made in silk. Just think how luxurious and intricate they would have been - like a real work of art. I imagined myself in a Jane Austin novel, sat at my window-seat, staring wistfully into the distance, as my suitor (Mr. Rowe) came galloping along the driveway on horseback to deliver my handmade chocolates in their exquisite silk box, with a special hand-written note. Can you imagine how special a Victorian lady would have felt to receive such a gift. Very special indeed.
As I was stood carefully pondering which chocolates to choose, I realised that my monthly subscription to my Little Box of Crochet makes me feel exactly the same, and is no doubt why I was so drawn to this shop with it's gorgeous boxes, filled with mouth-watering goodies.
Amanda Bloom is indeed a genius. She lovingly curates a beautiful box of crochet goodies and sends them out with pride to her subscribers, each month. Whilst she may not send them on horse-back (which wouldn't be the slightest bit practical), her exquisite little boxes are cram-packed full of everything you need for the monthly project, and lots more. Everything is carefully covered in pretty tissue paper, sealed with an inviting sticker for that extra-special touch. I'm always desperate to start crocheting as soon as I see that sticker!
I'm always completely amazed at how everything manages to fit in the box - how is this possible?
Take the contents of my November box as an example:
  • 150g of gorgeous cotton yarn in festive colours, from Yarn and Colors
  • a 5m spool of pretty cotton ribbon
  • a delightful stitch marker from Koru Clay Studios 
  • plus a cute wooden sheep called Louis from Wool Couture
  • crochet essentials are always included, with an ergonomic crochet hook and a wool needle, thoughtfully stuck into a felt ball for safety
What more could a girl want!!!
And not to mention the stunning artwork in the form of a postcard by the talented artist Jenny Maizels as well as the pattern booklet itself. Amanda always writes a heartfelt welcome note, plus there's  'Meet the Designer', the instructions for the main project and usually a little extra project too, and more. This month there is a little jacket for Louis the wooden sheep.
I'm sure you'll agree that Amanda's Little Box of Crochet is the perfect extra-special 'pick-me-up' each month, not to mention great value for money. 

A little box of joy, just like my delicious chocolate box.

I can't wait to get started on my Festive Mandala over my Christmas break whilst munching on my handmade chocolates.

Do you have something craft planned for the festive season? I'd love to hear more about your plans.

Happy crafting, Love Lynne xx

Here are all of the links mentioned above:
Mary's Chocolate Shop, Bruges
Little Box of Crochet
Koru Clay Studios
Wool Couture Company
Jenny Maizels
Yarn and Colors

No disclaimer needed as all of the items above are my own purchases.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Contrast Heels and Toes and Perfect Stripes

Morning everyone. It's Sunday morning here in the UK and it's unusually bright for November, with clear blue skies and no rain. It feels more like a late Summer's day than the run up to Christmas. Let's hope it continues.
Last night, I managed to finish one of my self striping socks and I made a start on the second sock straight away. I sat happily knitting whilst watching Strictly Come Dancing, only to realise (once I'd finished the cuff) that I had knitted the wrong cuff. I usually knit a 2 x 2 rib for my sock cuffs, but because I'm knitting Emma Potter's Dotty Socks, I decided to tweak the cuff to match the pattern, with a 3 x 1 rib. Oh no - all that wasted knitted. But I didn't unravel the cuff, I simply cut off the yarn and I'll keep it for another pair at some point.

So off I set again, this time knitting the correct cuff. I love a 3 x 1 cuff as I like the wider, plain band that is created. I think I'll use it a lot more in my sock knitting.
I've had a few questions about where to change colour for the cuff so I thought it would be good to share my method, for a standard heel flap.

First of all, for a top-down cuff, knit to the point of your heel, following your pattern, but on the last round of knitting, stop knitting when half of your heel stitches are left, before the stitch marker. So for my socks, with a 64-stitch sock, my full heel stitches are 32 stitches. Half of 32 is 16, therefore I leave 16 stitches unworked, before the end of the last leg round.
Next, change colour and using a double-pointed needle, knit the last 16 stitches of the round in your contrast yarn.
Note: there are a few different ways to change colour. You can simply start knitting in your new colour and weave in the ends later (there may be a small hole, but this will disappear when you tighten up the yarn tails and weave them in),
Alternatively, you can twist the contrast yarn around the main yarn before you start knitting, or you could try the Russian Join, which doesn't leave any ends to weave in (link is at end of post). 

Next, remove your stitch marker and knit the second half of your heel stitches (for me this is another 16 stitches).

Turn your work and using a second double-pointed needle, purl all of your heel stitches. Turn and continue working on these stitches to knit the heel flap and turn, according to your pattern.
You will now have two yarns attached to your sock - the main yarn which is located at the base of the heel and the contrast yarn which is attached to your heel.

For the first option, you can return to your main yarn and start your gusset from that point. Start by picking up stitches along heel (according to your pattern), then knit across the base of the heel, then pick up the stitches along next side of the heel, place marker, and finally, knit across the instep stitches, place marker (the markers are used for the gusset decreasing section). Cut off your contrast yarn and leave enough yarn to weave in later. Now continue decreasing as per your pattern and knit your foot.

But for me, I don't like to do this with a self-striping yarn. 

I find that the main problem area with self-striping yarn is the gusset. This is because when you have picked up your gusset/instep stitches around your heel, you have about 18-20 more stitches than you originally had for your leg. Therefore, your stripes will be shorted in depth than the stripes on your leg and foot, because you have more stitches to knit on each round. 

If your stripes are really deep then it won't be too noticeable. But if your stripes are only around 4 rounds deep, then it will be quite noticeable. I'm not a huge fan of my stripes going off-piste around the instep, so I use my 'cut and paste' method by piecing in pieces of yarn of the same colour stripe and if you can master the Russian Join then you won't have lots of yarn to weave in.

So when I've finished shaping my heel, I start the pick-up round with my contrast yarn, first knitting across the heel stitches with my short circulars.
 Next, I pick up and knit up one side of the heel.
Then I place a marker and knit across the instep stitches, place another marker and pick up and knit along the next side of the heel and passing the main yarn as I do this. Then still using my contrast yarn, I continue with the next round until I reach the main yarn for the second time, at which point I stop and change back to the main yarn and cut off the contrast yarn.

By using the contrast yarn to pick up the gusset stitches and knit part of the next round, it gives you the extra couple of rounds across the instep section, which you need to keep the stripe the same depth as the leg stripes.

Then, for the next three or four stripes (until I have finished the decreasing section of the gusset), I add extra little strips of yarn to make each subsequent stripe the correct depth (because each stripe of the gusset is1 round short per stripe).
Whilst it may seem fiddly, I like how this creates the perfect stripes and makes me happier with my socks.

You can then knit the leg, following your pattern, and always leave in the gusset stitch markers so that you know where to start your toe decreasing.

Once you reach the length required, you can change colour again to start your toes and follow your pattern for the correct instructions. You may need to adjust the starting point of your toes, depending on where your stripes finish. So for this sock, the last round of my leg stripe was Red, which means that my toe section looks a little longer than usual.

So that's how I create my perfect stripes. I hope it gives you some ideas for playing with your own self-striping yarn. On the other hand, perhaps life is too short to worry about these short stripes - I'd welcome your views and whether it's something that bothers you or whether you just accept it as a quirky part of your self striping socks. Perhaps I should pay attention to my own reflections:

Don't forget to enter your socks on social media or my Ravelry group, using the hashtags #novemberselfstripingsocks #yearofhandknitsocks #lynnerowe

This months prize is a fabulous book by The Loveliest Yarn Company, containing lots of amazing mini sock patterns for your Sockmas socks, along with a canvas tote bag and a few extras from me.
Here are all the links mentioned above:
Join my Ravelry Group to enter your self striping socks
Christine Perry (Winwick Mum): Basic Socks (Ravelry)
Winwick Mum website
The Yarn Café (for your West Yorkshire Spinners Christmas yarn)
Lynne Rowe: Lynne's Perfect Socks (Ravelry)

Dotty Socks by Potter & Bloom

Happy stripey sock knitting, 
Lynne xx

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

'A Year of Handknit Socks' - using self striping yarn

Hello lovely readers and a huge thanks to those who joined in with October's sock theme #octobervanillasocks. The winner was Amanda @thecalmnookcrafts and I have posted her prize to Australia. 

It was a treat to see your lovely knitted socks and I hope you can join in too for November. This month the theme is self striping socks, so grab yourself a ball or skein of self striping yarn and let's cast on.

If you share your projects, the hashtags to use are #novemberselfstripingsocks #yearofhandknitsocks #lynnerowe.
I shared my casting on and rib methods in a previous blog post here, and also how I work a standard heel flap and gusset here. Coming up soon are how to pick up stitches neatly for the gusset and how to knit a simple toe.

But in the meantime, here are a few tips for knitting with self striping yarn.

What is self striping yarn?
It's yarn that is dyed in long lengths of colour. When you start to knit, it changes colour to create stripes of a fixed length, which means that there is no need to change colour yourself (and no messy ends to weave in). 

Self striping yarn can range from two colours, to lots of colours. 
I love my teal and orange socks, using yarn from Black Horse Yarns, and my 'Mind the Gap' socks remain a firm favourite too - these are based on the colours of the London Underground, dyed by Trailing Clouds (all links are at the end of the post).
There is usually no graduation with the colour changes - they will just change from one colour to the next, to create crisp, clean lines.

Self-striping yarn is perfect for new knitters, because a striking and colourful effect can be achieved, with very little work.

Using self striping yarn for socks
The great thing about sock knitting is that both socks are identical, which means that your stripes will knit to the same depth for each sock. If you want your socks to match completely, you will need to make sure that you start your cast on at exactly the same point along the same coloured stripe. It isn't essential to have you socks matching. Many knitters like to knit with the yarn as it comes, without worrying about their socks being identical.

I don't mind either way, but I have a slight preference towards matching socks. Here's my method:

First, I always wind my ball or skein of yarn into a yarn cake. 
This helps me to see how the yarn is dyed and more importantly, if I wind the last few stripes around the skein, I can see how they will look when knitted up. Some indie dyers sell their yarn in balls that are already wound, or in yarn cakes, rather than skeins, which is really useful - and often they include a contrasting mini skein for heels and toes.
But you don't have to spend lots of money to buy a nice self striping yarn. Drops Fabel is one of my favourite yarns which is incredibly good value at just a couple of pounds per 50g ball, and there are lots of self striping colourways. West Yorkshire Spinners also sell great value 100g balls of self striping yarns, from shades inspired by birds and natures, to cocktails and Christmas colours. If you use contrasting heels and toes, you can often knit two pairs from one 100g ball.

With a yarn cake, I can also see if the first stripe of colour is a complete length, or whether it's slightly shorter than the other stripes. You can see that the Green in my West Yorkshire Spinner's Candy Cane yarn is slightly shorter than the Red and White stripes, so I didn't want to cast on with Green, as there was possibly only enough yarn for casting on with.
I decided that wanted to start my socks with a Red stripe at the top of the cuff. Because I use the thumb (or long-tail) cast on method, I always need to be mindful that I also need to use a long tail of yarn to cast on my stitches with (as well as the yarn from the ball) and this also needs to be Red. At the same time, I don't want to waste any of my Red stripe), so I try to make sure that once I've cast on my stitches, I only have a short amount of the cast on colour remaining (just enough to weave in). I know that for 64 sts, with 2.5mm needles, I will use approximately 58cm of yarn for one round of knitting, therefore when I made my slip knot I left a long tail of Red, approximately 60cm long, so that my cast on stitches are all Red. 
Casting on using the long tail or thumb method will have an impact on the depth of the first stripe, because you will use two rounds worth of yarn for casting on. 

I always make a note of where I made my slip knot so that I know where to start my second sock to make it match the first sock.

I'm not a huge fan of a solid colour cuff, so I tend to just start off with my self striping yarn, then use a contrast colour for heels and toes. 

For my #novemberselfstripingsocks I'm used Emma Potter's Dotty Socks pattern, which is a free pattern that you can find here on Ravelry. I really love the surface pattern that Emma has created. The little purl bumps result in a gorgeous texture that is quite soothing to run your hands over. 
So now you can make a start on your self striping socks - don't forget to share either a progress photo or a photo of your finished socks on social media (with November's hashtags above) to win this month's prize, which is A-ma-zing!!!. 

Kindly donated by The Loveliest Yarn Company, it's a copy of  their Sockmas book of festive mini socks to knit and decorate your home with. Along with a canvas tote and a few extra bits from me. These socks are incredibly cute and range from plain and simple stripes, to cables and stranded colourwork. I'm desperate to cast on and get knitting.

Next I will be showing you where to join yarn for your contrast heel and how to avoid the thin stripe at the start of the gusset, which is caused by having a lot more stitches to knit on each round. I often 'cheat' at this point to make sure my stripes are the same depth (I'll tell you more in my next post).

Here are all the links mentioned above:
Join my Ravelry Group to enter your vanilla socks
Christine Perry (Winwick Mum): Basic Socks (Ravelry)
Winwick Mum website
The Yarn Café (for your West Yorkshire Spinners Christmas yarn)
Lynne Rowe: Lynne's Perfect Socks (Ravelry)

Dotty Socks by Potter & Bloom
The Loveliest Yarn Company
The Yarn Badger

Happy stripe knitting,