Woolness = Wellness

Many of you will already be aware that it is currently Wovember, the month that is all about celebrating wool.  This year the theme is “Woolness – Where Wool Meets Wellness”, and “Woolness = Wellness” is the prompt for day 2 of the Yarn in the City Instagram Challenge.

I wasn’t planning on writing this blog post, nor even putting up an Instagram.  (I’m not even putting up a photo, the cardinal sin of the internet).  The thoughts came to me this morning as I was lying in bed, contemplating the day ahead.  I’d allowed my mind a bit of space to wander, as the heavy rain allowed me to declare in advance that today was going to be a low-key indoors day.  Sort of a mental health day, where I try to take a bit of pressure off myself (but still somehow needing to be a bit productive).  I’ve already had a few days in bed this week thanks to an underlying health condition, so the topic feels especially relevant.

There is an increasing body of research on the health benefits of knitting, and especially for mental health.  If you’d like to find out more about the therapeutic benefits of knitting and other crafts, Betsan Corkhill’s site Stitchlinks is a good place to start.

This is the bit where I come out to you all:  I’m not really a knitter.  I can hear the gasps! An imposter!  I mean, I know how to knit, and I carry my project bag with me every day just in case a suitable knitting opportunity arises.  Many of my friends are knitters, and I’ve built a business based around knitting.  But I don’t have an innate need to knit every day, and weeks could easily go by without having knit a single stitch.  I’m incredibly envious of the stunning knitted projects that I see people create, and I wish that I was  driven to knit more so that I could have a handknitted jumper for every day of the week, or a drawer full of handmade socks.

I find that I don’t need to actually knit with yarn for it to be an integral part of my life.  I’m surrounded by wool and yarn.  I work with it, I dye it, I read about it, I talk about it.  My home is filled with wool, whether dyed, undyed, knitted or unknitted.  I wear wool clothing every day, even in summer, whether handknitted or factory made.  I love the cosiness and sturdiness of wearing wool.  It help grounds me and keeps me in touch with something real.  My natural inclination is to spend far too much time in my own head, and my day job only exacerbates this.  Wool is an antidote that brings me back to the tangible.

If I don’t necessarily knit with it, then what else do I do with yarn?  I just enjoy it.  In my business, I dye it, skein it, twist it, label it, wrap it up in tissue paper, and send it off to new homes to be loved.  I pile it up, I rearrange colours, I put different combinations together.  I relish all the different textures; smooth or rustic; chunky or delicate.  I don’t quite roll around in it, but a dear friend has (only half-jokingly) suggested creating a yarn pit to do just that!  Just playing with yarn, without even needing to knit a stitch, still brings together all the same sensory experiences.  Essentially, I just like to play with wool.

Tomorrow you can find me back at Wild and Woolly, rearranging the yarn cubbies, tidying up all the gorgeous skeins, getting my weekly therapeutic dose of real joy.

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giveaway winner

Hi there knitters!  For those of you in the UK, I hope you’re managing to stay dry and out of the floods this week.
Thanks to those of you who left comments in response to my last blog post.    You had some great stories to tell about gifts you’d received.  I certainly got lots of giggles!
I put the number of commenters in to the handy random number generator, and came up with the following:

random number

That means that the prize goes to commenter number two, that is Linda!  Please do get in touch with your details, and I’ll get your prize in the post to you.  Happy new year!

the make escape

make escape

Some of you may not be aware, but there is a fantastic FREE craft night that happens in Hackney on the last Tuesday of the month.  It’s The Make Escape, and it’s held upstairs in The Attic at The Hackney Picturehouse.  It’s such a great night, I can’t believe not everyone knows about it yet!  The idea is that it’s a space where people can drop in from 7.30pm and just join in with the crafts that are happening on the night.  Each month hosts a different theme, and last week was all about Easter.

Here’s my bunny nugget with a very woolly sheep cosy:

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Making the most of the opportunity to learn a new skill, I had a bash at crochet.  It’s hard to believe that someone has actually taught me to crochet before, but since I’ve never practised, I’m still completely rubbish.  I just can’t seem to figure out how to tension the yarn without a needle in my left hand, so I ended up with the smallest, tightest few stitches known to humanity:

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Catherine Hirst tried to reassure me that an inability to tension the yarn is very common in beginners, but I think maybe crochet is just not the craft for me.

I had a little stall with my yarns and got a chance to talk to some really interesting knitters and crocheters.   I love how people are welcome to set up a stall and then help out or run a workshop for the evening.  I’m already plotting and scheming for some good ideas for future workshops.

The fabulous Momtaz who organises the night was busy taking photos of the evening’s craftiness, which she has put together in a blog post here.  There’s even a photo of me, but I can assure you, I was much happier than the photo suggests!  (I really need to work on my fear of being photographed).

All in all it was a great evening and I’m looking forward to more.  The next night is April 30th, with the theme of jewellery.  Break out the sparkly stuff!

spitalfields market

I had so much fun at the Spitalfields Market a couple of weeks ago.  It was one of those cold, grey London days when being undercover at a market is just the right thing.

I got to meet lots of new people, and particularly exciting was meeting ravellers “in real life” for the first time.  It’s always amazing to make face to face contact with people you’ve interacted with on the internet.

One of my favourite aspects of doing a market stall is getting to know the other stallholders.  I love learning about the stories behind their products and hearing about their experiences.  As usual, my stallholder neighbours commented on how “dedicated” knitters seem to be (I think that was a polite way to say yarn-obsessed) and I couldn’t really disagree.  I completely love the knitting community and wouldn’t have it any other way.

I also had lots of friends pop down (which was great not only for company, but also to give me the chance to get some lunch!) but my only regret was that I didn’t get a chance to go shopping at the other stalls myself.  We were part of the 70 stalls designated for the We Make London designer-makers, so there was no shortage of creative goodness to check out.

One of my friends came along and helped to ensure that my displays were all nicely colour co-ordinated…

I had plans for doing a giant Etsy shop update after the market, but I got the sudden news that my landlord wants her flat back, so I’m currently doing a mad dash trying to put my life in to boxes.  I’ll be moving house next weekend, so there will be new stock in the shop once I’m unpacked.  I’m moving to a very creative part of London, opposite another knitter, so there should be lots of knitterly things coming up!

a suitcase of yarn

I may not have knit a thing for several weeks, but that’s because I’ve been busy with other yarn things… dyeing up this lot!

It’s a suitcase o’ yarn!

Coming back from holiday last month I got all motivated and inspired, and I decided it was finally time to do something about my yarn dyeing plans.  Plus, spring time suddenly arrived with a bang, so it’s perfect timing to get skeins of yarn outside on the line to dry in the warm air.

I’m having a little travelknitter market stall at the Spitalfields Sheep and Wool Fayre at the Spitalfields City Farm on Sunday May 15th.  I’m probably about half-way prepared (still a few kilos left to dye) so I’m making good use of our endless bank holidays this month.  At this point I’m not sure if I’m more excited or terrified, but at the very least it will be fun I’m sure.  What’s not to love about an afternoon dedicated to everything sheepy?

If you’re in London on the 15th, please stop by to say hello!

the blues

It’s pretty apparent that I have a very narrow palette of colours that I knit with if I’m making a garment for myself.  I find myself drawn to the same colours of rich reds, dark greens, browns, as well as black and grey.  On the odd occasion that I try to break out, and do something crazy like wear a top of a different colour, I end up feeling all wrong and out of place, and just not me.

Having such specific colour preferences means that shopping is somewhat simplified, as I can simply block out whole sections of shop displays.  Of course, it also means that I keep buying different versions of essentially the same things, and my yarn purchases are no different (I’ll have to show you my sock yarn collection some time!).

My yarn dyeing adventures have tended to follow a similar well-worn path.  I essentially started out dyeing yarn a year ago with the goal of never again having to hunt for that ‘perfect red’.  I now have more than enough lovely reds to keep me happy for a long time, but I’m also conscious that there’s a whole world of colour out there that I’ve been neglecting.

Feeling the need for some definite inspiration, I issued a request to two of my knitting friends: to challenge me to dye up colours of their choice.  It was a choose-your-own gift scenario.  Interestingly, they both chose shades of blue, a colour that I tend to avoid more than most.

Here’s what I came up with:

A skein of merino/silk laceweight.  Supposedly duck egg in colour, but it soaked up more blue than I anticipated.  I think it’s lovely all the same.

And a skein of merino/nylon sock yarn, in a rich teal.  Very saturated and deep, with just the slightest hint of variation in colour; just what I was aiming for.

Considering I’m not a fan of blues at all, I’m really quite in love with these yarns together:

stash overhaul

My new flatmate Hannah moved in last weekend.  She’s lovely, and the best thing – she’s a knitter!  I’ve never actually lived with another knitter before, so it’s been wonderful checking out each other’s stash and sharing inspiration.

Hannah needed basics for her room, so on her first day here we jumped in the car and drove to Ikea.  It seemed like the perfect opportunity to buy the Expedit shelf that I’d been after for ages.  Hannah had an Expedit at her last place, so she put the shelves up in no time at all, and I happily spent the afternoon reorganising my stash:

Seeing everything so neat and colour coordinated makes me happy!  Please note though that it’s only small-quantity skeins that are in the shelves above; jumper quantities are stashed away in another cupboard out of sight.  (The blues are Hannah’s; the rest is mine).  I have to say I felt a bit guilty with all this yarn seeing the light of day, so I’ve since sold a few skeins that I was never going to knit, and now I feel a bit better.

When Hannah first moved in, I pondered whether by sharing our stash, we’d each be able to reduce how much we buy.  Well, two weeks in, and it doesn’t seem to be working; exposure just fans the flames of yarn envy.