Friday, 21 October 2011

Them Knitting Needes!

Aren’t they big and beautiful? I bought them at last week’s Creative Craft Show here in Belfast. Although I haven’t tried them out yet, I’ve got big plans for these beauties! But there is no chance of taking these in my handbag for a spot of light knitting on the bus…

Talking about knitting needles… Recently, I was at a political conference, and spent long hours at talks, workshops and seminars – all very exciting, but of course, very exhausting, too. Knitting during the talks kept me alert and focused – and I was still working as well. Every day, I was walking into the conference area with a bag full of papers, but even more yarn! The political and the knitting overlapped everytime I was trying to pull out a paper, and a ball of yarn rolled out of my bag instead…

However, one morning my knitting needles – 4mm tiny wooden circular ones – were confiscated by security, because they were suddenly considered ‘too pointy’, and thus too dangerous to be brought into the hall. Telling them that I could do more damage with my rather pointy teeth did not help, so I had to leave my knitting at the security checkpoint. HRMPH!

To say that I was not amused is an understatement…and I had dreams of seriously yarnbagging somebody…

Not being a knitter who gives up easily (and especially when knitting is concerned), I tried to get my needles through security the next time – and no, I did not hide them in my unmentionables, just had them in my bag as usual – and to my surprise, my means of production were allowed in again. Therefore, I was able to continue my ‘radical knitting’ and managed to finish my pair of armwarmers for myself (during the English heatwave!), as well as a beautiful Halloween-themed scarf.

However, if I go next year again, I doubt my big needles would be allowed in.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Update on the Crafty Collaboration

Back in May, when we still had hopes that this Irish summer would be a good one *sigh*, Sue from Amazing Beads showed a lovely picture of her Scottish Mountain Sheep on her blog.

The conversation that followed resulted in a big parcel of lovely raw wool winging its way from Cork to Belfast.

I washed the wool, dyed some and finally managed to spin a small hank of yarn on my Turkish drop spindle as shown in the picture above. I plied the wool with some lavender blue merino and strips of denim, and it is lovely and tactile. Not too sure what I will knit with it yet, but when I do, there will be more pictures. There will also be definitely more spinning.

Thanks Sue for the gorgeous yarn. And good health to your sheep!

Friday, 15 July 2011

You call it apple, and I call it pistaccio...

On Tuesday, we had one of those rare sunny days, so I set up my table and chair in our garden, and started going through that box of clothes catalogues I have in the house. One of my neighbours is a very stylish lady who receives heaps of clothes catalogues, which she then passes on to me. I spent a lovely afternoon cutting out items which gave me design and pattern ideas, made notes and later on stuck them in my ‘design book’ for future reference.

I also cut out a lot of the colour charts, because I am always a bit stuck with naming colours, apart from the obvious red, green, blue, turquoise, yellow, purple. When it comes to shades, I struggle. When is a pink a rosé or maybe even an old rose? And what is a rosé for me might be a pale pink or pale rose for somebody else. One catalogue named their green ‘apple’, while I thought it was nearly a pale olive colour. ‘Apple’ for me is a lovely juicy green, but that green was called pistaccio by another catalogue. And since when is ‘geranium’ a reddish shade? I have pink geraniums, and never think of geraniums as other than pink!

You see, it’s tricky. Recently, I was looking for the name of a kind of sandy brown, but more a darkish or grey sandy brown. When I saw ‘fallow’ and looked at the picture on the screen, Eureka! that was the colour of my button. I had never heard of ‘fallow’ in my life, but apparently it is a really old colour name. Fallow! I like the word, and promptly used it in my product description. Because of my button, my very red cloche hat is now to be found amongs pictures of fields and deer when you search ‘fallow’ on Etsy.

Last year, I realised the lilac shade of one of my scarves was actually called ‘wisteria’.  I associate ‘Wisteria’ with the Wisteria Walk mentioned in Harry Potter, and never thought of a colour.

And there are colours like goldenrod, chartreuse, pomegranate, cornflower, periwinkle, fandango, amaranth, Thulian pink, vermilion and porcini, whose names I just find fascinating. There is even a Razzmatazz pink, which is a rich shade of crimson rose.

A year ago, I fell in love with robin’s egg blue, although according to Etsy search, that colour had an extremely wide spectrum – from a very pale blue to a very green blue. Would the real robin’s egg blue please stand up, please stand up, please stand up… !

And is robin’s egg blue the same as duck egg blue?

I love learning new colour names, but the more I know, the more confused I get!

Saturday, 9 July 2011


I’ve not knitted much for my shops, apart from a lacy cloche hat which I recently listed in my Etsy store, but I’ve finally knitted some things for myself! Yes, I was fed up running around like the cobbler’s children, and wanted to wear my own unique colourful knitwear! However, the pieces seem to  have ended up as proto-types for new designs, well, that nearly always happens when you are a knitter and designer!

The Irish summer is unpredictable, and sometimes it can get rather nippy at night or in the morning. So I wanted to make myself a pair of armwarmers for ages, especially since I usually cycle in t-shirt, crocs and no socks in the summer months, but my hands get cold.  A friend of mine gave me some fabulous sock yarn for my birthday, and a talented arts graduate told me, this yarn needs to be seen on the hands and not hidden on the feet.

I have already been told that I should make more of these and sell them, maybe with a hat to match.
If the armwarmers are against the cold or nip, the next item I knitted for myself is to be used against the heat. It may not be very hot here in Belfast, but the sun is quite intense. I blame the ozone hole for this, because I never got sunburnt in Belfast years ago, but now I have to slap on more sunscreen than I ever did before. If I sit outside and knit, or if I am on the bike, I need a head cover, because I do feel the rays pounding on my hair. Hats are great, but we also have some gusty winds here even in the summer, so I have been chasing hats more times than I can recall. Therefore, I came up with the idea for a headscarf/bandana which can be tied firmly to the head to prevent escape!

It was supposed to be a simple cotton one, but then I got some sparkly ribbon, found some left over strips from a scarf that was turned into a skirt, and the whole headscarf turned out rather colourful. Furthermore, I decided to be cheeky and sew the label on the outside. Well, flaunt it! I definitely want to make more of these for the shop, because they are rather pretty, fun to wear and also very handy against those rays.

I did spin quite a bit of yarn for two pieces I am working on at the moment, and I had great fun beading threads, finding buttons and ribbons to spin into the yarn. I love this blue lavender colour, and some of it comes from Lindsaycrafts on Etsy. The pink fibre comes from a gorgeous batt by Shunklies on Etsy.

I also knitted a capelet to be displayed at the wool stall of Lighthouse Yarns here on St George’s Market (you’ll find it at the back of the market on Saturday and Sunday). That wool stall is addictive, and also has knitting needles, buttons, pattern books and other knitting accessories. I sometimes just look at the yarns and it makes me happy, and I hardly leave without a button purchase at least… I knitted the capelet from yarns I bought from Lighthouse Yarns, and added some of my handspun yarn as well.

I’ve lots of projects on the go (and none for myself now!), and like a true yarn addict keep looking at yarns and fibre, although I wouldn’t need any more yarn for the next few years! But one can never have enough (read: I can never get enough…) So there will be more new pieces in my shops shortly.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Crafty Men

While I was threading beads and buttons on cotton thread on Father’s Day today (to be spun into merino fibre), I was musing about the men in my family who were creative, although they might not always considered themselves as such. In fact, there might have been more male then female creatives in my immediate family.

My late father was a brilliant hand sewer. He made some of the tiniest and neatest stitches I ever saw. Dad was the one who altered all our clothes, gave me scrap fabrics to play with, and made me a fabulous Cyndi Lauper skirt from flurescent-coloured net fabric. He was also delighted when I asked him to give me a sewing machine for Christmas when I was 15, less delighted when I broke so many needles and gave up (not after managing to make myself a carneval’s costume though). So he took the machine to continue doing the family’s clothes alterations, but I think he preferred sewing by hand. In that respect I am very like him, I also prefer hand sewing.

My Dad also could draw well. I had totally forgotten that he used to draw animals for us when we were kids before my sister reminded me. He also loved singing Sea Shanties, although he had no connections to the sea or boats. And he used to tell us kids lovely stories in which my sis and I were the main characters!

My Dad’s Da was a farmer, who however was also the tailor in the small village they lived in. According to my Dad, Grandda tailored some beautiful suits and we have a picture of my Dad as a young man wearing a checkered suit (made by his Dad) which must have been the height of fashion then.

I don’t think my Dad or his father ever considered themselves as crafty or creative, but rather perceived sewing as a trade or useful skill.

My mother’s father was a printer, who as a young man wanted to join a circus. As a kid I always regretted that he hadn’t done it, because then I might have grown up to be a trapeze artist! Grandpa also loved doing magic tricks, and entertained the kids in the neighbourhood with his magic skills and spectacular cartwheels. Doing cartwheels is an ability I inherited from him.

Often people assume that craft skills are handed down from mother to daughter, but in my case, my first crafty influence came from my Dad. I could sew, before I ever picked up a knitting needle, and my barbie dolls had the grooviest outfits ever!

Happy Father’s Day!

Monday, 13 June 2011

The motivation returns!

Freshly spun yarn

Last week, while I was sick, my motivation reached sub zero temperatures. In fact, it disappeared, and unlike Arnie, it didn’t shout ‘I’ll be back!’

I tried to coax it, used every trick from my motivational books including planning and goal setting, treated myself to lovely food, took it easy…still, my motivation was gone. This, of course, is bad when you are self-employed and have to bring home the bacon.

I tried to use creative visualisation, imagining myself as an energetic, successful and wealthy crafter – that lasted five minutes, and I was in deep slumber on my sofa.

I was desperate for somebody to feed me motivation with a big wooden spoon, because I kept lying postrated on my bed, reading chick lit from years back, and eating nuts.

My knitting was abandoned, my spindle hadn’t been twirled in weeks, and my sewing basket was overflowing.

Even the prospect of new yarn only caused a mild fluttering of eyelashes.

On Saturday morning I wrote a song about why I want to be my neighbour’s dog.
(It is actually funny.)

Things were bad!

OK, I did have some kind of virus, but this seemed to have turned into a motivational crisis, a creative blank, and the desire to sleep all day. Maybe I was knitted-out, but maybe I just needed to get a kick in the proverbial…?

However, motivation suddenly has returned! Not with all guns blazing like Arnie, more with a tentative ‘hello everybody’, but yes, it is back.

Hear the clicking of knitting needles and the whirring of the spindle!


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Crafty Collaboration!

Last week, Sue from Amazing Beads wrote on the Fondelifair website about her Scottish Mountain Sheep. This lead to comments going back and forth about sheep and wool, and as a result, a few days later, a big parcel winged its way to my door.

Wool! Real sheepy goodness!

Sue had warned me that it was smelly, and yes, the wool was very…erm… fragrant, but I was too excited to worry if my neighbours thought I was hiding a flock of sheep in my flat.

I washed the wool in a bucket first, and then in my bath tub. I washed it quite a few times, and afterwards sat in the kitchen and picked the twigs and the lumps of soil out of the fibre.

It was hard work (very labour intensive), but also very satisfying. It would have been easier, however, if I had an extra utility room, because there was fibre everywhere, and some later made its way into my dinner… Also, I think if you wash wool in bulk, you need better equipment and a proper comb.

I decided to do some wool dyeing, and  separated the whitest wool from the rest, and left it to dry. That’s the wool I want to spin undyed. The other wool was divided up in heaps, and I dyed it in bright textile dye I had left from dyeing cotton yarn about two years ago.

I never dyed sheep’s wool before but remembered with a shudder that I once ruined a natural white Aran jumper which I tried to dye black!  This time, I did  much better, but know now, that I probably should have used some proper wool dye. The colours came out rather pale, and I had the feeling that the fibre didn’t really soak up the dye. My attempts to tie dye also did not work – there were no groovy stripes and shapes on the fibre. However, there is a lovely effect in that some of the tips are darker than the rest of the fibre.

I have now a big pile of colourful wool  still drying in my bathroom, thanks to Sue and Fondelifair!

The next step will be to spin it…

Friday, 27 May 2011

Maeve and the Knitting Sailors

Actually, this title sounds like the name of an Irish folk band. Or the name of a good old raunchy sea shanty!

However, I was rather just musing about things when I was cycling into town this morning, and here are the results of my musings.

While my wheels went round and round, I was thinking of a short story I read a few days ago by Maeve Binchy – and an Irish writer is always a very suitable topic for an Irish online site. Yes, I confess I do like Maeve – she’s a great storyteller, and even I  do read some good chick lit sometimes! I hadn’t read any of her books for years though, and only recently picked them up again. Hardly remembering her stories from Victoria Line, Central Line (1978) when re-reading them, I was surprised how good they were! I think these stories have some ‘bite’, something which – while you expect nice and easy chick lit – makes you startle and think ‘oops, not quite what it seems here!’

One of the stories, ‘King’s Cross’, was about a secretary whose aim in life was to help talented women up the career ladder – those who were always pushed aside by less talented male managers who were just better in ‘playing the game’. No, I am not starting a gender war here, but what was so fascinating was that – at least in the story – it only needed a few changes for the woman in question to suddenly make her bosses take notice of her. It started off with improving the outer appearance: look more business-like, re-organise your office, use the benefits you are entitled to (like a clothing allowance or an office allowance) but then went on to self-respect. Once the woman in question realised that people respected her more when she actually claimed what was rightfully hers anyway – this also included her ideas which had been claimed by other people – she didn’t feel the need to make herself smaller no more.

Basically, it was all a question of how to market yourself, but of course it was so much more!

And I was musing about crafts and how it is often belittled, because for a long time it was seen as something that women just did – mostly for no rewards. Of course, that wasn’t always true, because traditionally, weavers were male, crocheting derived from fishermen mending their nets, and many sailors knitted during the long days at sea, but somehow, crafts were seen as either a female pasttime (think of Jane Austin’s women always embroidering or working on some hat) or a female necessity (making clothes, knitting, mending).

We haven’t quite marketed our crafts right yet. So do we need an ‘Eve’ (that was the secretary’s name) to give us the push to claim what is rightfully ours and gain respect?

How often do I hear the words ‘my granny knits’! It evokes an image of a benign elderly lady (complete with lace cap) who sits by the turf fire, balls of wool on her lap (or a cat or both), knitting an Aran jumper.

Now think of the knitting sailors. ‘My grandda used to knit while working on a ship’ just sounds different. I get a sense of adventure – sailors crossing the seven seas, sitting on deck and knitting, maybe singing raunchy sea shanties – one can nearly feel the wind on one’s face and smell the sea s, spray. Pure adventure!

So, thinking of Maeve and the knitting sailors, it is time we market the craft sector better and revamp its image. How much I may love sitting by the turf fire and have a purring cat on my lap, I rather have my knitting evoke a sense of adventure, crossing the seven seas, or even just crossing the channel tunnel in the Eurostar – as I’ve done many a times with my knitting.

Crafting is an adventure, not something we just do!

(The hat in the picture was actually knitted on a boat…ok, it was the Stranraer-Belfast ferry, but never mind…)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Big head...erm...hat

After my disastrous selling weekend, I lost my knitting mojo! I just did not want to pick up them needles anymore. Sewing and spinning went down the drain, too. I just wanted to do cleaning (never happened though), paperwork (happened sporadically) and mooching about (happened a lot). I managed to write though, which was the only creative thing I did.

I felt a bit lost, if truth be told. Those hands that were normally busy now rested uneasily on the chair when watching the news. I wasn’t quite sure what else to do, other than pick up fluff from the floor. I could of course, have whipped out the Dyson, but that would have been far too much effort…

However, this afternoon, my knitting mojo returned! I suddenly wanted to knit a cloche hat, something I had wanted to do for some time. I looked at hat pictures on the Internet to get an idea as to how this peculiar shape is created, and then started drawing and jotting down patterns. This might sound very arty and methodical, but it is actually not. My patterns never quite seem to add up at first, but still work somehow after some trial and error, with a tweak here and a tweak there…but there is never a neat mathematical equation, where everything adds up. There are far to many, ‘decrease two stitches here’ and ‘add one’ there to even something out – I don’t think my patterns could ever appear in a knitting magazine!

Cloche hats are strange beasts. A lot of hats featured under ‘cloche’ aren’t cloches at all, but sneaky slouchy hats, ordinary hats and big floppy sun hats that somehow managed to masquerade themselves as cloches. Cloches are very restrained hats. They don’t have a ‘tea cosy’ shape, but are longer and rounder at the top – and their brim has a very restraint but distinct flare. I wanna funk up da cloche and have some mad ideas of big flowers and massive bows to go with the modest cloche.

So I burst out in knitting, and I think my cloche might indeed look like a cloche. However, it is big again! Even when I am using less than the recommended number of stiches for the needle size, it is still a lot bigger than the average size. It seems, because I have a big head (figuratively and physically speaking), I can’t knit small or normal sized hats, they all mushroom into something big and bold.

So, the cloche I am working on will be big. Hope it will be a cloche, and not turn out to be a glorified sun hat after all.

I shall find out soon…

PS: The hat in question is now available at my store...

Monday, 16 May 2011

Where are the Pirates?

Stop this planet - I wanna get off!

Warning! This is a rant! A very ranty rant. Hardly any swearing though…

I am mad. Hopping mad. Madder than mad – the world is seriously annoying me, so please stop this planet so that I can get off it (hello Major Tom!). I spent two days trying to sell first my knitwear and then my second hand clothing and fabrics at Belfast’s Fashion Souk, and I just had it. Now I love the Souk and it is one of Belfast’s most creative and buzzing institutions, but I seriously begin to despair of many Belfast consumers. Why go to a creative, crafty, designery market when you do want to look like everybody else??? Why do you look at pieces of individual craftman – and womanship, pick and pull at it and want it for cheap mass produced prices??? Why do you not even look at stands properly, but walk around with your nose in the air? Why do you not look for quality and skill in a garment? And what on earth is wrong with knitting and patchwork??? Just because ‘yer granny knits and crafts’ doesn’t mean it is not worth anything? I know some of the coolest old people on this planet, and they can give you a run for your Primarks’ clothing!

Having a very bad day…

When I was at the hairdressers on Friday, I picked up a book on Vivienne Westwood’s designs. There was a picture of a fashion show in 1981, and the models were dressed as pirates. I remember that look very well (and Adam Ant, now who wouldn’t remember Adam Ant in his pirate outfit, woooah). What struck me were three things:
  1. the models looked healthy (and yes, had 80s perms, too)
  2. the models seemed to have fun, and there was so much energy in the picture
  3. the clothes looked crafty, nearly home made, with gorgeous fabrics artily flung around waistlines and heads. People looked like individuals and not like clothes horses!
Where are the Pirates now???

One girl I met today though was definitely a young Pirate. Really inspiring. May you never walk the plank and become an investment banker, even if that idea sounds so appealing – actually, it does sound appealing to me at this minute – help!

I am fed up. I love creating, but there is no market for me where people just want everything to look the same. I will not produce for a mass market – if I wanted to do that, I’ll set up a texile sweatshop and get hundreds of hats and neckwarmers machine knitted with cheap yarn and all looking alike. Actually, right now I don’t want to produce for any market! Friggin’ stupid markets telling people what to buy to feel good about themselves! It is never about the makers, ever!

This reminds me that the goblins in the Harry Potter series consider the maker the rightful and true master of any object, and anything bought is only considered rented for the lifespan of the purchaser.  I am strangely drawn to this idea…

I am a maker – the true master of the object – and do my own thing rather than following the crowd. What is so great of being a lemming? I remember trying it once and it was miserable.

I rather want to be a Pirate. Or Major Tom.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


Yes, I feel like bursting into song:

“Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair”

After months in the hair wilderness, I finally saw the inside of a hairdressing salon again. From being a babe who was never out of the hairdresser’s, this running a crafting business has turned me into a walking recession mane, since my money now goes only on food, heating and yarn. And although I knit with a lot of fibres, I have not as yet started to knit my own hair, but if you ever see a neckwarmer named Rapunzel, you can grow suspicious…

There comes a point when you need to see again. Also, I am selling this weekend at the Home and Fashion Souks, and the stallholders, especially those vintage sellers at Belfast’s Fashion Souk, are perfectly groomed, from their 40s hairstyles to their pointed bras and dainty shoes. They look a wonderful advertisement for their goods, while I might look like an advertisement for 80s rock!
The hair had to be dealt with!

So, a shaggy straggly woman went into the hairdressing salon, and a modern gal walked out, looking sleek, feeling great. Go me!

“Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it”

Now I can flaunt my hair, erm, knitwear tomorrow, looking just as hip as my pieces, and not like some scary woman who crawled out of a knitting bag.

A new haircut feels good. Nearly as good as buying yarn…

Monday, 9 May 2011

Your health is your wealth

Jacob wants it to be known that he exercises, too!
“Those who don’t make time for exercise will eventually have to make time for illness.”  
(Robin Sharma)

Headed early to the gym this morning. Early means after 10am for me, because as a night owl, I am not one for jumping out of bed at 6am to greet the earth with a sun salute.

So I hopped on my bike on my gym gear and cycled merrily down the road, feeling very diciplined and fit.

It’s been four months since I’ve started going to the gym twice a week. Luckily, the gym I go to is small, has a cheap rate for people on no income, and while it has all the equipment, you don’t feel surrounded by gym bunnies and muscle men in tattoos. It’s more your friendly neighbourhood place, where you hop onto the exercise machines and do your own thing.

I’m certainly not a fitness fanatic or diet lover, but I’ve come to realise that if I don’t exercise more and pay slightly more attention to what I devour, I will have to pay the price pretty soon. As an IT freelancer, crafter and writer, my habitual position is slouching over something, be it the keyboard, the knitting or my desk. Not only do I get regular backpains and muscle cramps, I also have a kind of hunched standing posture, that freaks me out every time I look in a mirror.

There are times when I get up from an intensive computing or knitting session, and I can hardly stand up straight. Sewing is even worse – I try not to sew more than 30 minutes in a row without getting up and shaking that body, because otherwise I am stiffer than Myrtle, my wire mannequin.

So I now cycle and go to the gym…and I am starting to notice the difference. From being just about able to lift the measliest weights, I now can haul a few more, my back doesn’t complain as much, and I am far more flexible. I also realised that my stomach muscles weren’t dead after all…

A gym session also puts me in a good mood, and I no longer crash onto the bed for a two-hour nap! And on one occasion, a good hard gym session was needed to get me over a bout of extreme grumpiness and frustration after some futile phonecalls to a certain office…

The hardest part is still to get myself to the gym, but what helped is the fact that I set the gym times nearly in stone. They are close to sacred, and will only be changed in exceptional circumstances. This is ‘me time’. I am doing this for myself, to feel healthier and fitter, to have more energy, and to be able to dance the night away without having to sit down every five minutes, moaning and groaning about aches and pains and feeling a hundred years old.

The gym is actually one place where I get many creative ideas. The body does its work, while I let my mind wander off to knitting patterns and blog ideas…like this one.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Tomorrow I get organised!!!

One of my knitting baskets and Simon, the travelling gecko

It is nearly midnight, and my head is so full that I can’t think straight. Too many ideas, and far too many things to do. Papers everywhere, I can’t remember what I am supposed to do next, knitting projects are strewn across the room in baskets and bags, and my Dyson is dying of boredom.
Tomorrow I get organised!
  • I will no longer believe I can remember everything all the time, and will use my diary.
  • I will stop using old envelopes for notes & knitting patterns and leaving them everywhere, but will put them in that diary and my pattern books.
  • I will start a ‘to do’ list again.
  • I will work more systematically.
  • I will not get distracted and start something else because I suddenly remember what I was supposed to do, but will know what to do next.
  • I will have a plan!
  • And I will put that Dyson to use!
A clean flat and tidy studio mean a clear mind!
I will get organised.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Mother Hen

When I started my shop of one of a kind wearable art knitwear, I thought selling would be easy. I imagined my unique colourful pieces handknitted with natural fibre would fly off the shelf and I just could design and knit happily ever after…


I soon learnt that selling is a hard slog and that there is so much more to it than just putting my pieces up on Etsy, or standing behind a stall for a few hours. It’s all about presentation, good photos, having a certain kind of image, networking, networking, promoting, branding, good props, looking the part, promoting, marketing, constantly blogging, tweeting, facebooking…things I never thought about before.
I suppose I always knew that I wasn’t a natural-born salesperson, but what I realised only today was, that I am also really precious about my pieces. Do I really want to give them out of my quivering hands, those hands that worked at them lovingly and for hours and hours on end?
Well, they are no good to anybody cooped up in my various hat boxes and suitcases, are they? They should be worn, flaunted, shown off, felt, matched with lots and lots of different outfits…

So I’ve taken the plunge and gave some of my pieces to a friend of mine who may be able to sell them at her stall. I am also sending a few more to the Etsy Ireland team pop-up shop in Limerick. However, when I selected the pieces both for my friend and for Etsy Ireland, I was like a mother hen, flapping my arms and looking at them protectively, hoping they will go to good homes – and not get lost in the post.
Yes, I know I am supposed to run a business and sell these pieces. Alas…these are my creations…my precious…erm…yes, my own…!
So let’s hope other people will do a better job selling my pieces – it might help if I am not clucking around the knitwear…

Friday, 29 April 2011

Irish Lace

People who know me will be very surprised, and some may laugh very heartily when they hear me confess that I – with my political views – did watch the Royal Wedding today. But I do have a sister who is a bit of an expert in European Royalty, and therefore I certainly know my Williams from my Willems and my Harrys from my Haakons. I am a bit weak on royal protocol though, and would probably break every rule in the book ;)

To be able to hold a conversation with my sister, and also to see if I could spot the Labour leader in a Morning Suit (I did!), I settled myself in front of the TV in the morning, and scrutinised the attire. I love hats and frocks, and the more outrageous, the better. Sadly, Elton let me down on that occasion, but there was still plenty to see.

Kate’s dress by Sarah Burton was stunning, and I particularly loved the lace and neckline; also the way the dress fell so beautifully from the waistline. That was a gorgeous design, and I can only imagine the craftman- and womanship that went into it. If there is a big designer heaven in the sky, Alexander (McQueen) must have smiled proudly down from above – that dress was really it!

Apparently, the lace on Kate’s dress was hand-stitched in the Carrickmacross technique. Years ago I worked as a researcher on a project about women’s work, and my job was to collect information on Irish laceworkers. It was such an fascinating task. I learnt about crochet lace, Carrickmacross, Limerick lace, Youghal needlelace, Inishmacsaint needlelace, bobbin lace, as well as sprigging…and I so wanted to learn it – still do. Irish lace became world-famous, and Ireland was a much sought after lace producer at the turn of last century and beyond. And that when the laceworkers still worked by candlelight and oil lamps. If you look at any of the lacework from that period, when it played a huge part in fashion, you’ll be amazed at the skill and precision of the stitches. Isn’t it a shame that we might be losing the skill now, when we have far better lighting?

One day I will get down to learn lacemaking, but in the meantime, I am sticking to my knitting needles and really want to knit more intricate lace. I can knit basic lace patterns, and at the moment I am working on two lacy summer wraps, but it’s the really intricate lace I find so…intriguing! I’m very inspired now to look through some of my patterns, especially the vintage patterns, and find some exciting old lace.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Having a relaxing Easter

Easter Bunny hiding in some beautifully soft rovings from Lindsay Crafts

For the last two days, I've switched off the computer during the day, and only worked online in the evening. This was my holiday treat to myself. Sadly, the weather wasn't as sunny as promised, with misty clouds yesterday, and clouds and a strong breeze today, but I still managed to sit in the garden for a while, until the goosebumps on my arms told me to get inside, put a cardigan on, and get those warm socks quickly over my cold toes!

I spent a lot of time reading and eating chocolate (yes, this bunny was rather delicious...), but I also got heaps of crafting done. I spun some new yarn, finished knitting the wrap in gorgeous handspun yarn from Teddy Baby, which will hopefully go on Etsy tomorrow, and managed to finally upcycle a shirt I got in a clothes swap two years ago, while listening to Chaka Demus & Pliers - whatever happened to these guys, they were brilliant back in '93!

Upcycled shirt with new tie-belt

I also joined a new Irish online community for the arts and crafts, and started yet another blog:

Is this a good idea with my track record of irregular blog writing, I wonder? And will I manage to keep two blogs running? I must say, I love the theme/ lay-out of my new blog, so I might feel enticed to write more. However, I also want to 'jazz up' this blog with a new look, so I am not abandoning blogger. Maybe I'll split the two blogs into some kind of different themes, but have to think about this a bit more.

Anyway, if I am not on here, I am over there :)

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Shear Maaadness

On Thursday, I went to the Stitch and Creative Crafts Show at the King's Hall, Belfast, with Maura from Irish Bounty. While she was interested in all things card making, I was looking for lots and lots of woolly delights. Just when I told Maura wisely, that I was keeping a tight budget and would not engage in spontaneous shopping, but in fact would look at all the stalls before making a decision to purchase, something caught my eye. It was bright and it was woolly! I zoomed towards it like a pin to a magnet.


Dyed fleece!

Dyed in colours of the rainbow!


Greedily, I claimed possession of this beautiful fleece shaped like a feather boa..., and its neighbour, too. When the lady at the stall of the  Ulster Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers told me that she had more, my eyes were gleeming with fleecy gluttony.

I ended up with a rucksack full of three large dyed fleeces plus one roving, and I felt as if I was carrying half a sheep on my back.

So we went on and looked at many things, and I bought a few bits of stationary and some card making material, had a coffee with Maura's family before they all went home, and met an interesting French lady who told me her a fascinating life story, which had some weird coincidental parallels to my family history.

I went on to look at more stalls, but my feet started to ache. There were also not enough wool stalls for my liking, although I loved to look at all things crafty, sore feet or not.

Still, there comes a time when one wants to go home, put the feet up and admire one's purchases. There was this tenner left in my purse that I should have saved for food or new business cards. But I hadn't bought any yarn at all...! And there was one fleece still left at the Spinners and Dyers...yes, I had not totally cleared them out yet.

Needless to say, that lonely fleece went also home with me, plus another roving. My fibre trunk is now bursting at the seams, and I probably have fibre and fleece for years to come, while I don't even have a wheel, just two Turkish drop spindles and a Mother Marian. Those fleeces are pretty though, like works of art, and I am very tempted to just hang them up in my studio for the time being until they are spun...

They will be spun!

Watch this space for updates on spinning these fleeces!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Would I miss a yarn giveaway???

Weird and Twisted, one of the fabulous handspun art yarn shops on Etsy is having a yarn giveaway to celebrate their third anniversary. And it's not just any giveaway, oh no, the lucky winner will receive a full skein of art yarn, spun especially for her or him! The colours or theme will be based on the 3 inspirational photos all participants in the giveaway have to post on their blog.

To receive a full skein of art yarn spun for...meeee would be my yarn addicted heart's dream!

For more information, please go to Weird and Twisted's blog:

Now when I went through my photos, all I found at first glance were yarn pics, fibre photos, knitwear, more yarn, my Turkish spindles, yarn drying in the garden, knitwear, baskets full of fibre, yarn on the window sill, knitwear in progress, yarn everywhere...

To post yarn pics for a yarn giveaway would be a bit like a busman's holiday, so then I looked some more and found these...

Helen's Bay, Northern Ireland

The Belfast Wheel beside the City Hall, now moved to God-knows-where...(Wheel, I miss you!)

The inside of a sadly no longer functioning lap top

Somehow, I am quite surprised about my selection. I had planned (and started) the 3 inspirational pictures all landscap-y, happy, rainbow-y, flowery, Irish-y and colourful, and what came out was quite...urban, metallic, mechanical and powerful, with two things that are no longer at their original place or working as they used to. Oops! What does that say about my mind tonight?

Maybe the common theme is movement...maybe...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Happy St Patrick's Day

Have a lovely day with all things green! Ok, maybe don't kiss a frog or hug a mail box, but enjoy this special Irish day with friends and family, here or abroad :)

It's a fine day to be on this island!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Spring Cleaning hath begun!

Northern Ireland has experienced a sudden burst of spring weather. After the long cold winter, it was like coming alive again in the warmth of over 10 degrees. OK, if you are Australian, you'll laugh at the idea of warmth and 10C in the same sentence, but for us here, it's a time to shed the winter coats and sit in the sun. Yes, I have been running around in a t-shirt, and I've seen others do the same.

Of course, with open windows, longer evenings and increasing light illuminating your home and mirrors come two realisations:

a.) you put on weight while you were consuming large amounts of winter stews and chocolates
b.) your place has become a hovel and a burrow - dust and shtuff everywhere - the only way to move is to tunnel your way through papers, boxes and fibre!

So this leads to...

a.) frantic exercise
b.) spring cleaning
c.) a combination of both

Consequently, I started to declutter, bin old papers I no longer need, swing the Dyson around in a dramatic fashion (yes, I vacuum shelves and table tops, too) and re-arrange furniture until I collapsed in an exhausted heap, reaching for the cho...salads!

But it was worth it!

Gorgeous bunting, a gift from The Thistle Patch, which is now hanging in my studio

I now have space again! Breathing space, creative space - a clear studio means a clear mind that can expand again, ideas can flow freely once more, I am spreading out...and already am starting to create a new mess with fibres spread out over the no-longer neat and tidy table top!

This is taking up my table top now - fibre for St Patrick's Day yarn in vibrant green merino, white banana fibre, orange recycled sari silk, plus beads and lace

It is definitely true that a good clear-out is good for the creative mind. I have been finding things I totally forgot I ever had, especially clothes, so I can now create new things with them! I also noticed that I need a few things, so here's a ready-made excuse to buy yarn, fibre, threads and cards...

Of course, I have plenty more to do - boxes of old newspaper clippings to go through, bulging files to sort out, and heaps of t-shirt and textile yarn to create from old clothes and fabrics, but I made a start. I am no longer falling over piles of magazines and boxes of old clothes. I know where my things are and have a rough idea of my possessions. I am in the mood to write to-do lists...


...maybe not yet...!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Confessions of a yarn addict...

Yesterday, my new Turkish spindle arrived, the second I purchased from Threadsthrutime on Etsy:

Like boys and their toys, I wanted a bigger one than the beautiful one I have already, so that I can spin more yarn at once, and thick one, too!

I was like a Pavlov dog whenever I heard the postman's arrival this week - would it be today that my spindle cometh? Some girls are waiting with baited breath on their prince, I wait for my spindle! At least, the spindle can't turn into a frog..but might as yet spin me gold. And it will certainly spin me...YARN!

Now my house is not only coming down with yarn, but also with fibre! I have carded batts, rovings and tops in baskets in my living room studio, and I buy them faster than I understand the difference between a carded batt and a top!

 Looking like a painting - 'Fireworks' Custom Blend Merino combed top by Shunklies on Etsy

Once upon a time, I was a dedicated shopper of fashion, now, I confess, if it comes to buying clothes or buying yarn, yarn wins hands - or rather knitting needles - down. Occasionally, I have days of beans and spuds just to be able to purchase more yarn! Sometimes I do wonder what people wear nowadays, and if I am still able to dress properly. But who cares - I've got yarn, people, I've got yarn!

I even knit up scraps of old jeans, silk strips, t-shirt yarn and my old cotton shirts.

I suspect that if a peoples' revolution were to break out in Belfast city centre, I would cling to my yarn stash like bankers to their bonuses!

The colours, the texture, the sheer feel of it, and the greed of possession, of having it sitting in my stash ready to be whipped out when an idea strikes me - that's the joy of being a yarn addict like me! My living room studio explodes with colour and fibre - it may be a grey and miserable day outside, but beautiful yarn is running through my fingers, or colourful strands of merino twirl around my Turkish spindle.

 My own handspun yarn in 'sea colours'

The way my stash is growing, I wouldn't need to buy any new yarn for years to come, because I am no octopus and have only two hands, so I won't knit my beautiful treasures up for a long time yet. However, being a crafter and an advocate for slow fashion, that's not a bad thing, because it's the sheer joy of having fibre and developing ideas - each box of yarn is a box of possibilities, of knitwear and wearable art to come!

 Spring will spring, unique wearable art neckwarmer by purlsofcolour
(knitted recycled Sari silk ribbon at the back)

Once I have finished a piece, I nearly find it sad to let go, although I am thrilled when it finds a buyer. Still, yarn has left my brings a tear to my eye, but then...there is space in the box...hey, an excuse new fibre! Do I hear the postman at the gate? Are these my yarn parcels from lindsaycrafts and woollygathering???

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

For what it's worth

I had this article in my head for ages, ever since I was in Laurieston Hall in September...

But time flies and I still haven't written it. In fact, I've written so very little these days, that I can probably count myself lucky that I managed to scribble some New Years Resolutions in my diary which scarily sounded like the ones from previous years - something about not procrastinating so much, being more organised, finally learning better time management and getting fitter. At least I scrapped the 'growing up' and 'being realistic & sensible' ones, because these in my view are only other names for 'functioning in somebody else's world'. Finally caught on to that one...

My own handspun yarn in 'sea colours'

So, what did I want to write about.. Oh yes, the worth of one's work. Let's take you back to a few late summer days in Laurieston Hall, a community in Scotland. I don't think I ever turn into a community or communal type, but I was impressed. Not just by the fabulous vegetarian food (which even thrilled the palate of a big baconface like me!), but by the way the community was run. They were so organised that the German in me was thrilled!

However, it wasn't in that horrible stick wielding kind of way many organisations operate, but in a much more meaningful way. People knew that they counted, and that their work counted. You were organised because you knew other people relied on you and your work, not because some mean boss would give you grief. I was on tidying up duty on two evenings of my stay and was amazed how easily I fitted into the routine (I even liked tidying!!!), but at the same time also knew that if I wasn't moving my butt, the stuff didn't get done - my input was needed, even if only for the two evenings I was on duty.

Another example, we spend an afternoon plaiting onions. Yes, plaiting onions! I've actually did write something about it at the time, and you can read it on the Etsy Ireland Team blog.

Onion plaiting was great fun, but also necessary work so that the onions could be properly stored for the winter. Again, your work counted - you were connected to the work and did it well because you knew it was necessary, rather than being bored, thinking of other things you could rather be doing, and feeling that you just couldn't be arsed. No cog in the wheel there.

And that's why I love crafts so much. Not only because I have to express my creativity somehow or else turn into a grumpy and foul-mooded individual who slurps coffee to stay awake, but also because you get a great sense of purpose and worth out of your work. You are connected to what you are doing and while you are doing it, it's important that you keep doing it, that you finish your creative work, because there is nobody else there to do it for you. You totally bring yourself into that process.

And if you sell it or give it to somebody as a gift, you have a feeling that this counts for somebody - that the ideas and hours you put into that piece has worth.

So when I sometimes want to give up running a small craft business, because I feel that I am not getting anywhere, I make no money from this and nobody gives a f... arthing for my work, I have to remind myself that it is worth something - and not just to myself. In a world where everything is mass produced and doesn't have much worth, crafts do, because they have meaning. We might have to convince more people of its worth, but it is worth...a lot.