Craft | 9 Activities for Balancing Motherhood and Working from Home

Craft | 9 Activities for Balancing Motherhood and Working from Home

 

Easily one of the most frequently asked questions I get is “How do you manage to entertain your kids and work from home?”  This comes in a few variations but usually, it’s from other mums who also work from home or are dealing with toddlers who are sick and trying to catch up while working from home. I want to state this very cleary from the start, every child is different. What works for my kids may not work for yours but maybe you can adapt these ideas to suit your child’s personality. I hope this inspires you to come up with some creative solutions of your own and if you do please share them because I am always on the lookout for new ideas.

The nine activities that I use are:

 

1 – Activity Boxes

I have a number of activity boxes that are packed with different activities that the girls (2 and 3 years old) can do at the dining table while I work on the laptop. These are shoe boxes that I decorated or IKEA boxes with a lid. These are always my first port of call in an emergency. It’s much easier to occupy the girls at a dining table so I can work in the same space.  These boxes are filled with:

  • Stamp Kits: Paper, ink pads and stamps. I got mine from This is Knit and Easons and I use them for both the girls’ entertainment and my bullet journal. They play away while I work and if it ends badly then everyone ends up in the shower.
  • Colouring kits: Pencils paper and sticker books are always a favourite.
  • Play-Doh Kits: or homemade playdough and old plastic chopping boards for them to use as a base.

The best part about these kits is that you can put whatever your child is interested in, in these boxes and pull them out when you need an extra half hour on the laptop.

 

2 – Lego / Wooden Blocks

I can’t believe how often my girls have just built towers over and over again. They play together and apart. They have a system, one builds and one tears it down and fixes the blocks all in a row but it works.

 

3 – Post It Box

I’m not sure where I found this one but oh boy has it saved me a few times. This is an old shoe box that I covered in wrapping paper and when I get junk mail I fold it and pop it in. Then, usually, my youngest will take the lid off and open all of the ‘mail’ while ‘reading’ it. She then tries to pop it all back in the envelopes and then posts it back in the box. As this became a favourite, I got a second box for her to post into as well.

 

4 – Dress Up / Make Believe

I know this seems a little crazy but depending on the girls’ mood, if I dress them up and give them wands or wings they love flying around the house. We use the hall as a flying/landing strip and the girls happily play together. I have music on the laptop that rotates and they have to change their play to suit the music.

 

5 – Empty Boxes

I cannot stress this enough, never ever throw out empty boxes until your kids have played with them. They can colour on them, play hide and seek and if big enough you can cut out windows and use as a playhouse. The box our Dyson hoover came in was gold for entertaining the kids. They just liked to crawl through it over and over again. Then they would fight as to who got to sit in it. I added plastic balls from the ball pool at one stage too and they loved it. The best thing is it just goes into recycling when they are board. For this reason I have started looking at cardboard toys as usually they get bored after a while so instead of having more toys stacking up in boxes in the playroom I can just recycle it instead.

 

6 – Beech Walk / Excercise

This may seem counterproductive as you want to sit and write but if your kids are full of beans and you need to sit and wok then it will go much better if you can wear them out first. I will take them for a beach walk and let them walk until they start moaning at me to go home. Then when I get back I have the activity boxes set up on the dining table or sometimes they just want a nap. Either way, I get my two hours to work so I’m happy.

 

7 – Aquadoodle

The Aquadoodle was a gift for T’s birthday but my kids love it. It’s a giant mat with a pen that you fill with water and you just let them draw and scribble on the mat. We got a second pen when my second child wanted to start playing with it as they are rather impatient when so young. This was amazing when my girls were too young for crayons. It only works on the mat and you just dry the mat when they are done.

 

8 – Indoor Picnics

We have both indoor real and pretend picnics were the girls have to lay out the blanket and set places for them to sit. This is great for teaching them skills and for keeping them occupied. Usually, it starts as pretend and then ends up with them asking for sandwiches or fruit which is great because if they are eating them they are quiet.

 

9 – Movie Time

I put this last on my list as it really is my last resort but when I need quiet time for a phone call or I have something I need off my desk quickly I do use the TV as a babysitter. I pop their favourite movie on and I pop in earbuds and work away from the sofa. I can see what they are up to and I can work at the same time. The problem then is trying to turn off the TV once I’m finished. I don’t like them having too much screen time in a day so usually, this is for when they are quiet and in need of quiet time.

 

There is no magic formula, there are days when my kids are upset and in need of mommy and there is nothing I can do and work gets shoved into the hours when they are worn out and sleeping. I fit my work around what is needed at home though when my kids were smaller, I was doing both at the same time but they usually slept more or on could play on playmats. I hope this post inspired some creative ideas of your own.

 

xxx

 

Love | NaNoWriMo And The Emotional Barrier

Love | NaNoWriMo And The Emotional Barrier

This is part of my NaNoWriMo Series.

Well hello there!

As you all will have noticed I took a break for a week. I didn’t forgot about you, I took a break from everything and that includes my novel. I didn’t realise until this weekend just how exhausted I was. If you have been following the blog it’s fairly obvious as to why I was exhausted and I’m really only starting to feel a little better.  I don’t mean I was tired, I mean exhausted. Every bone in my body ached, I couldn’t stand up without feeling dizzy on Monday and after the school run yesterday I just lay on the couch and read a book. Today though I solely want to focus on NaNoWriMo and it’s contribution to my exhaustion.

 

The Emotional Toll

In contrast to a lot of other writers I know taking part in NaNo, I’m writing a memoir. It’s a story only I can write but in doing so it forces me to deal with certain aspects of my life and is helping me to deal with loss. I am the type of person that needs a looming deadline in order to get anything down on a page. I need that little bit of stress to kickstart a productive streak. You would think that NaNo would be perfect; a word count with a deadline, that should be right up my street and I think it would have been if I wasn’t writing this particular story.

What I didn’t factor in, apart from the cottage renovations, was the emotional toll of writing about M. The memoir is obviously a story based in truth but edited into a story I want to tell. I hit emotional peaks and valleys in certain chapters and I never considered that having an actual physical effect on me. Add that on top of the renovations, toddlers, the blog and podcast on to the stress of the NaNo daily deadlines, I was completely worn out. The hardest thing for me wasn’t writers’ block, I had planned out my chapters anyway, it was dealing with a range of emotions and issues that I wasn’t exactly prepared for. I’m also surer now that this is a personal novel. I don’t think I ever want to share it with the world, it’s more of a journey for me to take.

 

Deadlines

I also wasn’t prepared for how stressed, frustrated and angry that I was for my time to be stolen away from NaNo and writing. This project meant so much to me personally, that having to deal with taking on more and more responsibility during the renovation made me more and more angry. I had been strategically careful about having November ready for me to write and to deal with grief that yet again I ended up taking on more and more and that time that I had worked so hard to create was gone. I realised that I was in exactly the same position that I was when she died, that my grief was again shoved aside to the needs of right now.

This particular novel was never about writing a bestseller or having something that I can market after November. It is about a personal journey. One of growth and realisation. That by going through the motions and putting M’s story down on paper, I would have to form cohesive thoughts on the process, thereby dealing with my own personal loss. Having that time whipped away and having to deal with issues that should have been a lot easier to deal with is infuriating and over the month of November, I realised that it has crossed the line from mild annoyance to anger.

 

Writing On Empty

It took a weekend with some friends to realise that I was writing on empty. I was trying to deal with the emotional effects of the project while completely worn out. The best thing that I could do was to take some downtime and that is exactly what I did. I brought my laptop of course but I spent time laughing, catching up and surrounded by wonderful people all taking care of one another. Each one of us in need of rest, relaxation, good food and encouragement.

I woke up the next morning early, crept downstairs, lit the stove and started writing and the words just flew on to the page. I was at a particularly difficult part of the story but I just wrote it out, then had coffee with a friend and an exhilarating walk on the beach before a fun journey home. By the time I got back to the cottage, I had my word count for the day and a few blog post ideas on topics that I want to talk about. I realised that it was ok to be exhausted and that I could lie on the couch and read for a day while watching the toddlers. I just said no to everything in order to fill my own energy stores up first before dealing with the chaos. It will still be there until I have the strength to do it.

And so I start writing again on Nov 22nd. I’m behind and I don’t care which is not like me at all. This was never about a target driven 50K and I think once I realised the entire meaning of this project, I let the pressure of NaNoWriMo go. My target from now until the end is to write my novel every day until it’s finished. If it’s having an emotional toll then I can put it aside and come back when I’m ready. NaNo has taught me so much that I am glad I took part in the process. I won’t cry if I don’t have my 50K because I will have my first draft on paper and I will have carved out time for me.

Best of luck to all my fellow WriMo’s out there. I’m wishing you all a wonderful November.

I hope you enjoy this November series based on ‘M’.

 

xxx

 

Love | NaNoWriMo And The Curse Of Time

Love | NaNoWriMo And The Curse Of Time

This is part of my NaNoWriMo Series.

 

 

Hello, week three of NaNoWriMo! By now a lot of writers are over the halfway point of 25,000 words and have reached the point that I keep hearing is known as the saggy middle. As of 10 am this morning I have a word count of 17,935 which by no means suggest that I can’t finish this novel but November 30th.  This week has been more of a race against time. Time to sit at the laptop, time to think and re-plan my chapters, time to think about moving the story along from point to point without losing the stream of things.

 

All of this while trying to finish the cottage, order fixtures and fittings and oh yeah, decorate every room. EVERY ROOM. I have learned that I do not like to decorate under pressure and if you have a picture of me, half asleep scrolling through Pinterest at 7 am with a coffee in hand, half dressed while sending images to my partner with the caption “just do this” you would be pretty bang on.

 

Chaos

I managed to keep writing through the house chaos, yes we ARE still in one room but that will change as of this evening. I’m typing this post from our new office which is currently a shell but it has a desk (ok a gable end of a kitchen held up by two vintage bedside cabinets but it works) and painted walls so that’s something. At least nothing can distract from writing in here apart from a neighbour’s enthusiastic whistling floating through my open window and the birds daily antics.  It has taught me to write as soon as I open my laptop and that outlining the night before what I plan to write in the morning is the fastest way to increase my word count and get my chapters written. This is mostly due to using a bullet journal so I definitely see me keeping a bujo just for creative writing projects.

 

Sprints and 4 the Words

The other amazing way that I have managed to write almost eighteen thousand words in only eight days of actual writing is down to word sprints on Twitter and the website 4 the Words. When I reached a difficult point in my novel I would log into 4 the words and write while battling monsters. The site was fun and somehow managed to keep me laughing even though what I’m writing about was difficult and brought tears to my eyes. It is a fantastic way to increase your word count and keep you grounded and laughing so I’m a definite fan and see myself using this long after NaNo is finished.

 

 

 

Is it Working?

In short yes, NaNoWriMo is working for me and it is forcing me to hold myself accountable to friends and other writers online. It’s taken a profession that is solitary and made it fun. I doubt very much if I would ever have written what I have if it wasn’t for the support of NaNo and my region. I have met some wonderful people (big shout out to Grace our ML and Ciara) who are supportive and full of advice and experience. Yes, there are days when I just can’t write due to life at the moment but here I am entering the third week with 13 chapters saved in various locations.

 

NaNo has taught me so many things from outlining, character development but mostly how to tackle a piece of work this big. I’m still not sure if this novel will be one that I want to share with the world or keep just for me but by going through the process, it has allowed me to realise that a novel really isn’t as daunting as I once thought. I have been sketching plans and ideas in my bullet journal for future plans too, usually at 3 am while being kicked in the side by a two-year-old. It made me realise how much I enjoy writing and the subtlety of language. I never considered myself a  writer until last week when I sat back and looked at everything that I do and have achieved in the last year. I do at last consider myself a writer.  Thank you NaNo for re-kindling my love of writing.

Best of luck to all my fellow WriMo’s out there. I’m wishing you all a wonderful November.

I hope you enjoy this November series based on ‘M’.

 

xxx

 

 

 

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Craft | Offset Wraplan & Beyond Puerperium

Craft | Offset Wraplan & Beyond Puerperium

This is post is part of my Handmade Wardrobe for Kids Series

 

During the house clear out, I had to pack up all of my baby knits so I thought I could share two of my favourite patterns with all of you. I have patterns that I knit for myself and for friends and these two little cardigans, well, I am genuinely sad to wrap up forever or until I can pass them on to my girls for their children. (Oh my word that sentence just caused palpitations!) They work well together in this post as I used the same yarn in both patterns. So if you are looking for some cute baby knits than scroll on down.

 

Pattern – Beyond Puerperium by Kelly van Niekerk

This was the first handknit that I made when I was pregnant.  After the shock settled I dove into queueing baby patterns. I instantly went for some Hedgehog sock yarn and cast on this top-down knit. I am a Kelly van Niekerk (Brooker) fan for a long time and I always go to her account to see if she has released any new pattern when I need to cast on for a tiny human.

This is a really simple top-down knit worked all in one piece with a beautiful button band to the side of the garment. If you haven’t worked a top-down knit before this is a perfect pattern to start with. This pattern is free in just the baby size here and then if you want the more comprehensive pattern you can find it in different yarn weights and sizes here.

 

Beyond Puerpreium Kelly Brooker by cottage Notebook Nadia Seaver

Beyond Puerperium by Kelly van Niekerk

Pattern – Offset Wraplan by Sara Morris

This beautiful wraplan is a free pattern on Ravelry and it’s perfect for using up yarn that is left over from other projects. I used the Hedgehog sock from the previous project and Rialto DK together to give a texture difference but I also really wanted to work this with purple yarn so that won out over the weight. What I love about this pattern on Ravelry is the inspiration that pops out at you from the finished object gallery for the pattern. I didn’t know if I was having a boy or a girl so I was choosing knits that could be worn by either which in fairness is most baby knits. This pattern is well written, has over a thousand projects on Ravelry and is firmly in my gift knit folder.

 

Offset wraplan by sara morris by cottage notebook

Offset Wraplan by Sara Morris

Yarn – Hedgehog Fibers Sock

For both these patterns I choose Hedgehog Fibers Sock and the reason for that was because the base was soft it was an amazing colourway that spoke to me from the yarn shelves. I know your wondering so no it didn’t help being pregnant and working in a yarn shop because I wanted to knit all the things and buy *all* the yarn but I stuck to indie yarns and Debbie Bliss yarns for all of my baby knits.

Hedgehog Fibers not only has beautiful colourways bt the yarn held up really well for both of my girls and these cardigans have been washed many times and they still look like they came off the needles recently. Which isn’t true for some of the yarns that I have used since *side eyes my drops big merino sweater but that’s another story entirely. Hedgehog sock also bloomed when it dried enabling me to knit it with the Rialto DK for the wraplan cardigan. I knitted this on a 3.5mm needle so the DK was knitted tightly and the sock a bit loosely. I don’t recommend messing with weights like this as usually it never works out but I knew my tension and both yarns well so for me it worked fine. I would recommend you choose the Rialto 4-ply if you want to cast on for yourself.

As I said at the start I am sad to wrap up these knits and pop them away. I did place the knitted hats to go with both patterns in IKEA frames and they are now on my craft room wall so I have something to remind me of my baby knits. Don’t worry they are against a wall that isn’t exposed to natural light so they won’t bleach! I hope you like the Handmade Wardrobe series and the Handmade Wardrobe for Kids. You can also see a full list of my favourite children’s patterns here.

See you on wednesday for the NaNo update, hint, it’s not looking good.

xxx

 

 

 

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Interview | Woolly Mammoth Fiber Co.

Interview | Woolly Mammoth Fiber Co.

 

One of my favourite features on the blog is sharing interviews with all the creative individuals I meet with all of you. Today is no exception and I’m delighted to share an interview with Emma Robinson of Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co. based in Northern Ireland. I met Emma during the Yarnfolk festival last August and instantly fell in love with her ideas. Emma runs a spinning and dye studio and is always happy to chat about all things fibre related. Her Instagram feed is a thing of beauty and it gives you an idea of just how much Emma loves what she does. I’m also a huge fan of natural dyeing and so I asked Emma if she would like to have a chat and talk about her wonderful yarns:

 

Emma Robinson of Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co.

Emma Robinson of Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co.

 

Hi Emma, Can you give us an insight into your creative background?

I started out studying photography at art college in London. I really enjoyed this experience and I met a lot of interesting folks that got me started in making with fibre as well as with photography. Our tutors encouraged us to be experimental in our approach to making and had no hesitation when I wanted to do some weaving/ woodwork as part of my photography course. Around this time I met Kim Smith through a mutual friend, (she is a wonderful maker who now has a shop in Bristol called Alterknit Universe!), who thought me to knit and spin, and encouraged me to try out natural dyeing! This is where it really all started- I bought my own wheel, graduated, moved home to Co. Antrim and started my photography business, specialising in architectural imagery. I still love photography, and I photograph regularly for architects all over the island of Ireland.

 

What was the main influence for starting Woolly Mammoth Fibers?

The main influence for starting Woolly Mammoth was as a creative outlet. A few years after I had started my photography business I really felt I needed some time to just make, explore and experiment in a more loose way. I started spinning more and knitting, and I knew I wanted to get back to natural dyeing. I also knew I was going to end up with too much yarn before very long, with a number of colours/dyestuffs etc I wanted to try! I needed an outlet, and I decided to do go all out and order a large amount of yarn form Laxton’s Mill in Yorkshire to give it a go and start an online shop!

 

The Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co. on the Cottage Notebook

 

Can you tell us where the name comes from?

Good question! For a long time before Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co was official, my husband and I had a joke about starting a yarn shop. He kept calling it “Woolly Mammoth”- it may have been because my pile of yarn was rapidly growing larger! I’m not sure why, but the name just stuck. Apart from that, they were quite an interesting animal!

 

Why does your brand stand out in this competitive industry?

I guess my brand stands out because my method of making is a little different from others- I only use non-superwash yarns (woolly wools which are spun in Laxton’s Mill, Yorkshire). I love all the beautiful British breeds of yarn you can get- Wensleydale, BFL, Masham, Manx Loaghtan, Swaledale etc, and the large majority of these yarns are in my shop! I do have some Falkland Merino and some Swedish Gotland for sale too. I also use natural dyes on all my yarn. I use as much foraged/ homegrown/ kitchen waste dyes as possible as I feel this makes my yarn ultra special! Where I can’t get colours I’d like locally, I use extracts. So my whole process of natural dyeing is a lot slower than acid dyeing, but I feel it adds some provenance to the whole thing!

I also carry a small range of handspun fibres, which is something else a little special. To top it all off I had my logo designed by illustrator Anna Hussey, who really understood my aesthetic and vision! It was amazing to work with someone who just understood your brand and what it was all about from the get-go.

 

The Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co. on the Cottage Notebook

 

What does being an indie dyer mean to you?  

Being an indie dyer means that I can satisfy the creative part of myself off-screen (with the architectural photography I am often editing on the computer), and it means I can immerse myself in the creative process, a space I felt like I hadn’t had since art college. It also means I am part of a big community of lovely people, who love making too!

 

Currently, which is your favourite of your yarns and why?

My current favourite handspun has to be Swaledale- it’s so warm, cosy and strong. Swaledale is mountain sheep, but incredibly the yarn feels sheepy but still soft! I have made myself mittens and a hat- neither of which I have any trouble wearing. It also is brilliantly lofty, and I am loving the light grey shade I have been spinning recently.

As for my naturally dyed yarns, it’s really hard to pick!!! I am loving my Mustard Green colourway (in all the bases- Wensleydale, BFL/Masham), and I am loving the Falkland Merino in the colourway Bog Cotton.

 

The Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co. on the Cottage Notebook

 

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is different for me. Some days I am photographing and travelling a lot, other days I am dyeing and spinning. Interspersed with this are days to sort out accounts, admin, e-mails, Instagram posts etc but most evenings I am knitting if I get a chance!

 

How do you stay motivated during creative down periods?

I would say I stay motivated by making something for myself- with no pressure attached. Either spinning or knitting (or both!), just experimenting or trying out a new technique. Alternatively, I find my local Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers a great place to get motivated and learn!

 

The Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co. on the Cottage Notebook

 

What’s in the future for Woolly Mammoth Fibers?

I have lots of ideas surrounding themed yarn and photography which I would love to make happen early next year! I would also love to keep doing lots of spinning demonstrations, maybe do a collaboration with someone woolly or creative and perhaps someday I’d like to take on a few wholesale orders! Watch this space!

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today Emma! If you want to follow along on Emma’s woolly journey you can do that via Instagram (@woollymammothfibres) where you can catch a glimpse of her beautiful photography and fall in love with that woolly grid just like I did. Please pop over and give her a big hello! If you would like to try some yarn from the Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co. you can pop over to her brand new website  www.woollymammothfibrecompany.com . Her next shop update is scheduled for November 30th at 7pm GMT so pop that date in your diary folks! 

Thank you all so much for joining me and I will be back on Monday with some more crafty posts.

Best wishes for the weekend ahead!

xxx

 

 

 

 

**All photography is under the copyright of  Emma Robinson. 

 

 

 

Love | NaNoWriMo And The Week Two Blues.

Love | NaNoWriMo And The Week Two Blues.

This is part of my NaNoWriMo Series.

 

Hello, week two of NaNoWriMo! It has been an interesting week. We are all walking zombies, I really can’t describe it any other way. We are all still sleeping in one room so it has now been a week of sharing a room with my toddlers. I now have the FEAR that I will never get them out of my bedroom again. However, there is an end in sight and we are crawling slowly towards it thanks to the recent weather drop but this weekend should see us all in new bedrooms! Just save that celebatory glass of champagne until it actually happens.

 

Write-In

Our second regional write in is this evening which is why I am writing this blog post instead of increasing my word count. I missed the first write in but I have joined in all the virtual write-in’s on YouTube and you can catch the replays here if you are interested. I have taken part in the NaNo word sprints on Twitter and they have really focused me on achieving my goal. I really do recommend that if you are in a slump and you can’t write to pop on to Twitter and take part or tag a fellow WriMo and have a word count battle. Having someone to hold you accountable is really key where you are in a funk. Which brings me nicely on to the next section:

 

Shut up and tell me about your writing already!

Ok today is day eight of NaNo and the word count to hit by the end of the day is 13336 and I am currently on 9,169 which means that I will finish on December 14th at my current rate. The whole reason for this was down to losing four consecutive days of writing time and every time I get into the flow of writing it gets broken because of a child or building work or well life pulling me away from the laptop.  The words are flowing really quickly when I do get to write and yesterday I managed a word count of over 3K so I know that over the course of this week I can get back on track and just write it out.

One of the biggest problems for me was how to write the final image and it came to me while I was working on chapters five and six so I’m happy about that but the blues on week two is more about falling behind due to all the external circumstances that are out of my control. (Yes as I write this post my husband has just informed me that the floors are to be sanded this weekend ermmmm)

When I write, I am getting lost in the story but it’s hard to know if it’s because it is so personal or if it is actually good writing. I know in places that the entire chapter will need to be reworked in editing but by getting it down on paper, per say, the first draft is flying along but just not as fast as the WriMo’s who have actual time to sit and write in batches. I know that if I don’t get some uninterrupted sleep this will not be finished in November so cross your fingers for me.

Against NaNoWriMo?

Why? To those who are against NaNo and are saying that you can have 50K words at the end of the month but a terrible novel I say, well yes that’s true but NaNo is about giving yourself the possibility of achieving it with help of a supportive online community in your corner all routing for you. My target was to tell my story and to have a first draft in need of some serious editing because I would never carve out the time in my life to do it otherwise. Now I have people who are cheering me on and lending a hand when I’m stuck (writing prompt anyone: zombie dragon)  and I’m doing something for me that matters. I can’t learn what my weakness is if I never try and I’m a person who needs a good hardnose deadline in order to achieve something. That person who never studied until the night before an exam and got a 1.1, that’s me. I need that clock counting down to zero to get my bum in gear and just do it. Don’t be against NaNo, there are a lot of young writers taking part in schools around the world. They are all learning how to write and some are surpassing myself at every level. I may not have an amazing novel by November 30th but I will have achieved something that I never have before in my entire life.

So, I am pushing towards the deadline and shaking off the blues. Who’s with me? In saying all of the above, how are your novels coming along?

Best of luck to all my fellow WriMo’s out there. I’m wishing you all a wonderful November.

I hope you enjoy this November series based on ‘M’.

xxx

 

 

 

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Craft | Composite – Handmade Wardrobe for Kids Series

Craft | Composite – Handmade Wardrobe for Kids Series

This is post is part of my Handmade Wardrobe for Kids Series

It’s tricky knitting for tiny humans. Before I start knitting a pattern for a gift or for one of my own children, my head is buzzing with thoughts and questions. Will this keep the child warm? Is it going to touch their skin? Do I need to have a nice shirt underneath? Is it interesting to knit? What wool will I use? Believe me, it goes on and my mind can be a scary place sometimes but when I saw this pattern by Kelly Van Niekerk I had to cast on straight away.

Composite

Composite is a free pattern by Kelly van Niekerk for newborns around 7 – 9 lbs for DK weight yarn. I used this top on my little girl until she was around 5 months old as she was so tiny when she was born so I’m not an accurate judge of that. The pattern is extremely sweet with lace cap sleeves and is worked top down. The sleeves are worked at the same time as the body and the buttonhole does work it is not for decoration! The finished garment has about 2.5cm of positive ease and if you use a soft yarn you will get a little more stretch out of it.

 

Toddler to 10 yr old

The pattern is beautifully put together like all of Kellly’s patterns and I knitted this while I was pregnant so that is a testament to how easy it is to knit. If you are looking for this to fit an older child she does have a paid pattern available with full grading up to 10 yrs old. It is called Quaintly and you can find it here.The ebook contains the pattern worked in all sizes for fingering, DK and worsted weight yarn so you can choose what works best for you.

Yarn

The yarn I used for this knit was actually given to me by a friend who was leaving the country and it was on a cone. It was around a heavy lace weight so I held it triple stranded to get the gauge I wanted. It has a soft halo and opened beautifully on the lace cap sleeves so I was extremely happy with it and I loved how I thought of my friend when K wore this. I do recommend that you choose a soft yarn that will hold a block and not spring back the second you whip it off the blocking mat as the sleeves need to hold their shape but not grow too much.

 

This is one of those knits that I am truly sad that I am packing away so I will knit another of these for K in a similar yarn. It’s not that I am broody at the minute, it’s that this little top went with a whole host of her clothes. I could throw it over dresses and long sleeves and it was a fantastic transitional knit. It got lots of wear and I wasn’t too precious about it getting dirty or worried about K ruining it. Because I choose a light yarn to knit it, the top dried quickly, almost overnight so I didn’t have to wait too long when I washed it to pop it back on her.

I hope you like the Handmade Wardrobe series and the Handmade Wardrobe for Kids.

xxx

 

 

 

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Podcast | Season 2-2 with Lisa Sisk

Podcast | Season 2-2 with Lisa Sisk

Episode 2 of the podcast is all about Woollinn, Dublin’s first Festival of Yarn! Lisa Sisk of This is Knit joins me on the podcast to chat about all things Woollinn related so if you are wondering about visiting, vending, teaching or how to get there and how to nab your tickets, then this episode is for you.

 

 

Today’s episode is sponsored by the wonderful Ellie and Ada yarns and you can find those delicious skeins over here.

You can also find the podcast on iTunes, TuneIn RadioStitcherPlayer FM. While you’re having a listen, why not leave a review and let me know what you think!

 

Woollinn is taking place in Dublin on May 25th – May 27th, 2018 in the Alsaa centre near Dublin airport. It may seem like an interesting choice and Lisa explains why this was the perfect choice along with where the name Woollinn came from. During the podcast, you get a glimpse of the behind the scenes of Woollinn and how the idea of a small Dublin yarn festival has grown into something much larger with workshops and events surrounding the main marketplace.

 

Workshops

 

Nancy Marchant is just one of the amazing tutors holding workshops at Woollinn next May.

One of the exciting things happening at Woollinnn are the amazing workshops taking place during the festival and the Woollinn team are announcing more teachers soon. So far the workshops that have been announced are with Nancy Merchant, Louisa Harding, Karie Westermann, Carol Feller, Woolly Wormhead and Justyna Lorkowska! Don’t forget to keep an eye on the Woollinn social media (links at the bottom of page) to stay up to date with all the latest releases.

During the podcast, we get to chat about the gorgeous Woollinn website and for those who are looking for the link to the wonderful Rose Anne you can find her on Sewn Up Sites here.

 

Stay Up To Date

You can follow Woollinn online on Twitter, Facebook, Ravelry and Instagram for all the latest news as soon as it is released. If you would like to stay up to date with all the news from Woollinn then please sign up to the newsletter here and if you would like to volunteer you can fill in your details here. Vendors applications are still open and you can find the application form here.

Today’s episode is sponsored by the wonderful Ellie and Ada yarns and you can find those delicious skeins over here

Love | NaNoWriMo Has Arrived!

Love | NaNoWriMo Has Arrived!

This is part of my NaNoWriMo Series.

 

It’s day two of NaNoWriMo and I’m currently on track which is a big surprise as the world has descended into chaos around me. Thank goodness I had an outline is all I can say because my writing time is crammed into a two-hour timeslot and it *has* to get done or I’ll fall behind. The renovations on the cottage are currently in full force with 3 people here and all of us poor souls crammed into two rooms and the rooms in an Irish cottage, ahem, well they are not the biggest.

So for those parents out there who follow me, yes that means that currently myself, my partner and both toddlers are all sleeping in one room and it’s a challenge but life is also full of reminders why we love being parents. Yes, okay, that’s soppy but the whole experience aside from the house being upended in one 24 hour period, is fun. I get to watch my kids help and adapt. I’ve watched T take care of K and help her carry things and feed her and teach her how to put her socks on. Yip, we are all about the toddlers helping to move their own things and say goodbye to their room too. I keep reminding them that we all get new bedrooms and an office/craft room out of this so it is worth it.

 

And Now For The Writing….

I thought with an outline and some test pages trying different points of view would be enough preparation for me to write what I wanted on the pages. I have decided that morning time is best for writing. I read my previous work before going to sleep and I get up an hour earlier, which in our current situation is pretty easy and I write before my partner leaves for work. So far this is working out pretty well.

I had no idea that NaNoWriMo had such a wonderful community that meet in person. I have a wonderful ML (Municipal Liason) called Grace who is a NaNo veteran and full of useful tips and advice. We had our first in-person meetup where I got to chat with other writers from my region and find out their experiences with NaNo and a little about what they are working on for November. One of the best pieces of advice I left with was to aim for 2000 words a day to make up for the days where life will inevitably get in the way and your fingers will never dust the keys of a laptop or find time with pen and paper.

My difficulties are reigning in my train of thought and keeping the chapters consistent. Letting them find their natural end without worrying about the word count. Expanding on the scenes of the outline for me because of the type of writing I’m doing is difficult without timelines going all over the place and I’m having a problem with confidence and wondering why on earth anyone would want to read what I’m writing.

Friendly Reminders

I reminded myself that this November is about me and my personal goal and writing the story that I want to write. That by going through this process it will help me as a writer but also help me to pull together cohesive thoughts on the ‘M’ project. I can’t tell you how many times when I was joining in the live calls or working on the beat sheets that Hops & Claws kept popping back into my mind and I have a notebook filled with story ideas that all need writing and expanding. I had that feeling again, of being happy and doing something because I loved it. All I have to do at this moment in time is to write what I want to write and let go of the idea of it being a published piece. Only time will tell if it is something that I would like out in the world.

Unlike Hops & Claws which was written with the intention of release, this project is personal that I’m unsure that I want these thoughts read by others. I’m more tired than I have ever been as writing these pages are emotionally draining but there is so much that I don’t want to forget that I feel the only way I can do it justice is to write it out. I’ve already laughed and cried and I’m only on chapter 3 so who knows where it will go from here.

Best of luck to all my fellow WriMo’s out there. I’m wishing you all a wonderful WriMo.

I hope you enjoy this November series based on ‘M’.

xxx

 

 

 

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Love | Oíche Shamhna and Happy Halloween!

Love | Oíche Shamhna and Happy Halloween!

 

I love this time of year, autumnal harvests and pulling out knitwear for cold snaps are some of my favourite things but it is Oíche Shamhna or Halloween that I have always loved most. I don’t know why because I never trick or treated as a child and I only had Halloween costumes really in college but I loved Halloween night.

Halloween was always a night I spent at home eating good food and looking for that ring in the Barmbrack, which for those who don’t know, is a fruit-filled loaf traditionally with a ring or coin inside. There were always different bowls of nuts about the place and of course, chocolate so maybe in hindsight, it was always about the food. It could also have been because it was the one weekend in the year that I got to keep my dog in my bedroom!

 

Traditions

It’s funny how family traditions always start sometimes they are planned and sometimes you just fall into them. In my case, the latter was how the baking started and it is a tradition that I am following through with my girls though at their ages I’m baking cookies and buns opposed to a heavy fruit-laden cake game that might choke them!

We carved our pumpkins and had squeals of delight and disgust from the toddlers. We made pumpkin soup from the inside and toasted the seeds so I didn’t feel guilty for making a candle holder out of perfectly good food! We danced and the kids dressed up in costumes but most importantly we did it together as a family.

 

 

So as darkness falls tonight and you’re wrapped up tight, ask yourself if you are continuing your family traditions in the way that you want. Pull out a journal and make a list of wishes or dreams that you want from the year ahead and see what you can start doing tomorrow fora fresh month is fantastic for a fresh start!

For those who would love to know more about Celtic traditions for Oíche Shamhna pop on over here.  I am off to keep up with my toddler wrangling but from all of us, we wish you a very Happy Halloween.

Oíche Shamhna shona daoibh go léir!

xxx

 

 

 

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Interview | The Fibre Co.

Interview | The Fibre Co.

Have you ever considered starting your own yarn company? Today we chat with Daphne Marinopoulos who did just that.  Daphne founded The Fibre Co. back in 2003 in Portland, Main, USA and today, she now runs a beautiful global brand from the UK.  Daphne very kindly took the time to answer some questions for the blog on starting a yarn company, working with independent designers and the importance of sustainability within the industry.

Hi Daphne, Can you give us an insight into your creative background?

I grew up in an era when all young girls learned to sew. I made my own clothes, embroidered my bell bottom denim jeans and knitted woollen scarves. I was guided towards a non-creative career but always had something going on as a creative outlet. I’ve enjoyed the creative process in sketching, painting, beading, knitting, sewing, mosaics, and renovating old houses over the years.

 

What was your main influence for starting The Fibre Co.?

It was a personal love of textiles, knitting and natural fibres in general that drove me to start The Fibre Co.  I was in a career transition and looking for something to do that was based on something I had a passion for.  I wanted to create products to knit with that I had dreamt of but could not find on the shop shelves.

 

What has been your most memorable success to date?

By far, my most memorable success is having fostered an environment that has attracted the most amazing people who make up The Fibre Co. team.

Open Waters Shawl by Melanie Berg in The Fiber Co. Canopy Fingering

 

What are the core values of The Fibre Co.?

The original brand statement for The Fibre Co. back in 2003 was:

Fibre expressed as art.  Crafted with a passion for the unusual in beauty and texture with subtle variances, intentionally imperfect.  These are the characteristics that make up our unique artisan yarns, ready to receive your artistry and inspiration.

Not much has changed over the years as we are still all about sharing a heartfelt passion and creating yarns inspired by nature. As we’ve grown in our fibre journey, we have been able to expand on our ideas and in addition to being passionate about what we do, we now include collaboration, sharing, helping, nurturing and respectfulness on our list of core values. We believe our purpose is to nurture and inspire others by using colours and texture to encourage creativity, bring a sense of well-being and allow all makers achieve their goals.

We’re also very much about the independent designer community.  It is humbling to know that the best of the best designers use our yarns – and we’re keen to promote their work and encourage new talent.

Finally, I would add that it has always been about the triple bottom line for The Fibre Co.—people, profit and planet. We’re always asking ourselves how we can improve our sustainability. We know that sustainability is an essential ingredient for our long-term success. We understand that sustainability is a process and see ourselves as a greening business constantly looking for ways to improve our impact on the environment.

 

What has been the most challenging thing you have had to overcome with The Fibre Co.?

My biggest challenge is carving out time to step out of the day-to-day and give myself the space to observe, think and create.  I’m working on it and learning that trust is the key to building an environment that will keep me on top of this challenge.

 

 
Mirehouse by Fiona Alice in The Fibre Co. Arranmore; Fell Garth Collection II

How do you make your brand stand out in this competitive industry?

We genuinely care about our community — our stockists, independent designers, knitters, and those who tell the great stories about our industry like Cottage Notebook.  I also really love the team that I work with.  Caring and loving is a recipe for success no matter what one does in life.

Currently, what is your favourite yarn that you produce and why?

My favourite yarn is the one that I’m working with at any given moment. No really, it’s true!  My favourite yarn turns out to be whichever one is in my hands — whether I’m working on new colours, test knitting a new yarn or making up sample cards.  If you press me though, I’d say that Terra is very close to my heart as one of the very first yarns I created and with which I learned and developed the art of dyeing.

 

Many of us have dreams of giving everything up and starting a yarn company but in reality, what does a typical working day look like for you?

My days start early and end late!   The typical day begins by reviewing my key projects, making a list of who I need to reach out to, and setting out priorities for the things I must do that day.  Sound familiar?  Its really what I’ve done throughout my working life, only now with The Fibre Co., I have a passion for the product and community that surrounds me.  I’d say to anyone who has a dream, that the most important thing to do is to first be clear about the ‘why’ behind that dream and, then, if that ‘why’ still resonates, go for it.

 

If you could go back and chat to yourself in 2003 what advice would you give?

I would tell myself to relax, enjoy the process and have more belief.

What’s in the future for The Fibre Co.?

I just finished updating our 5-year plan and there are so many fun things on the horizon.  We have plans to round out our range of yarns and expand The Fibre Co.’s brand ethos into other products for our maker community. We can hardly wait for it all to unfold!

________________________________

Thank you so much, Daphne!  If you would like to hear more from Daphne you can pop over here and listen to podcasts about her experiences with The Fibre Co. as she chats about fibres, dyeing and yarn development. You can find tutorials, yarn posts and more from The Fibre Co. over on their beautiful blog, and of course, you can get in touch with them socially on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Thank you all so much for joining me and I will be back on Monday with some more crafty posts.

Best wishes for the weekend ahead!

xxx

 

 

 

 

**All photography is under the copyright of The Fibre Co. 

Love | NaNoWriMo Preparations

Love | NaNoWriMo Preparations

This is part of my NaNoWriMo Series.

 

With less than a week to go for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the fear has begun to set in. I don’t know why because when I made the decision to use November to write, I felt sure that I was doing the right thing. Since then, the world has decided that November is also a month for chaos. So, amidst cottage renovations (yes, finally) a midterm break, 4 birthdays, a partner on weekend call and other commitments, those 1667 words per day are starting to scare me a little. To calm my nerves I did start a bullet journal, in fact, I started two. One for planning and creative writing; the other well lets just say that, that one is for my mind to throw up on its pages.

 

NaNoWriMo – Outlines

 

In October I started moseying about the NaNo forums and reading other authors approaches to outlining their stories. I had a Google Doc with my outline for chapters and titles and test pages and I’ve been using October to mull it over and thrash out my idea. Then I started looking at it a little more seriously and applying my outline to a few of these methods below. I did not go into The Snowflake method, that one at the moment, well, it scares me as to what I might discover. If you are interested in learning more about any of these techniques just click the links below.

 

 

Methods

  1. Subway Method
  2. The Beat Sheet – Blake Snyder
  3. The Three Act Outline
  4. The Snowflake Method

 

 

Scrivener

I slowly began to realise that if I wanted to write my 1667 words a day then I would need to expand on my chapters and I was going to need a little more help. Enter Scrivener. Scrivener is a beautiful software program for writing and within thirty minutes of using the demo and following along the introduction video, I knew it was exactly what I needed. It instinctively knows how my mind works. Right now I have my chapter headings and topic outlines all in there along with my research and photos and all those bits and bobs I have been holding on to but still those butterflies in my stomach are fluttering and slowly as November 1st creeps closer, I am beginning to get more and more nervous and I can’t quite pinpoint why.

 

Hops & Claws

I had immense fun while writing and recording Hops & Claws for all of you. I enjoyed the world-building, character development and seeing where their lives would lead. For me, Hops & Claws was also a world I could escape in to. However, I didn’t enjoy the looming deadlines and trying to work through tech issues for people who don’t listen to podcasts normally. Writing for audio and writing for print is also very different so Hops & Claws are currently being re-written and they will come back I promise, I can’t just leave the fate of Twill Town in the hands of a nonchalant bunny and that grumpy tabby cat now can I?

 

NaNo 2017

The piece of writing I’m working on for NaNo 2017 is vastly different. I spent a long time trying to work on a one-sentence summary and it stumped me because in my head I couldn’t quite figure out how to sum it up? How do you sum up a life? That is the question I had while writing a eulogy. How do you sum up ninety-six years of a life in less than ten minutes?  For me, this NaNo is extremely personal and more about writing out thoughts. A lot of people deal with grief by writing it out as it helps to form cohesive thoughts around something akin to catching shadows. My fifty thousand words may never see the light of day after November but I will feel so much better having worked through the process.

Trying to place my writing in a genre is also difficult for me as the term ‘memoir’ doesn’t quite feel like it fits but I suppose as the month rolls by things will begin to become more clear. Another worry, as my husband pointed out, is that it’s harder to write when emotionally involved, so one of my problems with reaching my goal will be the emotional rollercoaster of November. But how bad could it be, after two babies 16 months apart and that hormone rollercoaster, I can face anything, right?

I’ll leave you with my attempt at a one-sentence synopsis:

“Death, love, war and a fondess for sherry, this is the story of ‘M’.

I hope you enjoy this November series, pop back on Friday for a fibre related interview!

xxx

 

 

 

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Craft | Driftwood

Craft | Driftwood

This post is part of my Handmade Wardrobe Series

 

What is it about choosing buttons for a project that makes it languish, unworn and unloved for months after you cast off and weave in all the ends? I have this habit that if I don’t choose buttons right away as I plan for cast on, it takes me an absolute age trying to find just the right set to show off the yarn or knitting. Buttons are the bane of many knitter’s life. This is exactly what happened with my Driftwood jumper from the Blacker PodKal that I took part in, way back in February for EYF 2017, almost 8 months ago!

The first week of October I was at This is Knit and they had some wonderful buttons just delivered and low and behold I fell in love with these little square ones. It was enough to spur me into getting my Driftwood jumper out of the drawer and into my wardrobe rotation. So today I am proud to show you my Driftwood, transitional jumper.

 

The Pattern – Driftwood by Isabell Kraemer

Driftwood is a basic beach sweater that is perfect for chilly seaside walks during those transition months or for adding a light layer on colder winter months. The construction is perfect if you are looking to try out the contiguous-set-in-sleeves. This pattern is knit from the top down and with this sleeve method, you can have a circular yoke with an almost perfect shoulder fit. You can try it on as you go and stop the increases as you find the best fit. This pattern is clearly written and I had no issues with it at all. I am a fan of Isabell’s patterns and I always find her sizing fits me perfectly.

I choose to do 3/4 length sleeves as I wanted to use just two balls of the Blacker Yarns Tamar yarn and for me, it came out perfectly.  The scoop neckline is easy to wear and I choose the blue and natural colourway as I loved the beachy feel of the profile photos on Ravelry. This is a perfect relaxing spring /summer knit and if like me it takes you a few months to knit anything then cast on now so you can wear it next spring!

 

 

 

The Yarn – Blacker Yarns Tamar 4-ply

The yarn I chose the colourways Trevella and Ottery of the Tamar range from Blacker Yarns; the sponsors of the Podcast lounge at Edinburgh Yarn Festival. It is a gorgeous lustre yarn and is spun from the fleeces of fine British rare breeds, including Teeswater, Wensleydale and Leicester Longwool. Yes, it is a bit harsh if all you are used to is merino and very soft fibres but this is a British yarn that is pleasing to work with. What I like about it is the strong diverse colour range along with the unexpected softness that forms on the 4mm needle. This is a yarn that I know will hold up well and is light to wear but incredibly warm. Trust me I have worn it on the beach in Ireland in October! All of the shades in this range are named after Cornish rivers.

Using this yarn for Driftwood was a perfect choice as the slightly worsted spun yarn gave an even stitch pattern that was open but filled with a light and fluffy halo. I also personally think that knitting this at the top end of it’s recommended gauge allowed it to soften a little and for me is a lot easier to wear.

 

Are you feeling inspired to try a new sleeve method or are looking for an easy to wear, everyday sweater that can be tailored for your size and shape? Then Driftwood is a perfect addition to your wardrobe and I am delighted I added it to mine. What do you think? Are buttons the bane of your knitting project or is that just me bouncing around and unable to make a decision?

I hope you are enjoying My Handmade Wardrobe Series on the blog.

xxx

 

 

 

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CLN Podcast – Season 2-1 with Woolly Wormhead

CLN Podcast – Season 2-1 with Woolly Wormhead

Season 2 of the podcast is now live and I decided to kick off season 2 in style with Woolly Wormhead.  This is a 40-minute relaxed chat all about her latest Elemental collection. So grab your coffee, bring out your knitting and find some time for you.

 

You can also find the podcast on iTunes, TuneIn RadioStitcherPlayer FM. While you’re having a listen, why not leave a review and let me know what you think!

 

 

The Elemental Collection

In the first episode of season 2, we rejoin Woolly Wormhead a year after the release of Painted Woolly toppers for Kids which was the topic of our first recording. Woolly is back with a fantastic new sideways hat collection using Bloomsbury DK from The Yarn Collective. Woolly chats about the design process from initial thought to finish project along with how the designs all came together.

 

 

We chat about how Woolly has moved creatively from her Circled collection and how that inspired the direction taken for her latest work. We also take a look at the direction indie design has taken over the years before we get to the very exciting Hat-Along. This is Woolly’s 10th Mystery Hat-Along which takes place over on Ravelry and this year it is run slightly differently with two hat options; Hat A uses Carol Feller’s Nua and Hab B uses Miss Babs yummy 3-ply! For all the links just scroll to the end of the post.

 

 

Thank you so much Woolly! I know you all want to rush over and pick up your copy of Elemental and you can do that here. If you would like to pick up the Bloomsbury DK you can do that here (affiliate link). If you are looking to take part in the 10th MKAL you can do that here with Hat A with Carol Feller’s Nua and Hat B made with Miss Babs yummy 3 ply You can find Woolly over on her blogTwitterInstagram, Ravelry and Facebook if you would like to follow along in her design journey.

Don’t forget to tag #woollywormhead for *any* Woolly Wormhead Hat knitting that you might be sharing on Instagram, Twitter etc. Sometimes #woollywormheadhats gets used along with #elementalhats is the main tag for anything to do with the Elemental collection and some other tags Woolly uses a lot are:

#circledhats

#sidewaysknithatsftw

#sidewaysknithats

Thank you all so much for joining me and I will be back on Monday with some more crafty posts.

Best wishes for the weekend ahead!

Love | NaNoWriMo and Being Brave

Love | NaNoWriMo and Being Brave

Lately, I found myself spinning or faffing around trying to figure out where to put my energy now that the blog awards are over and my side projects are slowly being ticked off. I had that lull, you know the one were nothing feels quite right. I had a sort-of plan for the blog and podcast when I started but it wasn’t initially career driven. The blog was started because I like to write. I like the sound of typing at a keyboard and the process of laying out my thoughts on a page but recently I was feeling a bit lost creatively (again) and the decision of what my next steps should be have just seemed too daunting. I recessed and nothing really gave me any joy, that was until this weekend.

 

Being Brave

 

If you are anything like me, the idea of doing something new that you haven’t tried and tested gives you shivers and doing it with an audience damn right scares you down to your core. Behind the scenes of this blog and podcast is a circle of friends and accountability buddies who provide amazing encouragement which has allowed me to grow and practice different writing techniques and nudge me towards my goals. I’m a person in need of a support system and well the thoughts of where to go from here just left me feeling like a wet towel.

 

NaNoWriMo

 

A few months ago I hinted at writing something that I was proud of but it remained floating around and I never did anything with it. It’s time to change that and put a personal goal of mine front and centre for a change. This means doing something that scares me but it’s time to double down and do it or let it go. So for the month of November, I will be taking part in NaNoWriMo which is National Novel Writing Month.

 

I have never really set out to be a writer or to write a novel but there is this one story that needs to be told. It’s not my usual humour or tone and is very different to the person I have allowed you all to get to know here. This weekend amidst Storm Ophelia and a friend’s wedding, I did something that scared me a little. I gave those pages I wrote months ago to a friend and asked for her opinion. I did that thing that all creatives go through where I worried about what she thought. Would she like them? Was my writing good enough? Was the story engaging or annoying or too personal to be shared? I’m sure to some of you that you wouldn’t blink an eye at the thought of this but for me, something about it was just terrifying and made me anxious, as if by reading those pages she would change her mind about  me and never speak to me again or worse come back and in a kind way, would confirm my fear that yes, in fact, it was a terrible idea.

 

 

NaNoWriMo national novel writing month

 

 

NaNoWriMo Preparation

 

If you have gotten this far into the blog post you know that she, in fact, came back and told me it was amazing and even quoted her favourite line and told me it was genius. I don’t think anyone has ever said that anything I wrote was genius before so I did it. I sat down this morning and started charting out my workflow and thrashing out the idea. I wrote an outline in chapters from beginning to end and started a Tello board on what I need to do before the 1st of November so that I could focus the month on writing. I drafted out my editorial calendar for the blog and podcast and figured out what would be realistically achievable. Everything came so clearly and easily that it hardly felt like work. As if by making a decision and having the support of a friend uncorked my creativity and made me realise I could do something I always admired others for but too scared to try myself. In part, that is due to my science background and the need to do everything in repetition and to be confident before drawing a conclusion and presenting data. I find it hard to step away from that familiar process and comfort zone.

 

Come and Join Me

 

I signed up over here and if you want to come and join me, my author name is ‘Seaver‘. Just click on through to my author page and click ‘add as a buddy’. I will be writing for both Europe:Ireland:Dublin and Europe:Ireland:NorthEast. If you are already an author over there than I would appreciate any guidance you have to offer so please find me on the forums or on my bio page. I will be writing a blog post series on the process so that you can hold me accountable too and help me reach my goal because I know that all of you will be cheering me on too.  The target is 50,000 words between the 1st and the 30th of November so it does require some planning.

All I can tell you is that I am excited again and that being brave enough to share something private with a friend has allowed me to grasp hold of my creative self and focus on applying my energy into something that feels right. I haven’t had this feeling since I started the blog and you all know how that turned out.

 

I just hope it all doesn’t end up in tears but at worst I don’t have to share my 50,000 words with the world if I chicken out.

 

xxxxxxxxxx

 

 

 

 

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Love | Slow Living

Love | Slow Living

It happens every October. I start to get run down, overwhelmed and I find myself tearing my hair out because calendars are full. I liken myself to a puppy chasing its tail; you never quite catch up and you can’t remember why you started doing something in the first place. You are just running around in circles crazily and tiring yourself out.

I like being busy but I draw the line at being busy for busy sake. This year I wanted to take a slower pace in my personal life. Grow our food, enjoy more family time and just be together as a young family. Once again it’s October and today is the 15th. That’s 15 days crammed packed with to-do lists, work and just being busy. I’m okay with being busy for an objective but not when there is no end goal in sight and with the shortening days, less outdoor time and the busy season truly kicking off with anything to do with wool, well I’ve been feeling rather thin.

 

The Slow Movement

With my crazy life, it’s no wonder the idea of a slow pace and whole food appeals to me.  To be mindful and listen to my body and my inner self more. Your body and mind tell you when they are tired and at their limit for certain things but how often do you listen? I know I hear it but usually, I’m pushing to finish something and ignore it.

For those of you who are feeling what I am but a little lost, SLOW stands for Sustainable, Local, Organic and Whole and started with the Slow Food Movement but has grown to encompass Slow Living, Slow Cities, Slow Money and a few others. What this means to me is: seeking to do everything at the right speed but also savouring the time we spend doing things. I never really adopt anything fully, I find the parts that speak to me and go with them.

I know the ‘mother’ side of me wants to enjoy the time spent with my children without worrying about the constant mess they are making or how they have yet again destroyed the living room. I want to enjoy my days off with my family without listening to my mobile’s constant ‘ding’. Those days are few and far between so when we do get them I don’t want to be stuck behind a laptop or having to squeeze in work. I don’t want to hit 50 and wonder where the years with my children are gone.

When we moved to the cottage the first thing we did was to build the raised beds and start to grow our own food. Both of my kids have spent their baby and toddler days in the garden and then in the kitchen preparing food. That paints a nice picture, doesn’t it? But some of those days are incredibly frustrating, trying to plant or the toddlers harvesting something that isn’t ready or them screaming because they can’t stir the pot on the gas burner.  The idea though, the one that by slowing down and sharing these skills with them will not only bring us together as a family but teach them about their footprints on this earth.

 

 

Without realising it the core values that we loved about moving here got swept up in being busy and it happened so quickly that it is terrifying. This week I turned off the push notifications on my phone, I choose when to pull down my email and I took 30 minutes each morning to read something before getting up and facing the day. I went back to my slow cooker prep and increased the amount of meat-free meals in our weekly menu.  I sat back and looked at everything from work to this blog and podcast to my parenting time and worked out what was important to me.

I’m doing my best to remember those things that make us happy as a family and trying to balance it with the tasks that need to be done. I hate the feeling of chasing my tail and being busy for no reason.  From now on expect more posts on how we introduce slow methods into our life because if you don’t help keep me on track I will be right back to chasing my tail before Christmas. Do you implement aspects of Slow Living in your life already? How do you do it? LEt me know in the comments below.

xxxxxxxxxx

 

 

 

 

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Craft | Autumn Knit-A-Longs

Craft | Autumn Knit-A-Longs

As soon as there is a chill in the air in the morning knitters get excited. Knitting season is well and truly here, though, for some of us it never really got warm enough to disappear this year. One of my favourite things that happen in autumn are the knit-alongs that happen over on Ravelry. I have picked up my needles for two already and I’m slightly nervous as to whether I will finish on time. So, for today’s post, I thought I would highlight a few so that you could join in too! There are a few reasons why I love them so much:

 

Why Join A KAL

I’ll be brief. There are a few reasons why I love them so much:

  • You meet wonderful new knitters.
  • The different yarn choices and colours are always inspiring.
  • I always pick up a few helpful hints/tips and the odd technique if I really push myself.
  • They help to move that work-in-progress on your needles to a shiny new finished object that you can wear with pride.
  • I usually laugh an enormous amount and this will lead to a few dropped stitches but it’s worth it.
  • If you have never knitted a garment before the support of knitting it with a few other knitters can help you complete it instead of being stumped and leaving it on the needles.
  • With Mystery KALs; I like the unknown element for accessories and seeing the project grow before my eyes.

 

If I sit here for a while I could probably double this list but I’ll move on to what is happening over on Ravelry right now in case you feel like you could use the support of the online craft community. Some of these have started but it is never to late to jump on board and join in.

 

Boo Knit's Halloween MKAL

Boo Knits Halloween KAL

I love the shawls by Boo Knit’s and I think my very first shawl that ever graced my needles was her Dragon Fly Wings pattern. If you want to take part in a Halloween themed MKAL then pop over to the Boo Knits group on Ravelry. This is a pattern for a beaded lace weight shawl and began on October 1st  with the last clue going live on October 16th.
Price: 4.50 GBP (a little over $6 USD)

 

Camira KAL by Carol Feller

Camira KAL – Caro Feller

I love Carol’s garment knit-alongs and yes this is my own opinion. This takes place over on the Carol Feller KAL board on Ravelry and I usually see the same welcoming knitters popping in and out of the boards. The boards can move a bit quick sometimes but everyone is incredibly helpful. This year for some reason I started and finished clue 1 the day after it was released so I’m hoping to have a new cardigan by the end of October but I will need the support of everyone in the group to get there. Camira is an aran weight cardigan and the pattern comes with an exclusive 15% discount code for Blue Moon Fiber Arts for the sweater yarn and the last clue is released on the 11th of November. Price: €6.00 (about $7.30 USD)

 

Knitworthy 4 by Ysolda Teague

 

Knitworthy – Ysolda Teague

The Knitworthy KAL is in it’s fourth year and it kicked off on August 28th but continues right through to the 4th of December.  The Ysolda’s KAL group on Ravelry is always fun to be around and there is nothing like the support as you work through your knitted gift list. This year Ysolda is paying it forward and donating 10% of sales of the collection to a different organisation every 2 weeks. You can find out where the current donations are going to on her site here. The KAL is priced at £14.00 GBP about €16.19

 

Woolly Wormhead MKAL Mystery HAt A Long

 

Woolly Wormhead’s Mystery Hat-A-Long

Now in its 10th year, the mystery Hat-A-Long from Woolly is always fun and surprising. This year there are two hat options A and B and if you buy both patterns you do receive a discount. Both patterns  also come with a discount code for the yarn required. You won’t want to miss out on the fun on the KAL board here and this year I am doing Hat A (and possibly B but lets not get carried away) The first clue is released on the 1st of November with the final clue on the 29th of November. Price is €4.37 (about $5.00).

 

Strange Brew KAL - Tin Can Knits

Strange Brew KAL – Tin Can Knits

Who doesn’t love a Tin Can Knits pattern? This year Alexa and Emily have devised an ingenious KAL where you can design your own fair isle yoke swear. To find out all the information pop over to their blog post here. Strange Brew is a bottom-up sweater, designed for DK weight yarn in 25 sizes for babies, children, women, and men. This KAL takes place over on Facebook here, they do also have a Ravelry group here but support and the chatter are over in the facebook group for this one.  Price: $8.61 USD about €7.53.

 

 

West Knits KAL 2017

Westknits Mystery Shawl KAL 2017

I couldn’t finish a KAL post without mention West Knits. The Speckle & Pop KAL started on September 29th but continues on until the last clue release on October 20th. The KAL takes place in the West Knits MKAL 2017 group here. The shawl is fingering weight and requires 3 main colours 100g each and 5 contrast colours in smaller amounts. You can find all the details here and I imagine this shawl is going to be BIG! These KALs are always hilarious and the boards do move quickly and it spills over onto Instagram with hashtags. This one is perfect for those stash skeins of Indie sock yarn.   Price: $8.61 USD(about €7.53).

 

Am I missing your favourite KAL? Pop it in the comments so we can find it too. Do you take part in KALs or do you shy away from them? Let me know in the comments. I’m off to stash dive!

 

xxxxxxxxxx

 

 

 

 

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Love | 5 Things I Learned from The Blog Awards

Love | 5 Things I Learned from The Blog Awards

 

I’ll be honest I struggled with whether I should write this post but between the daily post prompt being ‘Believe‘ and people asking about what I thought of the V by Very Blog Awards and I found it hard not to. This is a personal post and is very much about believing that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to, provided you can ignore the stress and self-doubt.

I would love to say that I entered in order to win but in my mind, I never thought I had a shot at the finals let alone a silver medal. I entered in order to take part in the process, see how it worked and also to have a bit of fun in the Irish Blogger’s Group on Facebook. I wanted to meet new people and have fun but as the blog progressed the more stressed I became. I have never entered on my own before, I have always been the support of someone else’s blog. So doing this on my own was unsettling but you never achieve anything if you are always comfortable right?

 

1. It’s Stressful – Blog Post Workflow

I won’t lie this was easily the most stressful thing I have done. In the beginning, I didn’t really think about it; I was nominated and I entered. The more I thought about it, the more I focussed on my technique, SEO, image optimization, relevant posts and the list goes on.  I stopped looking at my blog as a place of refuge for me and more like a business and I’m not sure I enjoyed that. I blog because I like to write and I enjoy all of the new opportunities that have come my way from writing here and building my space. It’s quite different to sit back and realise that industry professionals are looking at your work and grading it. I am always looking at what can be improved on my site and I’m sure I’ll always want to change something but ultimately this was my place to relax and the awards shattered that for a  month. However, if I was more relaxed and didn’t think about the awards process then it wouldn’t have affected me so much.

 

2. Let Go

One of the best takeaways from the whole process was just to let go. The awards are often down to judges preference and although you can improve the technical side of your blog sometimes judges just prefer things to be in a particular layout or they prefer a style of writing. If their tastes differ to yours then there is nothing you can do about that. If you are happy with your blog and the space that you built and it’s a hobby then why stress about it. Let the award come and go but enjoy your audience and the process of blogging. The awards are one night but your audience and online community are worth so much more than that.

 

3. Awareness

This is double sided. From entering the awards I became aware of more bloggers than I had before. I have added a few to my reader and even though they aren’t in craft or slow living I enjoy what they write and I love their aesthetic. I believe you can always learn from your peers and by that, I don’t mean copy. I mean that your peers can inspire you to achieve greater things and push you and by taking part in the process and finding new blogs, it has helped to remind me why I blog in the first place.

The flip side of that is people finding me. I have a following of around 3K/month. This goes up and down but I’m not at the dizzying heights of blogdom. These awards allowed me to take part in the process without a public vote and be graded against just my content.  This is fantastic for someone new and only a year into blogging. The awards also helped introduce my blog to others and to gain confidence in what I do. This was worth every stressful night.

 

4. Friends Old & New

One of the highlights for me was attending the awards with two close friends of mine. I got to hold their hands as our categories were called and share in their wins too. We normally wouldn’t have a reason to venture out into the world together and as we all live in different parts of the country we needed a reason for us all to be in one place at one time. Events like this are amazing for networking making new friends or even inspiring collaborations you never thought possible. I got to meet online friends in person and make new blogger friends on the night and find out more about their lives and how they blog. Sometimes blogging be isolating, having friends that you can bounce ideas off or help you when you feel down or when you really want to quit and you feel lost, those friends are invaluable.

 

 

 5.  Believe in Yourself.

I know, I know this makes me cringe because it is everywhere but it is true.  The reason a blog stands out is because of its unique voice and that is you! Your taste, your style, your decisions, they all create something wonderful and unique to you. This blog is not my first, it is my second. I’m not new to the craft community but I am to the blogging community. I didn’t know that many bloggers when I started and new I’ve met bloggers from all over the world and I love what they do. Evey blog has it’s own twist on posts, style and community it’s a window into how that person thinks of craft and their community usually reflect that. So don’t second guess yourself, just start and learn along the way. If you try and get everything perfect you will never publish. Believe in yourself first and others will follow.

Huge congratulations to both Carol and Evin on their wins and also a big thank you to Evin for allowing me to steal her photos from the night for this blog post.

xxxxxx

 

 

 

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Love | Creativity & Self-Doubt

Love | Creativity & Self-Doubt

 

This week I have been keeping track of my creativity and I realised a few things. That I’m much more creative first thing in the morning and then again when everyone else has gone to bed. I noticed that a lot of the stress that I feel during the day is actually self-induced by expecting too much of myself every day. I started to schedule in time for myself to read. This can be either blog posts or books but it cannot be social media. Social media, although I love it, drags you into the infinite scroll and I found myself doing more and more of that scrolling and less and less of actual reading.

 

Anxiety is the Handmaiden of Creativity

  • T.S. Eliot

 

During my constant search for new blogs, I came across this quote by T.S. Eliot and although I remember when I first heard it, I had forgotten it. It’s true that the busier I get the more anxious I become and the less creative I seem to be. I fall into easier, proven content and push myself less and less. I know we all need different speeds at times but I don’t ever want to reach for my creativity and find that I lost my unique thought process because I have been too stressed or anxious.

 

Creativity Takes Courage

  • Henri Matisse

 

There have only been a few times when I have been really anxious about posting a particular piece. This is usually around a photo challenge as I feel I have a lot more to learn about photography and I doubt my skills. When it comes to written blog posts or Instagram posts, the posts that make me anxious are the ones that are truly personal. Where I have given it my all and though I want to share it with the world, I also want to hide it away and protect it from disapproval.  I do find though that those posts, the ones with my unique voice and eye, those are the ones that really do well. I’ve found a wonderful group that help, support and advise on how to make something better rather than criticism and tearing a piece down. Yes, it still takes courage to let it out into the world initially but knowing that a core support group is there helps to build up that courage and just let go.

 

 

Creativity & Self-Doubt

Creativity and self-doubt go hand in hand for me. When I doubt I have the skills to achieve something I’m less creative about doing it and end up producing something mundane. Sometimes it’s ok to be ‘good enough’ and I don’t need to be a hundred percent all the time even though I would love to.  I’m never sure where the self-doubt comes from but it’s there and the more tired and run down I am,  the more I doubt myself. It’s a vicious circle. Now that I know I do this it’s much easier to ignore that niggling feeling and go and eat something or knit and come back to whatever I was working on a little later.

 

The blog awards this year have been incredibly stressful for me. I have constantly been looking at my blog, writing and images and trying to figure out if I can make them better and like a lot of people I am my own worst critic. When I started I was developing my eye and although I am still doing that, I can say that I can frame an image better than I could before. I can write with purpose when I have to and I still allow myself to ramble on my blog.

 

The awards made me wake up and notice those other amazing blogs in Ireland. Their consistency, their content, their branding and I fell into the direct comparison which in reality is a little silly across genres. What works for one niche may nosedive in another.  Right before the awards I was proud of just how far I had come in twelve months but during them, I became really insecure and the further along the process the blog went the more stressed I became. I realised that although I had built my blog to my own personal taste, it was being judged on how well I ran it and obviously then ‘work’ me kicked in and all I could see was the negative. I became anxious about my post topics and images and second guessing myself. I also had an uneasy feeling that the blog was being judged partly on my personality which made me look more and more at my content. You can guess that this stalled my creativity but then something wonderful came from it all.

 

I realised in order to stand back and be negative about my blog it told me that I can distance myself from a project. My skills have developed and over time I have become settled in what I want the Notebook to be which is something I have struggled with in the past. From being scared and stressed and entering anyway, the blog awards process made me a better blogger and also opened up a wonderful world of Irish bloggers in genres that I would never have looked into before.

 

It also wasn’t just the blog awards that made me feel this way. I take part in the Instachat by Sara Tasker (MeandOrla) and at the end of the chat we all join the Insta-train and share our grids and get to know some new online friends. This is wonderful and the group is highly supportive but I realised after the third chat that I didn’t like sharing my grid as I felt it was terrible in comparison to those who were posting. That I had so much to learn and achieve that I couldn’t/shouldn’t post. I did force myself too and I have some lovely new friends through there but again prior to the chats, I was feeling good about how far I had come to feeling terrible about how messy and unstyled it was.

 

The point of this post is to remind both you and me that we all battle our own demons. That the voice inside is both good and bad and that we need to listen to it in a more balanced way. Appearances are almost always deceiving and creativity shouldn’t come with a price. Give yourself room to breathe and de-stress and have the courage to post the work that you’re unsure about. Although the last month has been incredibly stressful for me, I am better person because I took part in the things that made me anxious or scared.  The trick is to do it in a way where you can still be your creative self and find your unique path to the content you want to create. I’m sure that I can’t be the only person who has felt this way but for now I know what I need to do to move forward and be a better, creative me.

 

Best of luck to everyone taking part in the awards this year.  I’m so glad to meet such wonderful new bloggers and be part of a wonderful group. I won’t be here on Friday so I will see you all next week.

xxxxxxxxxx

 

 

 

 

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Craft | Strickplaner – Knitting Journal

Craft | Strickplaner – Knitting Journal

Over on Instagram every now and then you will see posts that contain my planner. In reality, I actually have three planners and of course, use Trello and Google Calendar as well. I have lost count of the number of times people ask me how I manage and the answer is planners and help.  When Carol Feller posted that she was stocking the Strickplaner by Martina Behm for 2018, there was a little girl in me who just couldn’t say no. Carol very kindly sent me a journal to try out which leads me to this post.

Over the last ten years, I have met lots of crafters who also use journals and swear by them. For example, there is Diane from The Dublin Knit Collective who is an avid Bullet journal fan and has managed to convert quite the number of Dublin knitters into giving it a try. I use a Filofax and a planner from Paperchase because I can design and print out my inserts to do exactly what I need them to do. I have been using one section as a knitting planner so I was more than a little excited to give the Strickplanner a try.

 

 

When I opened it my first thought was how much it reminded me of my First Communion prayer book as a child which may sound a little crazy but hey my mind is a beautiful thing and it is probably an Irish primary school throwback. The planner is white with two different ribbon page markers and beautifully embossed cover. When you open the planner I was met with the phrase ‘More Time To Knit’ and although sceptical that it could find me more time to knit, I’m a pretty easy going kind of gal so I kept reading.

 

Planning

I’ll get straight to the point, this one planner does the job of two of my own planners and is less than half the size. The idea is simple: first, you plan, then you create and at the end of the week, you find time to relax and reflect on how the week went and what you learned for the upcoming one. If you have never used a planner before this is a perfect introduction and you can use it just for craft and stash organisation. With any planner though, you get out what you put into using the planner. For me, it’s about remembering about the stash I bought ten years ago or keeping on top of gifts, then work and then the kids. I love the quality of the paper and just how much is crammed into this tiny book.

 

 

 

Contents

The planner has a step by step guide on how to use it effectively along with yearly life goals, yearly reflection, quarterly overview and tracker. It has tables of measurements & conversions, needle sizes in mm and US, a ruler a section on yarn purchases to help organise your stash, wish lists, squared pages for knitting patterns and dot pages for mind maps. This planner is going to live on my desk beside my laptop where it’s going to help me work through my wip mountain and gain control of my stash, stop impulse yarn purchases (ok well it will try) and also remind me to find those five minutes to think about tomorrow’s tasks.

 

I’m excited for 2018 to give this a try. I really want to be more organised now that my kids are a bit older and I have more time for me. If you have never used a journal before this is a perfect introduction into getting into the mindset of finding time for you to reflect and work on time management but what I love about this planner is the size and how much is covered by one journal. If you would like to hear from the lady herself, Martina has a flick through tutorial video here where she takes an in-depth look at the planner:

 

 

If you want to pick one up here in Ireland, Carol has some on her website Stolenstitches.com. I hope I have inspired you to try using a journal and as always, Happy Knitting!

xxx

 

 

 

 

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