What makes me buy yarn?

So for today’s blog post I thought I would touch on yarn – otherwise known as ‘stash’. We love our stash don’t we?

In the timeline of stash development most knitters (but not all knitters!) start off with good old acrylic, in mostly pale solid colours. For perhaps baby gift knitting such as cardigans, blankets and hats.

Overtime (and this period of time varies depending on the knitter) we visit yarns shops and gradually meet more and more new pretties (yarn) and slowly our stash grows from acrylic to merino, from merino to alpaca, from alpaca to silk or cashmere (the good stuff!). Our fibre exploration grows and grows. There is so much natural fibre options out there these days and once you are hooked on the natural stuff it is very hard to go back to squeaky acrylic (IMO).

When you get to this stage I was told that means you are a yarn snob. But I say stuff that label. It just means you embrace the natural beauty of the world. Acrylic does have its place – personally I just can’t knit with it any more as it makes my hands itch.

So as you discover new fibres for knitting you also gradually get to grips with colour. I absolutely adore colour. For me colour is life! Why just have dull pale shades of black and white when you can have rainbows!

And colour is a huge thing to. There are deep tones, brights, pale natural shades and neons. There are solids, semi solids, speckles and gradients.

In fact the choice of both colour and fibre is mind blowing!

Now I’m going to set you a task – this weekend have a really good dig through your stash. What do you see? Do you see any trends? Do you have lots of one particular colour? One particular fibre? Do you have lots of every colour and fibre? Stash dive and explore. I promise you will be surprised when you look at the bigger picture.

For me colour goes along side my mood. So some days I crave bright pinks and reds (like a hug) and other days I need calm so I’m more drawn to blue. There is a psychology behind colour too. And as an holistic practitioner colour also means healing (I will talk more about this soon).

My colour palette used to focus on shades of reds or pink. Actually I would knit a lot with red. But over the last couple of years I have noticed this has changed and I’m exploring colour more & more. But not more muted tones. I’m actually growing a deeper bond with warmer tones of colour, although I’m still not sure about wearing neons. I have knit with them but I think you need a particular confidence to wear them and I’m not quite there yet. But Stephen West knows how to rock those beauties!!

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen me posting about my purchases last weekend at a yarn festival. Here’s a flash below. As you can see I really do love colour! I think its the colour that draws me to yarn purchases the most.

Did you know if you’re a member of ravelry and you have your stash uploaded there you can do in a colour search in your stash. I will put up a tutorial on how to do this over the weekend.

So take an hour this weekend. Review your stash. Explore what you have and come back next week to find out more about what your stash says about your personality.

Enjoy!

PS. I bet you find yarns you forgot you had too!!

 

Is yarn cheaper than therapy?

The more people meet in the fibre industry, the more people I find with a common connection – anxiety and mental health issues. There is a terrible taboo out there about mental health issues in general but its more common than a lot of people realise.

In today’s world we are constantly bombarded with advertising, who we should be, how we should look, what we should buy, what we should be watching on tv… the list goes on. There is a lot of pressure to conform to the ‘norm’ which causes stress – and this stress sometimes leads to anxiety and mental health issues that can have a huge impact on your life.

I say this from experience. I have suffered from anxiety for several years now. I have always been open about this, in the view that talking about it helps people to understand and break the taboo – although a lot of people still judge you for it (trust me on that!).

My anxiety started when I was very ill in late 2008 and I had terrible days of pure panic. I couldn’t breathe, I was on the floor gasping for air at times. I thought I was going to die of a heart attack from palpitations in my chest. But after seeing my doctor it was all down to stress and anxiety.

Thats when I got back into knitting.

I’ve always been a knitter really. My mum taught to make a garter scarf when I was about 4 and I remember going through primary school being crafty. In secondary school I loved art but sadly had to ditch that subject when I started GCSEs because it was in the same choice block as child care & development (and the time I wanted to train as a nursery nurse so I could either work in day care or be a nanny). So when I left school I drifted from this craft for many years, although I did make the odd baby gift for friends.

But when I developed this anxiety I knew that I needed to do something to distract my mind. Knitting just seem to click (forgive the pun! lol). It helped me focus, it helped me feel calm and it helped me feel in control again – and believe me that is the biggest challenge when you are having a panic attack! You feel really out of control of your body and you feel like the room is spinning around you. It is a terrible thing to experience and some panic attacks were worse than others.

So how does knitting help?

Knitting is a form of mediative mindfulness and research has shown that mindfulness is a very effective method for treating depression and chronic illnesses. The repetitive nature of knitting creates harmony and its rhythmic movement distracts your chatterbox (brain). Similar to yoga, knitting allows you to switch off to daily stresses, focus on the stitches/pattern, and calm your mind to allow your body to relax.

Knitting has many other benefits as well including increasing your self esteem through learning and creating, improving your mood, and reducing loneliness through involvement in knitting groups and social activities.

So is yarn therapy?

I would say yes 100% but I’m bias I guess as I’m a knitter and us knitters love yarn, don’t we. But as knitting is proven (through research) thats its good for your health & wellbeing, then that must mean yarn definitely is therapy.

 

Question is it cheaper than therapy. I’m on the fence with that…if you had 10 sessions of therapy costing 400-500 pounds would you spend that much on yarn? I’m saying nothing…my lips are sealed!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Have you ever experienced anxiety or stress and felt the benefits from knitting (or crafting in general)? Please leave a comment. Lets all getting talking abut this more to take away the taboo of mental health issues.

In my next few posts I’m going to talk about some of the other therapies that have helped me deal with my anxiety, sharing some techniques that you can try out yourself.

The Wedding Shawl Take #2

A friends daughter got married couple of weeks ago. I left the wedding shawl knitting to the last minute. It was touch and go for a while if I would even finish it. I cast on the Sunday night with the yarn I bought a few weeks previously in This Is Knit. A last minute road trip to Dublin was perfect timing when I needed urgent yarn…thanks to Bernie for driving down *waves! It was a perfect day (we need to go back soon!). When we arrived at TIK Jenny very kindly helped me choose the right yarn…thanks Jenny!! *waves

I got a preview of the dress and knew I needed the whitest yarn I could find. Finding nice white yarn is harder than you think! After I knit my friend Lisa’s wedding shawl last year (I wrote a blog post about it here) I knew I was going for the Holden shawl pattern again. The bride was wearing her mums dress and it was vintage, so I knew this shawl style would work – just enough lace pattern on edge.

So I went into TIK with the plan to find sock weight yarn but I came out with lace!  And extra pretty lace at that…Juniper Moon Farm Findley Lace in the brightest white. What I loved most about this yarn was the fibre content – mulberry silk and merino. Perfect for a wedding shawl! The merino is super soft and the silk gives a nice sheen, plus it’s perfect for shawls as silk gives good drape.

So the shawl knitting commenced on the Sunday night. I knit furiously for two days. By Wednesday evening I was casting off :-O …four days to knit a shawl!!! My best record yet lol. To finish the shawl needed a good soak and then wet block. I needed to drop it down to my friends house that evening…so out the hair dryer came lol. Drying the shawl slowly, switching between hot and cool air did the trick. The shawl was done and delivered just in time!!! Phew.

The wedding was in Donegal and I’ve yet to see pictures of the bride, and the shawl in action! In the rush to get it finished I didn’t have much time to photograph but I did manage these couple of shots…

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Friday FO: Marilyn

Well hello again folks..and very Happy New Year to you all!! Did you make any new years resolutions? If you did have you been sticking to them? Or perhaps not?

Did you know by now (mid January) most people have got out of the habit and drifted back into their old ways. So this year I’ve not bothered with the pain of resolutions. Not that I ever actually really did them anyways but you will remember back in 2014 I decided to cold sheep for 6 months – I did 5 months in the end but it only made me go crazy buying when I came off the sheep. So I’ve learnt that this sort of resolution shit doesn’t work for me.

So this year I’m doing goal setting, small baby steps to help me move towards my bigger goals. But by now you are probably thinking why am I telling you all this…

Well in the background for the last year or so I have been doodling designs, making samples, writing patterns, and even going as far as getting some test knit…but sadly I’ve lacked the confidence to actually publish the darn things.

So this year is about pushing that fear (as Susan Jeffer’s said “…feel the fear and do it anyway!”) and throwing it in the skip and just doing it. So I have…I’ve only gone and bloody published my first pattern folks!!

Let me introduce Marilyn

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Marilyn is a wide scarf that is knit in one piece from edge to edge; that is also large enough to use as a wrap draped around your shoulder on colder days.  The pattern sample was knit using Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal yarn in a really gorgeous colourway called “Autumn Gold“.  I’m a huge fan of Debbie’s yarn and this one doesn’t disappoint. Not only is the colour range fabulous (it comes in 24 different shades) but I think the yardage per ball is pretty generous at 380 metres.

The inspiration for this pattern came from one of my favourite classic films “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes“. I love the oldies, the Carry Grants, the Dories Days, the Audrey Hepburns. I was flicking through one of my stitchionary books and came across a diamond panel I liked. That was the beginning of the design and the reason for the pattern name.

The pictures were taken my myself at the local harbour in Carrickfergus. I have been developing my photography skills over the last year and its has become one of my favourite places to dander around. Its actually very relaxing just wondering about clicking away with the camera. These pictures were taken on my bridge camera but I have just invested in a Nikon DSLR so I’m hoping that I will get better with the manual mode function going forward. The only problem I’m sure most people have is finding a willing model. (I’m actually looking for someone to model some mitts and hats – if your interested give me a shout plz!!)

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So as I hit the publish button last Sunday my anxiety hit the roof. The chatterbox went into overdrive. But my dear knitting friends cheered me on. I love them all dearly, they are such a great bunch of gals. I even got a pengiun cheering me on with pompoms… thanks Laura!! And thanks to the rest of you for all your kind wishes on twitter and facebook.

pengiun-pompoms

To make you will need 3.25mm needles and 415 yards of fingering weight yarn.  You could use a heavier weight yarn if you wish, or likewise a lace weight but you will need to factor that the yardage will differ from the pattern.  I’d actually love to see Marilyn knit up in a variety of yarn weights, especially a heavier yarn like Aran/Worsted. Though obviously you may need to reduce the yarn repeats otherwise you might end up with a blanket…unless that’s what you want lol.

The pattern is available to purchase on ravelry here and until midnight on Sunday 17th January 2016 you can grab this pattern for 30% off with the code MARILYN1ST – happy knitting!

So the pressure is off a little. Now I’ve managed to publish one and ticked my ‘one a month’ goal for January I feel great! I’d love to hear your thoughts about Marilyn. Would you knit it and if so what yarn would you use?

In the meantime I’m already working on my next design, which will be out soon. What’s on your needles?