fourth edition

Make It Work: A Chat with A Playful Day & Twitter Hangout Plans

I recently found myself chatting with fellow freelancer, occasional collaborator and good friend A Playful Day. As we were chatting away, we noticed that both of us were being asked a lot of the same questions. What’s it like to make your hobby your job? How do you make that happen? Can you help me make that same jump? We are both passionate about making the knitting industry the best it can be and somehow our little chat ended up with us making plans.

Plans? Plans. I’ll tell you in a minute.  First, let’s kick off all this by hearing from someone with .. a not so obvious job – Ms Playful Day.

IMG_4491You are A Playful Day – a podcaster, a blogger, an editor and a professional craft cheerleader among other things. How would you describe what you do?
The one question I find the hardest to answer is exactly this! In a nutshell, I freelance within the fibre industry as someone who supports and develops independent businesses. I see my work as very collaborative and strategic, working alongside designers, dyers and other creative types helping them fine tune what they do and communicate to as big an audience in a way that clearly tells their story.

Branding’ is a bit of a naughty word in this business – why do you think that is?
Possibly because it can be seen as restrictive, false or impersonal. I have found over the last few years that people who have a clear distinction between their product and who they are, tend to find the work life balance easier to maintain and can be much more critical about their success. They seem to get better at interacting with their audience and I think having a strong story that is easy to read is actually really empowering for Creatives as it means they can have clear boundaries and fine tune their inspiration across different projects. It is certainly why I strive hard to work collaboratively because most of all, a person needs to be empowered to determine their own story; I really can’t see that working any other way.

What’s a typical working week like?
I juggle the needs of my family with what I need to do in order to support designers and dyers. What this usually means is I’m on Skype or my laptop the minute my daughter is sleeping. This industry is full of people trying to grow their business around family needs, their ‘other’ job, health needs and so I’m in good company I’ve found! It means that there isn’t really an average week as I can be locked into a laptop creating press releases one week, then commissioning a new pattern collection or attending an event another week.

As a female entrepreneur in the fibre industry, what has been the most surprising aspects of starting your own business?
It’s been surprising how quickly I went from a background figure to someone that springs to mind for an exciting project. Initially I found it hard to introduce my role within the fibre industry. For some people, the idea of employing someone remotely to help shape their business seemed too alien and I was unsure how best to develop what I felt was an important role for independent businesses. However, the last year or so has seen something of a turning point with more willingness to promote good products and greater international collaborations. With it has come a rapid interest in the sort of work I do and projects that I’ve been working on which I’ve found a bit overwhelming. I’m suddenly a bit more visible than I used to be when really I’m happiest in my comfy jeans, plotting a great blog post or feature for someone!

journal 2You are so passionate about fostering relationships and collaborations. Part of that energy was channelled into Unwind Brighton where I finally met you (after all these years!). You were really, really busy behind the scenes but what struck me was that you were still trying to foster relationships and ‘make playful things happen’. Where does that passion come from?
Unwind was such a moment in time for me because it represented everything about the way I like to work; the standard was so high and everyone really pulled together and collaborated to bring something amazing together.

I just like to see talented people achieve. I really get a kick out of introducing a talented designer and dyer and seeing the end result and knitters going wild over it. I see how happy it makes others to get that feedback from a creative process and I want to do it all over again the next day.  This is an industry that deserves to thrive and be taken seriously as it’s all too often trivialised by the ‘hobby’ label. There’s a lot of people doing truly exciting and interesting things and I love meeting them, hearing their story and then helping it reach an audience. While it’s a hobby we love, business development is a very important thing and getting paid what you are truly worth is crucial.

Finally, you suggested taking that conversation and make it into a broader discussion.

I’d like people to come and visit A Playful Day to see you answering some questions and then we are taking that conversation further, out on to Twitter. Using the hashtag #makeitwork we will host a live chat to talk about how we make our jobs work and how we keep things creative too.

Yes!

A Playful Day and I have invited some key figures in the knitting industry to join us (and you, most importantly) for a Twitter hangout where we’ll ask – and hopefully answer – some of those recurrent questions. You will get to hear from editors, curators, designers, dyers, podcasters .. and many more. More information to come in the next few days over on the playful blog (where you’ll also get to hear details about my working life).

Knits For Little Scamps – A Review Of Sorts

I love visiting Copenhagen. I lived there during my twenties – my formative years in many ways – and so many of my good friends live there. Paradoxically I didn’t know Signe Strømgaard when I actually lived in Copenhagen, yet whenever I visit we make sure we get to hang out. Signe is an incredible woman: funny, warm, down-to-earth and smart. I am so proud to call her my friend.

And Signe is a fantastic knitting designer.

Her work has appeared in Knitty, Twist Collective and Petite Purls. Signe has also worked extensively with Danish yarn company Filcolana (you can find many of their patterns freely available on Ravelry). Signe’s background in graphic design shows in her knitting designs: there is a modern, graphic quality to most of her work. Combined with Signe’s ever-present sense of humour, it was perhaps inevitable that her first book would be one filled with modern, colourful children’s patterns for kids aged 2 to 10. If you like Scandinavian children’s clothes, I think you’ll love Knits For Little Scamps.

I’m not even going to pretend to do a review because a) it’d be one long post of THIS IS AMAZING and b) I am totally biased but this is a great collection of modern kids’ patterns. Cue picture spam of my favourites.

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(Love this shows the design on both boys & girls, in a huge range of colour, and on a variety of ages. BOOM – design statement! )

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(Love the simplicity and the bold stripes. And the jumper + trousers = YES. I’d wear this.)

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(You cannot tell from the smallish photo, but that’s an interesting cable detail)

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(This girl takes no prisoners. Also, that hat is so cool that teenagers will secretly sulk that it’s for their baby sister or brother)

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(I totally love this cardigan. I want it for myself. Again, I love the styling. She looks kick-ass)

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(Aksel gives good face. Incidentally this is knitted in one of my favourite Danish yarns – Håndværksgarn by Hjelholt)

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(Work that pose! Again, totally wearable with clean lines)

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(This is just Signe’s design sensibilities in a nutshell)

Knits For Little Scamps is published as a hardback book in Danish – but is available in English on Ravelry as two e-books (KfLS 1 and KfLS 2 – the toy pattern in included in both ebooks).

Congratulations, Signe. You are awesome and I am so proud of you x

(all photos © Signe Strømgaard, 2014)

Stuff & Nonsense: When Perfectionism Rears Its Ugly Head.

August 2014 060The past fortnight has seen my usual companion at Casa Bookish – perfectionism - almost grind my work to a halt.

I think a designer needs to have a dash of perfectionism in her. You need to pay close attention to detail – such as stitch counts, style sheets, how colours work at the photo shoot. Designing can also be a long, hard slog of making numbers work, getting the placement of a detail just right and finding the best way to phrase a tricky instruction. But if perfectionism stops you from every accomplishing anything – if your search for perfection means you never release a pattern – then you need to let go.

“That Isn’t Exciting & Original” – How Nothing Is Ever Good Enough

Recently I have really struggled to let my perfectionism go. I have one project that I have designed six times and ripped out five times. Each of those six designs has been completely different – different construction, different variation on the core concept, different stitches – and I haven’t liked any of them. I do not want to like my design; I want this project to be as amazing, special and perfect as it is in my head; I want to love it like I have loved no other design.

And that’s the problem.

Nothing will ever match the perfection that’s in my head. I am now working on the sixth version of my idea and it’s coming out really nice. Fact: I sold the second design to a third-party publisher who absolutely loved it. It worked for them in their context – it was totally good enough.

So where does all this stuff and nonsense come from?

Figuring Out Why I Am Being Hard On Myself

I spend a lot of time sitting on my own sketching patterns and charting things. I spend even more time in my own head. As a result I tend to lose track of what is exciting and new because I have already thought through my designs several times and spent hours swatching my ideas. It’s easy to start talking myself down because at this stage I will have lost sight of what excited me about the original ideas.

Here’s the thing that I keep reminding myself:  nobody else will ever be that jaded about my design. No one else have been through the entire process of initial idea and swatching through pattern-writing and wailing about numbers to blocking the sample and arranging photo shoot. No one will ever be able to say anything about my design that I haven’t already thought.

I also know that  once the design is finished and published, I will adore it to bits .. because by that stage I will been knee-deep in another pattern that’s sucking the will to live out of me! I am only halfway joking..

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So, Some Tips For Moving Beyond Perfectionism

  • Acknowledge to yourself that you have a bad bout of perfectionism. Admitting it is the very first step!
  • Realise that you will always be your own worst critic.
  • It’s better to publish something than nothing.
  • Take baby steps. Publish a hat if you are really afraid your latest cardigan pattern isn’t good enough.

Some Other Tips:

  • Never throw out a design. What you hate today will look amazing two months from now.
  • If a design really doesn’t feel right for what you are doing, consider other ways for it. Would it make a great pattern for a magazine? Self-publishing? Perfect as a freebie included in your news letter? Can you base a class around the pattern – maybe that hat is perfect for teaching Magic Loop.
  • Try playing around with different gauges. If your idea looks silly and stupid in fingering weight, try swatching it in worsted.
  • Reach out to trusted friends and peers. Show them a photo or a swatch. Ask for their honest opinion. Listen carefully to their feedback.

Do you have problems with perfectionism? Does it stop you releasing patterns? How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts x

Books & Wool, But Of Course

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I gave away about 80% of my books when I left Denmark and I can still see ghosts on the shelves, though I merged my collection with Dave’s when we started living together. So many books.

Reading my 2006 blog posts I sounded so cavalier about culling my book collection:

Red is for never again, never, no, it is so replaceable and it was fun but now the thrill has gone

Yellow is for what a lovely edition, I’ll never find it again and my library wouldn’t be complete without it.

Green is for of course, without a question, it’s part of me and good memories of dear ones.

I may not have a driver’s license but I have many books. I’m putting tiny stickers on their backs: red, yellow, green. So far at least 100 books have been marked with red: Borges*, Jonathan Safran Foer, Ian McEwan, DH Lawrence*, Jane Austen, Thomas Mann* and, er, Marion Zimmer Bradley. The yellow category is the difficult one. Which of Margaret Atwood’s works are yellow and not green? Should I put a bright yellow sticker on John Ruskin or is that a red (because I’m sure there’s a nicer edition out there)?

As I go through my books I realise I’m a flirty reader. I pick up books, break their hearts & spines and drop them cruelly. So many books I never finished: Anita Brookner, Iris Murdoch, James Kelman, Samuel Butler and John Barth. I’m so sorry but it’s not you, it’s me.

And the green books. My friends, my family. Alasdair Gray, Jonathan Coe, AS Byatt, John Donne, Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Pullman, Ezra Pound and EM Forster. I pet you gently and remember when I first encountered you. You are in my blood. You are going nowhere.

*victims of the bad edition rule”

And so we’re back to 2014. Still so many books and they are not alphabetised. Fret.

Speaking of books, I am currently reading David W. Anthony’s The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. It’s an interesting look at the Proto-Indo-European language (the ur-language that spawned English, Greek, Hindi, Russian etc) and how PIE is reconstructed following linguistic rules. Anthony also looks at words and concepts that are found throughout the descendants of PIE. Words relating to wagons and wheels, certain types of animals and – relevant to my working life – textiles.

Anthony traces the possible origin* of the word wool - *HwlHn- as PIE contains roots for sheep, ewe, ram and lamb. He argues convincingly that these linguistic fragments point to a domestication of sheep. He also looks at archaeological evidence from Uruk that indicates sheep began being bred for their wool around 3350 BCE. The book then follows the linguistic fragments as they start to spread across the PIE areas. *HwlHn shatters into *Hwel- or *Hwol- .. but the word fragment doesn’t always mean “wool”. Sometimes it means “to felt”, “something made of felt/wool”, “to press” or “to weave”. Anthony even looks briefly at whorls and spindles. Most of the book is devoted to horses and wheels (as the title indicates) but I did enjoy the dip into textiles. I’m now settling into a section on Neolithic farming in the Caucasus. As you do.

PS. Lots of people have posted pictures of their bookshelves (shelfies?). Do join in!

A Month Ago: Unwind Brighton

Can you believe it’s been a month since Unwind Brighton – that magical yarn event which felt more like a rock festival than anything else? No, me neither. So, in honour of Throwback Thursday, I thought I’d dig through my photos and conjure forth some memories.July 2014 239

Shawls at the p/hop stand.

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My friend Karen’s amazing, amazing bunny dress.

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The Eden Cottage stall (before the marketplace opened; afterwards it was pandemonium)

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Polo & Co from France

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We heart John Arbon’s Knit by Numbers DK

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And the stunning Triskelion Yarn from Wales

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And a pair of knitting geeks comparing mustard/brown shoes

July 2014 095Yeah, I loved Brighton and all the fabulous people I met there.

Tutorial: Creating a Magazine Submission

Last year I was lucky enough to get a glimpse into how Sarah Hatton curated The Knit Generation for Quail Publishing and Rowan Yarns. I have also recently helped curate a collection for a knitting company and worked closely with a couple of editors on a sub call. So, in light of all that, I thought it might be interesting to show you one of my successful submissions and discuss in detail how I put together a magazine sub. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, of course, but hopefully my experience will be of some help.

Recently my Tula hat & gloves set made the cover of UK knitting magazine Let’s Knit. The set looks like this (photo courtesy of Let’s Knit):
karie hat #1

Now let’s look at my original submission to the magazine.

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Let’s dissect the sub.

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1) I personalised the sub by adding the name of the magazine. Occasionally magazines will give you “stories” or moodboards they want you to use. If that’s the case, I will usually add the name of the relevant moodboard to signal that I have thought about my design in a particular context. Let’s Knit didn’t give me a moodboard to work from, just general guidelines.

2) The name is short, easy to spell and relevant.  I wrote a brief note about the design/design inspiration. I always try to do this in one or two sentences. This brief note should tell the editor(s) exactly what they are looking at.

Next, the details that tell the editors I have thought through the design and who it will appeal to.

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3) The section on construction is very important to tech editors. They will look at whether the designer has thought through the actual making of the piece(s). Nobody wants to commission a piece which the designer realises is impossible to make three weeks before deadline.

4) Depending upon the type of swatch and my lead-in sentences (2), I sometimes skip the design elements. However, it is useful to give an actual description of the piece(s) and this will help the editors when writing about the piece in the magazine as they may not have photos of the item handy when they write about them.

5) The yarn suggestion section is often really fun to compile, but I make sure the yarn suggestions are a) available in the country of the publication, b) they are current yarns and c) they are relevant to the actual project (i.e. not just stuff I think it’d be fun to use). My Tula swatch was knitted in Rowan Felted Tweed which has beautiful drape and comes in 29 colours. It is a sportweight which meant I could actually dip into 4ply or light DK when  it came to making substitutions. I selected Jamiesons of Shetland Spindrift (4ply) and Drops Alpaca (sportweight) as possible substitutions – both have beautiful drape and great colour ranges. Let’s Knit loved my idea of using Jamiesons – and I loved using it. Note that I am not making any colour suggestions! The editors often work to colour stories and will liaise with me to make sure my design fits into their stories.

6) Difficulty level simply shows that I have considered who might want to knit my design. Tula is charted and is knitted in the round – this coupled with gentle colourwork says that it will not appeal to absolute beginners but may be an aspirational knit for adventurous beginners or intermediate-level knitters. Again, I am also considering the publication and its target audience. Knitters are not a homogeneous bunch nor are magazines!

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7) Sketch of fit. I want this to show how the hat sits on the head of the wearer and the shape of the fingerless mitts. I know sketching is hard for some people, but you can trace fashion models (like this tutorial tells you) and there are many free tracing models out there.  The more you practice, the better you will get. Remember: if doesn’t matter if your model only has three fingers and she squints if your sketch communicates how a hat fits!

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8) However, the swatch is very, very important. The swatch is where the entire story is told, really. My swatch needs to be relatively big (4″ by 4″ or preferably bigger), blocked, and incorporating all the important elements. Here you can see Tula’s one-row cast-on and cast-off in a contrast colour, the 1×1 rib and both colourwork patterns (and how they call back to each other). The photo was taken in daylight near a window (so all details are clear) and I photographed the swatch on a neutral background. Sometimes I take a series of photos of details like beading or a particular stitch pattern and I put them next to the main photo – but only if they are important to the story.
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9) Finally, the bit where I tell editors about me. Quick intro to my background, a paragraph about clients and collaborators, a note about my personal design aesthetic, and finally how the editors can get hold of me including my home address so the editors can send me yarrrrn.The design is way more important than me, so I’m in the margins!

(I know not everybody has a portfolio full of client and collaborators – but I think of the Ravelry project page as an online portfolio (I got my first big break in the knitting industry after someone had seen my project page, actually) and I always check out what people have been knitting. Someone may not have many designs to their names but they may have a project page full of stunning work where they reveal a real sense of colour.)

I spell-check before turning my single A4 page into a PDF (I don’t want to write nkitting and nedles – tech editors will worry I cannot format a pattern!). Note that I have chosen to use colours in my layout – I change these colours for every sub I compile so they reflect the colours used in my swatch. Partly it’s because I am OCD about colour but also partly because my choice of colour/layout is part of the story I am telling with my sub. You can also see I choose to semi-bold keywords which makes life easier for a busy editor.

And there you have it – the sub I compiled for Tula. I hope this has been useful in showing you just how much information I try to  include and how I try to make the editors’ decision-making easier. This is definitely not the only or right way of making a submission – remember you want to be telling your own story in your own voice!

However, if you have any questions, please do ask and I’ll compile/answer them in a future post.

Trekking Through A Landscape, Gathering Sunlight: An Interview with Sarah

The other day I wrote about the dark side of the internet. Today I’m showcasing just how the internet enables us to connect with like-minded people in far-flung places.

Meet Sarah. Sarah  is one of the brains behind the podcast Fiber Trek. We share similar preoccupations with knitting, landscape and history. I’ve been preoccupied by those themes for a long time and it is exciting to see someone on the other side of the world exploring the same thoughts.

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How did you get the idea for Fiber Trek? It is not your standard postcast, is it?

It’s not really a personal account of my life & knitting  -  more a chance to chat about what people, landscapes & animals are doing in the textiles realm. The podcast includes my friend Morgan who does a segment where we talk about ecology & natural history in a way it relates to textiles.  On alternate weeks I offer up a Textiles in Time segment which looks at topics in history.

You think a lot about fibre arts, landscapes and history. How do those interest influence how you engage with your crafts? Do you see your crafting as a continuation of a tradition?
Landscape, history and tradition all have a strong influence on me.  My initial introduction was on a sheep farm in Orkney where I shepherded. I wanted to “feel” that space everyday and fiber arts enabled me to do that.  Wool encompasses the heart of the craft, the soul of the medium. When we select the yarn we touch the essence of hard work, death, birth .. the cycle.  I have become quite particular over the past year as to what yarn I purchase, not for any other reason than I want to connect with the heart and soul of my craft. I want to pick up my project and feel the farm; every stitch I take I want to have soul.The concept of time and place is so poignant. One of the best examples is Imperial Yarn and an interview I heard with Jeanne Carver on the Yarniacs Podcast.  She draws beautiful connections between the fiber and the land – and describes the sheep as a conduit through which we can harvest sunlight. I was inspired by Jeanne’s commitment to landscape, her knowledge of place, and her allegiance to something greater. I love the idea of harvesting sunlight. I like it so much that from now on instead of stashing yarn & fiber, I will be gathering sunlight.

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Yes, I love that idea of gathering sunlight too. It’s such a powerful image. But a big part of being a 21st century knitter seems all about coveting yarns from far-flung corners of the world. I cannot see you doing that. If you were to talk to me about local-to-you yarns, what would those be?

I love sourcing the product, squirrelling out the small farm and carrying something home that grounds me in the landscape; that allows me to tell a story every time I see it, wear it or use it. But local-to-me yarns is a difficult concept.  I have been involved in the local food movement for a long time but yarn seems to push boundaries. Yarn’s not necessarily about a specific proximity to myself but it is about people and landscape – and what they are doing in that landscape. I seek out yarns in my state but I also use fiber & yarn to “travel” and support producers across the globe.  I like to research  farm-specific & artisan yarns.  I love yarns that have a story, it makes them feel “local” to me and creates a greater connection.

I am drawn to natural colors and  I like rugged yarns & fibers with toothy structure and resilience. I often look for breed-specific yarns as well as interesting local crosses.  I enjoy finding & meeting local dyers – especially those who raise or source their fleeces themselves.

Big Thumbs Up for yarns with resilience and structure. I call them rustic (which has its own landscape connotations) but I like resilience better. Speaking of place, where can people find you? 

Right now you can find me on Ravelry as Swenstea, on Instagram as fibertrektv, on Twitter as fibertrek and we have a group on Ravelry, Fiber Trek. Our blog site is http://fibertrek.wordpress.com & our website is http://fibertrektv.com

Thank you Sarah!

Fiber Trek is currently hosting a KAL for my Vedbaek shawl which I find so apt – the shawl pattern is a response to a particular landscape and a particular time whilst still being about rooting you in your time and place. I do not normally discount the Doggerland patterns, but I have given Sarah a discount code to use during the KAL. You get 20% off the pattern if you buy via the Fiber Trek KAL (check out the podcast for more details). I’m getting ready for the last Doggerland release and finding Fibre Trek is such a timely reminder of all the things I love about fibre arts.
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All photos in this post thanks to Fiber Trek

Pattern: Vintage Moments Hat & Gloves

karie hat #1What a lovely surprise I got this morning. We are having family visiting due to Glasgow hosting the Commonwealth Games and as soon as they left for another day of sports, I sat down to check my inbox. And then I started giggling.

I just got my first cover, folks, and I had no idea it was happening.

Several months ago, I was approached by the lovely people at Let’s Knit magazine. They commissioned me to design a hat/gloves set celebrating my Scandinavian heritage. I also did an interview with them talking about my family background, how I got into designing, and why I am passionate about getting other people thinking about crafts.

And I started out sketching my design.

I was watching a film from the early 1930s when the initial idea came to me, so I knew I wanted a 1930s colour scheme. I had just finished working on a big colourwork project so I used the left-overs for the swatch but I already knew the green wasn’t quite right. I needed a cooler seafoam green. Next came the idea to do very, very straightforward colourwork. I picked some of my favourite motifs and played with them until I had some simple, fun motifs I could scatter across my canvas. I drew upon my knowledge of Faroese knitting which is more geometric than Shetland colourwork – and I ended up with something that was super-cute and super-fun .. even for people who are not that confident at colourwork.

I was very lucky that my Let’s Knit editor was onboard with my ideas very quickly and knew what I meant about getting the right colours. Sarah suggested looking at Jamieson’s Spindrift which is a wonderful British yarn that comes in a myriad of colours. I have used Spindrift before and it knits up beautifully. The pattern only uses three colours, so working out a colour scheme is relatively easy.

Let’s talk colour substitution. I would suggest looking at it the following way:

Neutral Background – make sure to match this colour in terms in warm/cool undertones. My sample used Pebble, a white with a cool, grey undertone

Main Contrast – make sure to choose something that makes a statement as it’ll dictate the overall look of the knit – the sample used Eucalyptus, a cool seafoam green with a grey undertone

Second contrast – make sure this matches the other two colours but make sure it doesn’t take over the entire look – the sample used Sorbet, a cool mid-range pink with a grey undertone.

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Here is a warm version (using Granny Smith, Lipstick and Mooskit) – it feels less vintage and more playful:

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Or maybe a slightly more modern colour scheme?  You will still get the contrast  but with a dark background (Yellow Ochre, Eesit and Shaela):230-yellow-ochre-horz

The colour combinations are endless. This is partly what I love about colourwork – you get to paint with yarn.

I cannot help but feel that autumn is on its way – I am utterly delighted to have secured the cover of Let’s Knit and I can see many other new patterns are heading out into the world right now. I love this time of the year.

Some Thoughts on Blogging, Identity & Safety

Blogtacular led a discussion on twitter yesterday about online privacy and safety. I shared a few thoughts but want to expand upon them here.

Get coffee. It’s a long one.

july09 308I started blogging around 2001. I did not use my real name; I did not post pictures of myself and the only clues to my identity were these: I lived in Copenhagen, Denmark and I was female (I used the nom de plume “Ms Bookish”). My then blog was fairly straightforward: I mostly wrote about books and the contemporary literary scene. Around 2004-2005 my blog had become a professional tool and I was widely engaged in the literary blog scene working with publishers and authors. However, I was still completely anonymous.

And then I began noticing a pattern.

One particular blog commentator, Martin (not his real name), left comments on every single blog entry I made. After a few weeks he began sending me emails expanding upon the comments he had left me. So many emails. I didn’t read them after a while. Something felt totally off about the guy and, really, I was too busy.

Then I attended a blog networking event and Martin was there. He had presents for me and cornered me. How did he know I would be there? And how did he recognise me? I started to feel really uneasy. Martin started leaving seriously whacked-out comments on the blog and, creeped out, I decided to check my emails from him. Well, they weren’t good.

Martin knew when I had been out doing my grocery shopping and he had watched me bike around Copenhagen. It got worse: he wanted me to have a nervous breakdown so he could take care of me, he thought I had an artificial leg (and wrote in great detail about how my prosthetic turned him on), he thought I was leaving him clues on my web site professing my great love for him, and so forth. Gross, bad, awful stuff.

Then I came home to find Martin standing on the other side of the road. You can probably guess what happened next.

By now I had documented as much as I could. I had saved every email and screen-capped blog comments. I passed all this information to the police and stayed at friends’ houses while the police managed to sort things out. I know Martin got psychiatric help but apart from one letter (which his psychiatrist had told him to write) I never heard from him again. I was able to move on from the incident because I knew I had just been a random victim: Martin didn’t know me; he just knew I was female and I read a lot of books. Classic case of erotomania.

I learned some valuable lessons from this:

  • You cannot control how other people read what you write online. I had not peppered my literary blog with hidden clues for Martin to follow. That was his mental illness talking. I was not responsible for how he chose to interpret my posts.
  • It is very, very hard to stay anonymous online and there are many ways of finding out your identity. Martin got my name from somewhere (probably from looking up who registered my blog domain) and managed to track my address very quickly. He also had access to my financial records thanks to his job, so he could find out where I did my grocery shopping and where I liked to hang out. People also talk: my neighbours let private things slip to a guy who seemed nice and harmless. Things like the fact that I was single and that I was living on my own.
  • Document everything. I let some of our early interaction slip through my fingers which I regret as I may have been able to stop him sooner.
October 2011 014

Hello :) I’m Karie & this is what I look like.

And then I decided to take ownership of my identity. I began using my real name and posting photos of my face.

I had spent years trying to lock down information about myself online and had convinced myself I was keeping myself safe that way. In actual fact, the only real way to stay safe is to step out there and say “Hi, I’m Karie Westermann and this is what I look like.” There is freedom and power in that statement: it is my identity and (unlike anonymity) nobody can take that away from me.

Furthermore, when I hadn’t shown my face on my blog and Martin still recognised me, it was very scary and I felt utterly powerless. He knew what I looked like despite all my efforts. Nowadays I have my face splayed all over the internet  and it’s my choice. Occasionally I get recognised by someone who’s knitted one of my patterns or who follow me on Twitter – and I am totally cool with that.

Being a craft professional actually means that I write a lot more about my life online than I ever anticipated. And that brings me to another point.

For me, there are three spheres: private, personal & public. I keep the private sphere to myself – everything else may be blogged.

I don’t write about family or friends. That would be rude and intrusive. I write about some personal things – like the fact that David & I celebrated our 9th anniversary yesterday (and if you’ve kept an eye on the timeline -  yes, Dave played a big part in helping me deal with my stalker) – but I sift through them carefully as personal details can quickly get self-indulgent. And then there’s the public stuff like blogging about an event – where you should totally come say hello to me.

Interestingly the Martin story stayed off my blog for a very long time. I didn’t think it relevant material, though I did write a few pieces about cyberstalking for magazines. It was too private a story for many years and has only just recently become a personal story that I occasionally allude to. And now I am finally writing about it under my own name on my own blog.

Anyway, the best way to stay safe online is to act like you would offline. Oh, and keep in mind that the Martins of this world are few & far between.

  • Don’t announce where you will be on your own.
  • Don’t overshare.
  • Don’t post anything you don’t want the postman or your boss knowing.
  • Respect other people’s right to privacy
  • If in doubt, don’t do it/don’t post it.
  • What happens online can quickly spill into offline life.
  • Don’t forget you will always have an audience (even if you think you don’t). Act responsibly.

Workshops & Events Updated

July 2014 285

Many thanks to Tanya for having such photogenic hands

Just a tiny heads-up that I have overhauled the Workshops & Events page, so you can actually see where I am teaching!

Right now my Autumn 2014 schedule looks like this:

August 23: I am teaching a half-day class on Crochet for Beginners at The Queen of Purls, Glasgow.  More information here.

August 30: I am teaching a full day of Knitting Lace Shawls at Fluph, Dundee. More information here.

September 13: It’s a return to Dundee as I’ll be running my two-handed colourwork workshop (Full Day) at Fluph. More information here.

September 27: Learn how to design your own lace projects with me at this half-day workshop at The Queen of Purls, Glasgow. More information here.

October 12: I’m teaching Two-Handed Colourwork (Full Day) at Be Inspired, Edinburgh. More information to come here.

October 25: I’m back at Be Inspired, Edinburgh, for a half-day class on how to tackle short-row shaping in lace. More information to come here.

November 1: An introduction to two-handed colourwork (Half Day) at The Queen of Purls, Glasgow. More information here.

November 9: I’m running a full day workshop on Crochet for Knitters at Be Inspired Fibres, Edinburgh. This class covers the basic crochet techniques before exploring how knitters can use crochet and knitting together. More information to come here.

Several 2015 dates are already in place, so start looking out for those towards the end of this year.

Thanks to an awful knee injury I was unable to teach workshops at the beginning of this year, so I am really looking forward to getting on the road to meet knitters again. It’s slightly unusual for me to teach this much, but it feels really nice too. Invigorating, that’s the right word. Nothing beats seeing people being all happy about a new skill or idea.

(Psst.. If you are a yarn shop, a knitting festival or a retreat, please use the form on this page to get in touch)