Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Scrumptious Collection: Volume 3 Blog and Podcast Tour

Hello and welcome to my post for the Scrumptious Collection Volume 3 launch! I've had the pleasure of being involved in the build up to this release and have really enjoyed the posts so far. You can see a full list of them here so go look as there's some real goodies!

The Collection is part of the Scrumptious Collection series that supports the Fyberspates Silk and Merino yarn range 'Scrumptious'. It's a popular series and I featured the first volume on the podcast some time ago. You can even hear the interview here for the podcast that I did with Jeni, the Director (and all around lovely lady) of Fyberspates. What I liked about this particular collection was how 'British' it feels: 13 exclusive designs from 8 British designers, all shot on location in the coastal region of Lyme Regis, UK. 

The collection includes 5 garment (3 sweaters, 2 cardigans) and 8 accessory patterns. There's some chunky knits, some lace, some new to me techniques such as Fair Isle and some interesting sweater designs. It's got options for digital as well as hard copy which I always like to see. 

Simene Stole, (c) Jesse Wild

So what am I going to focus on for this blog post? The yarn obviously. There's a pattern that I'd personally like to play with and I've been pondering yarn options for ever since I saw the proofs.The Simene Stole is a geometric lace stole that is knit up in a stunning yellow for the book sample. I've actually just finished a hat in the same colourway, using a different base and I'll be talking about how happy it makes me in this weekend's podcast. Designed by Melanie Edgar, this stole calls for Scrumptious Lace base which I love for it's sheen and definition. I also think the Fyberspates Gleem base would be beautiful as it's just that little more crisper in definition due to the BFL content although still with the high shine Silk content. Mind you, Ethereal, the cashmere blend would be an amazing laceweight both to work with and to wear. This stole would just be so snuggly. It seems patterns are very enabling and I can spend hours considering yarn options!

Ethereal Laceweight in 'Tumeric'

I've also just finished working with another yarn that I am itching to try again. Fyberspates Twizzle Silk is a gorgeous Silk: Merino single that would be a stunning heavier option for this stole. It would certainly be less crisp in definition but wow would it be luxurious to wrap around your shoulders on a cool evening. I worked up a shawl recently and the garter stitch in the soft stitches it created just made my heart sing. 

Knit Night in Twizzle Silk

I think this is what I enjoy so much about Fyberspates as a company and why I love working with Jeni. The yarns are constantly evolving and so with each collection you feel you have a range of options to indulge on the patterns. I'm currently craving lace and this could be just the fix I need. If only I could choose a yarn....

You can grab your copy of The Scrumptious Collection Volume 3 either on Ravelry or directly from Fyberspates for £12. There's also a list of wholesalers so do check it out to see if you're LYS is stocking it. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

My Apple

They say an apple never falls far from the tree. As I stood watching the Playful Tot this afternoon I smiled at how similar we are. Sometimes watching your child is like watching yourself in motion.

It's been a really busy few days. We've been very social and the house has had a constant stream of guests. The phone rang for more guests in the future. It was busy. 

This morning we charged out the door, late and groggy from not enough sleep. We got shopping and snacks sorted, booked appointments then did the weekly swim class before screeching back across London in time for my little  mermaid's nap. 

She woke contentedly and chattered away at me as she cuddled awake (we must always cuddle, there are rules I'm more than happy to abide by). Then she was done. She clambered off to read through a pile of books..... Build blocks and some activity that involved shouting into cardboard tubes then peering curiously down them. 

She was completely lost in activity. I smiled because faced with so much busy and social time there's nothing I like better than to withdraw into quiet activity too.

She's going to be a knitter. I can feel it.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Carol Feller Along Progress

There have been some lovely contributions, chatter and enabling going on over in the Playful Group so I've selected a few lovely projects to share. I'm planning to show some more once the KAL is over too as they're regularly trickling in to tempt and dazzle us whenever we check in to see how everyone is getting on. It's still not too late to join us- there's even prizes just for chattering!

First I'm going to share this rather lovely cardigan knit by Rooboost. It's the Ravi Junior and I just love the contrasty buttons don't you? You can see all the project details here.

I am hugely tempted by this one: the Captiva Wrap which calls for squishy DK. I love this version knit by DebrisUK, the colour is stunning. You can check out her project notes here.

MissLillyKnits kept with the green shawl theme and knit a stunning Centrique. I just think it's so delicate and feminine and makes me pine for Spring.

Then there was a super fast garment, knit in bulky weight by the charmingly lovely Talesfromtheplain (check out her podcast btw). This is the Vivido Cardigan, a really quick and comforting knit. You can see all the project notes here.

As for me? I'm onto the foot of those socks and determined not to lose face!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

In Response....

Today a blog post blipped up in my Twitter Feed that made my heart sink a little when I saw the title. I grimaced, nervous and then I clicked through and..... smiled.

Right out the gate I'm going to say I love Woolly Wormhead and have had the pleasure of working with her several times. I will continue to do so in the future and I chatted to her about writing a response to her blog post. I felt I needed to. After all, she was talking about a small part of what I do.

I haven't blogged directly about what it IS that I do before but rather, alluded to it in the hope I don't make anyone feel wary that I'm in the business of supporting other businesses. I've been cautious about mixing too much work and play but let's be honest, without A Playful Day Blog and Podcast (yup, I did just capitalise that), I wouldn't have that very job. So I decided it was ok to talk today. In fact I SHOULD talk about what I do because the topic is on the table for discussion it would seem. I once had a work conversation with the incredible Emily from TinCanKnits and she said very seriously 'never apologise for your work or what you do'. So here we go Woolly and Emily, this one's for you....

I guess you could say I work in marketing. I feel sick just writing that however. I don't like sales people, PR makes me nervous and that weird advertising for things like beauty products? Yikes. No thanks. When Woolly talked about selling a designer like a product, she was right. That leaves a weird feeling in my stomach and I get scared that we've forgotten the joy of being creative for creative's sake and that you can't own talent.

Allow me to explain what I do. I am in the very privileged position to work with several designers and dyers to support their business. I'm available to hire as a freelancer which means I balance precariously, respecting confidentiality and the sensitivity needed around developing new work and business. I prepare web copy, I help plan projects and collaborations, I technically edit patterns, prepare timelines, make introductions and organise via many, many, many, emails promotional things like Blog Tours and strategic releases. I work for other self employed people and I rely on them trusting that I can help.

Why do I do it? Because I love the indie world. I adore seeing someone achieve and there's a real Feminist streak in me that wants to shout about an industry largely made up of women, often mothers, being paid what they are worth. In an industry that is often trivialised by the 'hobby' tag, I want people to be shown the respect and attention that they deserve. It's not easy to do that for yourself. Being too close or not having that particular skill set can be a really common problem in creative industries and with my writing background, I was soon telling stories that I saw as a professional friend to these wonderful independent business women.

So what of that dirty word, 'Brand'? A brand can be an identity that you slip on to get you ready to push your business to the next level; like a game face you get on before you face the world. It can help those that are a little prone to hermitting deal a little better with being so visible in this Social Media dominated era. It can also help separate work and non work as the line can get so blurred when you're making your money from your passion. I am not a fan of censoring or veiling in any form though. Just redirecting the spotlight a little to make sure we're all looking where we should and leaving the person to deal with being a Mum or a part time researcher for example. What's more, when we buy from independent suppliers we, as consumers, often do so because we want something with more personality and more of a story. We want to invest in that person.

Do I edit people? GOD NO. I have been called a cheerleader, a mother figure, a best friend, a pain in the ass, a guide and a critical friend. I sit well in all of those because yes, if you're underselling yourself I can be a royal pain in the ass. It is often the case when I'm writing about the Creatives that I work with, that I get a slightly shocked reaction, when to me, I have simply written the person and their business as I see them. 'Really?', 'Is that me?' 'Oh that's a bit scary'. Then.... I rewrite it, tone it down and you know what I've come to realise? We almost always go back to the first edit and that person suddenly seems a bit more sure of themselves. It's not intentional on my part, more of a process I've watched and started to reflect on recently.

I do not however. sit well with the full on branding that sells perfection. I love to tell a story, that's why I write and it's the thing that pulled me in. I don't want to rewrite though. It's simply not my place or my inclination.

Rereading Woolly's post again as I wrote this response, I smiled and nodded as I've felt that pressure too. Why wasn't I blogging perfect pictures and joining the ranks of 'Mummy Bloggers'? I think it's largely down to the fact that I feel I'd be betraying how hard it all is: balancing work, learning to be a mum, still being a partner and a daughter and all the other things I was before and also? It's just not on. Ever. It pits you against your peers and that's just wrong.

So that's me. That's what I do and why I love it so much. I cheerlead other people and am happy to sit behind them, watching them be amazing. Because knitters are you know. I think you've heard me mention it before.....

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Episode 47: Gladly and Lovingly

Show notes:
Will you be at Unravel? Unwind?
There is currently a Carol Feller -along in the Ravelry Group with some prizes from Carol, InnerYarnZen and Juno Fibre Arts. The thread is here and there will be an extra prize in the chatty thread just for playing along. 
I talk about sponsorship and why it is a necessary conversation. 
I also talk about my plans for the Ravellenics with Team Playful and why I will be all about hope and pride thanks to inspiration from this wonderful blog post and pledge by Old Maiden Aunt. 

Off the Needles
Knit Night by Louise Zass-Bangham
Nangou by Melanie Berg using Wollmeise 100% Superwash Merino in the Cassis colourway and The Uncommon Thread Posh Fingering in the Plata colourway
Julissa by Vanessa Smith in Miss Bab's Yowza! Whatta Skein! in the colourway 'Catherine'.

On the Needles
Hickory by Cecily Glowik MacDonald using Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky. 
Pyrite Socks by Carol Feller in Juno Fibre Arts Buffy Toughie in the 'Wanderer' Colourway. 
Evernia by Tori Gurbisz Fyberspates Vivacious DK in 'Sunshine' colourway.

Future Me!
I talk through queueing, stashing, achieving and being kind to yourself. 

Fly, Fly, Fly by Adrina Thorpe, available on Noise Trade
See you Around by Katie Pederson, available on Noise Trade

Friday, 17 January 2014

Block Party

Blocking is not my greatest love. There, I said it.

I love its' magic don't get me wrong. The way good blocking can take a crumpled mess of yarn and transform it into smooth stitches and perfect shapes. I'm just so so impatient and actually, I realise, not very good at it. I get impatient with the wires and halfway through I kind of lose momentum and ponder if the shawl really needs to be that shape (it does).

So when I say I had a blocking party, what I actually mean was a slightly irritable morning pinning shawls to my futon while muttering that I should make more hats.

The results were kind of ok though....

The first shawl is Knit Night by Louise Zass-Bangham and is worked up in Fyberspates Twizzle Silk, their Merino: Silk singles base. It was my first time using a single and I'm very taken with it. I am pondering if this might be my version of all those halo/ fluffy yarns that I can't wear or use due to my asthma going wild each time I do. It's not fluffy but certainly not crisp either. I like! You can see my project page here.

The second is Nangou by Melanie Berg who I have fallen madly in love with for her chic simple style and I want to be just like her when I grow up. The shawl used up the long term stash Wollmeise and a donated sampling of TUT Posh Fingering too. A very grown up and yummy project. I'll talk some more about the outcome of blocking this shawl in the podcast this weekend. For now, the project page is here.

What have you been blocking lately?

Monday, 13 January 2014

Ravellenics, Love and the Results.

I absolutely love the Playful Day Group on Ravelry. Something happened this week that totally proved to me that I am lucky enough to have the most awesome listeners and readers that I could possibly hope for.

When I saw a post from a group member, requesting that we register a team for the Ravellenics I was cautious. I want people to feel that they have ownership over the Playful group but this Winter Olympics has the most bitter of flavours and I quietly kept out of discussion lest I spoil the merry making.

Then I saw a brilliant blog post. It actually made me stop everything I was doing, quietly reread it and then said aloud a big, fat 'YES!' Lilith from Old Maiden Aunt Yarns said exactly what I was thinking: I want the fun but how can we party and play when Russia's government is currently allowing systematic violence and hatred against the LGBT community. Not just turning a blind eye, but actively encouraging it. I can't condone violence, I cannot ignore the hurt and pain that others are suffering. This hurt the Russian government is causing its' people doesn't just end there sadly and I for one I'm glad that I am a woman living in London raising a family and not Moscow right now.

Lilith has created fantastic rainbow dyed yarn and pledged to support Stonewall for every completed project and skein bought for her team. I've had the pleasure of working with Stonewall before, and was impressed by their proactive stance on ending discrimination and hatred in schools. They are a remarkable charity and their transparency in the way they run and operate all levels of their organisation is impressive.

I shared the piece on the thread and explained my reservations up until this point and the response was something like this:

Isn't that great? How apt? How Playful AND representative of how I'd like to play this Ravellenics. I was so thrilled.

Instantly pledges began from donations based on total yardage, completed projects or team members. I'm all up for that. So I'm inviting you to come knit something Playful and keep the true spirit of human achievement in the centre of this Olympic season. Let's do this!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Quick Pork Lasagne

I made this quite some time ago and it was a pretty good success. Playful Tot adores pasta and mince so I was taking a fair guess that lasagne would be a hit. The only problem is the amount of time a truly great lasagne takes. Bechamel, sweated onions, ragu.... there's no avoiding it, Italians love indulgent food and this mama simply doesn't.have.time.

So I pondered things and thought through a few cheats. You can of course, do it old school and make the Bechamel from scratch and save time by making up the mince mix in batches to freeze so that you simply need to defrost and layer when the time comes. I'm all about time saving in the interest of a good hearty family meal so play with this as you will.

Here's my quick version of Pork Lasagne. As always, I've made this baby friendly so al the family can enjoy it. Feel free to season heartily.

For the mince:
500g Pork Mince
2-3 tbsp Olive Oil or cold pressed Rapeseed Oil
2 onions, chopped
2 tsps dried Rosemary
1 pepper, chopped
100g Baby Spinach
2 tbsp Tomato purée
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
400ml Low salt veg stock

For the white sauce:
400ml whole milk
2 tbsp Cornflour

Lasagne Pasta Sheets (I used half a pack of pre cooked pasta sheets, 375g per pack)
Handfuls of grated cheese


1. Brown the pork mince in 1-2 tbsps of oil, then with a slotted spoon, remove from the pan onto a dish and place to one side for later.
2. Sweat the chopped onions until nicely translucent.
3. Add the rosemary, pepper and baby spinach and keep moving over a gentle heat for 2-3 minutes.
4. Stir in the tomato purée before adding chopped tomatoes and stock.
5. Leave to simmer and in the meantime make up the white sauce: heating milk in a pan, keeping 2-3 tbsp in reserve. Mix the cornflour into the reserve milk first before whisking into the warmed milk until smooth and thick.
6. Brush a large oven proof dish with oil and layer up: pasta, mince mixture, white sauce twice over.
7. Cover the top in as much grated cheese as you can stand and bake for 30 minutes.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

Handspun Heaven

Right before Christmas, I received a package that can only be described as an early Christmas present. Nestled amongst samples of Lo-Lo hand balms, David's teas and some pretty yummy chocolates were these two fabulous skeins. Let me tell you, pictures in the current monsoon weather we're enjoying, do NOT do them justice.

This has left me with two dilemmas. First, what on earth should I knit with them? I adore handspun but thus far it's all gone into the 'Golden Stash', the collection of skeins too precious to pick the perfect project for. I do not want this to happen but yet.... they're perfection itself. Any ideas?

The second problem is the issue of how does one reciprocate? I want something so amazingly mind blowing that the person knows how much I understand the value of handspun.

I wonder how much Benedict Cumberbatch is going for these days?

Monday, 6 January 2014

Resolving not to Resolve

It's that time of year isn't it? New year, new start, new resolutions. I'm dire at them. Really. I once achieved a fantastic year of knitting when I challenged myself to learn all these new things like sweaters and cables and socks and I had a sort of sponsor via a knit friend. We rewarded each other with amazing packages whenever we accomplished a goal we'd set out. You can see the list here on my project page. It was ace. I've achieved absolutely nothing like it ever since.

When it comes to my knitting intentions in 2014, I have so much good stash and so many good intentions. I've got knits crushes galore and I just want to knit all the things. Oh but I have a Playful Tot and work from home without childcare. Tricky.

So rather than make a mountain of goals I just thought about what it is that I might like to achieve this year. Stash enjoyment is high on the agenda once more because I've really got some good stuff in there! I want to work with it and if I do eventually get my much covetted spinning wheel, I want to feel there's room for fibre in the stash and that I have knit lots of things that I've always wanted to make before I start splitting my already precious time further still. There will always be new patterns I want but I hold this mental list of favourites that could really do with some working on now. Do you do the same?

So I spent a joyful hour queueing a ridiculous amount of projects. Chances of knitting all of them? Pretty slim but I did tag them with stash I have, stash I could overdye, stash I could add to in order to complete them and stash to splurge on as a treat. I'm attending a few events this year and I'm going to try to only invite yarn for the 'splurge' section into my stash so it has an intended purpose and the correct yardage (a major failing of my stash I've realised). The yarn that I'm not sure about can be gifted or overdyed. Yes, I'm crazy enough to try to dye over some pretty fancy yarn. If it's something I keep hovering over because it's just not exactly the shade I had hoped, I should play and try to improve it. I used to love dyeing so it's time I got the dye pot out again and started relearning what I once enjoyed so much. It's just trapped potential in those skeins otherwise and I have some patterns that I really want on (and off) my needles!

So stash curating and dyeing. What else? Photography. Urgh, I missed my camera so much in 2013 and when I take more pictures, I blog better and I'm more creative I've noticed. It's time to dig out that SLR and relearn the settings (there's a theme here have you noticed?). It also will spur me to block and photograph some finished objects. I can't believe I still haven't shared my Girl Crush Sweater for example. To be fair, the light has been dire thanks to the typhoon we've been enjoying. Yuck.

So I guess my theme is consolidation and making what I have work. I don't get much slack so I should refocus on what I already have.

Oh and did I mention that sewing machine in my loft room? Yeah..... that needs to happen this year too. Time travel anyone?

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Episode 46: For Auld Lang Syne

Show notes:

Autumn Leaves (A Song For Boo) By Reed Maxfield can be purchased from itunes here. 

Auld Lang Syne by Joel Rakes, available on Noise Trade