My Knit Squad

You know how people online have quite a thing about 'Finding Your Tribe'? Is it ok to have more than one? I mean, it's good to have a solid group that always, always have your back and that's great but there seems to be this idea that we just have one place. One group. One shot at being 'in' the crowd. It reminds me a little of the idea of meeting your soul mate. 

Read More

Hope, after all

How do we find hope at a time that feels as if human beings have forgotten to have any? A daily onslaught of truly distressing and terrible news has left many of us lacking the faith we need in order to believe that deep down, we're all going to be ok. To be perfectly honest, some of us don't seem like we'll ever be ok again and it's hard to find a reason to be jovial without it seeming crass or insensitive while those people piece back together their lives. 

Read More

"What's the point?"

I just got back from the school run. On the way I asked 5 women if they're voting and they admitted they won't be. They said they've given up and didn't know who to vote for. They don't trust that anyone can keep them safe. They don't believe a single politician is listening. 

Is that you?

I get it. I do. I really understand how hopeless it feels. We've watched weeks of spite and lies being circulated everywhere. It's been relentless and for what? It's hard to know who to believe anymore. For those of us with mental health issues, it was more than we could bear at times. I hear you. 

I want to say this. Do not let them tell you that your voice isn't important. Even in an area where there is probably never going to be change, showing up and telling them we're watching and we have concerns is sometimes what the rest of us need to see you do. 

Vote today.jpeg

More than 2 million people registered to vote this month. For many young people this will be their first opportunity to vote. Please, don't let them down. Don't let them feel that we're not listening or we become part of the problem. Remember the first time you voted? You'd never done it before and you believed it would change the world. Please, don't teach the next generation that they can't speak up because then this feeling of being lied to over and over continues and they give up too. 

Then, when you've voted can you please talk to others about why you did it? Talking about politics is really hard for a lot of us and we fear conflict. I did this on my school run and my knees were shaking but I knew how important it was to encourage others. I'm not asking you to talk about who you voted for, I'm asking you to encourage others to get to a polling station today. Text around and plan to have a cuppa after you all vote if you're all feeling that way. 

 

And for my part, I voted for the many, not the few. I voted for a fully costed manifesto that promised to put police back on the streets that Theresa May took away. Don't let them lie to you. There is money for these resources and it comes from the sectors that can afford to start paying their tax bills. I voted Labour because I might be a little more comfortable right now but I haven't always been and many more of us won't be if we don't vote for our entire community. See? Your vote is multiplied by all those people. You are part of our team. 

 

Go on. Have that conversation. Ask someone for help if you're struggling. Please use a right that many people in this world simply do not have. Vote. 

From Dorset With Love

Can we take a moment to celebrate the power of female friendship please?

Flowers and friendship.jpg

Excellent.

I spent last weekend running workshops with a group of women so creative and amazing, I felt like I moonwalked right out of the teaching space. I jumped in a cab and checked my phone. I saw the happiest of news: my good friend is totally having her moment and causing a big buzz around her new collection launch. It felt so good to see women just owning their ambitions and working with clarity and focus to achieve them. 

I had the pleasure of shooting this special collection a few months ago. It was my first full shoot with models and I was more than a little nervous about getting my friend, Clare Devine,  what she needed. When the samples arrived, I was instantly inspired and moved them around in my hands, examining seams, hems, details..... the feel and look of each piece. The colour choices reminded me so much of the nature tones that inspire me here everyday and I felt a new confidence. 

 ' Lulworth Cove ', available on Ravelry. 

'Lulworth Cove', available on Ravelry. 

I contacted friends to help and put together a day full of pictures, laughter and happiness. I really think you can tell how much fun we had. 

 ' Corfe Castle ', available on Ravelry

'Corfe Castle', available on Ravelry

The collection is called, 'From Dorset with Love' and includes Clare's first sweater design (and it's a goodie). Each piece is a wardrobe staple, thoughtfully designed to make it a pleasure to knit and sit *just* right when worn. Clare is releasing these over the coming week and I have a special code for you today if you wish to knit your new favourite project. 

To enjoy 20% off at checkout when shopping on Ravelry, you can use the code '"APD20"

 'Swyres Head' available on Ravelry

'Swyres Head' available on Ravelry

I'd like to shout out a few lovelies who also helped make this shoot special:

Model extraordinaire- Sarah Knight

White Striped Dress- STALF 

Beautiful Bouquet- Beards and Daisies (my go to florist, every shoot)

And my dear friend Elaine who doesn't have an online presence for me to link to for you to go and high five her, sadly. She's quiet and gentle and finds the big wide world of the internet a bit intimidating. Let's not tell her we're all pouring over her photos and finding her cute as a button shall we?

Happy knitting! x

 

New Workshops (& a confession)

So it turns out I'm headed to Ireland in May to teach A WHOLE WEEKEND OF WORKSHOPS. 

*breathes into a paper bag*

First up, let me share those details before I clean pass out and then I'm going to reassure you all why it's going to be ok. There will be 3 workshops for anyone looking to improve their writing, photography and social media skills. The dates are 13th-14th May and tickets are selling, now. This is a weekend focusing on making the best of what you put out there in the world whether you're a blogger who really wants to take better photos or a business owner determined that you're going to nail online marketing. I'll be hosted by the good folks at This Is Knit, based in Dublin. I hear there will also be some sort of partying and such. This pleases me enormously. 

Feeling vulnerable online

So now you know the details, let's get back to that paper bag moment. Putting yourself out there, whether it's online or in real life, can be pretty scary. You tell yourself all kinds of lies that one day, it will be easier. You tell yourself a magic number of Instagram followers that will mean you've made it. You tell yourself that when that blogger snaps herself clutching your product, you'll find marketing a complete breeze. Landing a feature article in that magazine you love so much? Oh it will all be so, so much easier to be out there because by then, you will be A Thing. 

I hate to break it to you but that's not a thing really. Some of the most insecure people I've worked with are some of the most prolific, talented, well known and respected people. We are all still working at it and trying to make it through the day without digitally falling flat on our face. Heck, I'd settle for just not spilling coffee down my front most days. 

Coffee

So you know what? I'm saying I'm going to be in a room full of people who feel just like me and my paper bag and that's going to be great for all of us. I'm going to be listening to what really makes people tick and what makes them feel they can't ramp up. In return for that, I'm going to be sharing all my experiences as a blogger but also as a brand manager and freelance journalist. It is hard. We can make it easier to feel less vulnerable when we share online and I'd even say, feel good when we do.  

Just know I'm right there, still working at it too. 

(Then come book those tickets because that helps immensely in getting this feel good out there. Here's those workshops again: Discover Your Writing Style; Telling Your Story Online & Getting to Grips with Visual Storytelling). 

 

Prym Ergonomics

Anyone who knows the pain of RSI will share my obsession with trying to find more ergonomic options. Between a screen habit and a craft habit, my wrists take quite a bashing and wrist pain is something I have to actively work hard to avoid. Just as you need to test to find a well fitted trainer for your body's needs before you head off on a run, you need to road test and try out what needles work for your individual knitting style. 

Prym ergonomic knitting needles

A few weeks ago Prym launched a new type of knitting needle and contacted me to road test them. The word 'ergonomic' stood out enticingly from the email so last weekend I tucked up with the dpns and cast something on. Prym Ergonomics needles are made of a polished high-performance synthetic material that's especially light and flexible. Having always opted for metal as I prefer the smoother feel, I was intrigued by this option. The surface reminded me of the metal in that it's smooth and easy to move stitches along but unlike metal, the synthetic material warms slightly in your hand a little like you might expect if you usually knit with wooden needles. It was light yet satisfying to work with. 

Prym Ergonomic Needles

A big plus point for me was the light colour- no distractions from your knitting! I have a few needles that are so busy and bright I find my stitches get a little lost. To me, I want to enjoy every stitch and the neutral white helped. However, this is where my love affair with the new material ended as the minute I started knitting, I noticed a 'catch' in one of the needles that caused a slight drag which was infuriating. I suspect it's just something about the manufacture process and some needles are perfectly smooth.  

The other interesting feature is the shape of the needles themselves. Both the double pointed and straight needles feature a drop-shaped needle point:

Prym ergonomic needle tips

This means that you never split the yarn with an overly sharp needle or suffer puncture wounds in your wrists while working in the round. I would be interested to see how these would work for very fine stitches but I like the way the 4mm double points picked up the yarn and moved down the needle. It felt easy and I haven't seen anything similar before. 

Both the straight and the dpn needles are also a longer size than many. For those knitters using a more Portugese style, where they place the straight needle under their arm and pick at the work in progress, this would probably be a good option and I'd be interested to hear from someone who has tried this. Being longer, the weight of the knitting is spread out a lot further but I still suspect a circular needle is the most ergnomic option for most knitters who hold a needle in each hand as the weiht of the project then remains in your lap. 

Intrigued? Well there's a video with more information for you just here:

As a rough guideline, these needles retail in the UK for roughly between £7-£11, subject to needle size and different stockists. I think given the price point, these are a good ergonomic choice for knitters. You can find your nearest stockist by visiting Prym's stockist listings:

As for my project? Well that's another hat coming up right there. I seem to be in a hat run and nothing is going to get me out of it; not even the promise of Spring. If you want to keep up with my making right now, pop on over to Instagram to join me and my cohost @ceramicmagpie in our new #wipsandblooms_spring join in. I'll be sharing more of these needles and projects there. 

This blog post is sponsored by VIRAL LAB who also provided needles for the post. Opinions expressed here are my own.

The Self Help Corner of the Shop

Friday night. 

I've just dropped the Playful Little One to the other parent. I've got an hour before my train and I dislike the empty feeling in my hand where hers used to hold mine. I'm listless and Sunday feels a long way. I head to the bookstore in the hopes of distraction. 

I breeze straight past the fiction section. Where once I devoured fiction I've now ground to a standstill thanks to poor concentration skills and short term memory issues. Any plot with more than 3 characters and 2 locations loses me after just 20 pages. I'm sad for it but I've found a new fix and I know just where I'll find it. 

Self Help Books

The Self Help section is almost always in an obscure corner of any bookshop. I haven't quite fathomed the rule that causes this to happen but there's something to be said for standing awkwardly, trying to look like you have your s**t together in front of books titled "The Power of Now" or, "Solve your Anxiety- For Good!". 

On this particular Friday night I'm struck by how crowded this usually quiet section is. Sure people come along, but usually they're furtive and quick to dismiss all titles and move off as if they surely didn't need help in the first place. I'm fairly sure most return within minutes of my departure, checking to see what carrion I've left behind. Tonight though, tonight I have 3 fellow readers for company. 

All women. 

Now there's a lot that could be drawn from this simple observation. It's a Friday night, it's 7pm and there's 4 women stood in the Self Help section. I'll let you draw whatever conclusion you wish from that but the thing that struck me the most is that no one is furtive tonight. We are all adopting that contemplative stance of a book shelf browser: head titled to one side, slight frown, scanning the shelves. We are at ease, no one is denying they meant to be in this particular section tonight. 

A husband arrives and starts to prattle on about dinner. All 4 of us swivel our eyes to him, heads still at an angle and his sentence trails off into the ether as he feels the looks. His wife all but throws keys in his directions and he scuttles away. Silence resumes. Someone plucks a book of the shelf, ponders the blurb, changes their mind and returns it to the same spot. 

I learnt some time ago to ignore most Self Help titles that start with 'The'. They're almost certainly proclaiming The Solution to my problem. The thing is, I'm not entirely sure what my particular problem might be. I just know I need help in the form of someone else's words tonight. So I browse, head titled and wait for a title to leap out at me and say, 'Kate, I have words to lose yourself in this miserable Friday night!' 

In the past 6 months, I've picked up quite the self help habit. I know I'm not alone in it either judging by my comrades in the store. I have always been a little sniffy about this side of the publishing industry, using words like "preying on insecurities" and "flawed heroes". However, I've recently discovered the thrill of a woman's voice written with power and ease. I've found comfort in another articulating their face down in the dirt moment. I've particularly enjoyed making fellow commuters blush when they saw I was reading a book about finding yourself through your sexuality. I might get that particular title out again next time I'm bored on the 7.55. 

The thing is, the Self Help section is where you find the most questions and the least answers in my experience and that, is proving very potent indeed. 

 

Self Help Book List

If you're looking for words that might suit a Friday train journey, I can thoroughly recommend:

  • Becoming- Laura Jane Williams
  • We Should All Be Feminists- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Rising Strong- Brene Brown
  • Yes Please- Amy Poehler (Not technically a self help book but a bunch of YES moments nonethless)
  • Reasons to Stay Alive- Matt Haig

The Online Gap Year

So the start of 2017 hasn't been as healing as many of us had hoped. Usually, the New Year means a tidal wave of 'New You' messages, diet adverts and 30 day challenges. This one has felt more like something we can't get a foothold on yet. It's felt hard to find the positive some days. 

New year Overwhelm

I'd planned an entire podcast season around the prompt word 'healing' and it felt timely. Guests were lined up that were political, insightful or just downright mindbogglingly inspiring. I had dates in my diary for releases. I was ready to champion the action we could take and offer up podcasts designed to keep us feeling we had community and heart and soul. Somehow though, I'm sat here in February and my diary doesn't have one deadline to do with A Playful Day written down.  

While I was looking at the many New Year launches, I started to notice that the answer offered was always 'more'. Sat here on a Sunday night with Florence and the Machine for company I can't help but wonder, what if more is the problem? When did doing more become such a thing? What about less? Wouldn't less bring better life balance and happiness? 

So, I decided. 2017 will be my online gap year. 

 With thanks to Trespass who recently sent me  boots  & a  backpack  to accompany my adventures. 

With thanks to Trespass who recently sent me boots & a backpack to accompany my adventures. 

Pretty snazzy huh? Florence is thrashing out lyrics asking "What are we going to do? We've opened the door and it's all coming though" and I'm smiling. Isn't that exactly how 2017 has felt so far with big news stories and scary politics and so many of us struggling to grow a business with rising cost of living?

So this online gap year feels like a pretty good fit about now. I'm going to be removing any planning or schedule for the foreseeable future. For a while now, I haven't been feeling like the online world is the fun playground I wanted it to be. There's things happening across the world that are weird and frightening and I want time to digest that and think about how I can subvert that message of hate and distrust. I don't want to be more noise in an already saturated space. I want to grow some roots and just live outside the bubble for a bit. 

But let's keep in touch ok?

I have a few jobs that are making me so happy right now. If you're a fibre artist, you might like what I'm creating as the newly appointed Brand Manager at The Fibre Co. The team there make me feel good every time I check in for today's assignments and the yarn doesn't hurt either. Then there's creating features at Project Calm Magazine. I have workshops booked in and collections I'm shooting images for so there will be things and news but it's not going to be just about me, A Playful Day. If you'd like all this in a handy newsletter, I'm going to send those out to show you the world I'm hiding in. Come along. Gap years are about where we travel together right?

The podcast might come back, I might get back to blogging regularly and get The Taste. Who knows? I'm just saying I'm open to possibility and if you are too then do, please, reach out. It's always good to create inspiring things together and I have plenty of that booked in for 2017. There was a daring whisper of retreats and I'm seeing how that will fit in with these new roles I'm settling into with inspiring brands I've admired for a while. 

So I'll be around, like that friend you bump into one day after a while and has lots of news. I'll be sharing what I'm up to on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (@aplayfulday across the board) and I'll let you know about new projects you can be a part of via the newsletter. Or I'll just be quiet and that's ok too because the thing is, to be successful, the answer isn't always try harder or do more. It's to think about why you feel the need to do that in the first place. 

 

I'll be right back. You take care now xxx