Knit Love

I dedicated this year to improving my skills in making. I wanted 2016 to be The Maker's Year and so far I think I've done pretty well. I've improved a lot of my existing skills and grown more confident in trying out new things (have you seen my wreath obsession? It is out of control). However between you and me, my one true love will always be knitting. 

knitting flat lay

It's that time of year when I start to receive messages from others who don't normally knit but have dug out some yarn they meant use to make a sweater for their child. I see knitting appearing in my timeline with increasing regularity. I smile knowing why: the cold and need to nuzzle, clothe and protect ourselves and our little ones. For me though, knitting is a constant low rumble of need deep in my belly. I see a world where we can create things from beautiful natural resources and I wish I could knit faster. 

That's why this Autumn I have cast on my New Favourite Project. It started with an introduction to Ioana of Moeke Yarns, our sponsor for this month's #wipsandblooms join in on Instagram. As we spoke, we chatted about her passion for making and before long 4 skeins were whispering their magic to me and I knew what I wanted to knit. 

Moeke yarns

Each morning I wake hours before my slumbering tot. I creep downstairs in the dark, flip on the kettle and start the familiar whir of my laptop. It's time to work again. Sat at our farm table, a soothing brew by my side, I type as dawn breaks, pouring all the first energy of the day into writing. These early starts are increasingly cold and I long for a shawl to pull around me and perhaps become the companion I need in those dark hours of creative solitude. 

These four skeins have begun their journey to be just that project: The Comfort of Lines shawl designed by Melissa Schaschwary. It was a magical moment as I scooped the skeins out of the box Ioana kindly sent to me; I felt an instant connection to a story and a crafter far across a sea that understood the tactile joy that comes from a yarn with character. It would be easy to fall into cliches about rustic glory but there's a depth and crunch to this yarn that is utterly charming. The nature of its plies means that as a fabric, the stitches won't sit smooth and uniform but twist a little, give a little and tell a little of the sheep from which the wool came. 

Moeke Yarns on the needles

Moeke Yarns are produced from Romanian wool, with traditional methods and no harmful chemicals, spun in a traditional fiber mill and dyed using plants. My skeins are Elena, a 100% Romanian half-bred Tigaie wool and Heritage, a blend of the Tigaie and Romanian produced merino. Their undyed colour is partly why those skeins spoke so strongly to me that day. Emptied onto my marked and dented farm table, I smiled, feeling a connection to something I understood. Living life bestows marks, wrinkles, nubs and bumps. I was  utterly charmed and haven't been disappointed on the needles. This has become a project I linger over, smiling as my fingers find little specks of straw, a slightly thicker ply and watching the fabric shift and change with these little details. 

So while I work at my desk, shivering a little each morning, I smile too, thinking of the big shawl to come. I will clothe myself in a material that has already weathered winters out on Romanian pasture and I will know that it won't be just my cooling tea bringing me comfort soon, it will be wool. 

This sponsored blog post is brought to you in collaboration with Moeke Yarns. Skeins were recieved for review purposes. Views expressed here are my own

The First Shearing

I'm almost certain that there is nothing that will make you appreciate the beauty of wool as much as witnessing a lamb's first shearing. Tucked in the corner of a local farm's barn, camera in hand, I watched in awe a few weeks ago as lamb after lamb were whisked out of a holding pen and into the expert hands of two sturdy sheep shearers. 

Shepherdess collecting freshly sheared fleece

It was a mesmerising spectacle. Plumes of raw fleece were gathered by the local shepherdess and deposited into huge bags, destined for a UK mill. Crimpy escapees littered the floor and nervous lambs skittered around, a little dazed about their first experience of shearing. 

Shearing a sheep
raw sheep's fleece on floor

All under the watchful eye of Monty...

Monty the farm dog, a working terrier

It's a special thing to have seen many of these lambs arrive back in January and March and to now see them almost fully grown and in need of a haircut. The speed and efficiency with which they are relieved of their huge fleeces is impressive and before long they gathered in the courtyard looking a little skittish and surprised by the events that had just took place. The air was dense with the smell of lanolin and a gentle rain that day just added to the damp but satisfying feel of wool in the air. 

If anyone asks me of future life goals, I'm going with small holding even more than ever. 

I'm so thrilled to announce that this season on the podcast, I'll be following the story of this precious collection. A lamb's first shearing makes for a particularly fine wool with great crimp. It's untouched by the stresses of life or illness. An untouched fleece is a wonderful sight to see.

raw wool fleece

Isle Yarns and their team have been sharing the special project they've embarked on to make the most of this unique shearing for the soul benefit of the A Playful Day podcast subscribers. If you're a Patreon subsciber, you'll be able to download four feature episodes, following the journey from farm to needle to design. If you want to hear this too, please do pop over to my creators page on Patreon where you'll find me explaining more. 

In the meantime, here's a little sneak peak of what to expect:

Not listened to the podcast before? Don't worry, I have a whole back catalogue you can try before you sign up. Happy listening!

The Quiet Network

Do you have a Quiet Network?

Do you have a quiet network?

This a network that exists in texts, quick smiles on a busy school run and 'likes' on those status updates that revealed more than we realised when we hit post. The Network is one that closes ranks when a comment strikes too close to the bone. It has a habit of checking in when you've not been able to say much for a little while now. This is a Network that helps you hold together pieces that you can't quite figure out how to piece together yet. It has a way of raising you up by saying "I know" with very little contact. It's just there when it matters. 

If, like me, you have a pretty solitary kind of job and lifestyle, it can be easy to think that there's no one who knows what your week has meant to you. Sometimes, it can feel like you're very alone. Life moves fast for many of us and there just doesn't seem to be the time we need to really connect. 

However, I can assure you that those small moments online can be the most nourishing of quick connections when life is too much to bear. For me, these are the reminders needed in order to reassure me that there is love and we all struggle to find the time that we'd ideally invest in one another if we could. Our busy lives often just don't afford that time and rather than resent it, I try to gather those little notifications on my phone around me like armour against some pretty tough moments in any given day. I know that when I've found myself quietly crumbling and feeling like I have more than I can bear, those clicks have sustained me enough to keep the forward momentum that I needed to move me past the dark. 

I've grown tired of reading and hearing the constant denouncement of online life; how it is fake, cold or without depth. Without this Quiet Network that exists in my phone and devices, I know I would be a much sadder and less confident person. So many online connections have blossomed into friendships that have felt right for this stage of my life. By laying the foundations digitally, I felt like I could have the room that I needed to breathe, to be an individual and yet also the gentle feeling of being observed, acknowledged and enjoyed. It can be as simple as a friend clicking a like on a picture. I know they make the connection to what it meant for me to share that moment. I know they are letting me see that someone in that Network is rooting for me just as I am for them. 

The Quiet Network of women

This post is dedicated to the women who knew, who saw and who always raised me up these past few years. The power of that love is enormous and I wish I had more photos of every single one to share today so they are celebrated right back. In our back to school, new season weeks, we've all tangled and untangled, no matter how fleeting and I am so grateful. I know there's others out there who are nourished by the warmth and joy you bring and I want to say openly and with sincere heart, I love how women use The Quiet Network to keep one another afloat. 

Sarah in the network

Here's to women and The Quiet Network we create online. We do what we do. We love. xx