Happy New Year!

Hello!

Welcome to 2017! How’s it treating you so far? I am off to a flying start. I have made lists by the shed-load and the post-it notes have proliferated, but I am happy with that. This feeling is probably something to do with having had a good, lazy holiday break with lots of movie-watching and naps. I did have a tiny tantrum yesterday just before I accepted that Christmas was really over and Ben really was going to go back to work and I had to get up at 6am AGAIN!?>! but then I set the alarm and got on with it.

Which brings me to the first order of service for the new year: last year’s EastLondonKnit knit-along. It is officially over, but just in case you have knit an EastLondonKnit design and would like a chance to win one of the fabulous prize packages…



If you would like to win of these lovely packages, please post your finished EastLondonKnit project over on the thread in the ELK Ravelry group. I will choose 2 prize winners at the end of this week.

So, let’s talk about resolutions!

If you know me, you know that I love a New Year’s Resolution. Honestly, I am not restricted to New Years to make my resolutions–I make them regularly throughout the year with unnecessary zeal, but I have a real soft spot for the beginning of January. This year, in addition to the usual promises to self: more exercise, less sugar, no booze this January, I also wanted to add some different things: find somewhere to regularly volunteer, don’t be angry about the world, do things to make it better, and something completely unrelated: learn to play the guitar, because, well, why not?

I know that I should have started with the musical things a lifetime ago, but I’m one of those people who thinks it is never too late. If I start now, in 10 years I might be pretty good. If I don’t start now, in 10 years, I’ll just be 10 years older and still not playing any instruments.

And until I figure out where to volunteer (suggestions welcome!!), I am going to knit some hats and things for KnitAid. If you haven’t heard of KnitAid, please do have a look. They are making a big collection on 20th January if you would like to participate too!!

Do you make resolutions? If so, do you keep them?

Happy knitting!

Rx

 

Classes and catching up

Hello!

I think I am almost over the Edinburgh Yarn Festival hangover. If you managed to go, you know it was an awesome event and I don’t need to tell you. If you didn’t manage to go, you probably don’t want to hear about what an awesome event you missed. If you didn’t make it this year, definitely come next year!

I will say that I met some wonderful fibre folk and I came home with some gorgeous yarn.

EastLondonKnit yarn purchases

I tried to be strategic and only bring yarn home with a project in mind. I introduced my current project previously, and it is very much in the works now. It may seem odd that I have mentioned a project revolving around the use of scraps and leftovers, and then come home with lots of beautiful new yarn, but my thinking was this: I want to create a collection that allows people to use up little odd bits of yarn and stash, but it’s also important to me that every design also works with available yarns in only one or 2 colours in larger quantities. I am still in the early stages of swatching and designing, but I am feeling optimistic about it!

Come learn with me!

 

I am pleased to announce some awesome upcoming classes in the next couple of months:

28 April I will teach stranded colour work knitting at Wild and Woolly in East London: Colourwork Magic part 1.

5 May following on from the stranded knitting, we will learn about the mysterious ways of the steek at Wild and Woolly in Colourwork Magic Part 2.

7 May I will be back in Bath teaching Brioche Stitch Basics and Brioche Stitch Next Steps at A Yarn Story, but if you can’t make that date, I will be back in October to teach the same classes.

loveknitting.com

 

And finally, I now have patterns available on Loveknitting.com, including Angelus Novus and several shawl and garment patterns. Please do pop over to have look:)

 

Happy knitting,

R.

Into Stash…

Hello!

That ‘sort myself out for the new year’ feeling continues to endure for me, nearly 3 weeks into 2016. That may be because I haven’t quite done all the amazing planning I was going to do. More accurately, I have been planning, but until this week, it was distinctly unsatisfying. After finishing the Klee Collection, I haven’t had a big project to work on and have been drifting. It’s a bad habit, but I need a bit of pressure to get things done. So this week, I have been searching for that pressure, and I think I finally found it.

It began with the Curious Handmade podcast, as it often does lately. This month, Helen has focused on stash appreciation and after my big wardrobe clean out, it seemed like cleaning out the yarn stash was also a good idea.

And it was, in the beginning. Then there was a moment in which I was no longer sure I was in charge of the situation. Then I knew I had lost the upper hand to the yarn itself.

Perhaps this is the natural flow of every project: calm optimism, then grouchy chaos, then organised calm.

After some days of not being able to enter the room (barely) containing all the yarn, it started to resolve itself into order. And then I had an idea. I thought perhaps this was the solution to my lack of motivation.

ELK yarn stash knitwear planning

I have many partial skeins of yarn and single skeins. What if I designed a collection which accommodated these scrapes and bits? In the spirit of using what you have and not letting good things go to waste, each design could incorporate the remnants of previous projects and the reclaimed yarns of less successful knits. It may not be wise to mention this, as I have only just thought of it and it will be months before I have anything to show for the idea, but, well, why not? There is some motivation to be found in public accountability….

I began sketching rough ideas based on the yarns I have and how they could be used.

ELK yarn stash and knitwear design

These are really basic silhouettes which will be filled out in the coming months. With so many small amounts of different colours, colour work seems the way forward, so my next step is to do some research into different techniques and traditions, and do some swatching.

Wish me luck on this next knitting quest!

Anyone going to Unravel in Farnham Maltings? If so I will see you there!

Happy knitting,

R.

 

Happy New Year!

Hello!

Happy New Year people! In celebration of a new year and selfish-knitting season, all my individual patterns are 15% off. Please do have a look at the patterns & join us in the EastLondonKnit Ravelry group for the Klee Collection Knit-Along, if you are that way inclined.

EastLondonKnit Knitting Pattern Sale

It is a shiny new year (my favourite kind) and I have been trying to sort the wheat from the chaff in my resolutions. I love making ’em en mass and then working my way back toward reality. Because I’m not really going to learn Spanish and complete 3 new part-time degrees as well as design 4 new collections before 2017, am I? So, what to focus on this year?

Well, I am still feeling very enthusiastic about the whole handmade wardrobe thing. I especially like it because it’s both personal and global.

The global issues have been well discussed by more knowledge people than me. The environmental impact of mass-market clothing production and the living/working conditions for many of the people who make our clothing, among other ethical considerations, have brought people in the crafting community together, and I feel like I am taking part in something really worthwhile by considering my wardrobe more carefully and making more of my own clothing.

On the personal side, the question of wardrobe has been the sand in my oyster for years; I hope for pearls but often just end up with a bit of annoying grit. I used to think what I wore didn’t really matter, and maybe, in the back of my mind, I still think it shouldn’t. But really, it does. For me, the proof is in the doing. Now that I work from home, I’m not so motivated to get dressed in the morning. I mean, who am I dressing up for? May as well stay comfy.

However.

The truth is that how I dress changes how I feel and what I do, even when I am by myself. If I don’t get dressed, I am less productive and feel a bit like a slob. This is probably a similar logic at work to the ‘smile and you will feel happier’. No doubt this is an obvious thing everyone knows, but I have only just realised. This happens more often than I would like to admit, but let’s focus on the wardrobe today.

So I accept the fact that I have to get dressed. And I know that what I put on when I get dressed also matters.

If I were a swanky business person, I would perhaps discuss personal branding here. ‘Branding’ is a term that puts lots of people off, including me. But I think there’s a context wider than business and marketing for me here. In this case, I am thinking about who I am as a person and who I want to be, which is a more vexed question than it might be.

Pinterest and Instagram are full of positive slogans proclaiming you should ‘be yourself’ in all your quirky glory.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 13.42.29

Am I the only one who doesn’t know what that means? I am in a constant state of flux, which is probably why I like the idea of New Year’s resolutions so much. Why not just decide to be someone different, someone better this year? In fact, why not decide that everyday? This may be a new definition of insanity, or just indicative of a mid-life crisis, but what can I say? I haven’t decided who I am. I am still becoming.

My understanding of myself is worked out through multiple paths—the way I dress and style myself is one of them, as is the work that I do, the people I choose to spend time with, etc. This isn’t only about what I am showing to other people, but also about what I show to myself.

For all of these reasons, my hand-made wardrobe is still on the agenda for 2016. The Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge (which is on-going if you are interested!) really set this off for me last year, and I have been thinking about it pretty much nonstop since then. This year I am going to work out my ‘uniform’ and get my sewing mojo on.

There are other goals, and so many knitwear designs, but that is perhaps for another day…

Don’t forget the New Year Sale on EastLondonKnit patterns runs until 11 January.

Happy knitting,

R.

Life Lemonade

Hello!

Lately, I’m all about taking stock of my life choices and goals. I posted about the studio here. Today, I would like to tell you a story about one of my failures.

As a freelancer, there is a certain kind of risk that you take on as part of any job. When I started out, there was a particularly painful job that I won’t relate the details of. Needless to say, it was a learning experience for everyone.

The result was that I ended up with several knitted garments that I certainly didn’t want, but I wasn’t happy for the client to have either. So I kept them. With loathing. Stuffed into several supermarket bags at the back of a cupboard. I might have just thrown them away, but not only do I have a stubborn streak a mile wide, the yarn was lovely. A beautiful fingering-weight merino in such quantities as to make my make-do-and-mend soul cry at the thought of just throwing it all away. So it remained. Bagged and loathed.

the great yarn unraveling

On a few occasions, I attempted to take action. I would rope in The Very Patient Man and begin unraveling and reskeining with abandon. After some hours, I would cry uncle and put everything back into the cupboard.

Then, some months ago, life began to change. The studio rent-increase was the kick in the bum that sent me on my way. I realised I couldn’t just keep bumbling along in the way I had been and had to take action.

So I did. And when I did, there was a large pile of yarn and garments sitting in supermarket bags, unloved and ever so slightly mocking me.

It was time to sort it out. I wanted to reappropriate the yarn and therefore the whole experience. The yarn needed a new, successful life. And that started with adding some new colours. Luckily, I happened to know this amazing indie dyer…

I started bothering Linda of Kettle Yarn Co. about a ‘fun day’ at hers dyeing my yarn. She graciously agreed to help me and when I finally organised myself and made it to her home, she was a dyeing master, turning the evidence of my past defeat to jewel hues, ready for new, beautiful, successful projects.

lemon yarn

Lemons…

kettle Yarn co cooks up something good

Kettle Yarn Co. cooks up something good.

dyeing with Kettle Yarn Co.

Dyeing with Kettle Yarn Co.

Lemonade Yarn....

Lemonade in the making…

ELK life lemonade yarn

ELK life lemonade yarn

I’m pleased as punch with how the yarn has turned out. I can’t decide what pattern to cast on, but am looking colour-work shawls now! What are your favourite colour work patterns? I would love to hear about them in the comments:)

In other exciting news, my first collection of knitting patterns is nearly ready to be published!! We have a date and everything. Thursday 29th October I will push the six patterns of the Klee Collection out of the nest and into the world wide web. But more about that anon….

Happy knitting,

R.

A Room of One’s Own.

Hello!

Last time I posted about my old studio and my travels on the road to become an independent knitwear designer.

This time I just wanted to post a quick photo diary showing the progression of my new studio. I know there are so many incredibly talented people who are able to perform this kind of transformation on their own, but I had a great set of builders in to do it for me.

Our garage was full of stuff and on its way to becoming a junk store when I decided to have a studio in there instead. It isn’t massive, obviously. It is a single garage with no insulation and had a way to go before I could use it.

the garage before

Before the building, but after some serious cleaning out occurred…

the garage before

I was especially keen on natural light, and the ability to put in large skylights was the deciding factor with going ahead.

new studio in the works

The builders did an amazing job, separating off a small section of garage from a well-lit craft room. They put in laminate flooring with under-floor heating, power points, shelves and lighting. With a little help from IKEA, we were ready to go…

New knitting studio ready to go

Once I had moved everything I could fit from the old studio, there is not a lot of room left over, but it is a tiny perfect space with everything I need.

New EastLondonKnit Studio New knit Studio

Although this is quite a reduction from the previous studio, I am so happy with the result. I never have to worry about the rent going up again! It gives me the space and time to really work on my own designs and projects and dreams, such as my first hand-knit collection. This first baby of mine, the Klee Collection, is so very close to being ready, I can hardly wait to show you.

Happy knitting,

R.

My Road to Independent Knitwear Designer

Hello!

There is something inspirational about a change in season. Today is another beautiful Autumn day with blue skies and a crisp coolness to the air. It feels like the beginning of something new and wonderful. And for me, it is. This year I have been making some decisions regarding my work and what I want to do with my life. I have been slowly transitioning from freelance knitter in the fashion industry to a independent designer in the handmade crafting industry. I am not there yet, but the path to being an independent knitwear designer is the one I am taking. In this moment, I am so grateful both to have the opportunity to pursue this dream and for all the wonderful people this decision has brought into my life.

Looking back, this all started with some incredible luck.

When I graduated from fashion college some years ago, I was presented with the opportunity to purchase some beautiful industrial knitting machines. I wasn’t ready for such a significant purchase, but these were not the kinds of machines you could just pop down to the shop and buy. They are not manufactured anymore for one thing. For another, machines in such pristine condition are rare as hens’ teeth. So, with more than a little help from friends and family, I bought them.

East London Knit's Dubieds5

Knitting machine

I immediately began to panic as I realised the size of the responsibility I had taken on. The first question to answer was: Where the hell was I going to put them?

A frantic search began and I eventually found a studio that would work—large enough, cement floors, heating, affordable, it was just what I needed. The location was particularly convenient. Hackney Wick is a neighbourhood within easy traveling distance from my home. Full of artists’ studios, quite scruffy but with a single decent cafe, the area suited me perfectly.

hackney wick graffiti

Things I will miss about Hackney Wick: Graffiti….

hackney wick graffiti1 hackney wick graffiti2

I bumbled along quite happily at the studio, making knitwear samples for designers, working with fashion students and teaching machine knitting. It wasn’t a great living, but I was making things and deciding my own fate as my own boss.

ELK sign

A sign on the door made it official.

I knew I should take action to make the financial living more sustainable, but then the next job would come in and I would put off the action plan again.

Then came the Olympics.

The Olympics came London 2012. Very specifically East London. Even more specifically, the stadium was built across the canal from the one decent cafe. The Olympic Park was around a 3 minute walk from the studio.

Stop me if you have heard this one.

More cafes sprang up and it was suddenly not unusual to see people in suits patronising them.

Hackney Wick Graffiti

Rents began to go up, culminating in an eye-watering increase this year. The type of increase that makes you laugh. Or cry. Or definitely make some emotional response.

This is when the action I had put off would be put off no more. I had to make a decision about whether to keep the studio, take on freelance/intern knitters and become a manager, or to give it up.

The thing is, I never wanted to be a manager. I want to make things. So after a bit of soul searching (read: endless complaining to the Very Patient Man), I made the decision and put the machines up for sale.

After feeling sorry for myself for a shake or two, I started to think about what to do with the money I would get from the machines. I can’t lie; this was a particularly sweet balm for my wounded pride. I had enough  to go to some fibre-based retreats this year. And even to build a small knitting studio in our tiny garage…

my garage before the studio was built

‘Before….’

Next time, construction begins….

Happy knitting,

R.