Posts in creativity
Obsessive Compulsive Making (aka Just One More Row)

I spend a lot of time by myself. Theo is at nursery 3 days a week and every other week spends the day at a friend's house. Often I work at the weekend, and Kev takes the kids out all day.  Then I get up at 4am most mornings, (hopefully) a good few hours before anyone else. I work from home, don't have neighbours and can go weeks without leaving the house other than swimming lessons. 

Other than cultivating a near-constant external monologue (aka talking to myself, out loud, nearly all the time), dancing and singing wildly to Adele, and wearing an assortment of mis-matching clothes (today's outfit= denim shirt, snowflake pj bottoms, orange socks and a hot pink knit hat) all this alone time has ignited an obsessive need to make things.

It is likely that this need has always been here. I think when I worked in the office or there were other people around more often, social norms kept my making mania in check.  Now, alone all day, the need to make is only bridled by deadlines and with a shift in my working life, even those are more the self-imposed kind, things I want to be doing. Even when the kids are around, I seem to be on endless repeat "Yes, I'll play Uno/make dinner/find your shoes, just as soon as I finish this row".

And so I make things.  All day long.  I crochet until my wrist aches, then I move on to working on bread recipes, building willow wreathes, making a new coffee table.  Its like I can't be still unless I am busy doing something. I am sitting here, willing myself to write, check my tasks off my list, so I can go downstairs and make SOMETHING.

This is the other side of creative block - the obsession, the inability to sleep because of planning my next project, the willing the children to bed to I can just do one more row.  It is good and a relief after months of slogging through the making side of things, but it comes with its own dangers-- I've forgotten to make dinner 3 times in the last week alone and the dogs are currently begging for a walk...

...which I will do, after I finish one more row. 






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Embracing the Season

November is halfway over. When I realised this morning that it was already the 16th, I had this moment of blind panic - partially because both Kevin and I forgot it was our 14th wedding anniversary - but mostly because I realised that 2015 is almost over. 

It feels like I just got used to writing 2015 in my diary when I am already making plans for New Year's Day 2016's first footing. We went to see the switching on of the local Christmas lights, but even standing on the high street, dancing to "All I Want for Christmas is You" in the rain with the kids, I still couldn't get my head around the fact that Christmas is even approaching, still feeling stuck somewhere in mid-September. 

But whether my head is with me or not, Winter, as they say, is coming. On Friday, snow graced the hilltops for the first time this year.  My office time has to be limited to a few short hours in the morning before my fingers seize up and I have to go into the house to work (not helped by the chimney sweep condemning the stove in the studio and my oil filled radiator giving up the ghost). It's already approaching twilight when I collect the kids from the bus at 4pm. The social calendar speeds up to a point where most evenings and weekends are accounted for with school plays, Christmas do's, family visits and seasonal preparations. 

And while my head may be slow to catch up with the time of year, for the first time in awhile, my body is obviously ready. I've been going to sleep before 9, spending as much time as possible knitting in front of the fire, craving soups and bread and as much tea as I can drink in a day. With a mountain of making to do between now and March, I feel like I am ready for the months of dark and wet and cold that lie ahead.

What about you?  Are you ready for Winter? 

The Second Act

Like everyone else, I spend a lot of time on the internet.  My journey starts out on Facebook, then I click off to ready about the 28 best Scottish tweets, then click through to Wikipedia to look somethings up, then over to a news site then an article on Mashable, and so on and so forth.  This circut can last a good hour or more a day, just a drop in the ocean of what is on the internet. And like the ocean, the vast majority of it washes past me without taking any real notice of what I've read.  Bit sometimes, something remarkable sticks.

Earlier this week, I read this article about Brene Brown's new book Rising Strong (via Lottie). The idea that life and movies have a difficult second act:

In the first act, the hero is introduced, the adventure presents itself and the hero accepts the adventure. In the third and final act, there is some sort of resolution and redemption. But the second act is basically a shit-show. Everything goes wrong. 

Rather than being something that you can skip over, Brown writes:

 it’s a non-negotiable part of the process. Experience and success don’t give you easy passage through the middle space of struggle. They only grant you a little grace, a grace that whispers, ‘This is part of the process. Stay the course…’ The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.”

Other than immediately putting Brene's book on my wishlist, the article really hit home and it rings so many bells for me on so many levels. On a project level, the middle bit is where I chuck my crochet across the room and cry, swearing I WILL NEVER DESIGN ANYTHING AGAIN. On a business level, the enthusiasm of early entrepreneurship wore out some time ago and I am at this middle bit where there is so much work and so little motivation to do it. When I think about it there is no part of my life where I can't see that process at work - from chicken keeping to keeping the house tidy.

I have to be honest, things haven't been that great here for some time. I know that I have hinted at it on and off for the last year or so - burnout, struggles with the kids, making a living in a low paid industry is fucking hard. It feels like all we do is run from some catastrophe to another. This week - more of the same. But this idea  - that it is normal, that its part of the process, is a life raft through it all. I suppose its the same when you suffer from a mysetry illness, only to get a diagnosis.  Having a name for it doesn't change anything about what you are going through, but at least you know what it is.

So here is to the second act. And to last minute costumes for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And to a weekend full of wool, wood fires and enjoying the small things, even if the big ones are hard. 



A Day in The Life

My day begins at 6. I wake up and check my email first thing in the morning. Flag what needs to be done for the day and do a mental check of who needs to be where. Its Wednesday, my longest working day of the week and with everyone needing to get out of the house before 8:30, I brace myself for a hectic morning. At 6:30, I am up and out of bed. Kevin takes the children who are awake for breakfast and coffee making duties while I take the dog out to let the chickens out.  I see that Blackie, our Black Roc chicken, has laid an egg from the roost again, so I sort out a bit more padding underneath her bed for tomorrow - hoping to avoid another broken egg. Chickens get fresh feed and water and the dog and I head into the house.

Mornings are always a blur - endless rounds of toast, "don't forget your XYZ" and persuading a toddler to wear anything finally stop at 8:25 when Kevin heads down the road to drop Ellis off at the bus. I spend the next 20 or so minutes doing breakfast dishes and painting the dining room table, then I gather my things and head to the studio for the day.

My morning is filled with finalising the schedules and printing for Blogtacular. With just over 2 weeks to go until the big day, Kat and I are in frequent contact. My work is largely behind the scenes- sorting out printing, volunteers, catering and accounts. With the last speaker announcement and the schedule going up today, it seems all the more real.


At about 10:30, I head to the house for a quick smoothie break and to collect the eggs for the day.  We have 5 by 10:30 and a couple more hens looking like they were ready to do their business. Of our 8 hens, we usually get 6 eggs a day.

At 11, I have a phone call with my new webdesigner. I have made the decision to move Slugs over to Squarespace and need someone to do the heavy lifting. We chat about what I want to the space to be and how best to consolidate my various areas of work virtually.

Noon - Aware that I have a couple of small deadlines to meet in the coming week, I take a break from computer work to take some photos. I am still in the process of cutting down a lot of the work that I do, but have taken a couple of small-ish jobs to tide us over. Not feeling very inspired today, I take the bare minimum I need to get on with the deadline and head to the house to make lunch.

1pm - Over lunch of salad and Kat's Butternut Squash Soup, I start pulling together an inspiration board for the new site and proceed to get sucked into Pinterest for a wee while. Fortunately, my need for coffee outweighs my need to pin all the things and I head back to the house for an afternoon top up.

2pm - After a bit of photo editing, I am finally able to publish a blog post I wrote over a week ago. I just can't seem to get everything done these days.

3pm - I always start getting twitchy at about 3, knowing that I need to leave in about half an hour to cycle to the bus stop to collect Ellis off the bus.

4:15pm- after a broken chain in the rain, Ellis and I arrive home to change and have a hot drink, then its back  to the studio. Our internet deteriorates after about 4pm, so I always try to spend some time offline making things to ease my frustration.


5:30pm- With our stomachs rumbling, I head to the kitchen to cook.  Its pasta and wild garlic pesto for him, chicken salad for me. I make a large pot of pasta to greet the little ones and Kevin when they get home from Tae Kwan Do - they are always very grumpy and hungry when they arrive back and its good to have something to thrust in their hands when they walk in the door. Ellis and I  decide to watch Fantastic Mr Fox after dinner.

7pm- The little ones arrive home, sound asleep. They go straight to their beds and I head back over to the studio.  We are on a deadline for the printing and I continue to work on these straight through the first half of the Blogtacular twitter chat.

9:30pm - Finished with the schedules, I join in the chat talking about online friendships going offline. When the chat is over, Kat and I have a quick catch up, review the printing and I finalise the exports.

11:30pm - Finally, I am in bed when a pattern support query comes in. I debate about answering, but get up and run downstairs to forward my standard "reading patterns" email.

12:00pm - In bed!


Finding a Rhythm

20140328-IMG_1877 When I first started working with (almost) full-time childcare, I felt a certain sense of obligation to work 9-5, sat at my desk, getting shit done. I felt like it was irresponsible to do anything else because I paid for childcare and  that is what I would have done if I was employed by an employer. Slowly, I realised 2 things a) I don't work in an office with a boss breathing down my neck and b) I am not particularly suited  to that kind of structure. My work and my life call for a more fluid approach to time. Sometimes, through the night work is called for, at others, a day off nursing little sickies is my occupation. Once I realised that it wasn't about the time I worked, but what I got done that was important, a new, more natural rhythm arrived. 20140328-IMG_1889 With 3 small people around, there is no question that things change quickly, but on the whole I follow the same sort of pattern each day. Always having been an early riser, its not uncommon for me to be at my desk from 4 or 5am - it gets earlier as the days get lighter. I spend the few precious hours (if I am lucky) before the kids wake up answering emails and doing any writing I need. From about 7am until Ellis catches the bus at 8:30 - its a mad race of endless rounds of toast, finding socks, wrangling the smallest one into any clothes at all, walking the dog, letting the chickens out and general craziness. Once the house is quiet - either the little ones at nursery or in the care of Dalia, the German student who has been living with us since September, I head over to the studio for a morning of work. This is my most productive time of day and I use it for working on my top priorities - grading patterns, writing blog posts, editing and working on Blogtacular. Our rural internet is on the slow side, but its best in the morning, so I try to keep this for computer time. I work until lunch, when I head back over to the house for a bit to do laundry, eat and take the dog for a walk down the road. 20140328-IMG_1883 I tend to keep the time after lunch for creative work.  Even now, in my deadline free days, I ensure that I always have something to make. At the moment, I have prioritised knitting things from other designer's patterns - both to give myself a much needed rest and to learn from others. Not having made many garments before writing Crochet at Play and then having to design them was a challenge. So far, its been a good learning experience, as well as an eye opening one (if I ever write "Work to correspond to left front, reversing all shaping and placement of pattern stitches" in a pattern, you have permission to kick me). It all has the added bonus of watching some good telly while I am legitimately working. Late afternoons and evenings are for the kids and after the walks and dinner and homework, I tend to edit and upload photos, so they can go into client dropboxes over night. 20140328-IMG_1879 And while this is the rough schedule, I also am trying to be gentle with myself after the stress of the last few months. If words aren't flowing (and there isn't something I HAVE to do that day), I don't push it. I know that things will get done and I will be working over time again soon (with the final manuscript proof for book 2 arriving to coincide with the Easter Holidays and exactly 1 month before Blogtacular, for example).

(photo is of the puerperium cardigan. Made in Bowland Dk in Damselfly by Eden Cottage Yarns.  Photographed on the piece of rotten roof that was leaking water into the kitchen and causing everyone to get a shock when they turned on the light. It is pretty though, hey?)

Comfort Knitting

The last few weeks have been awful. Plagued by illness, upset and downright meanness, I have spent most of our time since arriving back from London in a bit of a state. There is very little in the way of contingency plans when you work for yourself and as I was called to deal, either practically or emotionally, with the crappy stuff, work began to slip. Then came the full on panic attacks - you know that horrible feeling when your blood rushes away from your limbs and you can't think or breathe? That. Unsurprisingly illness hit and stayed. Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of picking up of pieces by my beloved  (he is great at talking me down from the state of chaos I manage to get myself in and making endless cups of tea). And, as much as I would like to unleash a Dooce-style rant about what has been happening behind the scenes, by now you should know its not my style. I much prefer to crack a joke and in absence of that, I make stuff.

So when the final piece of bad news hit on Friday, crochet hook and partially made sock* flew across the room (there may or may not have also been a loud ARRRGGHH!, I can't remember, but its a safe bet). And then the torrential rain started, ruining my planned shoot. That was it. There was no other choices that remained.



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Without deadlines crushing down, my choices were limited to chunky wool and an accessory. I needed quick fix knitting, nothing that required brainpower or much time. I had seen the Quickie Slouchie Beanie on Rebekka Seale's blog and decided it was the right choice for the ball of Texere Chunky Wool in Mustard I had left over from a book project*. 

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It was EXACTLY what I needed. It was like a good book - the kind that starts easily and grips you from the beginning, by the middle you simply can't put down, and then finish all too quickly. The best thing is that it is lovely on (No photos other than those on IG here and here.) I haven't even blocked it yet as it is currently hiding a rather bad self-induced hair cut.

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I have written about the yarn before, but let me wax lyrical again.  I love Texere Chunky Wool. I love the colours. I love the folks at the mill. I love how its is 100% wool, with a great twist. I made the hat with less than 1x 100g ball.


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Making a hat isn't going to solve my problems, its not going to write my book, get ready for Country Living Fair or pack for an upcoming move :( but at least I can hide my bad haircut in style, hey? Small comforts are often all you need.

*spot the sneak peak book pattern references.

Getting Things Done (a Kat Guide)

IMG_1338 Over the weekend, Kat and I were following on avidly with the World Domination Summit. One of the things I love most about Kat is that we get excited by the same geeky things - we can talk inspiration and motivation and business, without the eye rolling or blank stares that so often accompany these conversations in real life.

One of the things that stuck with me as we were following along with the tweets a quote from Darren Rowse:

Inspiration without implementation is empty.

Heck yeah! It struck a particular code, as I had a bit of week of dropping the balls last week - moving from new idea to new idea and not finishing anything. I am generally good at keeping myself in line, but when I lose it - it is chaos. Absolute. Utter. Chaos. (plus it usually costs me money).

Like you, I am busy. My todo lists are eye wateringly ambitious on a daily basis. I bet yours are too. We pack so much in to every single day. Kids, house, friends, family, work, bills.  It really never ends.

Here are my tips (that I usually, but not always) follow for getting things done:

1. Start with the end in mind. Be really clear about what you need to get done and work back from there. If you don't know where you are going, you can't figure out how to get there. E.g. I knew I wanted to write a blog post with some bullet points.

2. Have a time limit. I know I have 25 minutes to write this blog post. I will get it done in that time. If I had hours, it would take hours. That is how tasks and time work.

3. Have a system. Now, I am not a very organised person, but its something that I am working on. I have written before about my system of postit notes and highlighters, which really helps me visualise what I need to do. However, for most things, I use Evernote. Its a new addition to my life, but already invaluable. I keep a folder that has my actions for the day, a set of folders for all of the different areas of my businesses and a folder for all of the ideas I want to do something with but can't - my Back Burner. I really like Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky.  His book is really helping me think through the systems I use.  Kat M has been reading his other book (a free Kindle library book) and says its great as well.

4. Avoid distractions. I use Self Control on my Mac to stop emails from popping up or twitter from distracting me when I have a task to finish. Its not fool proof, but it stops the temptation.  I also block a couple of notoriously distracting websites when I am working.

5. Plan your time. Looking ahead, I know that I struggle to write when children are in the house, so I plan my work accordingly. I try to have a couple of easier tasks to do if I am having to work with the kids around. Usually, this is my latest deadline crochet project. Or I rope kids in to help.

6. Eat Your Frogs for Breakfast. I can't remember where I heard this first, but I love it. I always start my day with the thing I want to do least (emails), but then, they are done. I don't let it over take my day though.  I am at my best in the morning, so do try to do most of my writing then.

7. Show up and do the work. This is directly lifted from Liz Gilbert, but from the moment I watched her TED talk, it has been the single thing that has grounded me to my work. Sometimes, there is a whole bunch of stuff I really do not want to do.Sometimes, I am stuck on a design and it will not come, but I have to at least turn up. I have to sit and work at it and that totally sucks. But, I have to. It is my job to show up and do it (this also applies to laundry)


***my developer has fixed the problems with my original website template crashing certain browsers.  However, if you have problems in ANY way, can you let me know?  Thanks!***


***Material list for Crochet Camp will be out tomorrow. Sorry for the delay, I need one more thing to fall into place! There are still a few kits left, but we are getting close to them running out.**

For the Love of TED

about_ted For those unfamiliar, TED is a conference that brings together leaders in their field - any field, really, as long as they have an idea worth sharing.  A speaker gets 10-20 minutes to share their thing - their nugget of truth they have learned in their work or life. Originally conferences held twice a year, they have spread around the world and the internet and many are available on TED's main website.

I LOVE TED talks.  It is not uncommon for me to spend an afternoon with crochet in my lap watching and rewatching some of my favourites.  From learning about hyberbolic shapes to Wii remote hacks to spoken word poetry, TED is a wonderfully rich way to spend some of my working time (before going on to watch bad Canadian Sci-Fi)

And so, I give you my TED playlist - 5 talks you need to see (if you haven't already).

1. Brene Brown - The Power of Vulnerability. If you haven't seen this, stop what you are doing now and see it.  Brene has an amazing way of telling her story and talking about her work around shame, vulnerability and worthiness.  There are so many things I could say about this, but just go watch.

2. Amy Cuddy - Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.  Amy's research is fascinating - looking at how simple changes to body language can change the way our hormones work and in turn change how others perceive us and also how we see ourselves (make sure you watch to the end - it resonates powerfully for all of those with impostor syndrome).

3. Phil Hansen - Embrace the Shake. As a person who finds tight deadlines the most important element of creativity, Phil's talk about the power of limitations on creativity really spoke to me.  Part of yesterday's problem with the shawl is that the possibilities were too endless - too many ways to construct it that it refused to be made.

4. Toni Powell - The Power of Words: Kat shared this last week and I have thought of it constantly since.  Toni's basic premise is that what we say about people - to their faces or behind their backs shapes, who they become and how others see them.  While she speaks specifically about her marriage, the idea holds in many aspects of our lives - our family, our children, our friends, even blogging.  The stories we choose to tell shape our world.

5. Elizabeth Gilbert - The Elusive Creative Genius: Elizabeth explores the idea of creative blocks and the importance of turning up and doing the work.

Honorable mention: Ken Robinson's talk on Schools Kill Creativity.  As a mother to 3 incredibly spirited children and as a creative person who was told throughout my life that I wasn't - this spoke to me deeply and I found myself nodding along.

TED is coming to Edinburgh in just over a week's time.  What I wouldn't give to attend, but sadly the $6,000 membership is beyond me.  Who knows, maybe one day I will be able to give my TED talk entitled "Life is Too Short to Match Socks".

What would yours be?

Image Credit

The New Studio

It was with great excitement that this week I was going to reveal the awesome results of the room swap with the children.  However, due to circumstances out of our control, a mere 2 weeks after the first move, another switch had to happen.  We worked late into the night on Saturday, moving the children down to my old studio and my things up the stairs. Truth be told, I have found the whole situation rather upsetting, and, without going into details, it was not a change we were wanting to make.

However, a few days in and I can't help but admit that the new studio space is lovely.  Its at the front, south-facing side of the house, and even with just one window, it lets in a lot of light, particularly in the afternoons. It has also meant a declutter and re-organise of both my yarn and fabric stashes.  Ellis, having learned about the phrase "Silver Linings" recently, reminds me that everything has a one.


I can't remember if I have ever talked about my beloved yarn storage system?  Well, I LOVE it.  It is 2 sets of these wire baskets from ikea bolted together (though if I were to buy it again, I would get these , but my shelf is quite old).  I have the wool arranged by weight and what makes them so fabulous is that I can see instantly what is in each section.  They also aren't so deep that I have to dig for things, causing lots of tangles.  It can look a bit messy, but they could easily be stored under a table or in a cupboard.  yarn

Plus, I like to see the yarn for my next project peeking out, tempting me to come and play.


All in, I have to admit that while the circumstances aren't that great, the space is lovely.


If I fail, I'm going to do it spectacularly.

Resolutions are sort of my thing.  A combination of my striving for self-improvement and my near obsession with lists, I make rafts of resolutions every year. I have always liked the idea of choosing words for a year (2012 was 1000 - I wanted 1000 page views a day on the blog, 1000 facebook likes and 1000 etsy sales. I achieved 1 out of 3). My words for 2013 were going to be "Joyful Abundance". I wanted to focus on creating a life were I had a plenty - patience, time, energy, money. I had thought deeply about what I wanted to manifest in 2013 and lists and plans were made... And then I found this quote:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

--Theodore Roosevelt

And I am pretty sure that I stopped breathing for about a minute.

In reality, I have spent much of my life afraid.  I stood on the outside of who I wanted to be and looked on, paralysed by fear and uncertainty. I am driven by perfection.  I often find myself operating from a place of  "If I only could X, then I would be truly happy". If I can not meet the view I have in my mind's eye, then it is not good enough and I have failed.  I am a black and white sort of person, you know.

Reading that quote, I realised that again I have spent much of the last year afraid. I lay in bed the night before a pattern release convincing myself it is the worst thing I have ever designed.  On the first morning of the photoshoot for the book, I was shaking, literally trembling with nerves as I clicked away, stylist and editor looking on. I constantly compare myself to "real designers" and come up short. The difference now is that instead of running from the fear, I am slowly learning to jump into it. The reality is that things are rarely perfect and the past few months have taught me deep lessons about doing everything I can and then accepting that it will be enough...

...or it won't be.  And that is OK too.  For better or worse, I am in the arena.  Motivated at first by the need to feed my family and then by it being so much who I am and what I am supposed to be doing. And if I fail, I'd rather go down in a blaze of fiery failure than just peter out. Without a doubt, there is a lot of swearing, wine drinking and tears before I jump into whatever is next, but the point is that I jump.

So may 2013 be the year of Daring Greatly.



Quote was found via this awesome interview with Berne Brown. I loved her Ted talks, but I think this interview is better.  Also, I really liked the Lisa Congdon interview of the same series.

Photos taken in the car park of a local nature reserve.  We drove 20 miles, walked 10 meteres from the car, they sat down and cried until I gave them hot cocoa, we got back in the car and I cried in frustration.  What was I saying about failing spectacularly?

Regarding Balance

One day, late in 2012, I looked up from my computer, crawled out from a pile of yarn, put my camera down and opened my eyes. I saw a house that was messier than I have ever lived in, a husband who I hadn't spoken more than 4 words to in weeks months and 3 little unruly children who woudn't eat anything except pesto pasta and were exhausted, mean and bored.

Kevin and I have spent the last few weeks reeling us all back in - working hard to cook and clean and spend time as a family.  Its my main resolution this year - to spend more time with them being present, not worrying about impending deadlines or emails or swatches.

I didn't realise what an effect our work life was having on everyone.  It was only when I would go days without picking up the camera that I knew I wasn't in the best place (well, that and the fact that Georgia could sing all of the theme songs to all of the programmes on CBeebies), but I kept thinking I could just push through.

And so, we have spent the first few days of 2013 as we hope to continue. Together, cooking and laughing and walking and playing. Today we climbed a massive hill, led by Ellis. Tomorrow, we are sorting out the garden and storage room while the children are out - boring, but good in a new year sort of way.

Start as we mean to if only the weather could do the same.

A Morning in the Life


Up at 5:15am. I know this, as Ellis practices his new found clock reading skills for my fuzzy brain. The light has to go on of course, so he can read the clock and I mutter under my breath about reading being overrated in children.

With Ellis up, all 3 children and Kevin are awake. (Note to self: must practice inside voices). 

Kevin shepards them downstairs for breakfast (porridge) while I stay in bed and read emails and formulate A PLAN for the day. I secretively read one chapter of my book, wanting to spend my day lost in that world, but the real world finds me in the form of a 19 month old who calls me "DeeDee".

The smallest one and I head downstairs for coffee and left over cheeze-free pizza (me) and porridge (him). I wander ino the office for a morning of work.

First up, pattern emails. I am grateful in my foggy early morning state that there weren't many sales on Etsy in the night.  Each pattern has to be emailed out individually and it's easy to miss one if I am not careful. Then, on to answering emails and tweets from Kat.  It is a very big and exciting day for Capturing Childhood, with our courses and gift certificates going live. A bit of spit and polish is required for the lovely and newly designed site and a few images I had forgotten to send. 

In between all of this, I pick up my new knitwear design.  Realising that I have misjudged the ease of the item, I have added in 2 pattern repeats too many.  Its ripped back and cast on again, then I decide I want to change the stitch pattern ever so slightly and a new swatch is made.  Its better.  Math is re-done and I am ready to cast on.


In the background, I can hear the rabble reaching a fever pitch.  Tonight is the wedding of beloved friends and all 3 are bouncing with excitement.  Kevin does his best to keep the calm and get them dressed, but it is hard to fight the wave of energy that is emminating from the little people.


At 8:30, Kevin and the babies head out to work and nursery, after Kev and I decide our plan of attack for getting everyone dressed and ready this evening. I finish rounding up the big boy to go to school.  As we walk out the door and down the street, he tells everyone about the wedding and his desperate need for a haircut. 

The trip to and from school takes about 25 minutes and as I walk back in the door, Kat phones to talk through the finer details of today.  Work is divided up and I quickly write up my to do list. 

Then, its off to answer emails.  I have a list as long as my arm of people to get back to, all the while watching the weather anxiously.  I am the photographer for today's wedding and rain is not welcome. 

Once emails are done, its back to designing.  I am designing a small collection of kits for Not On The High Street. The designs focus on big and gorgeous yarns for a series of home and personal accessories.  I am currently working with Rowan Cocoon - one of my newly discovered loves. I have been trying to design a cowl for a solid week, but it is simply not flowing. I know it will come to me, but I get frustrated all the same. 

Throughout the morning, a steady stream of parcels arrive.  A few Christmas presents, but mostly supply deliveries and other designers' products for my other job as a photographer.  Days like today are wonderful for their diversity, but frustrating as well. It highlights just how pulled I am in so many different directions, but this is the reality of a small business owner...a necessary evil to keep afloat. 

10:30am and with only an hour to do before I need to start getting ready for the shoot, I take a few photos with the amazing rented Canon 5d mkiii and do a quick edit. Upload, spell check, then press publish...


Morning Lists

Morning lists


A few years ago, I remember reading an American mom-blog, where the writer talked about her daily and weekly goals.  I am 100% certain I rolled my eyes and thought something like "Oh spare me. I would never do something like that*."

Well, a few years on and I find myself doing the same thing.  Amidsts the craziest of shouty, chaotic, busy mornings, without fail, I sneak away to spend 15 minutes making my lists for the day.  

My morning lists are in 2 parts.  First, I fill in my Daily Greatness Journal. Sent by Inspiration Overlord (aka my mother), what I like about it is its overall focus on goals. every day and every week, it is about looking back to what goals you are working towards.  With 2 businesses on the go, I have to remain very focused with my time and actions to ensure I am doing what needs to be done. There is a morning and an evening check in.  It takes no time at all, but I really like how it keeps me on track. Cheesy? Yes.  Does it work? Yes.

Second task is making a practical list for what I need to achieve for the day, in my handy moleskin. This is my catchall notebook with meeting notes, design sketches and other stuff that travels with me wherever I go. On days with children, I limit it to 3 things I am going to do (and housework is never one of them, a clear sign of my priorities, except for today when my Mother is set to arrive tomorrow).  on Fridays and weekends, I expand to a few more, usually no more than 6. They are always 1 thing for each business and then something else to improve our lives.  With book work largely done, I can put exciting things like "Make Ellis bird wings" and "knit" on the list.

What all of this does is focus my mind on what I need to do in those few spare moments I may have in the day.  And for me, that is the key to getting anything done.  I don't really get the luxury of long working stretches, so I have to make every single moment count**. 

*I also thought the same thing about having babies 1 year apart, and look how that ended.  I wonder when I will learn what payback is...

**I hope this post doesn't make anyone else roll their eyes.  If it does, just be warned about the above point. 

The Song

I have written this post about 7 times.  Each time, I falter.  I bump into someone I know who reads the blog and I come home and delete the sentiments.  I re-read what I wrote and decide that actually, yes, I am the most irritating person on the planet and then push delete. I write a bit, then get interrupted, then decide that I am just silly. But here goes...


I am 33 and 3/4 years old.  I have 3 children. I am married to my teenage sweetheart. I live in a house I love in an unremarkable town in central Scotland. I have a nose ring and hair that is now mostly brown, but it used to be auburn when I lived in a place where the sun shined more than it didn't. Most days, I am not quite sure how I will pay the bills or get through the laundry or survive 9 hours on my own with 3 small children, but that is no different than most everyone else I know.

In my 33 and 3/4 years, I have lived many lives.  I was a camp counsellour and passionate advocate for people with disabilities.  I travelled the world.  I worked with rough sleepers and in public health and I raised money and I was going to be a midwife (many times). But, in each of those versions, life was incredibly hard.  Every single morning was a chore - to get out of bed, to work, to live. 

There have been many, many hard times.  I drank too much and I cried even more. But I got through. I was always employable. Each new job was a new hope - "Maybe this will be my path" - I would think on every first day...and a few months later I would be back in the same place. Unmotivated. Despondent. 

9 months ago, after being made redunant from one such job, our money ran out. I looked around my life and picked up the tools in front of me as a way of supporting my family. My yarn. My hook. My camera. 

Never once did I think anything would come out of it. I hoped it would, but I didnt really believe it.

In those 9 months, I have worked just about every free moment I have. I have squeezed a more-than-full-time job into the cracks and crevices I can find around taking care of my children.  I have started one business and then another.

Working hard is not new to me.  I have worked hard and long many other times in my life.  However, never once did I have to do give anything to work other than my time.  I did my work and went home. 

The last few days have been incredibly difficult.  There is a deadline looming on the 14th. I wake up every morning, counting down mentally, knowing that the liklihood of meeting the deadline is slipping through my fingers. And even beyond any specific item on my list, I have started the period of transition, where the mere thought of all of the things that need doing sends me into a panic-attack and I am plagued with self-doubt. I have convinced myself 10 times over that I was stupid to even consider writing a book.  That I can not photograph it as well. That I can not write a blog or a course or even cook dinner (that is how self-doubt can't just be bad at one thing - its all or nothing).

Though the details are different, the sentiments are the same as they have been in the past. Back then,  I would have quit my job and jumped to another because I had nothing to lose. 

Now, it is very different.  Now my work means giving fully of myself, of everything that I have...and with so much invested, I have everything to lose if I walk away.  But even more than that, in working harder than I have ever worked, in doing things I didn't know I was capable of, even in the incredibly down times, I am comforted by the simple truth that this work is far easier than anything I have ever done before because it is truely mine.

No matter how hard this path is, no matter how much work I have to do in the next week, let alone in the next month, wether this deadline is met or not, I know deep down it will all be ok. Because this is the song I was born to sing.  This is the path I was meant to walk.

And, in the end, its a great one.  


Print from here.

Corpse Pose


I am burnt out. Fried to a crisp with nothing left to give.

It happens: the soaring highs and bone crushing lows. I have been here before and know that it is something that will pass.  That meal after meal of "X" on toast will give way to the meals that I normally love to eat and cook.  We will find the floor of the house again.  I will be able to work and parent without feeling like I am dragging myself through mud.

I have learned that that only way to get through burnout/block, is to be still.  I used to rally against it. Fight to push myself to DO, when I barely managed to just BE.

Of course it always comes at the worst time.  I have been pushing myself creatively and loving it.  Learning so much, with so much to do and achieve. This time, burn out feels more like slamming into a brick wall than just petering out.

Perhaps its a sign of maturity that I no longer struggle against it.  I know it will pass.  And so I wait. I do the small things that still excite me. Get out, take pictures, read.  I tick only the most basic things off of the to-do list and look forward to when productivity returns. Danielle LaPorte likens it to Savasana in yoga, the corpse pose, spending a moment integrating and being still...

...and waiting for the upswing.




Some days are filled to the brim with making.  Its the side of my work that I love most (of course) but its actually a smallish part of the whole picture.  I spend much more time answering emails, writing, planning, calculating, and reading than I really do making.  

But then come those pockets of time where I *have* to spend hours upon hours crocheting or sewing.  For some reason, I find starting nearly impossible, but once I am in my groove my heart sings with it.  And then I get to look back on an hours' work and think "I made that and I'm getting paid for it!". What a privilage.


Top: examples of granny squares and ripples for my crochet class in Wendy Merino Chunky and Texere Chunky Wool.

Middle: child's apron out of Quentin Blake fabric

Bottom: granite stitch crochet

Ebb and Flow


I am not quite sure when or where I lost it, but it appears (at least temporarily) that my creative energy is on a low. These ups and downs are normal and, when I look back over the last year, I am surprised it didn't happen sooner. In fact, I am surprised I am still standing after it all.  

Truth be told, I am finding everything difficult at the minute.  When I was pregnant with Theo, I couldn't imagine harder work than a newborn and a 1 year old (plus a 4 year old). I can confirm that a busy (almost) 1 year old and a crazy (almost) 2 year old combined with a very spirited (almost) 5 year old is much much harder.  I calculated the other day I was being yelled at for 23 hours of the day.  TWENTY THREE HOURS. Yes, it was a bad day, but not that far off of normal.  I spend most days counting down the moments until Kevin walks in the door. 2 hours is a long time...8 is longer.  


I love my children desperately.  They are hands down the best thing in my life. However, the truth is that I can't help but at times resent them. They (rightly) ask so very much of me that I end up giving far beyond my capacity to do so.  Many days, it leaves me so utterly drained that I can barely speak--instead my words come out in sharp snarls and shouts. Empty and grumpy, I drop into my bed for a few hours sleep before the endless cycle of waking begins.

There are days that I have to fight every urge in my body not to pack a bag and walk away.  Get on a plane. Go somewhere where the sun shines.  But of course I stay. Sometimes its because I love them and I know I would be lost without them, sometimes its because I am too tired to walk to the train station.

It is against this tide that creativity must flow and it is hard.  If I can't even hold a conversation, algebra for sizing or energy for making isn't there either. Work splutters along and the seasonal slow down in orders comes both as a welcome relief and a worry. There was a time that I would have worried more.  That I would have thought that this was life, my creativity was just this.  Experience tells me otherwise. In a few weeks, this will be a memory and I will be back on the high.




But for now, I will be grateful for it being Friday:  A day with an empty house and a date with a ball of yarn and a crochet hook (plus all of the cheesy movies I can handle on Netflix). 


- card by Katie Daisy


Inspiration and Originality



Nothing is original.  Every single thing that we make, that I make, has its roots in something else...a picture, a book, a pin on pinterest.  As a designer I take the full breadth of my experience in making and put in into my designs...using them like tools in a toolkit, collected from all of the other designers I have learned from over the years. 




Textile designers can do what they do because they (do I get to say we?) have an ability to think about how something is constructed and then make it. Generally speaking, when designing I stay far away from the internet because I am cautious about "reading" how others made something and getting that idea stuck in my head. In fact, it is much the same for blogging - I tend not to participate in meme's and writting workshops because I struggle to find my own voice amidst other people's words.

Of course, I do make other people's designs and my stance thus far has been quite a simple one: where an item I am selling has elements that have been directly inspired by someone else, I contact them to let them know.  The Herringbone hat and mitts, the Viking hat, the costume wings.  I have had email discussions with all of the designers about how I am using their designs and have had permission to sell. In the case of the Herringbone hat and mitts, a lot of work went into developing and writing the patterns, making the samples and getting to the point of publishing a pattern...but I chickened out at the last minute for putting the patterns for sale as I just felt awkward doing so with someone else's work (even though I had Craig's permission).


Serendipity is another issue...the owllelly warmers were born out of a gift for a young woman who loves owls.  I had made owl cables before and adapted them along with a ribbing that I thought would  fit a range of leg sizes, as having very, ahem, shapely calves, stretchy ribbing is required.  It wasn't until after I made the first pair and drafted the pattern that I saw there were handwarmers on ravelry with the similar stitch pattern. 

Ultimately, I have to take the perspective that these things happen.  Where possible, I think it is key to be open and honest and hold one's hand up, but the reality is that creativity works in mysterious ways and, we are always going to be inspired by others, be it for new crochet designs, blog posts or dinner ideas. 

And that is where this little work in progress comes in (we are calling him Elmer). He appeared in my studio in the late hours of last night after I'd been dreaming about him for several days.


We'd been at a friend's house this weekend and Georgia was captivated with their hobby horses. She isn't interested in much other than destruction, so I do tend to jump on any opportunity.  I decided to make one for her birthday in March and wanted to do a tester for another little boy's birthday next week.  Coincidentally, in my daily dig around pinterest, I stumbled upon a range of hobby horse designs. 

And Elmer was born.  He is entirely my own design, crocheted like a sock, complete with ankle ribbing and heel flap, but is very muchinspired by the beautiful ones I saw here.  Of course, I would like to write up the pattern and share the love of his sweet little face and make many, many to send off to homes all over the world, but I hesitate because I want to respect the work of others. It is always a challenge to find balance...

As he is still in the developmental stages, I am comfortable to wait and see what happens as he and his lady love (her name will be Eustice the Unicorn) develop.



I guess I will leave this discussion with a quote from my friend Robyn who commented on a facebook post of mine when I was venting frustration about this issue:

'The artist Eva Zeisel, who says that the folk tradition in which she works is "her home," nevertheless produces ceramics that were recognized by the Museum of Modern Art as masterpieces of contemporary design.

This is what she says about innovation for its own sake:

"This idea to create something is not my aim. To be different is a negative motive, and no creative thought or created thing grows out of a negative impulse. A negative impulse is always frustrating.

"And to be different means 'not like this' and 'not like that.' And the 'not like'--that's why postmodernism, with the prefix of 'post,' couldn't work. No negative impulse can work, can produce any happy creation. Only a positive one."' 


Ultimately, I have to believe that we are all better for just making...for putting more of ourselves and our visions into the world.

And, of course, Elmer and his lady love will be appearing in their finished forms soon, even if it is just here.


I am also excited to be Parentdish's Blog of the Week!  If you have come through from there, "Hello and Welcome!!"


Playroom and Studio 2.0

Aaah, remember my lovely studio? It was so clean and tidy and beautiful, no?

Uh, yeah.  It quickly turning into dumping ground 101.  

Here's the thing about working at home with 3 children under 5: Wherever you are - they are.  I spent so much time running up and down the stairs, carting yarn here and there, that I never really used my studio.  In those moments when the babies were both asleep and E was occupied, one of 2 things would happen:

- My working upstairs would wake them

- Ellis hollering for me as I was not downstairs and he needed his 200th drink/snack/conversation of the day would wake them.

So a reshuffle took place over the weekend and the playroom became our shared work/play space.  The upstairs still has the sewing equiptment and stores much of the non-working yarn, but my new work space in the heart of the activity means that I can work while they play near by.

IMG_0426.jpg IMG_0505.jpg



The centrepiece of the room is our old coffee table, transformed by several coats of eggshell paint and two play panels - one Duplo and one blackboard.  The table is originally from ikea and has always been a great coffee/playtable for the children so I am glad to have rescued it out from under the TV. 





Most of the toys are hidden out of the way in the bookcase with the ikea fabric curtain.  


My favourite bits are the imporvised car garage from a spice rack, the wagon "shelf" serving dual purpose as fire surround and bookshelf and the beautiful Sylvia Woodford wall hanging


And of course the fairy lights, because who doesn't like to work by their twinkling glow?



Art Takes All Shapes

painting with children

art with toddlers


Georgia wants to paint or colour all day long.  She will go through page after page of paper.  However, markers and crayons have to be counted in and out, in the same way narcotics are controlled at hospitals, lest we end up with contemporary art at knee level.

Ellis has less interest.  He likes to pour all of the paint out of the bottles into huge swirly puddles, preferably covering toy cars in the mess. All of his "pictures" he brings home from nursery are just blobs and scribbles, not unlike those of a few years ago.

However, his attention remained fixed for over an hour as we transformed an old table.

He told me later he wanted to be a painter. "But not a silly artist one. A serious one. I want to paint houses and walls".

He will be his father's death.