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The Joys of Knitvents Past

Helen —  October 30, 2017 — 1 Comment

Since we’ve been doing so much talking about gift knitting lately and the holidays are a time for getting nostalgic, I’ve just had a wander through Knitvents past. It’s kind of amazing to see how much we’ve made together through the years. If you’re new to Curious Handmade, you might have missed these. They are all still available as full collections, but you can “Pick Your Own Knitvent” too by selecting individual patterns that sing out to you. Remember, until Oct 31st when you buy two of my patterns or collections you’ll get the least expensive one for free–automatically!

For all my Knitvent Veterans, maybe this journey down memory lane will remind you of a pattern you missed or one that would be perfect to knit again this year. Let’s start at the very beginning…

Knitvent 2013

This was the one that started it all! With eight patterns (!!!) in this first season it was a little frantic, but so much fun! Some of these patterns are still among my favourites.


Knitvent 2014

2014 was another lovely year, where I experimented with some new textures and some twinkly beaded details mixed in with some cushy, cosy quick knits.

Large image: Adorn Gift Bags
Small images, clockwise from top right: Candlelit Beaded Shawl, Ice Skating Scarf and Wrap, Lind Cowl, Crisp and Even Cowl

Buy the Knitvent 2014 Collection


Knitvent 2015

The theme for Knitvent 2015 was “Light and Bright.” I had a strong colour story for the designs, and there’s a lovely symmetry to the whole collection that makes me smile: two perfectly matched sets and two warm, pretty shawls.

Large image: Winter Wander Shawl
Small images, clockwise from top: Ice River Hat, Ice River Snood, Cabin Path Shawl, Kindling Mitts, Kindling Hat

Buy the Knitvent 2015 Collection


 Knitvent 2016

Finally we come to last year’s Knitvent, which honestly feels like yesterday! 2016 was a special collection inspired by the Alpine forest and vintage holiday postcards. I was so honoured to have Renée Callahan of East London Knit as Knitvent’s first guest designer, creating the gorgeous Boreal Forest set.

Large photo: Alpine Sunset Shawl
Small photos, clockwise from top: Fresh Tracks Headband, Boreal Forest Hat, Boreal Forest Cowl, Juniper Socks, Juniper Mitts

Buy the Knitvent 2016 Collection


I am absolutely tingling with excitement to show you what I have in store for you this year. It’s been such an honour to grow and evolve as a designer alongside the Curious Handmade community. Traditions like Knitvent are really special. They really bond us all together, even though in real life we’re scattered around the globe. To anyone who has ever taken part in a Knitvent, thank you so much for coming along this holiday journey with me. If you’re thinking about signing up to Knitvent 2017 and want to learn more, make sure you’re signed up to the Curious Handmade Newsletter. I’ll be sending out lots of info in the next little while, including a heads up on our early bird special and maybe even a fun contest or two…

 

Even before Knitvent begins, I know many of you well-prepared knitters are getting your gift list together. To fill in the space before the first secret pattern comes through, I’ve put together some suggestions to get you started with your holiday knitting: shawls and accessories to keep your nearest and dearest feeling cosy and loved throughout the holiday season.

As a little pre-Knitvent treat and to help you get your planning off to a running start, I’m running a special two-for-one sale until the 31st of October! You don’t have to do anything special to get the free pattern: just put any two of my patterns or collections into your cart and the least expensive item will be magically free!

I’ve chosen some special designs from the whole spectrum of Curious Handmade patterns. Some might be familiar, while others are old friends from the past which still have the power to surprise and delight.

Sweet Little Somethings

The best things come in small packages. These compact, lovely designs will spoil the most knit-worthy friends on your list this year: particularly perfect if you have to mail your parcel far away.

Clockwise from top right: Apple Blossom Socks, Global Nomad Handwarmers, Vintage Fairy Lights Socks, Jewel Cowl

Single Skein Shawls

The smallest size of each of these lovely shawls uses just one skein: it’s a lovely way to whip up a quick gift while using up some special one-skein stash.

Clockwise from top right: Pebble Beach Shawl, Fireflies Rising Shawl, Talisman Shawl, Alpine Sunset Shawl

Hats and Sets

Everyone loves a hand-knitted hat, and if you have time, it’s extra-special to make something to match. There’s an odd one out here but it was too pretty not to include!

Clockwise from right: Bracile Hat and Cowl Set, Cataleya Hat, Eden Fells Scarf, Eden Fells Hat

 

Surprisingly Simple

Looking for something unique that won’t take weeks of concentration to create? These deceptively easy designs will fly off your needles!

Clockwise from top right: Sonder Shawl, Botan Shawl, Laveer Kerchief, Cadence Shawl

 

I hope this little guide has sparked some knitting inspiration for you today! Stay tuned to hear more about  Knitvent 2017 and other holiday delights from Curious Handmade. Happy knitting!.

See you in 2016!

Helen —  December 16, 2015 — Leave a comment

holiday-card-proof

As you might expect, we’re deep into the holiday prep over here at Curious Handmade HQ. The main activities right now are wrapping presents and eating sweet mince pies (lots of mince pies!) I’m admiring the twinkle lights we’ve strung up around the place and thinking back over the past 12 months. It’s been a wonderful year. Thank you all so much for listening to the podcast, knitting the patterns, joining me on so many projects and being such a vibrant part of Curious Handmade. I’m taking a little break from the podcast and the blog for the holidays, so that I can devote myself to holiday baking, knitting, storytelling and merriment (and more mince pies!) with my family.

Before I surrender completely to the call of Christmas, I just wanted to remind you of a few things going on between now and the new year.

I’m running a special Holiday Sale until the 24th of December. I’m offering all my individual patterns and collections at 15% off. Just enter the code Merry15 when you check out on Ravelry.

The Knitvent 2015 KAL is still on, and will continue until the 31st of December. Don’t forget to put your pictures in the FO thread, because we have some really lovely prizes up for grabs, and I really want to see all of your beautiful knits.

I’ll be back with the podcast in early January. We’re going to spend the month thinking about every knitter’s guiltiest pleasure: stash. It’s going to be action-packed and a lot of fun! Until then, I hope your days are filled with joy and love and cosy knitting time. Happy holidays!

LeighMetcalfCropOn this week’s podcast I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Leigh Metcalf about her brand new book, London Stitch and Knit. It was great to sit down over a cup of tea to talk about what it’s like to take a book from concept to launch, and how we find time to creative while juggling the demands of work and motherhood. Her publisher describes the book perfectly:

With a design aesthetic to inspire any craft lover, London Stitch and Knit: A Craft Lover’s Guide to London’s Fabric, Knitting and Haberdashery Shops
seamlessly documents the city’s best to provide a comprehensive guide that encompasses the handmade and the vintage.

Freelance writer and photographer Leigh Metcalf discovers the hidden gems in London’s ever-growing craft community, promoting independent shops as well as craftspeople and their work. Ever since she arrived in London from the US, Metcalf had made it her mission to discover the best places for haberdashery supplies. Drawing on her experience from the last five years, she combines well-informed narrative, illustrations and a beautiful, layered design, to discover the history and operations of approximately 50 shops—divided by London territories.


As soon as I got my hands on a copy of London Stitch and Knit, I knew it was something special. The photography alone makes me want to drop everything and go out on a tour of haberdashery shops around London immediately!
londonstitchandknit5

Leigh has really captured the magic of supplies and notions, and each page offers tantalizing shots of the treasures waiting to be unearthed in local shops.

londonstitchandknit3

This isn’t just a pretty picture book, though. Along with the drool-worthy photos, Leigh has gathered a wealth of useful information. The descriptions really give a good flavour of each shop – very practical details about what they stock as well as her description of the overall vibe. Every entry is like a little in-person tour, and all of the most important details for each shop are conveniently positioned at the top of the page for easy access to addresses and websites.

londonstitchandknit4

What’s most amazing to me, as someone who adores shopping for supplies, is that lots of shops I haven’t heard of: it’s so exciting to be able to discover new gems in London. I also LOVE that they are organised by area, and  I will definitely be planning a few “days out” next year to various corners of London. Who would like to join me?

londonstitchandknit

If you didn’t catch the episode, you can have a listen here. Alongside a great interview, you’ll also find out how to enter the two giveaways we have going on this week!

Week two of Slow Fashion October has just finished. The prompt for this week, “Small” was actually a big one for me.

From Fringe Association:

Week 2, October 5-11: SMALL
handmade / living with less / quality over quantity / capsule wardrobe / indie fashion / small-batch makers / sustainability

A lot of those words have been coming up for me over and over again this past year. From my interview with Ben Hole a few months ago about his family’s ultimate small-batch one-flock yarn to the ongoing Curious Handmade Wardrobe project, I’m diving into these themes repeatedly. What’s funny is that when I saw the prompt “Small” my mind immediately went to a slightly different place. I remembered a project I made eight yeas ago: my very first pair of handmade socks.

socks

The pattern was Falling Leaves by Jessica Landers, and I’ll never forget about it. It was definitely a slow project for me! But I gained a totally disproportionate amount of joy from such a small garment, I learned how to knit a sock, started to learn how lace operated…I’m pretty sure I followed the chart upside down and back to front and it was years later before I realised why I could never get it to look like the picture (slow process alright). I also used a completely inappropriate yarn for socks but loved the project so much anyway that it didn’t matter that I could only wear them around the house and to bed.

With my current projects, I’m still stretching myself. Learning is still a slow process for me, and the results are still incredibly satisfying. I have just finished a single tunic dress. It’s a simple piece but the fabric feels wonderful. It’s a classic navy colour, which wasn’t the easiest to sew (at least not at night) but it will be a perfect capsule wardrobe piece. As a beautiful neutral canvas, it will look amazing with all my lovingly-knit shawls. After all the planning and talking about less being more, and quality over quantity, this piece feels like a real achievement…one small step closer to my ultimate goal of living with less.

Now I’m planning a skirt out of The Fibre Co (Dry Goods) woollen fabric. This fabric is a new venture for The Fibre Co and is currently very small batch! With this project I really want to relish every small detail of the process, from start to finish. I plan to draft the pattern to fit me and take my time designing it exactly how I want it. This is a garment I want to suit me and and make me happy and no one else, without having to care if its “fashionable” or not!!

I wrote a lot last week about my desire to live with less, and a more recent part of that process has been serious decluttering process. I went through my wardrobe pretty carefully, and selling/giving away so many clothes I didn’t love was a real lesson in not making rash, un-thought-out purchases. There were lot of things bought on sale because they were a good deal or in a rush because I was desperate for an event or change of size. They didn’t bring me joy. (A quality Marie Kondo talks a lot about in her wonderful book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.) Taking my time means I need a lot less things – and having a smaller wardrobe means it is much easier to see what will coordinate with what I have. It has dramatically shifted my shopping and making habits for the better.

Resources/links

Slow Fashion October: Week One

Helen —  October 5, 2015 — 2 Comments

As I’ve mentioned on the podcast a few times, I’ve been really excited about Slow Fashion October, a movement that Karen from Fringe Association is hosting this month. I’ve already been thinking a lot about the subject of slow and handmade fashion throughout the Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge. Karen’s invitation has led me to dive a little deeper into my own journey on this path. I’ve decided to blog my way through Slow Fashion October with a series of weekly blog posts in response to Karen’s prompts. I’ve been really enjoying the chats on these subjects on the Curious Handmade Ravelry group, and I hope the added richness of Slow Fashion October will spark even more wonderful conversations.

Here’s Karen’s prompt:

“Slow Fashion is a big subject, and I want every week to be inclusive of everyone who might be interested — from sewers and knitters to thrifters and menders and anyone just trying to be more mindful and informed about where their clothes are coming from and what environmental impact their buying habits have. So I’ve broken the month down into weekly themes that encompass everyone, hopefully—

Week 1,  October 1-4: YOU
First let’s introduce ourselves: Where are you at with all this / What first got you interested in Slow Fashion / What are your skills / What do you hope to get out of Slow Fashion October / What are your personal goals for the month / Do you have a special project you plan to tackle this month?”

It all started out wanting to live with less about 7 years ago. It was something that started in a very small gradual way and there have been several different influences and reasons for making changes.

A few years ago I started to get disturbed by my increase in consumption — partly prompted by the birth of my children — each affected me in quite different ways.

When I had my first child I foolishly spent a LOT of my precious maternity leave (and pay) shopping both in shops but mostly online, with one hand while feeding/patting/held captive with a sleeping baby on me, too scared to move. I thought I could solve every child rearing problem (that wasn’t a problem at all, in retrospect) with a gadget or soothing device. We survived the first couple of years of parenthood and my rate of shopping eventually slowed down a bit.

When I had my second I had started to think a lot more about environmental issues (something about having kids often prompts this awareness and it certainly was true for me). So by the time Lexie arrived I had a very different mindset

I had kept most of my baby clothes and stuff in the hope of having a second child – but before she was born I actually started selling and giving a lot of the extra things away. I knew that I didn’t need or want a lot of the extra stuff and that it actually just got in the way and slowed things down a lot of the time.

Then I returned to work but found I really didn’t enjoy my job any more. I started thinking that if I didn’t need to buy so much “stuff” then perhaps I didn’t need to earn as much.

I was very influenced by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits as well as other blogs on minimalism. I remember sitting at my desk reading them and starting to change my thinking and increase my awareness of my own behaviour. I started noticing that a boring or upsetting day at work meant a treat: ie shopping.

My best friend also passed away after losing a 4 year fight with cancer around this time so I had been investigating lots of topics around being healthier and less stressed. It seemed to make even less sense to be working in a job I didn’t enjoy to pay for childcare and a bunch of disposable clothes and stuff I didn’t really need.

Now I’m interested in dramatically reducing my and my family’s consumption generally but especially of plastic items.

I am still a long way from where I would like to be in this regard. I find it very difficult to avoid buying plastic and I still enjoy shopping and buying clothes. But I’m happy that I’ve also come a long way and have a lot less in my wardrobe and hope to make more of my clothes myself. I have all the skills I need to sew, knit and make things. For me the bigger challenges are finding time and not just quickly buying things for convenience sake. Also a challenge that we all face is sourcing the sustainably produced materials such as yarn and fabric.

I have sewn my own clothes since I was 7 and was taught by my mother, but stopped sewing when I was in my 20’s. I’ve been knitting and designing for a few years now but haven’t made many garments (yet!).

I will think about whether I can add another special Slow Fashion project to my making list this month but I think realistically, and to keep things nice and slow, I will stick with my Curious Handmade Wardrobe challenges of sewing the Dress Shirt by Merchant and Mills and knitting the Times Square vest by Norah Gaughan.

An Interview With Emily Quinton

I have a bit of a special treat for you today. In tomorrow’s podcast I’ll be reviewing the book Maker Spaces, by Emily Quinton. Emily is the very talented photographer who runs Makelight Studios here in London (that’s one of her gorgeous photos above) and I’ve been lucky enough to attend one of her workshops, where she teaches photography to anyone who wants to learn to make beautiful images, using whatever camera or smartphone they already have.

Emily recently brought out her first book, which is focused on the studios and creative spaces of makers. As soon as I got my hands on it I knew I wanted to hear more about how it came into being, and Emily graciously agreed to talk to me about creating Maker Spaces, and the inspiration she found in the process. I’ve put my questions into italics to make it easy to follow along.

Emily Quinton Makelight Studios

Makelight Studios, from Maker Spaces
Photo credit: Emily Quinton

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Since becoming a mother 8 years ago I have paid a lot more attention to creativity at home. I have always made things and so has my husband, so when we came parents we wanted to share our love of making and creativity with our children, and create a home environment that could enable them to enjoy art as much as possible. Becoming a mother also made me realise just how much I am affected by the space around me. I have had to put a lot of work into not getting too upset by all the chaos of my four children every single day.

I was really intrigued to find out whether other creatives were so emotionally connected to their spaces. In addition to this I am fascinated by the modern maker movement and the combination of a return to traditional crafts alongside modern techniques like 3D printing and laser cutting.

How did you choose the makers to feature in the book?

This was the hardest task throughout the whole process. There are so many amazing makers out there and there were so many that I wanted to feature. I found most of them through social media, blogs and my online network. They all had to make amazing things and have wonderful homes and studios. They couldn’t be too similar to any of the others in my list and needed to live and work in one of the places on my locations list.

Did you do all the photography for the book?

Sadly not. My publishers decided I couldn’t write and photograph the book by myself. I will argue otherwise for future books!

What inspiration did you take from the makers you featured?

They all inspired me with their incredibly attention to detail in their spaces and their understanding of the importance of letting a space grow, develop and change as you and your work do. All the spaces had a great feeling of flow and positive energy.

Kimberly Austin Maker Spaces

Kimberly Austin’s studio, from Maker Spaces
Photo credit: Emily Quinton

Did visiting these amazing makers’ spacers make you want to set up your own Makelight studio?

Definitely! My studio has been a dream for a couple of years now and seeing other makers’ spaces really encouraged me to make it happen. It also made me determined to create a space that other makers can come to help them with their own work.

Any tips to share for setting up a really inspiring maker space that you’ve picked up from doing this project?

Create the space you want and need for your work. Create a space from your heart and not just from a Pinterest board! Make a space that is beautiful and reflects your work. Create a space that feels like an extension of your work and consciously realise how closely connected the two things are.

How long did it take for you to write and photograph the book?

The whole process from signing the contract to delivering the final manuscript was 7 months.

What is next for you? Any more book ideas in the pipeline?

I have a few more book ideas, which I hope to start exploring next year but for the rest of 2015 I am focusing on the Makelight Studio and to my online photography courses.

 

Teresa Robinson's Studio, from Maker Spaces

Teresa Robinson’s Studio, from Maker Spaces
Photo credit: Emily Quinton

I’d like to thank Emily so much for coming on the blog and sharing her journey to Maker Spaces with us.

Be sure to tune in for tomorrow’s podcasts for more about the book and info about how you can win a copy for yourself!

As we continue to go deeper into the theme of creativity this month, I’ve made a point of celebrating the yarns I’ve been working with on my recent projects. Whether we’re talking about a painter and their paints, a sculptor and their clay, a sewist and their fabric, or a knitter with their wool, the role that materials play in any creative person’s work is hard to overstate. The nature of your material, its qualities, character, and even personality can absolutely transform the way you create. Materials can provide the first seeds of inspiration for your work, and they can surprise you, delight you, and even take you to new heights of craftsmanship and originality. I’ve certainly found this to be the case with the wonderful yarns I used for all of my Whispering Island shawl samples.  Knowing the story behind the yarn has added so much to my creative process. I’m excited to share this post by Sonja from Blacker Yarns on how the wool that goes through their mill is farmed, sourced, and spun into some of the finest yarn available today. Enjoy!

– Helen 

Woven Shetland throws in a wonderful array of natural shades

Blacker Yarns is quite a special yarn company because it is one of the only British yarn companies to come with its very own mill attached – The Natural Fibre Company.  NFC not only process Blacker Yarns, they also work with farmers and small business owners to create unique and special yarn, spinning fibre and woolly delights.  Our mill has a small minimum quantity, which is ideal for farmers like Ben Hole of Hole & Sons who are looking to do something more with their fibre.  I know Ben was keen to emphasise the wonderful story behind his yarn and we were happy to help him.

Shetland Sheep 2

At Blacker Yarns, we have a very strong relationship with our suppliers. We try to find the best quality fibre available.  We support British farming by paying fair prices for the best fleece and building long term relationships with these suppliers.  We care about what we do – by using traditional low impact methods to produce our yarns, we are able to do our bit for the environment, rare breed preservation and sustain our local communities.

I am so thrilled by the growing awareness of buying local. We’re entering such an exciting phase in the fibre industry.  Increasingly knitters are starting to ask questions about the stories behind their yarn. This awareness is perfect for us!  We love inviting people to visit the mill (see the website for this year’s dates) and inviting them to explore our production process.  As a knitter myself, I think that sense of connection with real animals – and the people who raise them – can do so much to enrich one’s crafting experience.

Some of the yarn we produce, like our Blacker Swan Merino, is farm assured which means the fibre comes from one particular farm.  Other yarns, like the Shetland used for Helen’s gorgeous shawl, come from a number of small farms up and down the UK.  We record where the fibre for each individual batch comes from, so we are often able to let people know the source of their fibre if they email us directly.  This is something rather unique and only possible when buying direct from farmers. Currently most of our Shetland yarn comes from farms in Wiltshire and Somerset.Shetland Sheep

Shetland fleece is matt and one of the finest of all British breed wools.  These hardy little sheep date back to the 8th century and the Viking conquest. Their fleeces come in a vast array of natural shades the names of which can be found in Norsk nomenclature.  These magical words like ‘Katmogit’, ‘Moorit’ and ‘Gulmogit’ are all centuries old and filled with a wonderful romance.

Shetland DK shades

The north of Scotland has always had a difficult climate and the people living there would have needed warm garments to protect themselves.  So it is likely that Shetland sheep have always been bred with a mind to the quality of their fibre.  From the 17th century onwards, Shetland islanders’ have created high quality knitted goods for export across Europe and the world. For this reason the breed has a few distinctive qualities. Shetland sheep come in a vast array of natural shades from white, through to fawn, chocolate brown and black.  These shades can be blended or dyed and then used to knit those distinctive Fair-Isle patterns we all know and love. The fibre also works wonderfully for lace work, creating a light and airy fabric which holds its block wonderfully. Shetland yarn will felt well and is highly resistant to the tendency that some softer fibres have to pill.

Our Shetland yarn is available in both 4-ply and DK. We select the finest fleeces we can find, so this breed is a wonderful place to start if you’re thinking of delving into breed specific yarns. We offer a wide variety of natural shades which are complemented by a few dyed shades in the 4-ply only.

Both weights retail at £5.70 a ball, but are currently on sale for £5.20 a ball until 22nd June.

Thank you to Sonja from Blacker Yarns for this guest post.

Have you ever wished someone could guide you through the process of creating a successful blog and show you step by step, exactly how to grow a loyal following, generate an income, and transform your passion into a business?

Last year I decided to take a chance and enroll in the first-ever Elite Blog Academy course. I wasn’t sure I would learn anything new, but I was willing to take the chance. The course was recommended by one of my blogging heroes Darren Rowse of ProBlogger and if he said it would be good then I knew it would be.

I am so glad I did!  In the time since I started Elite Blog Academy, I have really got to grips with my content schedule, using Pinterest effectively for my business and have a brilliant community of bloggers to ask questions and collaborate with. And the best thing is I’m enjoying blogging so much more! I have been blogging regularly since 2004 and yet it is only since doing this course that I have had the tools to really grow and start to monetize my blog (you can see my neurotic first ever blog post here on my travel blog London Singapore Frankfurt. cringe!!).

Through a powerful combination of effective videos, practical and insightful handouts, purposeful assignments, and interactive live webinars, Elite Blog Academy will empower, enable, and inspire you to take you blog to the next level, whether you’ve just started or have been blogging for years.

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12 Comprehensive Unit Videos
12 Detailed Unit Workbooks with Video Outlines
16 Powerful Handouts
30 Purposeful Assignments
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This totally comprehensive, life-changing course promises to produce measurable results, and comes with a 100% money-back guarantee, which means you’ve literally got nothing to lose.   Enrollment for Elite Blog Academy is extremely limited, and closes today. If you are ready to finally take your blog to the next level, sign up now to secure your spot!

This course requires you to work hard and is not designed for the faint of heart (a bit like putting your best writing and creativity out there on a blog really!). That said, for those who are willing to do the work, it also comes with a 100% money-back guarantee.

Anyone who completes the course and has not seen measurable results in both traffic and income growth will get their money back, no questions asked. That’s a pretty incredible promise, but it means that you’ve literally got nothing to lose.

If you are ready to finally take your blog to the next level, sign up now to secure your spot here.

Don’t forget to use the coupon code LASTDAY – it’ll save you $50 at check out. At 11:59pm EST TONIGHT – 21 April, the EBA doors will close until 2016.

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