Saturday, 28 February 2015

Pattern of The Weeeeeeeeeeeeek - Viking Hat.

This is less a pattern and more a way of life. The viking way. The only way I know how. haha.

In all seriousness, there isn't actually a pattern. There are a number of patterns, some requests and requirements, a bit of imagination and a fair bit of reworking. But I needed to focus on this because it took my life in its grubby little mitts for two whole days and I am thrilled. I wish it wasn't a commission, I wish it was mine. But alas and alack, it's gone, never to return.

So, starting from the beginning. Weeks ago I got an e-mail from a guy called Nick requesting a viking hat for his skiing holiday with his mates. Maybe the mates would want one each too but maybe not. I warned him that it probably wouldn't be as cheap as he was expecting. He was okay with that so I started asking him for photos. All of his photos, apart from one, were crochet so I knew he liked the look of that (even if he called it knitted...). I told him that I wouldn't be able to follow a pattern exactly that if he found me a few photos I'd be able to cobble something together. There are lots of ideas on rav... 

Making stuff to sell from patterns is a grey area. I actually read a publication from the Intellectual Property Office of the UK government not that long ago about this very issue (actually knitting, crochet and sewing patterns that is rather than design plans or whatever...). But I've forgotten everything that they said and I can't seem to get back to it! I was reading it at the pub just before I went to salsa dancing and that takes every bit of brain power that I have... So, I revert to my original position - a thought out one that I've pondered and agonised over. I choose not to make stuff to sell from patterns (unless I've bought the pattern with the express permission of the designer to make it to sell). What I will do is read a number of patterns - free or paid - take what I like and use my knowledge and skill to make it without looking at that pattern. So, the horns:

The shape that he liked came from a sewn pattern:

Which a quick google search shows me comes from EinavIzack which you can get to by clicking here

He liked the shape of the horns and and size of them. I was worried that they'd be too big to stand on their own and that the shape would make them fall over their own weight and nobody likes a floppy horn ey..... (snarf). 

This was the closet I could find in a crochet pattern:

Which is a free pattern that you can find on rav here

Now, I liked this but I thought they were too little and too pointy out to the side-y. So I had a good old root through the pattern, then deleted it and tried on my own. What I liked about this pattern but completely forgot about what that it was grey at the base, I knew my hat was going to be grey on the main part, Cygnet Grousemoor Chunky in Grey to be precise, and it just seemed right that there would a casing for the horn to go in. But I forgot that the first time I started making it and just went about making a horn. I did a circular base, then started up the sides, increasing a little, and then vaguely decreasing with some short row shaping to make them bendy. It wasn't right. But as soon as I looked back at the pattern I was like ahhhhhhhhh - it's the grey bits! As soon as I did those it all went as it should. Lovely.

Anyway, I used different wool and a different hook from the patterns in the hope the would be a bit bigger, but I never actually measured them to check... I'm not sure that you can tell but because I never wrote down my 'pattern' (I just thought I would remember the chain amounts/rows because they made sense the first time...) the two horns are actually slightly different sizes.

Haha. How are you going to tell when there's only one horn on the bloody picture?!!? I really wish I'd been here when he collected it to take a photo of the final thing in position.

Anyway, once the horns were done it was time to do the hat. He had no opinions on what it should look like so I did my own thing. I liked the look of the braid-y bits coming down the centre of the hat. So I started with my standard 12trs at the top and did and inc then two fptr all the way around. On the next round I did a fptr into the fptrs and an inc into every other stitch. After that I did an inc at either side of the fptr and fptr into the fptr. Until I got to about the width that I wanted where I started just trebling into the trebles and fptring in the fptr until it was the length that I wanted. If I'd have really thought about it I'd have put a bit more effort into not allowing the twisty effect that you get in crochet. If you know what I mean? I didn't think about it though.

 When I got to the band at the bottom, I decided, for some reason that it should be worked horizontally around the bottom of the hat rather than just carried on in the normal way. So I chained some, worked trs back over the chain and sl-std to join to the bottom of the work a few stitches along, then chained some, sl-sts to the bottom of the work a few stitches along and trebled back over the trebles that I'd worked in the chain. I carried on back and forth like that all the way around putting a bobble in every now and again. It looked shit. So I ripped it all out and did bobbles on a background of dcs going around the right way like I should have done at the beginning with a little bit of bptr to create a ridge before I started. What a tit.

Now, the beard. In my head I was going to crochet a whole beard and then fringe the whole beard. Good thing I checked with this pattern.

Which gave a pattern for the beard. It looks something like this:

 Only not like this because she gives very precise instructions, including gauge, about how many chains and different stitches including htrs, trs and dcs. So basically, I took the rough shape, chained as much as I needed to and made it up with a little hole in the middle. I'd say I made it too wide which was a bit frustrating because the next bit was time consuming... The fringing:

I didn't even bother reading the instructions for this. I cut lengths that ended up being like 28" long of Seriously Chunky in Russet and Cygnet Aran in Mustard, I used a hook to thread one strand of the former and two of the latter around the sticky bit of whichever stitch I was using and then I knotted them together roughly in half. Now I'm trying to describe how I fringed them and I just can't do it without some of my beautiful artwork: 

I did the bottom bit first, the red line, all across from right to left. I did the blue bit next, just in the aran from right to left, split them in half and french plaited them out towards different sides. Then I did the green but by this time I was running out of the Seriously Chunky so I worked from both sides in so that I could use just the Aran if I needed to... I didn't need to... And finally, I french plaited the moustache-y bit. I then used some black that was hanging around to crochet ties to put around the knot in all of the plaits - just a few chains and some dcs. 

I sewed the horns on next, carefully. The vertical braid-y bits helped here to make sure they were on straight and then I sewed the beard in position using the horns as markers. The beard was really too wide which meant that I had to sew some of the beard coming from the inside of the hat. But by the time I was putting it together it was nearly home time on Saturday and I just thought 'bugger it'. Then...

IT WAS DONE! This is when I tried it on and took the photos above.

I then tried to take photos of the thing without it being on me but it was so bloody huge is was impossible. One of the reasons I'm so pleased to have seen the pattern for the beard was that there was so much wool in that beard that if I'd have done a full beard and tassled it there would have been SO MUCH BEARD! Too much beard even for me. Anyway: here are a few shots of what that photoshoot (in the loosest sense of the word as you'll see...) produced:

So, I hope that whilst this isn't a pattern of the week as such, you can see that you can take many brilliant patterns and cobble together whatever you want. If you're making this for you or a loved one than go ahead and follow the pattern, it just makes me feel uncomfortable that I would be making money out of somebody else's pattern writing skills. I'm pleased with the decisions that I made - in terms of making up the hat so it suited what I wanted, reading the horn pattern so I thought about the grey bits and finding the beard bit so that I did the beard in a completely different way. You could totes do this too! 

Love Eleanor. xxxxxxx

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Yarndale 2015!

If you don't need persuading then click here to book! You're a good'un. If you do need persuading, read further...

I can't believe we're actually on this already. How quickly time flies. I suppose I can think of Yarndale as like the beginning of the summer season, when it goes on sale, and then the beginning of the winter season, when we actually get there. This is the third year that it's been on and the third year that we're organising a coach trip so we really feel like we're part of the original crew. You can read about our first trip by clicking here and our second trip by clicking here. This year we have significantly more seats on the bus - 63 (or maybe 65) as opposed to 49 for the first year and 53 for last year so I'm at the awful stage where we haven't filled it yet and I panic that we never will but we had a waiting list of 10 last year so I'm crossing my fingers!

Anyway, what is Yarndale? Well, it's a 'festival of creativity' according to Lucy of Attic24 who's one of the organisers. Basically it's a big old fibre and yarn festival in Skipton Auction Mart. That means that there are stalls where people sell yarn and fibre of every type you could imagine and some that you can't! Because it takes place in an auction mart it has a feeling of authenticity - this is where sheep get bought and sold and then we completely the cycle by buying the fleece and yarn in the same place.

That's the outside of it at the back where we get to go in because we're special.

It isn't just wool and yarn though, because it's a festival of creativity not just knitting, crochet and spinning. There are weavers and felters and designers and magazines and books and Tudors (...amazing...). Around every corner is something unique and amazing to see that you just can't get a hold of in Nottingham and the surrounding areas (at least not all in one place). 

 One of the biggest positives to the whole day are the animals. Unhappily, I'm allergic to alpaca (actually, I say unhappily, I'm not fussed - plenty more amazing fibres out there). BUT THERE ARE ALPACAS!

It's not just random though. These alpacas belong to a company who sell alpaca yarn and fibre (I forget which...sorry) so not only can you see them and pet them (if they're in the right mood) you can also buy their yarn. How amazing is that!? ...if you like alpaca that is...

Because it's a festival of creativity, rather than just a bog standard yarn show, there's also a public art element to it. Kinda. The first year they asked everybody to make bunting: 


And then they reused it last year too!

It is stunning and it's all over the bloody place! Last year they wanted us to make mandalas which is apparently the new big thing in crochet and knitting (or it was then anyway). They were all up on the bridge and they did look super beautiful. 


This year I can't see anything requesting items to be made. Possibly because some silly farts got their knickers in a twist about whether it's okay for somebody like Lucy to make a profit rather than just existing in a world where three kids and a husband live without paying for rent or food or electricity. Anyway, shut up Eleanor. Lots of people requested that their bits be sent back which must have cost Yarndale (or Lucy, I bloody hope not) a lot of money. Some people really do spoil it for the rest of us don't they?

So, that's the buying and art side of it. The other amazing thing, and to be honest what I go there for, is spending time with like minded people. The buzz in that place is incredible. It's so busy and vital and at times frantic. People who understand what we're about. I must admit the first year wasn't well organised in terms of food and toilets but last year was so much better and I expect this year will be the same again. Helped by the fact that you can buy tickets in advance so I suppose they know a little more about who and how many will be turning up. Because we buy the tickets for you in advance, we get to go in the back way which means that we miss most of the queuing. Last year they did a special 'coach trip sticker' which I gave out on the day and that was what got us in which meant that I could slink off and have a fag after the stress of getting you all there (with that angry man driving...).

And apart from ALL of this! You get to spend time on a bus getting to know me and your fellow Knit Nottinghamers. I do try and make a community out of you guys - the birthday parties, the Love Your Local Yarn Shop Days, the blog and the Facebook group are all ways I know of getting you together and showing off all the amazing things that are going on around you in your city but there really is no substitute for sitting on a bus with 60 odd of you chatting and sharing cakes and enjoying our lives together. Ahhhhhh.

Right, that's it. It's now 5 o'clock and I've got to get other work done. Massively busy day and lots of chats means that this blog has taken forever to do. If you want to book on to the coach then click here. You will be one of a select group of bloody brilliant people supporting not only this lovely award winning local business but also a load of other tiny independents and Lucy (and her colleagues) who have rent to pay.

Love Eleanor. xxxxx

P.s. I meant to explain the price rise. The first year the tickets were £5 and we charged £24.00 for the coach. The next year we put the price up to £25.00 but that was before Yarndale announced that the tickets had gone up to £8.00 so we took the hit. This year the tickets are £8.00 plus a booking fee so we're swallowing the cost of the booking fee but not the cost of the tickets. I know most of you don't need me to explain that I'm not diddling you but I like to give you all the facts.

Love (again) Eleanor. xxx

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Eleanor's Pattern of the Weeeeeeeeeeeeek - Granny Stripe

It's been playing on my mind that the first three patterns from the Pattern of the Week series have been knitted. Now, that reflects where I am at the moment. If you remember last summer (and for a long while before that to be fair) I was on a big crochet binge. Well, right now I'm all about the knitting. I'm not apologising for that really. I get asked all the time whether I prefer knitting or crochet and I have to say it's equal but at different times and for different things. Sometimes I need a quick fix of something and that's when I definitely go to crochet but not every time - what about the Unapologetic Hat? I find I enjoy designing in crochet more as it's more malleable, moveable, organic but I enjoy the neat lines and simplicity of knitting too, as in Sailing Pi. Anyway, I don't have to explain this to the bicraftuals out there but what I do have to do, as a yarn shop owner with a conscience, is make sure that my crocheters are catered to. And for the inaugural crochet pattern featured in Pattern of the Week, I'm going back to my roots. Kinda.

The Attic24 Granny Stripe.

 I chose this as I was scanning the shop for a pattern to talk about because everything I came upon, the pattern was out of stock. I want you to be able to get to the pattern the minute that you're inspired to do it rather than waiting for me to get it in. So I do have lots of exciting crochet patterns to talk about but I've got a list of them that I need to get in first. This one is hidden in the corner near the needles quietly showing off the Flash DK which, along with the Pricewise DK, is pretty much my favourite kiddies yarn in the shop.

I crocheted the blanket for the birthday party in 2013 when we first introduced the yarn. I chose it for its simplicity. Often in crochet, certainly those that learn with me, we start with the granny square. I choose this for number reasons. First, it is synonymous with crochet. You look at a granny square and think 'crochet' (or at least I do and I'm in charge...). Secondly, it only uses three stitches; chain, slip stitch and treble. Thirdly, at the same time the concept of a pattern repeat is introduced and the idea that you have to think for yourself - the pattern repeat is the corner formation and the thinking for yourself is the how many shells until you get there. Fourthly, shells. I'd not planned to include that but actually in crochet you end up working more than one stitch into a stitch much more than you do in knitting. And finally, but the most important for me, and the reason that I chose granny stripe, you work into the hoooooooooooles. As opposed to working into stitches. Not only is it easier because the holes are always bigger than stitches but it's bloody hard when you're getting to grips with stitches and pattern repeats and shells and tensioning yarn and everything else you've got to do to start identifying stitches correctly. Is it the front leg? Back leg? Both legs? What about the weird horizontal bit? Does that make part of the stitch? Ahhhh. I remember it well. It's all about the holes. And that's why I'm focussing on the granny stripe - because once you've mastered the granny square where do you go from there? Well the stripe is the perfect place to go - the idea of edges and turning chains and creating a space where there wasn't one before is perfectly explained in this lovely little pattern. 

It's also the pattern where I realised that I could crochet without looking. Before that I was always hunched over waiting for the corner and all that jazz to get started again and then I was recovering from the corner and before I knew it I was at the corner or the start of the round again. Whereas this one, once set up, is just one big whoooooooooooosh! Rather exhilarating really.
As always, I love the way that Lucy writes her patterns. I was having a good old natter with a customer t'other day about Lucy and how the blog seems to have become a bit of an advert for Stylecraft yarns which is a shame. It's certainly put me off a little because there's so much more out there to use. However, I still love her enthusiasm for the craft and that despite her sharp business brain (who knew that was lurking behind the dawdles in the park???) she's still committed to sharing her love and knowledge whilst at the same time financially supporting herself and her family. It feels like she's struck a good balance between making money and being a friendly internet blogger. I've got my fingers crossed that it remains such a beautiful balance!

Anyway, the pattern is written in real language, and it's really two rows long once you've got past the initial set up. I actually ignored her first row, which are dcs all across, because.... My top tip for the week was gleaned from another Attic24 post (but I can't remember which). When you're initially making your chain, especially if it's a big one say for a double bed, just go ahead and chain what you feel is right plus about 20/30 more (maybe even more if you're really doing a big one, just in case), then start working back doing the first row (well, the second one here seeing as we've ignored the first). As you go keep comparing the work to the size that you want and then when it matched up with your vision, stop and turn. The extra chains can be carefully taken out later (or chopped closer and carefully taken out) and the end sewn in like normal. Does that make sense?

Ahhhh. What a top tip and what a top pattern.

Now, I've got a treat next week. It's one of two patterns so it might be crochet and it might not be. But neither of them are finished projects and I need them to be to feature I think. Better get going!

Love Eleanor. xxxxxx

Friday, 20 February 2015


[I started writing this on Tuesday but got caught up in something so at some point the tense changes because I've been chopping and changing bits... stick with it...]


Today has been a good day.

I do have a feeling of impending doom.

But I'm going to ignore that and carry on anyway.

I'm also going to stop starting new paragraphs with each sentence. Why on earth would I do that? Anyway, let's start from the beginning.

Firstly, I got in very early (well.... half an hour early...) to have the DOOR FIXED! You know that horrific scraping noise? Well, that started the very first day that we moved in and has been vaguely being fixed by the landlord ever since but it'd just be right back to the beginning after a couple of weeks. For one reason or another, and I've no idea what any of those reasons might be... genuinely... they decided not to fix it at all couple of months ago. They wanted me to replace it. Ha. Have you ever googled how expensive aluminium doors are? I wouldn't bother. It'll only make you sick. Then they said they'd pay half of it. Ha. have you ever googled how expensive half an aluminium door is? I wouldn't bother. It'll only make you sick and angry. So I'd kind of given up until the thought suddenly struck me that one of my lovely customers, Kate's, partner was a handyman. Somehow I remembered his name was JJ and managed to find him on a google search. Here he is!  So I rang him and left a message. He rang back and left a message. Then I rang back. And... lots of messing around, we agreed that he'd come to have a look one day when the weather was a bit better just in case he had to take the whole door off. Whilst we were arranging things, you see, it was that spell of snowy weather, not good if the door's open all day then is it? He popped round a couple of weeks ago, had a look, arranged a price and a date. Turns out it was three days after Valentine's day - Tuesday the 17th - so I called it a little romantic gift to myself. I was pleased but it meant that I had to wait a few weeks with the horrendous noise.

So, I got in early this morning, he was there ON TIME (that's a handyman... on time everybody...) ready with his bastard files. Yes, I said bastard files. WHO KNEW THAT WAS A THING?!?!?!

There's also a nice little story that goes along with this - something about them being 50 years old, or maybe more - but I couldn't concentrate because I was getting coffee, then serving customers, and dealing with the noise in my little ear because... 

In the meantime, I'd been to the doctors for something and had her look in my ear because it didn't seem right. She told me it was infected so I had to start using my antibiotics again which I dutifully did. Only, once all the.... whatever it was... was cleared, every time I put the drugs in I could feel them swishing around until 'clunk' they went through what felt like a hole and then pain. So I managed to get an emergency appointment for Tuesday afternoon and two nurses and a doctor 'didn't know what [they were] looking at'.... Haha. IT'S MY EAR FOLKS, NOT MY FOOT, MY EAR. But what they meant was, they didn't know whether they were looking at my scarred eardrum or right through a hole in my eardrum through to my... brains??? Anatomy lessons at Knit Nottingham folks. Anyway, the doctor is getting in touch with the surgeon but it's nigh on impossible to get a hold of my surgeon because she's bloody brill and dead nice and a good surgeon. I'm just a bit worried that I've MRSA'd a big hole in my eardrum and I'm deffo not doing the operation again which means no swimming ever because even those gummy earplugs don't seem to work for my strange and deformed and tiny ears. #firstworldproblems

So, back to JJ. He hammered and filed and screwed and swang on my door (and told a load of tales of corporate hellishness) :

And I now have a ferrari of a door. Seriously, not only does it not make the horrendous noise, it feels like a door should. I never knew that there was a way for a door to feel, or that my door felt like it was hanging off its hinges but there is and it does! AND NOW MY DOOR FEELS LIKE IT SHOULD! Come and try it if you don't believe me. I am mega pleased with JJ and you will be too if you're a regular and no longer have to put up with that noise. So, if you need any jobs doing, deffo get in contact. Not only is he great and reasonably priced but his partner's a knitter so money that you're giving to him will eventually come back to me and I can get you more brill wool. Yeah? Click here. Or here.
So, two good things happened that day, if you can call finding out about my earhole is a good thing... I suppose it's important to know if you have extra orifices in your head. AND THEN I DID AN EXTRA SPECIAL GOOD THING! I went and put Yarndale on t'internet! Now, usually, I do a load of blogs in the run up to this but somehow I've been struggling to find the time to do blogs (I'm planning on getting at least a couple written today to tide me over until the proper spring when I have a leeeeeettle more time). So massive apologies to anybody that finds out about these things through the blog rather than the Facebook and Twitter pages. Now we're just about half way booked now but because I've upped the coach size to 63 (or perhaps 65 but I can't remember so I'm erring on the side of caution) you still have a little time left. It's quite stressful to me to turn people away though so if you want to get on then you've got to book asap. Happily, and I didn't realise this because I'm not very good at normal pay days, we're in the run up to the raft of paydays aren't we? So, hopefully it should hit you at a good time. Wahey! Anyway, I'm doing a whole blog about this perhaps tomorrow or Sunday so in the meantime, if you know you want to, then click here to book and if you're waiting to find out why you should then come back to us for the next blog.

I think there was another brill thing that happened on Tuesday too but I can't remember it! Too bloody busy and I'm not complaining.

In the meantime, have a butchers at this:

It'll be the subject of one of them there blogs I'm going to write today... Maybe...

Love Eleanor. xxxx

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Eleanor's Pattern of the Weeeeeeeeeeeek - 4157

This one's a good one!

This one's a really good one!

And it's for experienced knitters only. But I encourage the less experienced amongst us to read on as an introduction to some of the issues that you'll face in the future. Firstly, a photo of what we're up against - King Cole 4157:

Looks innocuous doesn't it? Innocent even. Don't feel fooled - this is fiendish! And I LOVE IT! I'm knitting it in the beautiful Violet Cottonsoft and it is actually to die for.

So, I've made it more fiendish for myself by starting with one of the fronts rather than the back. This pattern is definitely written to have the back made first. It sets you up so that you can really understand the pattern before you have to do any shaping. Whereas starting with the front, I barely got to grips with the pattern which was more difficult anyway because they don't spell it out for you, they set you up with four rows and then you're supposed to know what you're doing because you've already done a back, and then you get into the (very gentle) shaping for the neck. I've done it now but it took some ripping back I'll tell you that for free! And here it is!

Let's have a look at a closeup.

Can you see how it's an elongated version of the pattern I was talking about a couple of weeks ago?

 I've made you a whole 'nother beautiful piece of art to show this:

Let's put them side by side to discuss:

So, those 'lozenges' on the left side, are really just elongated diamonds. You get them to the width that they need to be, knit them like that for a few rows and then decrease them when you want - whereas with the diamonds you increase them and then as soon as they hit required width you start decreasing. Also, the diamonds, you completely decrease so that you have no stitches left of the diamond until the next pattern row where you make a stitch out of nowhere (with a yarn over) whereas the lozenge you decrease down to one stitch and that stitch stays for the length of time that you knit the next lozenge along straight until you decrease it. If you note on the lozenges there's a square in a lighter colour at the bottom of each lozenge - that's to denote where you do garter stitch (which is usually knit every row but very cleverly in this pattern you actually end up purling it on the right side which means that all messing around is done on the right side and the rest row is, as it should be, plain and simple purls all the way). Lovely. And finally, the last thing to note is that to put the top of the lozenge on a bias, you do a double decrease (3 stitches into 1) in the middle of the lozenge rather than decreasing at each edge of the lozenge like you did with the diamond - that naturally makes the stitches bend towards eachother. Have a closer look - can you see all of this?

Beautiful isn't it? There are points in the pattern that you need to get to know - like for example when the lozenge goes down to one stitch, there are five sets of yarn overs before you do anything else (so ten rows). Once those sets of yarn overs are done then the lozenge on the other side starts decreasing which means that the yarn overs start trailing to the side, thus making the square at the bottom of the next lozenge. THIS ALL BECOMES CLEAR! I promise! But if you'd just start with the back then you'll miss all of the travails I had to go through.

The main issue I had, and I talk about it so often in the shop, is that in lace - generally - each increase (yarn over) is paired with a decrease otherwise the piece just gets bigger and bigger or smaller and smaller. Therefore, when you're shaping, if you end up shaping so that you can't do a yarn over then you have to find the corresponding decrease and not do it! This is made more complicated in this pattern by the fact that the yarn overs and decreases are not together (more often than not in lace you'll find that they're right next to each other but here they can be separated by up to 5 stitches). The other problem, and the one that really got me, is that the decreases and yarn overs denote where the garter stitch and stocking stitch start and finish and if I'm getting rid of the demarcation then WHEN THE BLOODY HELL TO I STOP THE GARTER STITCH?!!?! Again, all sorted, I think if you do the back before the sides. You get to know the pattern inside out this way. Please people, for my sake, learn from my mistakes.

Having said ALL of this, it is a real breath of fresh air to be properly challenged by a printed pattern. King Cole, and other yarn companies, do have to make patterns that appeal to the masses and most of the masses aren't interested in ripping their hair out with patterns. But every so often they'll dip their to into something more difficult, I guess to see how it goes down and I want us to be ready to say to King Cole YES! THROW ME WHAT YOU GOT! I AM A KNITTER! I CAN DO ANYTHING! Yeah? Appreciate them doing something different, support them doing something different and who knows? If we keep buying these patterns perhaps they'll give us more and we can be better?!?!

So, whilst it has made me want to cry a little bit, I can't recommend this pattern highly enough. It's a challenge, that's for sue, but it's also so beautiful in the end result that I think it's worth the bother. Ahhhhhh.

Love Eleanor. xxxxx

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Guest Blog - Kathryn Priest from Arcadia Physiotherapy

Oooooh, new things all over this blog at the minute - Pattern of the Week (every week) and now an occasional guest blog post. This lady, Kathryn, popped in before Christmas after discovering us because she's just set up her shop down the road. Literally, about two minutes (eight or so shops) closer to town. It's Arcadia Physiotherapy and it looks amazing. She's a lovely friendly woman and she's put up with my disorganisation so I hope you enjoy reading her and if you need her services then give her a call - don't be scared.

Tell us about your business. What do you do? Where do you do it?

I’m a physiotherapist, and graduated from the University of Nottingham last summer. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, as I gave up all my job and security to do it, but it has been totally worth it, as I am now ‘living the dream’ running my own physio clinic! It’s just a few doors down from the Knit Nottingham shop, at 63B Mansfield Road. I do physiotherapy (finding the root of the problem and creating a goal-focussed rehab programme to fix it), acupuncture, taping, and sports and remedial massage. I can’t wait to qualify in Osteopathic techniques (i.e. cracking backs) this summer, and have a special interest in women’s health issues (post natal).

Why did you start?

I set up my own business rather than going into the NHS (as is advised, and expected, of new graduates) because I have a vision of how care should be – nurturing, not rushed, empathetic, timely – and from my existing experience there is simply not the opportunity to do that to the full in the NHS, however hard you try. I am trying my best to ensure I keep to those values in everything I do, and I think ultimately it will set me apart from my competitors.

How are you finding these 'tough economic times'?

Everything is still so new, having opened my doors in September 2014, so I don’t feel hugely affected by the economy, as my books have never yet been chokka block! I don’t want to build an empire, so think I’ll survive on fewer but better quality patients. Plus I think when people are ready in their heart to address long standing issues, they are ready to make the investment, especially if they find the right person to help them.

How long have you been knitting? What do you like to knit? What's the best thing you've made?

I’ve been knitting probably for about ten years now on and off. It tends to be a seasonal thing, with a flurry of activity to make hats for people at Christmas. However, I did knit a poncho in July once, my friends still rib me about it!

I prefer crocheting, as I seem to remember that better and it seems more discreet – I can do it anywhere without fear of spiking someone or needing more room. I was taught by a male friend one evening – we went to Wagamama’s for dinner and he showed me what he’d been making: a bobble hat for his upcoming snowboarding holiday. Everyone loves a bobble, and I just had to learn! I also learnt this winter to do wrist knitting and made an infinity scarf – here’s a photo of my handsome chap modelling it

What's the biggest issue for most people physically speaking? Back? Knees? Hips? Shoulders?

Hmm, I think backs are the biggest issue, in that once you’ve had back pain you are four times more likely to get it again, but I think shoulders have more potential to go wrong in a more complex way. They are fascinating structures, with layers of intertwining muscles, each with their own function and partner in crime. Did you know that the only place the whole shoulder structure is attached to the central skeleton is the collarbone? The rest is held in place by muscles. However, any weakness in any of these will cause overcompensation by others, leading to muscle fatigue, pain and dysfunction. Hunting down the real problem, not just the symptoms is often rather a head-scratch! But worth it to see the changes it can bring.

And what's your best tip for keeping that supple?

To keep the shoulder strong in all planes of movement. Our whole life is in front of us, computers, steering wheels, shopping bags, dinner. I’d encourage people to strengthen their backs and pulling muscles as much as their pushing ones – this would also have the added advantage of improving posture! Yoga, swimming and kettlebells are great for this.

What issues are most likely to affect crafters?

From personal experience and suffering, I’d say that crafters would suffer most from shortened muscles in their hands and upper back and neck ache from bending over. It’s so easy to slump in a chair, head bent over our craft, and then emerge every time a little more stooped than before! This adds up over years, I kid you not, until we are at risk of being the stereotypical hunched granny.

Can you give us some info on posture for crafting?

The best thing to do, especially if you are addicted and will be doing it for hours, is to ensure you are working in a place or seat where your back is properly supported. By this I mean mostly your lower back and pelvis – if your pelvis is in a good position it is much harder to slump! So sit where you normally would, then find the front corners of your hip bones with your fingers. Can you feel yourself sitting on your sitting bones? Or is your pelvis tilted backwards? Try to bring your hip bones so they are vertical to the seat – you’ll then find you are sitting directly on your sitting bones and there’s a natural curve in your lower back, which aligns your upper back better, and so on. Once you’ve found this position, stuff a small cushion into the small of your lower back to support it. If you are in a high backed chair you can also put some behind your upper back so you are sitting upright. You may find this seems rather a formal position, but as it ensures ‘stacking’ of your vertebrae correctly, it is relieving a lot of pressure on your back and neck. We weren’t meant to sit for 8 hours a day, so we should give our back muscles some TLC.

It’s also key to support your hands / arms, because if they are at waist height then the temptation will always be to bend forward to get closer. Rest your hands on a nice big cushion or thick blanket, and enjoy the coziness at the same time as saving your shoulders.

What excercises should we be doing to keep us in tip top condition for crafting? Any thoughts on sore fingers/wrists?
The best thing to do is keep opening up the front of our bodies, to counteract the hunch! Just as you might at a desk job, get up, move around as often as possible, remembering to look up and stretch your neck and shoulders too. Lean back over the back of your chair to arch your back and open up your chest and front, take some deep belly breaths. Twist gently from side to side, feel the stretch in your sides. Raise your arms up for maximum effect! 

Knitting itself is fantastic for dexterity and fine detail endurance, but fingers and hands can also get tired and tight. Like the shoulder, there are far more muscles than you’d expect in the hands, and they all play their part in crafting, so they all need some R&R after a few hours at the needles. If you can get someone to massage your hands that’s fantastic, being firm but gentle and easing out the knots and tight areas with some oil. You can also use a hot water bottle to soothe tired muscles, or stretch out your fingers by standing above a table pressing your open hand onto its flat surface and moving your forearms slowly forward and backwards, and side to side. This should give a nice stretch and open the hands again. Do it for a minute or so for best effect.

Where will we see more of Arcadia Physiotherapy?

I am getting into the habit of doing a blog, which you can read by clicking here. Last week I wrote a poem about a tennis ball, so it’s not all anatomy and exercise! I am currently looking for businesses where I can come and do a free seminar on posture and back pain, so if your workplace would benefit I’d be hugely grateful if you got in touch. I’d also love to come and do free hand massage at a knitting event so I hope to meet you at some point soon!


How lovely! Wasn't that interesting?!?! Especially about the shoulders. I am all about the shoulders since starting yoga - I didn't think they were that bad until I realised how good they could be! We'll keep in contact with Kathryn and you may see her pop up at some events - free hand massages anybody? OH YESSY!

In other news, if you fancy doing a blog post about anything (vaguely knitting/crochet/yarn related) then get in contact. It'd be amazing to have some other voices on here and I know you lot would really like to hear them. As an idea, I've asked somebody who's doing a histoy PhD to maybe talk a little about the Luddites and I'll be asking Vezza to talk about her yarn business. Anything you fancy nattering about? Get it touch in the usual ways.

Love Eleanor.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Eleanor's Pattern of The Weeeeeeek - 3826

For the second installment of the the new pattern of the week series I'm going all the way to the other end of the spectrum - we're talking about a garment pattern for little boys (we'll talk gender neutrality in a mo) - 3862. It's lovely. Look.

It's great isn't it?! I love intarsia. I know that kids love tractors. And I know that you lot love patterns that give you options. We have three options here - stripes (dead easy), knit and purl patterns (getting harder) and intarsia (oooooohwee a tricky little stitch).

I made this for my nephew, Seb, for Christmas. I made him a big yellow tractor because since he could talk that's been his favourite colour but that apparently changed like the week before Christmas - brill. I then had to pick a main colour that Caroline (his mother) would allow him to wear. This is not what she'd put him in at all but the hope was that he'd love it so much he'd demand it. He looks pretty pleased here doesn't he??

Maybe that's the remote control dino though...

I'd have loved to have made it in the Cottonsoft which is what the pattern is made for but the colours weren't right for trying my best to get Cazza to put him in it and at the time they didn't have any kind of yellow (hellooooooooo Buttercup - nice to meet you). So I ended up using the Pricewise DK and to be fair that fitted in with my (non-existent) pre-Christmas budget...

So, in the interests of full disclosure - and of creating even more slatternly knitters like me - instead of using a 3.75mm needle like the pattern suggests, I used a 3.25mm needle. I did this because the 3.25mm was to hand and the 3.75mm would have required getting off my fat arse. Horrific idea I'm sure you'll agree. Generally, we use smaller needles on ribs for three reasons. One: to bring the rib in to make the bottom of a garment or the neckline or whatever wind proof. Two: smaller stitches sag less easily over wear so it should keep that windproof-ness and the rest of the stitches should be kept better in place by that too. Three: stitches in one by one rib tend to look bigger even if they actually aren't so making them smaller to start with means that they visually match the main body better. What I'm not suggesting is slatternlyness when it comes to the main body needle - you'll have to get up to get the right one even if, according to your gauge that isn't actually the 4mm... That's the bit that makes the actual size and it's also it's the needle size that you use for the most part throughout the garment so it's going to be the most important. Suck it up princess.

I bet you thought I was going to go on and on about intarsia didn't you?? Well I'm not! I have another blog post in which I'm going to blather about intarsia and it's going to be good. Until then, I suggest that you just stop worrying about it and get to it - only sticks and string.

But I do want to talk about gender neutrality in knitwear. I've not got an awful lot to say (well, I have, but it's not the time or place...) but essentially, King Cole have billed this as a boy's pattern and I get it, little boys love tractors. But this is such an easy to wear little sweater, and it's going to cover all sorts of stains and marks with the busy front, that it's perfectly acceptable to make for a little girl. It's also the sort of thing that encourages 'other' interests and wouldn't it be great if your knitting were the thing that made a little girl want to be a farmer or and engineer rather than a nurse or a ballerina? You've got to know your audience - it's hardly going to go down well with a girl who will only wear pink and sparkles (or indeed parents who only put their kid in pink and sparkles) but if you can push the boat *cough*tractor*cough* out a bit then I think you're doing your bit.

And that's it. Once more for the google rankings - King Cole 3862. Buy it, knit it, love it.

Love Eleanor.