Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Finishing strong in 2015

The end of the year normally approaches me with something approaching the speed of a bullet train and the solidity of a brick wall. The normal glitter-fuelled near hysteria of kids at the end of term, school pantos, carol services and more. Add that to the usual domestic chores labelled ‘getting ready for Christmas’ and it is easy to see why planning for my design business takes a bit of a back seat.

Last year I made the cardinal sin of committing myself to a big commission with a delivery date of the first week in January – no prizes for guessing what I spent my New Year holiday working on. I didn’t even dare drink too much for fearing of messing up the increases and having to rip it out.

But this year I am determined to be different. If not super organised than at least I aim to approach the end of the year with some business ends tied up and some firm plans in place to start the New Year out on a firm footing… and some calm, fun knitting for myself wouldn’t go amiss either.

I have been following along with Tara Swiger and her Holiday Sanity programme and I have to say that has really helped in terms of focussing my attention on tasks that need doing. Then I saw an amazing Instagram post from @BohoBerry, followed through to her blog and had a complete “Yes!” moment. her original blog post talks about setting goals to end the last quarter of your business or personal life in great shape but I thought it worked just as well as we enter the last few days of the year. Rather than disappear in a frazzle I thought it would be great to come up with 16 things that were achievable for me to do in the last days of 2015.

16 Things: Ready to start 2016

So, this morning I sat down with a strong coffee to make a list. Some of them may be a trifle vague and I admit that I did get a little de-railed towards the end with my sudden intention to Knit Yellow Socks. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing – we all need a little sunshine in our lives

Monday, 14 December 2015

New pattern release: Priory Socks

I am pleased to be able to share a new sock pattern release with you today.

Many of you may have been fans of the online magazine Knotions, back in the day. I know that I certainly was and I was really pleased when I saw that it was being brought back.

I was even more pleased to be able to submit a new sock design to it, and over the moon when it was accepted.

Priory Socks ºLouise Tilbrook Designs

The Priory Sock pattern was inspired by a visit to the wonderful 12th century former monastery - Bolton Abbey in the heart of England’s Yorkshire Dales. They are toe-up and feature an elongated cable design which creates subtle arches reminiscent of the high arched windows – so much a feature of this historic building. Even though it looks impressive the majority of the sock is worked in a rib pattern with infrequent cable crosses.

A different kind of heel - garter stitch is surprisingly comfortable

There is also a garter stitch short row heel which I think fits in really well with the design.

Alongside the Priory socks there are 6 other patterns. There is a great sweater by Elizabeth Helmich (Couting Sheep on Ravelry) and a matching beret. Rachel aka ThornMaiden Designs has a cute beret and matching mitts.Woolly Wormhead has a great hat pattern and as well as producing the magazine Jody aka Savannahchik has also designed some great fingerless mitts.

All the patterns are free to download here and there are some great articles and designer interviews too - well worth a look.

Monday, 7 December 2015

What knitting means to me.

A recent difficult weekend really gave me pause to reflect on this question and made me realise the importance of this craft of ours, in my life. I wrote this piece as a private, cathartic act after the event and in truth it was never intended for publication. 
By happy circumstance though I read of Kate of A Playful Day blog and her Cyber Hug initiative for Monday Dec 7th. Raising awareness of the mental health charity Mind, and recognising that for some people our craft is a very real way of improving their mental health. We use the term 'sanity-saver' quite loosely but for some it is just that. Whilst my own experience is nowhere near is dramatic it does describe a time when knitting came to my aid. 

You can read Kate's introductory post here. And if you would like to join in and share an image of something you have made and how it helped you please use the hashtag #makegoodfeelgood.

Combine a total of 12 hours of motorway driving, a very sick and frail old lady and stressful family politics and by the end of our trip my emotions were raw, my heart in tatters. Trying to keep everything on an even keel for our children, trying to sooth a distraught husband, trying not to succumb to road rage on the A1 when faced with road closures and a 50 mile detour.
By Sunday evening I was a mess. Mentally and physically.

Fortunately my husband realised that my floodgates weren’t going to hold much longer. He put yarn in my hands, a pot of tea on the table and took the children out of the house for an hour.
Holding back tears of frustration, anger and sorrow I picked up the needles and began to knit – very slowly. Not my usual rapid, slick, efficient movements where I slide stitches effortlessly and often without really thinking or looking. But slowly, painstakingly wrapping yarn and forming each stitch as though it were as fragile as I was feeling.
Slowly, my emotional turmoil receded as all my attention focused on yarn and needles. I was dimly aware that my breathing and heart rate were slower and calmer – and that tick in my left eyelid stopped too.
Stitch by slow stitch I literally pulled myself together. The very opposite of unravelling a sweater. The formation of each stitch helped me to order my thoughts and brought me back to myself.
The hour flew by. At the end of it, my shawl was only a few rows longer, but I was in an infinitely better place, mentally, than when I started and I was ready to face the world again.

Because you are fellow crafters the shawl in question was the Urban Hints shawl by The Wool Kitchen using her gradient yarn. It comes highly recommended !

Friday, 4 December 2015

RAK Yourself

It's the old airline adage of 'putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others'. Most of find the time to make a kind comment or gesture to those around us but how often do we extend that same kindness to ourselves. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose inner voice can be a little harsh, a little nasty and sometimes just downright rude.

My inner voice feels free to speak to me in a way that I would never dream of speaking to anyone else. And yet, more often than not I tolerate it. I don't question it.

This serves as a welcome reminder to me that my RAK challenge isn't all about making others feel good, it can be about allowing myself to feel good too.

So, today I am going to tell that pesky inner voice to pipe down and play nice while I sit in my favourite craft corner and play with yarn.

Monday, 30 November 2015

For December... something a little different

Hands up who is feeling a little bit overwhelmed as the festive season approaches?

To-do lists, shopping, groceries, carol services and decorations. It can all seem a bit of a frenzy at this time of year and I don't think I am alone in what I have heard people refer to as Seasonal Overwhelm. It all seems a bit too much, especially as we tend to put pressure on ourselves to have the "perfect" Christmas.

This month, in December I plan to take a little step back from my endless to-do lists and instead focus on small things that could help bring a smile to some other seasonally overwhelmed soul.

I took inspiration from this random acts of kindness calendar which allocates a small task to each day of December in the run up to Christmas. Because I am a Knitter I felt compelled to re-work it a little with more of a craft related emphasis - apart from which - I am British and the notion of approaching random strangers in the street is more than a little disconcerting.

I took some great suggestions too from members of my Ravelry group, as between us, we discussed small ways in which we could brighten someone else's day (and cheerfully procrastinate about not writing our Christmas cards).

So... the rules... well there are none really. The 24 suggestions I have laid out are just that, suggestions. I intend to do one per day and will try to post an Instagram picture or Tweet of my #rakdec15 action. If you would like to join me - as much or as little as you like - that would be fabulous too and if you use the hashtag I'll be sure to track you down.

As it is the season of giving I will have two skeins of yarn from my stash (yet to be determined) which will be given as prizes. If you are a member of my Ravelry group feel free to chat about the RAK challenge over in the thread and after Christmas I will do a random prize draw for 1 skein from among the chatterers. The other skein will go to a random prize draw from anyone on Instagram or Twitter who posts a picture of their random act of kindness and uses the #rakdec15 tag and #louisetilbrookdesigns.

Above all, have fun, relax and be kind to one another this festive season

Thursday, 26 November 2015

5 minutes with...Hollyberry Designs

Today I have 5 minutes with Holly Stevens of Hollyberry Designs aka Biddybelle on Ravelry.

º Designs by Holly Stevens

What is the thing you enjoy most about being a designer?
The creativity and feeling of accomplishment when something I have drawn on paper comes to life! (and the fact that if it doesn’t turn out quite how I expected no one knows except for me…)

Where does your inspiration come from?
Lots of things, alot of the time I will see or think of a stitch pattern I love and think “wow that has to be a hat!” or when I am searching for a pattern and can’t find exactly what Im looking for I can start working on it myself. Sometimes I even see an item of clothing in a shop and think about how it would translate into knitwear.

What is the one thing you wish you had known when you started out designing?
I wish I have known about Stitchmastery a lot earlier! It’s made designing so so much easier and I would fully recommend it.

º Bobbie Hoodie by Holly Stevens

Which is your favourite design and why?
I often go through phases of loving something above all else, for a me-knit I absolutely love my Lilybelle hat, the lace is just so intricate but super duper easy to knit. I equally love my Bobbie hoody, I can hear my Nana’s voice echoing in my ear as she pulled my jerseys down lower saying “keep your kidneys warm.” In Southern New Zealand its rather chilly for most of the year so it gets a lot of use - now I just need to make one for my 4 other children!

If you could invite 3 designers to dinner, who would you choose?
Wow - that is a tricky question! I would love to meet up and pick the brains of Justyna Lorkowska and Georgie Hallam about kids knits. Oh definitely Andi Satterlund as I love all things vintage inspired and would love to chat to her about adults garments as one day I would love to try my hand at that - but I just don’t feel confident enough quite yet!

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