New Year Planning

Whether you make resolutions, have a word for the year or don’t bother with any of that, there is still something about the start of the year that makes you think about planning for the future.

I love a good list, so rather than resolutions I like to make a list of things that I would like to achieve within the year. I cross things off as I go, and add new things as they come up. I tried it last year and it worked really well so I’ve made a new list for this year.

Looking back over last years list was quite an eye opener. I had actually crossed quite a lot off! There were a couple of things that weren’t relevant in the end, as well as some things that just didn’t happen, but there were also things that I had done that weren’t even on the list.

The secret to my success could be that I made sure my achievements were achievable by using the SMART targets that I talked about in last years blog post, Setting Goals. I deliberately kept things simple which meant that I could easily build on any successes and keep moving forward. You can catch up on last years post here.

This year I have set myself some new things to aim for as well as carrying a few over from last year that I didn’t quite manage. I might also try to keep a list of achievements this time too. It will be interesting to see how I fare this time!

What plans are you making? I’d love to hear them. You can share them with me in the comments below or you can find me on Instagram or Facebook.

Weaving in ends

As someone who hates weaving in ends at the end of a project, you can imagine my joy when I discovered that you could weave in the ends as you go along!  I thought I would put together a little set of instructions to share this skill with you.

(The images show me purling the stitches as it is easier for you to see what the yarn tail and working yarn are doing but the instructions also work if you are knitting the stitches.)

1. Insert the right needle through the stitch as if to knit or purl.  Take the yarn tail that you would like to weave in and hold it across the needle. (Front to back if purling the stitch, back to front if knitting the stitch.)IMG_20170815_065953

2. Knit or purl the stitch as normal, taking care to bring the right hand needle under the yarn tail.  The yarn tail should now be sitting across the working yarn.


3. Knit or purl the next stitch as normal.  The working yarn should now be holding the yarn tail in place.


4. Repeat these 3 steps until the yarn tail is woven in as far as you would like.  You could  still secure it in using your usual method if you wish.

I hope that you found this tutorial helpful, and that it saves you a little time along the way.  Happy knitting!

Power of blocking

When I came back to knitting I had never heard of blocking.  It wasn’t something that I needed to do with that scarf or teddy bears jumper that I had knit when I was younger.  It wasn’t until I knit my first shawl that I really noticed the finishing instructions which said to block my work.  What an eye opener that was!

The first pattern that I used to reacquaint myself with my forgotten hobby was a mohair, lace, sleeveless cardigan type affair.  (Not one to start small and build up to the complicated stuff!) After painstakingly working my way through the pattern, researching the things that I didn’t understand, learning the hard way about the benefits of a lifeline, and discovering how to sew a knitted garment together properly I was a little disappointed that my finished garment didn’t quite look the same as the one in the picture.  But I hadn’t blocked it. So it was never going to.

To transform your newly completed knitted object in to the image that you have of what it should look like, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you block it.  If you are unfamiliar with how to block something it is quite straight forward.

  • Soak finished object in lukewarm water with a little wool wash being careful not to rub or agitate it to avoid felting (Wool wash, I use Soak, is not always absolutely necessary but it will make your knitting smell nice!)
  • Let it soak for 20 minutes
  • Take it out and gently squeeze out the water by hand
  • Lie object flat on a towel. Roll the towel up in to a sausage shape and walk up and down it to squeeze out the last of the water (Don’t use your best white towels for this. Sometimes the dye can run!)
  • Unroll the towel and place object on to a flat surface to dry (I use a bath towel on the spare bed)
  • Use pins to stretch out the object to the dimensions given in the pattern. (You can buy fancy blocking mats, wires and pins but ordinary sewing pins do the job just as well, and you can always upgrade to the fancy accessories if you like later on.)

Lace will always benefit the most from blocking in this way.  The transformation is nothing short of magical.  It takes the magic of making something with sticks and string to a whole new level! Do you always block your finished objects? Let me know how you can on if you are trying it for the first time.

Time to review your goals

At the beginning of the year we all make plans for the things we would like to achieve in the next 12 months.  I even wrote a blog post about it.  But not many of us go back during the year and review how we are getting on with those goals, so when the year comes to an end we end up feeling disheartened that we haven’t achieved any of the things we set out to.  One way of solving this problem is to regularly review your goals throughout the year, but if you don’t quite have the time for that you can do as I do.  Try and keep your goals in mind as much as possible and, more importantly, set aside time in the middle of the year to sit down and assess how things are going.  You may discover that you have achieved more than you thought, or that the plan you made to achieve your goal isn’t working as well as you had hoped.  You could even discover goals that you had forgotten about.  Or you may decide, as I have, that some of your goals have shifted or changed from what you originally had in mind at the beginning of the year.

Since reviewing my own goals, I have been able to tick off a couple of things, remind myself of something that I had forgotten about, crossed out some that are no longer a good fit and replaced them with something more appropriate.  I have come away feeling more motivated and have more confidence that I can be successful in my endeavours.  Qualities that can often be lacking during the mid-year lull.

Dedicating time to this has enabled me to sit and dream and plan, without feeling guilty that I should be doing something else.  To some reviewing plans you have already made may seem frivolous and a waste of precious time, time that could be better spend on other things, but having that sense of achievement can work wonders for your self-esteem and that positivity will spill over in to other areas of your life.   Why don’t you give it a try?  Make a date in your diary to see if you are on the right track to achieving your goals.

Close to Home

I love to knit, and have a large collection of knitting patterns, but have often wondered if I would have what it takes to design something for myself.  Where do you begin?

I had recently bought some Daughter of a Shepherd DK yarn with the intention of using it to knit a hat for my Dad.  I had recently realised that he was the only member of my family that I hadn’t knit for so, when I discovered a yarn made from the fleece of sheep raised down the road from his childhood home, I decided it was time to remedy that.

For this perfect project I wanted the perfect pattern, and while there are many beautiful hat patterns on Ravelry (well worth a trip down that particular rabbit hole if you have a few hours to spare!) I couldn’t find one that said ‘Dad’.  It was then I decided to put this design idea to the test, but I soon came up against the same old hurdle.  Where to start?

Fortunately I came across Aroha Knits ‘Initiate Knit Design’ challenge and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  The challenge took you through 5 steps to help you go from idea to finished object, with a homework challenge at the end of each step to prepare you for the next one.  The steps were sent every couple of days but you could do them at your own pace if you wished.  I chose to try and keep up and was amazed how quickly I was able to transform my fledgling ideas in to a reality.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try their hand at knit design.

The result is my ‘Close to Home’ hat.  A unisex hat knit in the round from the bottom up with a simple cable and rib pattern that continues up in to the crown.  The yarn is wonderfully light and warm, making it the perfect transition piece to see you from summer to winter and back again.

The pattern will be for sale on Ravelry and will be released on 1 July.

Setting goals

The new year may be in full swing but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still be thinking about setting goals.  Why should you be restricted to only making plans one month out of twelve? And how many of us have been despondent at the end of the year when we can’t seem to see the results of all our hard work?

In the past I have certainly been guilty of setting an unachievable goal or two. By this I don’t mean that it was something far out of my reach, but that it was so vague that I either didn’t know where to start or had no way of monitoring my progress, so felt as though I hadn’t achieved anything.

This year however I am thinking SMART. This is an acronym that I learnt whilst working as a Teaching Assistant many years ago and is used to help set targets for learning, but is also used in many different sectors to help with setting targets and goals. It stands for:

  • S – Specific.  If you have a larger goal in mind, try breaking it down in to smaller, more detailed chunks.  This will help you to focus on exactly what you need to do in order to get to where you want to be.
  • M – Measurable.  Putting a figure on your specific goals can also help you to focus, while creating a simple way to monitor your progress. For example, “I want to design ‘X’ number of patterns this year”.
  • A – Achievable.  You might decide that you would like to design 12 intricate lace shawls this year, and while this is specific and measurable, you still need to sit back and ask yourself if it is physically possible.  Do you have the time and/or resources to achieve it?
  • R – Relevant.  As you work through your list of specific goals, check to make sure that they are still helping you to achieve your long-term goal. Maybe the bigger picture has changed over time?  Again, check that your specific goals are still relevant to your new direction.
  • T – Timed.  Give yourself a time frame for when you would like to reach your goal.  It can be 3 weeks or 18 months, it is entirely up to you.  Just try to keep it achievable.

The most important thing to remember is that whatever the goal, it is not set in stone.  Life gets in the way sometimes, things can change and that’s OK.  This isn’t a test.  There is no pass or fail.  This is simply a few ideas that you could use to help you focus on achieving your goals.  Even if you don’t get there in the time you had hoped, you will still be closer to your goal than when you first started. And that will be something worth celebrating.