Let’s catch up!

I’ve been away a while. Sorry.

Life has rather got in the way and left little chance or inclination to blog. Much of what has stolen my attention is either not my story to tell or not one I wish to. I was utterly shaken by the EU referendum result – I think this will be wave after wave of sadness for me as the sorry tale unfolds but I am going to try not to let it affect me as much as the initial shock did.

But it has not all been doom and gloom while I’ve been away. There have been lots of interesting and exciting things happening.

letscatchup

I went to the wonderful Ickworth Wool Fair with my lovely friend Alice. Much yarn squishing was done.

I turned 40! Great fun, not feeling old in the slightest. I was thoroughly spoilt with loads of wonderful presents: a LOT of gin which I am diligently working my way through, some beautiful jewelry and the most perfect bike ever.

(And no, I did not complete my 40 by 40. I did do quite a lot and I might revisit it at some point but by the end I would have been doing them just for the sake of it and that didn’t feel right.)

I released, Contour, my best selling pattern ever! Pretty wow! I could not believe it. Kat and I kept texting each other on release day “have you seen how many?!” And so many people are making it which is really exciting. (it is available to buy here as a pdf or here in print if you are interested)

I met the wonderful Sarah from Crafts from the Cwtch for a day of coffees and fabric shopping in London and Louise Tilbrook for a day of coffees and fabric shopping at Burwash Manor. (see a trend here!?) both meet ups were very fun and inspiring.

I’ve been sewing again inspired as always by the Great British Sewing Bee.

I got featured in a national daily newspaper!! (I am totally going to get a t-shirt made with “something of a local knitting superstar” on the front and “limitless patience” on the back. Best review ever! :-)

I’ve worked on at least five new designs since I last spoke to you. One will be released over the summer and most of the rest will be in our next book.

I’ve been keeping The Crochet Project blog fun with updates and new tutorials.

And finally, I have just got back from the most amazing retreat in a little cabin in the woods. We chatted, we shared amazing food, we shot beautiful images of out crochet for the next book. Kate of a playful day tells the story so beautifully that I think I will just send you over there for a read…

At the moment I am trying to work out how and what to blog over here. Most tutorial and release announcements will be put on The Crochet Project blog, I am on instagram a fair bit sharing life snippets. I am thinking that a blog redesign is in order to enable me to share instagram posts here too and perhaps explore some of the things I am thinking about here. With plenty of redirects over to my work with The Crochet Project.

What do you think? What would you like to see here?

 

 

Are you playing along with Me Made May this year?

me made mayWell May just seemed to sneak up out of nowhere this year. Maybe it was because April was such a hive of activity (and inactivity at times.) Or maybe because the weather at the end of April was so vile here that I couldn’t possibly believe that May would even happen!

Anyway here it is and it is one of my favourite months. May is my birthday month although this year it is a big birthday (I will smack anyone who says happy 50th or 60th!) so I intend to declare birthday Summer instead of birthday month. May always hints at summer, and spring and hope and the change of pace of life that a little sunshine and longer days bring. No more rushing home through drizzle to hot chocolate, we switch to long park visits after school.

The past three years I have also enjoyed May for the fun and inspiration that Me Made May brings. Dreamt up by Zoe, of the So Zo What do you know… blog, it is a month long celebration of hand made and home made clothing. Whether you sew, knit, crochet, weave or upcycle this challenge is a great one to get involved with. Participants make a personal pledge that is challenging but not impossible. For example you might pledge to wear a handmade item every day through May or wear an entire handmade outfit once a week. You choose. You can sign up and pledge here or just find out more about it.

I was a little late pledging and deciding but here is my pledge:

‘I, Joanne of Not So Granny and The Crochet Project blog, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’16. I endeavour to wear at least one handmade item (preferably two) each day for the duration of May 2016′

I love this challenge because it really makes me think about my making and how it fits into my everyday life. I always end up digging out something I haven’t worn for a while or find a new way to style an old favourite.

In the past I have become a bit fatigued with taking endless selfies (because I really enjoy seeing other peoples outfits and sharing my own) so I plan to use the challenge as a prompt to get a bit more creative with my photography and try out some different styles of photography for outfit posts. I’m going to be playing along on instagram so follow me there to see the feed. They should also get copied over to my facebook page (provided I remember to tag them correctly!)

I feel like this year is going to be the best year ever – mostly because I have three new cardigans to swan around in! Yes I have the samples from our new book Three From The Top and I am not afraid to wear them!

If you’d like to come along and see the cardigans in the flesh I am at The Sheep Shop in Cambridge this Saturday (7th May 2016) I’m teaching crochet cardigans from the book all day followed by a show and tell and book signing. All of the class places got snapped up a long time ago but if you’d like to come and say hi, see the cardigans and pick up your copy of the book then please come by the shop between 4pm and 5pm.

Three From The Top Collage

 

Instagram March 2016

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My favourite photos from my instagram this month:

From Left to right top to bottom:

Snail yarn lace ready for a new project; experimenting with Tamar by Blacker Yarns; my new camera; tulips

heron in flight over the Ely Fen;

a succulent at the botanic gardens; new shawl design in progress; pansy at the botanic gardens; a lovely quote in my current book The trouble with sheep and goats.

March, you were beautiful! I hope your March was as lovely as mine.

Easter Holidays

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This post is sponsored by strong coffee and *mild panic.

Today is my last day at my desk until 12th April. Which is a mere 10 days before our first stall of the year at Wonderwool where we release our next book which still needs to be finalised!! Oh, and we decided to launch a range of kits there too which need to have some finishing touches applied (you heard that here first!). And that is without all the regular freelance gigs that I have to pay the bills. You can bet I am making madcap lists and wondering how it will all happen today.

It is a massive privilege to have a business that I can put on snooze while I spend time with my family over school holidays but it does take a little juggling and the odd panicked day to manage (and probably some late nights at the computer unavoidably this holiday.)

Suffice to say that emails and blog posts will be abandoned until I am back. I will still be hanging out and posting on instagram and facebook so find me there.  And The Crochet Project Etsy shop, selling our books will remain open throughout.

So without further ado I shall sign off and say have a wonderful Easter – see you on the other side!

 

 

*severe

Telling tales: Part two

Or: What I share where and why?

A couple of weeks ago I was talking here about how the blog has evolved and continues to evolve and my new found love of instagram.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying taking the images for instagram – especially now I’ve taken delivery of my new camera, a rather lovely Olympus OMD ME10. Its a big learning process as I’m trying to grapple with learning the technicalities of photography, a new camera and photo composition rules all at the same time.

olympus omd

 

I am really enjoying the challenge of creating visually pleasing images that support my work and show people what I am up to but I have been slightly struggling with the idea that it is all a bit fake and slightly contrived.

Do I have flowers around the house? Yes I try to, starting recently as I am finding that they really cheer me up and make me smile. Are they naturally in every shot? No, of course they aren’t! I’m placing them there to make the picture more visually pleasing.

If I show you a picture of what I’m working on I have two options:Take it there and then, (on the left) or style it up a bit and adjust for contrast and light (on the right):

instaready

Clearly the right image is staged but I find it much more visually appealing and I was able to put props into the photo to tell the story of the rest of my day (I was heading off to teach knitting classes but hoping to work some more on the design if I had time.) So is that fake?

I’m also always going to be somewhat guarded about my personal life. You will occasionally see pictures of my children – I always ask their approval before posting but I am wary about telling their stories online. I feel very aware that anything on the internet doesn’t ever really go away and can be searched by future employers. I’m erring on the side of “this is not my story to tell” at all times. Also, as a mother I tend to want to present my children in their best light. If they have been little sods all week and had me tearing my hair out, I probably won’t tell you. If they said something sweet I possibly will. Is that sugarcoating life?

I think my take on it is that my personality truly comes through when I share with you. Lots of people who I’ve met in real life after they have been following me online have commented that I am exactly how they expected to me. You won’t get any sugar coating or fakery there. I’m also going to try and document how much goes into designing too. Show you some of the failed swatches, talk about how I was up until midnight because I had a deadline.

But I would like to make my online world look as pretty as it can be.

I know some people feel very strongly about this debate. That adding gloss to anything in your life can make other people feel like they are the only ones not coping and that every one else is doing better/more etc. I would never want to make anyone else feel bad or pretend that I “have it all”. So know this, know when I took that pretty styled shot, I was probably balanced on a pile of mess I had to move out of the way to style it!

What do you think? Do you enjoy enjoy styled images and exploring the pretty with your favourite designers or would you prefer we all kept it real?

Telling tales

telling tales

Something I have been thinking a lot about lately is communication.

When I started Not So Granny, this little blog was the main way I communicated and it is out of this blog that a fledgling business grew and took flight. But running a business puts different pressures and strains on time, and this blog space has fallen fallow several times over the years when I’ve been too busy. It feels like it is lean times now.

I am writing a fair bit lately for my business (patterns, tutorials and articles for magazines, class handouts etc) and an awful lot for The Crochet Project business (books, individual patterns, blogging there) so I don’t always have the time or energy to come and write some more here.

I’ve pretty much decided that the majority of technical articles and tutorials will be blogged over on The Crochet Project blog rather than here as we continue to grow that business and brand. So if you have a blog reader or system for keeping track of blogs then make sure you add The Crochet Project to it.

So where does that leave this blog? I certainly don’t want to let it go because it is a nice place to be able to talk at length about things that interest me and what it is like to work as a freelance designer, writer, editor and teacher and how that works in reality with a growing family. So I will still be posting here but just using it as a place to chat I think. I probably shall need to have a bit of a blog tidy or possibly full overhaul soon to reflect that change (I need to remove things like classes that I am dreadful at keeping up to date)

One place I am finding myself spending a lot more time online lately is instagram. If you don’t follow me there please do! Inspired by *A Playful Day and her #themakersyear hashtag, I’ve been thinking about how I can use images and a sentence or two to tell stories about what I do, what inspires me and what its like to be a designer. I took the free taster class from Makelight to help me start thinking about using instagram this way and improving my shots. (It is very good and am deciding whether to take another online class with them or splash out for the in person class.) One idea I had was to link my instagram feed into the blog somehow for that those who prefer reading blogs or might not be on instagram, I might have to speak to the developer who originally worked on the blog redesign to make that happen.

I’d love to here your thoughts, either as comments her or on facebook, twitter or instagram!

*A Playful Day podcast has just relaunched – it is one of my favourites for inspiring creativity and making me think more deeply about craft.

Give it away, give it away, give it away now.

…Or “Two giveaways and a clear out” (I’d like to think I’m an Andie McDowell but I’m probably more of a hapless, disorganised Charlotte Coleman, this week especially!)

So, first things first, there are two exciting giveaways for you to enter.

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First – win a pair of weekend tickets to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival!

The Edinburgh Yarn festival is held on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th March this year and is just amazing. It attracts the best vendors, teachers and speakers and is a wonderful place to just go and hang out with fellow yarn lovers (but I fully recommend planning on quite a bit of shopping!!)

I am so sad that I am not going this year but with Unravel and Wonderwool (and my business partner on the other side of the world for ages) I can’t make it. I’ll be teaching that weekend at The Sheep Shop instead so won’t be wool bereft exactly.

Anyway, my loss could be your gain as the lovely Jo and Mica who organise the festival gave me a pair of tickets for my own use or to giveaway. I’ve decided to run it as an instagram and facebook competition so you can enter on either or both of these posts by tagging a friend you’d like to take (if they aren’t on instagram or fb just say, I’m not going to be all strict about it!)

Facebook entries

Instagram entries

This competition closes on noon GMT on March 4th 2016 so not long – good luck!

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The second giveaway is to launch the Crochet Yeah! book. Rachel Coopey of Coop knits has very kindly given us three skeins to make the Malvern Cowl (pictured) head on over to The Crochet Project blog to read all about the cowl and enter by commenting to let us know what you’d make first from the book.

The competition ends on at noon GMT on Wednesday 9th March 2016 and we will ship anywhere in the world.

So to the studio clear out. Things eventually reached critical mass in the studio again and I had to down tools to tidy as I couldn’t concentrate to work in all the mess. I decided that this time needed to be a bit more radical and that a lot of the yarn has to go. A LOT. I never think of myself as a hoarder but I do seem to have some issues around yarn. Possibly. My stash hasn’t quite reached unknittable-in-my-lifetime levels but I’ve been holding onto lots of things that I can’t see myself knitting or crocheting with and you know what, its holding me back. It sits there unloved making me feel vaguely guilty. And it is really nice stuff. I’d like it to find new homes where it can get used and loved. So I’m in the progress of photographing it all and listing it ready to sell. If you’d like to grab yourself a bargain pop over to my Ravelry destash page and have a look and check back because the process of cataloguing etc might take a while.

Doris the double bed Singer knitting machine’s fate is a little uncertain too….

And in case I’ve given you a horrible ear worm with the title, here are the  full lyrics to the song.

Unravel 2016

Oh what a blast! I had just the best time at Unravel this year.

I taught, I launched a book, I met friends old and new and generally had a lovely time. Okay, okay! I also shopped!

Here is the stash photo:

unravel goodies

 

I kind of felt I had been rather restrained until I got it all out to photograph. In my defence it is not all for me.

So pictured we have anticlockwise from bottom left

Ombre big boy cakes in Heather by Easy Knits – this will be a design for The Crochet Project sometime, most likely a shawl as I’ve been longing to design an ombre one..

Two skeins of Whistlebare Yeaving bell – again for a shawl (probably) for The Crochet Project - I clearly have not got the shawl thing quite out of my system – and the gleam you get on these yarns I just kept thinking about how awesome Kat would be at capturing it on the photographs.

A braid for spinning from Spin City – aren’t the colours so pretty?

Three skeins of Coop Knits Sock Yeah yarn – for a giveaway, keep your eyes peeled on The Crochet Project blog and social media for this coming soon. Rachel of Coop Knits tells me that these colours for the Malvern cowl have been selling well so I suspect some of you at least will have this in your queue.

Tiny Tails in Nougat on Coffee by Easy Knits for a friend’s birthday gift.

And a beautiful crochet tea towel (background) by the lovely Tilly Flop – (I am so pleased she has started selling a crochet one, I already have the knitted version up above my desk to remind me to get on with the admin so I can get to the fun bits!)

Teaching at the festival was wonderful – I met some truly lovely crocheters and the Farnham Malting’s staff looked after me very well.

Huge Thank you to Sarah of Crafts for The Cwtch for organising me over the weekend and sharing so many laughs (and giving such a glowing recommendation of our new book!) I am not going to even try and name check everyone I had fun with – you are too numerous and I will inevitably forget and offend someone!

The book launch for Crochet Yeah! (read more about it here and check out the amazing blog redesign Kat is just finishing up!) went really well – thank you so much to everyone who has bought a copy. It was such a hit, I had to order a new print run on the day we launched!

I’ve come away from the festival feeling inspired and creatively energised if a little physically and mentally tired. The kids are back at school now after a lovely half term and inset day and I am back at my desk catching up.

 

Cheers to 2016

It was a funny old Christmas – I ended up on crutches for a torn calf muscle on the 23rd and limped, stumbled and hopped into the New Year. The injury combined with family illness and Storm Frank meant we cancelled the New Year trip to Scotland to see Kat (and to do the shoot for our next book) So we had to content ourselves with pottering around here and resting up.

I’m so pleased with the new designs – I think they are going to get worn a lot next spring and summer! I hope you all like them as much – it always feels like such a huge leap writing a new book and not knowing if anyone will want to buy it.

As you may know I’m not a fan of new year’s resolutions, I set my year goals in September, so I am not making any but I can tell you that 2016 will bring:

  • more dressmaking (I’m taking a class starting in January),
  • some spinning (I finally got the wheel going – it’s hard!),
  • lots of crochet (I have big plans),
  • mostly fun not work knitting (I have no plans),
  • fewer shawls than last year (I have plans for some but not two books full again!)
  • more cardigans (feels so good to be designing garments again – spreadsheet geek!)
  • laceweight yarn! (I have at least one design coming up and a big passion for doing more, it looks so good crocheted),
  • and CELEBRATIONS when I turn 40 later in the year.

2015 was an amazing year for me, work-wise, and I am hoping that success continues into 2016, I feel very optimistic.

I’ll leave you with a look at my Christmas this year:

 

christmas 2015

Clockwise from top left: Daft hats; Fairisle look Christmas cakes; a first attempt at spinning; working on a new design, skateboard presents, more new designs; the crutch; Star Wars excitement.

Christmas Craziness

christmas wreath

Not the good kind but not the bad kind either.

I was going to do a lovely picture rich post of all these things but I can’t make wordpress show my instagram pictures and I have no time to resize them all for the blog so if you want a visual trip through my Christmas preparations then do hop over to see my instagram feed where it is all beautifully illustrated  but here are the words:

The past few weeks have been categorised by very broken up working days – there have been a million things going on in the school and community that require me to be here or there or remember to bring this or that. While I enjoy seeing the kids get excited as Christmas approaches I find it all quite stressful as I balance all the extra shopping, cleaning etc that I need to do. However it has not been all bad…

For the past few years I have declared a “deadline-free December” which means I don’t take on any commissions due in December because it is such a hectic time. I did this again but I do have lots and lots of things to finish off for a The Crochet Project shoot we have scheduled for the end of the year. I’m back making cardigans and I forgot how much I love designing them! Its been a real treat to sit with large amounts of yarn and play with little details and work on getting the fit just so whilst making them very easy to adapt and adjust.

Preparation for the shoot also included sewing four dresses for it! I am not a much of a dressmaker – I did a fair amount in my early twenties but that was mostly very small dresses from very cheap fabrics to wear clubbing that didn’t need to be too well finished as I’d only wear them a handful of times before refashioning or recycling. Now I want to work with lovely fabrics and make things that will last for years and years (and cover a bit more of my thigh ideally too!) It made me a bit scared to try. So actually having to make to a deadline was a very good ice breaker for me. I did pretty well, they aren’t perfect but they are good. I learnt a lot and I really loved doing it. So much so, that I’ve signed up for a pattern cutting class next term at my local leisure learning college.

I finished up the week by giving my studio a jolly good sort out and clean. Gosh its a joy to be in now its cleaned, I feel like a weight has been lifted. Its gone back to being a little sanctuary from the chaos of marauding children and guests – and not a moment too soon with the holidays looming!

The kids have finished all the nativity performing and have been packed off wearing Christmas jumpers for their last day of school today so I will be trying to tie up loose ends and switching the out of office reply firmly on.

I don’t plan to blog again until next year but will be popping my head into social media and posting pictures on instagram and facebook no doubt if you want to keep in touch.

As you can imagine there is not last minute gift making for me this year but if you are then you might like the gifting guide I wrote on The Crochet Project blog (with time guides!)

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Joanne