Inherited knowledge and talent – Tabula Rasa post by me


I felt compelled to write about the inspiration behind the name of the De Anima shawl and about what it means to other people and questions it raises. I have asked designers and overall very talented people, whom I admire a lot, to write from their prospective about Tabula Rasa and whether they believe that we, as people, are born as a blank canvass or whether we genetically inherit knowledge and creativity.
I want to thank them all for contributing by writing such personal insights. If you would like to read the blogs again here are the links:

Today is the final day of Tabula Rasa posts and I thought I’ll give my two cents on the matter.

Tabula Rasa refers to the idea that we are born without built-in content, a ‘’blank slate’’, and that all we know comes from experience and perception. It is a truly fascinating concept, and I very often ponder it when I teach knit and crochet. We acquire skills through practice, some of us are taught those skills at a young age, but do we possess them already in our unconscious mind? The same can be said for talent… do we acquire it or are we simply born with it? In western philosophy the concept of Tabula Rasa originated in treatise of Artistotle – De Anima or On the Soul (hence the name of the shawl).

I tend to agree more with Pluto and his Theory of Forms that the human mind is born with ideas. I believe that we genetically inherit instinctive knowledge, like a new born who innately knows how to suckle onto mother’s breast. In the same way as you can observe in animals, like cats with hunting or elephants with geographical knowledge. Based on that, what other information is passed down, which can be later reinforced through teaching? Form the first day we rely on parents, our surroundings, then later on teachers and people around us to help us develop and enhance that knowledge. Do we naturally possess creativity/talent in the same way we possess instinctive knowledge?  
Teaching knit and crochet gives me the perfect opportunity to observe all stages of ability. In a group of ten people who never tried crochet, you will have four that instantly show natural ability and will be crocheting within half an hour with ease. Then you have few that just can’t get to grips with it. We are all wired differently and predisposed to be good at different things. However, maybe knitting and crochet are not the best examples of talent as we can learn how to do it and obviously enhance our knowledge and ability through willingness and lots of practice, but let’s take photography for example. Everyone can learn the rules of staging a good photo but only few have a natural eye for capturing a truly amazing image. You can have twenty photographs of the same person taken by different people but only one will capture the person’s soul and encapsulate the mood of the subject.
How much of that wiring and ability we possess is in part down to any knowledge we inherited? I’m not sure, but maybe I have a romantic view of it that we do pass more that we think down to the next generation. 
Anna xx

Whatcha making kiddo? – Tabula Rasa guest post by Justyna Lorkowska


Today’s guest post on Tabula Rasa comes from the one and only Justyna Lorkowska aka Lete’s Knit.

Justyna is an overall designer extraordinaire, every single one of her shawls is to die for. She excites with her designs, they are stunning with gorgeous colour combinations, they evoke urgency….the need to cast on every single design is unbearable, and if that wasn’t enough, she is also a fellow Pole so you gotta love her. I adore hearing my name in the Polish way, Ania 😊.

I have been admirer of Justyna’s work for a very long time and when I was approached to contribute to her husband’s, Marcin (Martin’s Lab), Stillness Collection, as you can imagine I jumped at the chance. De Anima shawl was my contribution and it was a pleasure working on her using Marcin’s amazing yarns. 

Justyna also released two collections called TabulaRasa Naturals and recently Tabula Rasa Speckles, so who better to talk about the subject……….
Some time ago Ania asked me to write a guest blog post. At that time I was in a shop trying to pick the entrance door and running around my 6-year-old daughter who was sure to hurt herself in a place full of tools, tiles, doors and other building equipment. Ah, the “highlights” of a knitting designer’s life 😉 (To tell you the truth, this life is pretty boring: the same chores as everyone else, with some deadline knitting and almost no knitting just for the sake of it… and taxes to pay just like others). Anyway, I was sort of busy in the shop, but when a friend asks you a favor, you say yes. So I did.
After some time when I was supposed to write the actual post, I had no idea what to say. “Tabula rasa”…. “Tabula rasa”… scratch on the head… Well, I did name my collection like that – after all it sounds inspirational and catchy 😉 Also Ania’s beautiful shawl from “Stillness Collection” is called “De Anima” after the treatise of Aristotle, in which the concept of Tabula Rasa in Western philosophy originated (btw, that’s one of the most gorgeous crochet shawls I’ve seen and I really saw it in person). Finally, I do know what “tabula rasa” means (blank page, right? 😉), but writing a whole blog post explaining if I think we are creative blank pages… oh man.
I was never planning to become a knitting designer – it sort of happened organically. I just really love making things with sticks and string. However, being one of those “knit-in-public” knitters I get asked many questions by lots of people, I mean lots. And it’s not only questions. A lot of “muggles” just chat to me and start talking about their crafting experiences. They mostly describe their failures and end up saying “I could not knit like you”. 
My favorite story dates about 2 years back to a summer holiday I was spending with my kids at my lovely mother-in-law’s. She’s not a knitter or a crafter of any kind, but loves listening to me when I describe what I’m making, when I talk about yarns (she loves caking yarn for me) and she’s super proud when I make something for her. She has a bunch of friends in the neighborhood so almost every time when we looked after the kids in the playground, they would come over to us and chat. I was the youngest in the crowd so whenever they saw me with knitting needles, someone would ask “Whatcha making kiddo?” One day I was ploughing through a cardigan (if I remember correctly I was making Dipped cardigan, which is contiguous) when I heard the “whatcha making” question.
“A cardigan”, I replied. “I know it doesn’t look like it but I assure you it’s a cardi. You start your work at the neck line and then increase in certain spots to shape the sleeves, neck and so on”.
She stared at me as if I was casting some magic spells on her.
“Wow, I could never make something like that. I can only knit and purl.”
“Well… you actually could. I also just knit and purl” I said. “With a few simple increases here and there”.
That sums up perfectly all crafty failures. I taught myself to knit when I was a child, observing my mom and trying to copy her needles’ movements. Then I stopped knitting for many years believing, just like the lady, that I could never make more difficult stuff. So wrong! After many years I took it up again, this time determined to learn and create as much as possible. From simple techniques and easy projects to creating my own designs. I can’t even count the number of times I had to rip the projects and the amount of foul language accompanying it (I’m sure many can relate 😉) until one day I started feeling comfortable enough to let my creativity rule. Was I a blank page or was it inborn? I think a little bit of both. My skills were acquired throughout the many years or ripping and starting again, but my innate stubbornness and drive to create helped too.
I believe none of us are born with skills to knit, sew, crochet and we need to learn and master them. Just like kids learning a language, we need to provide ourselves with creative input – beginning with easy stitches and projects to more advanced ones – until we possess so much data it allows us to freely create. So, Dear Reader, knit, make, create until you feel comfortable and your mind if full of ideas! Thomas Edison once said “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration” and I could not agree with him more. Creativity takes hard work, it takes time and it is something that can be mastered. Every stitch gets you closer to perfection and helps you build the vast knowledge of how and why. You can’t expect to be creative by doing nothing. Just like kids who are kept in silence since their birth can’t use proper language, you need stimuli for your brain and hands to become crafty.  
However, just like with anything that requires both success and failure, a lot of people avoid stepping out of their comfort zone to try new things. They would rather become this lady from the story than experience defeat. Personally, I wouldn’t call the hours of unravelling “ugly projects” being unsuccessful. It’s just a step you’re making in the process of becoming better and more creative. Every small mistake teaches you, so if you are learning from them they are meant to be.
Finally, as a former teacher, I can say there’s nothing that drives me coocoo more than someone whining “I can’t do it” 😉

Justyna xx

Are we born creative? – Tabula Rasa guest post by Jem Weston



We are on day four of guest posts on Tabula Rasa and I hope you are enjoying readying everyone’s thoughts as much as I am. 

Today’s guest post is by Jem Weston, who is a knitter, tutor and a pretty dap hand at sewing…. Oh, and a gardener, no ends to her talents!  Jem is also an author of Cute Comfort Knits and The Knitted Nursery Collection, her books are full of intarsia and toy goodness. 

When Anna asked me to write a blog about Tabula Rasa I thought it sounded like a skin condition! But a quick search showed me that it refers to the idea that we are born with no mental content. Our minds are a blank slate.

My initial feeling was that this is false. I believe that our personalities and behaviours are the result of both nature (our genetic make up) and nurture (learned behaviour).

Reading about Tabula Rasa in more detail, I learned that ‘no mental content’ actually refers to knowledge. And this must be correct because how can we be born with knowledge? But how can we ever prove or disprove that we are not?

This then raises the question of what is learned and what is instinctual? And are our instincts actually an innate knowledge of what we need and what endangers us? Does your head hurt yet?!

A lot of these questions are too big for this blog and for my little brain. So I’m going to focus on pondering the first question that popped into my mind when I read about Tabula Rasa.

Are we born creative?
Creativity comes in many forms but I feel that some people have an insatiable urge to ‘make stuff’. This might be an artist who has to paint, a musician who has to compose or a knitter who has to knit. From a young age I always felt the urge to make stuff and felt like I was going a bit nuts if I didn’t create anything for a few days. I remember planning new projects in my dreams…which I still do now if I have the luxury of enough sleep!

I think this is an urge I was born with, but is that the reason I took the path of a degree in fine art and a career in knitting?

Perhaps our genetics determine our learning style which then influences the paths we follow. I’ve always been a visual learner so it’s natural that I moved in the direction of the visual arts, but I also remember finding maths exciting at school when it was taught in a visual way. Other people may learn best by doing an activity, or simply reading about it – but where do these learning styles come from? My feeling is that they are present from an early age, in the same way that I believe we are predisposed to be good at certain things based on our genes.

It’s human nature to want to do something we do well. While our minds might be clean slates at birth, our genetics may gift us with natural talents such as rhythm, an ability to visualise things or a high IQ. It makes sense to nurture our natural talents – but doing what we’re good at isn’t necessarily what we enjoy. You may be born with a beautiful voice but be content just singing in the shower!

Tabula Rasa says that our minds are a blank slate at birth – but our blank slates are all unique. While our experiences may shape how we think and feel, our physiology, leaning style and genetic make-up all affect how we acquire knowledge and learn behaviours.
I think we all have creativity in us… I hope you are lucky enough to have found yours!

Jem xx

The desire to create things – Tabula Rasa guest post by Steel&Stitch


Today’s guest post on Tabula Rasa comes from the fantabulicious Emma from Steel&Stitch, who is the crochety and crafty goddess and overall a luscious person. Her designs are colourful, fun and begging to be made. 

Well howdy y’all!  This is Emma from Steel&Stitch here to talk to you today about tabula rasa (don’t worry, when I first heard this phrase I thought it was a roasted aubergine dip, turns out it’s actually the theory that human’s are born with a mind that is a ‘blank slate’ and then informed by life’s experiences) and creative ability.  I would like to put it out there right now that I am not an authority on this (remember the aubergine thing), but I have been doing a little research in to creativity in humans for my MA in Sustainable Design, and will happily contribute my tuppence-worth.  Oh, and this really isn’t going to be too heavy, in fact it’s going to be very unacademic and light (yep, the aubergine thing), so don’t worry. 

Where to start?  I’m mainly going to talk about this in relation to creativity, but this is one of those massive subjects that everybodyhas an opinion about, mostly informed by personal experience (which is exactly how I’ve formed my own opinion; as an identical twin, a mother and a person). That, and a tiny bit of research that was recently done by Harvard University.  Those Clever Clogs have discovered that there are certain patterns that light up in the neural network when creative people come up with ideas.  Some people have brains that do this very easily, and some people don’t.  (This very interesting piece of research was in an abandoned copy of the Guardian that I found on 16.1.18 on the 16.54 from Victoria to Ore, very much worth a read if you want to find out about it properly).  It would seem reasonable to assume that this is the case for other things too, like maths or combining flavours or singing.
What it proves is that some people are much more creative than others.  But were they born that way, or did they become that way by having encouraging parents, or by being forced to live on their wits, or by being sent to a Steiner School?  As an identical twin, we were each brought up with a designated identity.  I was the Clever One and she was the Outgoing One.  For years we subscribed to these roles, I rarely spoke to anyone, spent too much time trying to read the classics and mooning over Pre-Raphaelite art.  She was wildly gregarious, kissed lots of boys and wrote her fashion dissertation on Barbie.
  
What was interesting was that for various reasons we ended up at different schools in different counties, and for all of those ideas about how differently our brains worked, we got identical results for our GCSE’s.  Even now, as adults, we still marvel at how I ended up being the clothes designer in spite of studying philosophy at uni (I’ve just been working on a mini collection of patterns for Scheepjes J), and she has ended up as a lecturer working on a phd.  So while we were unconsciously encouraged to study and engage in different things, our brains clearly have their own ideas about what they are able to do; which is pretty much the same as each other.  We are both very creative, have a compulsion to make stuff and love doing a bit of research.
Another case study (this is just to make things sound fancy, what I could actually put is ‘thing I’ve seen’) is the difference in my boys.  They are two years apart, have had the same access and been around the same amount of paint, paper, pens, glue guns, scissors, air brushes, you name it, and the youngest, Creative Boy, while seeming to have an innate ability when it comes to drawing, has very little interest in making stuff.  The big one, loves it.  What’s also interesting is the big one is Maths Boy.  Always has been, so we’ve heartily encouraged him and worked with him to further this aspect of himself.   Didn’t really notice it in the littlest so didn’t do anything special with him.  Started school, turns out he is also Maths Boy, we just hadn’t given him that identity.  So Maths Boy and Creative Boy are actually interchangeable, their brains have a similar default setting. 
Having said all that, I just want to go back to that point about some people being more creative than others.  Me and my twin were set on different paths but both have a deep love and connection with making things.  My boys are being brought up in a creative environment and only one of them chooses to take of advantage of it.  I think maybe we all have a desire to create things, just sometimes it may take a bit of encouragement to find the confidence to do it.  And while there may be some of us that are hard wired to be good at it, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all take enjoyment from just playing and doing it.  My goodness, I can’t sing for toffee, but give me a hairbrush and an empty house and I can have an absolute party.
So, what have we learned here?  I don’t know the difference between an East African dip and a theory proposed by a 17th century Philosopher (in spite of having a philosophy degree).  Surprising things can be learned from abandoned newspapers.  Reading the classics when you’re 12 has very little bearing on your future career.  Also that I think that we are born with a certain amount of pre-programming.  We are not a clean slate.  But whether we’re good at something or not, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy it and we can still do it just because it brings us pleasure and maybe a sense of connecting with something beyond ourselves.  I don’t know the name for that something, maybe it also sounds like something you can dip a carrot in, but whatever it is, I’d definitely encourage you to try it.

Emma x

The potential to do remarkable things – Tabula Rasa guest post by Anneknitty


Today guest blog is by my incredibly good friend Annette, who is the bestest friend anyone could ever ask for and I love her to the moon and back. Annette is a seriously amazing knitter, with a vast knowledge of the craft to match, and if that wasn’t enough she also is pretty awesome at sketching, in fact it was her who designed my logo :). Onto Annette’s thoughts on Tabula Rasa……

How have you ended up reading my writing on my friend’s website? My Friend, Crochet queen, and

knitting star, Anna, designed a Shawl and named it ‘De Anima’. I was intrigued where this name came from. Anna explained, then me, not being very philosophically minded – was mind blown. This conversation led to me writing a guest blog about this idea.

The brief I was given is as follows:

De Anima or On the Soul – the treatise of Aristotle, in which the concept of Tabula Rasa in Western philosophy originated.
Tabula Rasa refers to the idea that we are born without built-in content and that all we know comes from experience and perception.
It is a truly fascinating concept, and I (Anna) very often ponder it when teaching knit and crochet. We acquire skills through practice. Some of us are taught those skills at an early age, but do we possess them already in our unconscious mind? The same can be said for talent… do we acquire it or are we simply born with it?  
I think honestly that everyone is born with the potential to do remarkable things, but the skills come with practice. When you’re a baby, then a toddler, life is just thrown at you. A bottle is put at your mouth – you drink it. A crayon is put into your hand, you realise it makes colourful marks, you start scribbling colours everywhere. Then you become a child, a little more dextrous, a little more sophisticated in reasoning. The crayon in your hand is now making recognisable shapes, the ‘Adult fear’ hasn’t yet appeared, so you’re still happy making these shapes and not worried that they don’t look perfect. (That bottle is still a bottle, or maybe a cup… but now you can decide when you would like to drink it. But that is me digressing) The child age is the perfect time to take that potential you were born with and absorb new skills easily. You’re not afraid of getting things wrong, or at least looking back on it – you don’t remember having any fear.
As an adult it’s becoming harder and you can now be tentative towards learning new skills. Negative feelings can take control. Fear of getting it wrong, fear of looking stupid, that you’re not good enough from the start. You start thinking you can’t do this new skill, so you stop even before you’ve given it a good go.
On a personal note, I’ve been trying to draw for as long as I can remember. I was given many sketchbooks as a child. I don’t recall being very good at it in the beginning, however, I found a lot of joy in it, so I continued to practise. Eventually, with a lot of repetition and joy, the scribbles became objects, and some could say, ‘artwork’. 
My knitting adventure also started when I was young. It began back in my Brownie troop, I needed to get my Knitting badge and I didn’t know how to start. This led to me being taught by my Nana. Now this is quite a few years ago, but I don’t remember being good straight from the start. I vaguely recollect getting things wrong but not being worried about it – I kept trying till I got it right. Basically, there were a lot of holes, missed stitches and the like. What I think I’m getting at is – I wasn’t born with the skill, I had to work at it. I’m still working on it to this day. What I was born with was the notion to try. I’ve now been knitting for, let’s just say many years and I’m still learning new techniques. If I get something wrong, I work at it till I get it right.
My crochet journey was a little different. Learning crochet started as an adult. This was after I’d said goodbye to my Nana, but before You Tube tutorials were everywhere. So, I had to teach myself from books. As an adult, learning is a little different. You see other adults (even kids) crocheting with ease, and here you are, all fingers and thumbs. The link from your brain to your fingers holding the yarn and the hook, doesn’t flow freely. You start thinking – I can knit well, why can’t I crochet yet? You’ve forgotten that it took time to learn to knit – it wasn’t instantaneous. This is that ‘Adult Fear’ I mentioned earlier. You’re afraid of looking stupid, but usually you must get things wrong before you get it right. So, I decided to ignore these feelings after a while and I stuck at it. I may now crochet like a knitter, but it works for me. 
I hope I’ve stuck to my brief and haven’t rambled on too much. Looking over my few words, my philosophy agrees with Tabula Rasa. We’re not born with talent, that all we know comes from experience and perception. If you’re trying a new skill or craft and feeling some self-doubt, stick at it. Practice some more, tell that Adult fear to get lost. Pretty soon, you’ll end up producing a fab design like Anna’s ‘De Anima’.

 Annette x

Are we born with creativity? – Tabula Rasa guest post by GamerCrafting


To celebrate the release of De Anima shawl I have asked some superb crafters and bloggers to write a guest blog for me on Tabula Rasa.

De Anima or On the Soul – the treatise of Aristotle, in which the concept of Tabula Rasa in Western philosophy originated. 
Tabula Rasa refers to the idea that we are born without built-in content and that all we know comes from experience and perception. It is a truly fascinating concept, and I very often ponder it when I teach knit and crochet. We acquire skills through practice. Some of us are taught those skills at a young age, but do we possess them already in our unconscious mind? The same can be said for talent… do we acquire it or are we simply born with it?
 
Today guest blog is by my very good friend and fellow crafter Ange the creator of GamerCrafting. Ange is not only a fab knitter and yarn dyer but also an amazing musician. Who better to talk about talent than her.

Are we born with creativity, or is it a learned skill?
For people like us, creativity is as important as the air we breathe. Without new ideas and inspirations, the world around us feels dull and grey. But what made us like this? Are we born creative, or do we learn it the same way we learned to read and write?
Tabula Rasa is the idea that we’re all born as a blank slate – an empty mind to be filled up with learned experiences, new ideas, and information. Aristotle compared us to new characters in a play, who are nothing but blank slates until the author gives them a personality and a purpose. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said that wars are the result of social conditioning, and never an innately human condition. I’d like to think that he’s right, and maybe someday we’ll all learn to embrace the humanity of others.
If we are born as blank slates, then what makes us creative? Do we chase activities and ideas that we received positive feedback on as children, or is it as simple as a chemical reaction in the brain, with concoctions of hormones and endorphins that make us feel emotion?
Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The trouble is remaining an artist once we grow up.” Maybe as we grow and observe the world around us, and we start comparing our work to others, we start to doubt our own creativity. Maybe your finger painting wasn’t as “good” as someone else’s, and so you deemed yourself “not artistic.” Maybe we just tell stories about ourselves so often that we begin to believe them. I’m not artistic, I’m bad at math, I’m shy, I’m too aggressive. Maybe we are more than the two dimensional versions of ourselves that strangers see. Allow yourself to be three dimensional and explore every inch of your creative mind; after all, life is short. No one on their deathbed has ever said, “Man, I really wish I had been less creative.”
 I have a theory that everyone is creative, but in different ways. An engineer who invents a new machine is creative, but in a vastly different way to an experimental contemporary musician who uses sound samples of a cityscape to weave an auditory tapestry of exploration. You just have to figure out how to tap into that creativity to make it shine. If we’re born as blank slates, then it’s up to us to write our own creative stories.
Sometimes, a blank slate needs new inspiration. Take a walk in the world around you to find inspiration in the smallest places. A crack in an old tile, a flower growing through concrete, or frost on an early morning. We’re responsible for growing ourselves and our creativity, no one can do it for you. Listen to music you’ve never heard before – in fact, listen to the piece titled Tabula Rasa, written by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. I promise it will make you feel something. I can’t say what that something is, because I’m not you; I feel a deep sense of “hiraeth,” a Welsh word which means homesickness for a time or a place that you can’t return to.
I leave you with a challenge: do something, anything this week that ignites your creativity. Allow yourself the space to be creative and give yourself permission to write on your own blank slate.

                                                       Some of Ange’s delicious yarns

Our handmade wedding


I can’t believe it has been 4 months since our big day! Time really does fly.

We finally have all the pictures and it is wonderful to look back and remember how special the day was. I’m sure that every couple says that their day was perfect, but to us, it really was. It just all fell into place perfectly and those little things that were so important to get right before just didn’t matter at all. Even the weather was perfect, it was raining nonstop before the day, and as our wedding was half inside and half outside it was quite worrying that it was going to pour down, but we had the last lovely day of September, it was warm and sunny, the rain started back again the next day, but of course it didn’t matter then. It was quite odd actually as Autumn really started the next day, it seemed like leaves turned golden yellow overnight.

 

When we were planning our wedding, firstly and most importantly, it had to be low key! Neither of us like ceremonies very much and wanted to avoid the pomp and pageantry of a traditional wedding. For us the main focus was family and friends celebrating our special day in surroundings that meant a great deal to us.  It had to be relaxed, all about getting together and having a great time without all the regimentals of a traditional wedding, not that there’s anything wrong with a traditional wedding, it is just not our style. Secondly, it had to be on a low budget, we refused to spend crazy amounts of money for one day, I know it is a once in a lifetime event, but still. Well…. We almost stuck to the budget, went over it by £1.25, but I think we both can live with that 😊. Thirdly, it had to be handmade or at least as much as possible. I wanted to make as many of the decorations and accessories as it was achievable.

When it comes to the venue there was only one choice, The Cha Café in Cassiobury Park.  It is the most charming café connected to the park, we love spending weekends there with a good breakfast or lunch or just grab a coffee after a long walk. Cassiobury Park is our favourite place, we go walking there quite a lot. It has nature reserve, bird watching hide, elusive muntjacs, canal with barges, a quaint little river, a few gorgeous bridges and lots of history…. What more can you ask for?
The wonderful thing about The Cha is that not only it has a perfectly quaint inside, but a beautiful outside space with wooden benches overlooking the park. We wanted to connect those two so people can choose to mingle and eat inside or outside, therefore a buffet was perfect solution and it was DELICIOUS!! The café has provided the most gorgeous food on the planet. Also, The Cha has a lovely playground area where children were playing happily. We put together small gift packs for the kids and I have the say the animal masks were the biggest winners. 
The handmade aspect started with the invitations. We have created three stamps with The English Stamp Company, one was the main one with our names and date surrounded in laurel wreath. The second one was a very small leaf motive for the inside of the invitations, and the third just a small one with our initials in a laurel wreath. The cards and envelopes were just plain ones purchased in Hobbycraft, the inside we printed ourselves, tied a length of twine and fresh rosemary sprig on the crease and hey presto. I must say that I was a bit worried when I was posting the invitations that they wouldn’t be delivered. The rosemary has a very pungent smell and quite similar to marijuana, I really thought that the postal service will check them all, but luckily, they were all delivered without a problem 😊

I toyed with the idea of knitting my wedding dress but to be honest you want the wedding dress to pull and tuck you in the places that are most important, especially as I’m on the heavy side. Knitted dresses are wonderful but they don’t offer the same support in the waist and everywhere else as a dress with built in supported bodice. Well they could, you can sew in a bodice to the inside of a knitted dress but that seemed like too much hassle for me so I decided to settle for a knitted cardigan instead and a matching tie for Dave.

The yarn I’ve chosen was Cascade Heritage Solids a lovely 4 ply yarn in Moss (5612) colour to go with our nature team. I knitted a top down, cropped cardigan with lace details at the back, above the bottom rib and on sleeves. The cardigan is my own design and unfortunately, I wasn’t taking notes when knitting it, but one day I will sit down and write the pattern. I originally made the sleeves a bit too tight and had to undo them halfway. I finished them at 2am the night before the wedding and I’m so glad I did, I knitted like a woman possessed. 

Dave’s tie I knitted with the yarn held double in moss stitch.

My hair decoration was a flower crocheted with mohair and beads, it is the same flower that is on the cover of my Crocheted Flowers to Wear book, but i didn’t include the leaves as the was just a bit too much. Dave and I both had the bee pin. My one was on the flower, Dave’s on his tie. 

After spending hours looking at dresses and their eye watering prices I’ve chosen the 50’s Audrey style in thick ivory satin with small spots tulle overlay from Honeybutique. They are online boutique only and offer vintage style dresses at great prices. There is a huge risk ordering a dress you never seen and tried on before, luckily, I had my sewing goddess friend Stephie on call in case it needed some adjustments. I’ve ordered swatches and chosen the best quality fabric, you know, you want a cheap dress but you don’t want it to look it. You must measure yourself carefully and send them all the measurements as once the dress is purchased and made you cannot return it. I’ve chosen Audrey as it fits my style perfectly, I love a slash neck and mid-calf length. The skirt was very full so I’ve chosen the non-gathered style, no need for petticoat either. I was overall pretty pleased with my dress, it was the perfect length, the tulle overlay suited the fabric underneath perfectly, the corset part could have been a bit smaller as I had still room to tighten myself in a waist more, but overall, I was very pleased.  Of course, it wasn’t without small disasters. When I received the dress in heist to try it on, I’ve ripped a whole in the tulle. Corseted dresses are not all that easy to try on and take off, instead of waiting for my sister to come over and help I just had to put it on, which wasn’t a problem, the taking off proved a bit of a challenge, I pulled a bit too hard on the waist and the tulle ripped, I can tell you that the blood drained from my body at that moment. Being ever the resourceful person, I have fixed the tear with some invisible thread and you would have never known. 

I had my amazing friends Annette, Suzanne, Stephie helping with decorations by crocheting dollies for the tables. They all look perfectly magical 😊. The patterns were taken from Annette’s vintage pattern books and we used Schachenmayr Catania in Natur (00105) colour. Also, my friends Melinda and Margaret helped with bunting, but unfortunately we couldn’t hang it, as firstly we didn’t have a ladder and secondly when I was joining the bunting I didn’t make it long enough. Thank you ladies for everything, you are all one in a million!! And a big thank you to Lorenzo and Freddie for photography. Not forgetting the lovely Angela for embroidering our initials with a bird that I placed in an embroidery hoop.

Dave and I were putting together the table decorations the day before. We went for simple jam jars, decorated with cotton trimming and twine, filed with flowers, candles, yarn and needles of course. We also had lots of vases with LED candles and foliage dotted around everywhere.

We have used lots of foliage from our garden in most jars and vases, the hoops at the entrance were made from ivy growing around one of our trees, even the men’s boutonnieres were made from flowers from the Sapphire bush by our wall. I have also made my bouquet which had a mixture of brought and garden flowers. I still can’t believe that we only spend £25 on all the flowers, that’s including my bouquet, it was all so lovely and green 😊


There was even the knitters table 🙂

There wouldn’t be a handmade wedding if we didn’t have a handmade cake, well…..partially handmade. Both of us are not great bakers, not even mediocre ones, we really didn’t wanted to risk dry, over or under baked sponges, not to mention soggy bottoms. We have found this great bakery on line, The Nude Cakes, which supply readymade sponges, perfect for decorating. We wanted a naked cake, three tiers were essential for past, present and future and lots of fresh fruit and berries decorating the cake. The flavours were vanilla, chocolate and lemon. We made a vanilla buttercream filling with strawberry jam for the vanilla tier, a chocolate ganache for the chocolate one and a lemon buttercream with lemon and lime marmalade for the lemon sponge. All the tiers were stacked and adorned with fresh berries and cobnuts. Some of the berries weren’t staying put and as we didn’t have any tooth picks, we were really running out of time by then, we used dry spaghetti pasta. It was a bit hilarious as the pasta soften throughout the day, being stuck in a moist cake, but that was at the end of the day and the guests found it quite funny picking out uncooked pasta from cake…. what can I say, necessity is the mother of invention.

The stand was simple slice of wooden log and the cake topper, a pair of charming ceramic foxes ordered from strawberriesandcream on Etsy. If you look closely on the tail of the bride fox you can see little teeth marks, this was Brick the cat having a good go on munching it.  

There wasn’t a space in the café for a band but that didn’t matter as we put together a fantastic playlist, mixing swing, blues and rock. Anything from Squirrel Nut Zippers, Dean Martin to Seasick Steve. With the opening song being of course the cover of White Wedding by The New Morty Show, here’s the song:

 
It was so wonderful to just hang out with our family and friend and enjoying the day to its fullest. I still smile every time I look at my wedding ring and remember that special day, not only for how beautiful it was but mostly because I married the love of my life.

 And when the night fell the candles outside flickered gently and the sparklers were lit.

The perfect end to the perfect day ………..

January blues

I’m in a bit of a slump. It’s probably all down to January blues, the miserable weather, the big come down after so many celebrations. Everything feels a bit blahhh at the moment. It’s very hard to find any sort of motivation to do anything. Even looking forward to what exciting things the New Year might bring seems like a bit of a struggle at the moment. My get up and go seemed to have gone up and went. 
It could be that I’m actually missing 2017. I haven’t really registered its gone. Every year seems to pass so fast now, 12 months just pass in a blink of an eye. Happiness, sadness, love, beauty, tears, heartache, achievements, drawbacks…..all of this just wedged into 12 breathless months. I feel almost guilty for not appreciating every day to its fullest.
2017 has been really good to me which I’m failing to see at the moment because I’m too busy mourning it. I’m notoriously hard on myself and refuse to give myself any praise for a job well done. I rarely look at a new design with an adoring eye but more of an eye of criticism and the nagging feeling of what could be improved. Don’t get me wrong I do love my designs, otherwise I wouldn’t be making them, but it’s far too easy for me to just overshadow that with my need to better everything.
I feel I lose the importance of my knitting and crochet achievements, not because I don’t enjoy them but because I don’t allow myself to fully submerge in the happiness that they bring. 
The same can be said for my nagging feelings of not enjoying every day of the passing year to its full potential. It just all seem like an endless cycle of work, sleep, eat and repeat, but it really isn’t. There are wonderful moments and events that bring incredible happiness but do I again overshadow them with the everyday life? To be honest the wobbling political situation is really not helping. We live in a world of uncertainty.
Dave suggested that I write a list of all the things good things that happened in 2017 to really give them the praise they deserve, so here it goes:
I have truly loved working with Crochet Now, Women’s Weekly and Amirisu magazines. 
The delicate Arvia shawl was featured in Amirisu, I have adored this magazine for a very long time and it was such an honour to be featured in it. 
Crochet Now published few of my crochet designs that have been greatly received, for which I’m very grateful. These are just two that were included in the booklets. The Energy mandala and Bryony shawl for West Yorkshire Spinners. 

Women’s Weekly featured my Summer in the bag pattern, which saw me use by favourite Fair Isle knitting in the round technique.

I was also one of eleven designers to collaborate with Martin’s Lab on the Stillness collection. The stunning De Anima shawl is part of the collection.

2017 saw me also collaborating on with Ange from GamerCrafting on Yrden shawl. Beautiful triangular shawl knitted on the bias with Mosaic border. Ange is an amazing friend and an incredible yarn dyer, not surprising then there will be more collaborations coming in 2018 so watch this space. 
This is a little taster using Ange’s mini skeins.
One more collaboration was with Rooster yarns. I have design Essie for them, which is worked from tip to tip with an asymmetrical “spine”. Essie was a joy to design and knit.

I have published some designs. Some were brand new, some were published in magazines before, but because the rights have reverted back to me I was able to publish them independently: Nerida, Annis, Love in Every stitch blanket, Yrden and Bryony 

One of those patterns was the Energy Mandala. I’ll donate every penny from the sale of this pattern to the St.Thomas Hospital in London, the doctors and nurses there took such a good care of my mum in her final hours, I’ll forever be grateful to them. Thank you all for your support and helping me raise the money, we have so far raised £284!! An amazing amount. Thank you all so much.
I have also designed my first garment. This is Dyppetcardigan which is part of the Anthropology collection for LoveKnitting.com. Dyppet is a sweet child’s hooded cardigan for ages from 0-3 years. It was a really a tick on my design list. I wanted to design a garment for a while. 

I love teaching and this year I have been very busy with new classes and new shops. I have met so many incredible people and saw them fall in love with knitting and crochet. I was teaching at some fab places: The Yarn Dispensary, Sew Over It, Craftyangel, The Yarns of Anarchy
I have also published two free patterns. One for flowers for the incredible Jenny and one for crochet Christmas baubles with embroidery details.
My second book, 20 to Make; Crocheted Flowers to Wear, was published in November by Search Press and I couldn’t be happier. I have worked hard on this book to design every flower not only to be individual but to bring joy when crocheting. It’s a book full of colour, happiness, interesting techniques and of course gorgeous flowers. 
Being on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas on Channel 4. I took part in the Christmas wreath making competition and it was one of the most surreal experiences of my live! A true bucket list moment. I have crocheted my delicate wreath in 3 hours in wire and yarn and my poor fingers did not thank me for it 🙂 I have been absolutely overwhelmed with your incredible response. Thank you all for every comment and all the love, I truly appreciate it.

And of course, the best moment on 2017 was when my soulmate and I said I do. Marrying Dave has been everything and more. He is my life and I love him more than words can ever express.
I have all the pictures back so can finally write a blog about it soon. 
When you put everything in a list and see all the big and little achievements it really puts it all in prospective. I haven’t really wasted all year, I have progressed and achieved good things it just sometimes it’s hard to see them in the hum of everything.
I don’t ever make new year resolutions, but maybe this year I could start. More goals than resolutions I think:
1. Write more blogs – I have really let slip with my blogs, don’t write them as often as I would like. This year I would definitely aim at more.
2. Finish the square joining tutorial – do you remember the little granny squares I crocheted out of all those tapestry threads? Well I do, they are constantly looking and me. I was supposed to write a second part of the blog that was published last year, all about joining the squares, well this year I definitely will!!
3. Publish a cat pattern – every year I publish a pet pattern for my cats’ birthday in March. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage it last year and I think Ollie and Brick resent me slightly lol. This year I definitely will crochet something just for them.
4. Get more organised with my time – I sometimes feel like I run around being constantly busy but achieve nothing. I must get more organised with my time, choose priorities over silly things that can really be done later.
5. Deadlines! – This goes with number 4. I have been truly busy which caused me to miss two deadlines, it has been around the time of my wedding, so it’s kind of understandable, but time organization is the key here.
6. Publish more design – I have lots of ideas brewing for lovely new knitting and crochet design and I’m planning on publishing all of them this year.
7. Teach – I love teaching and sharing all that I have learned, I want to continue to teach and I also want to expand my knowledge, not only, in knitting and crochet, but sewing as well.
8. Travel – Dave and I have not been on nearly as many holidays and weekend aways as we would like to. This year will be a year of adventures. 
Hope you all have an incredible 2018!!
Anna xx

Provisional cast on – Diamond Haven Blanket


Diamond Haven Blanket 
I was very honoured to be asked by Love Knitting to design a blanket for the Breast Cancer Haven. It is an amazing charity that supports women through their breast cancer treatment. When breast cancer tries to rob a woman of her individuality, her confidence or her strength, they provide the tailored package of emotional, physical and practical support that helps her hold on to them.

The blanket is modelled by service user Alexia: “At first I wasn’t able to talk to other people about my diagnosis, but through my time at Breast Cancer Haven, I’ve realised how important it is to connect with others. Breast Cancer Haven is a special place and a great support network, it’s given me support to love and care for my mind and my body. They also gave me the tools and confidence to discuss my diagnosis and treatment with others.”

All proceeds from the sales of this pattern will be donated to Breast Cancer Haven in support of the The Big Tea Cosy, which takes place March 1-31, 2018, and raises money and awareness for Breast Cancer Haven. If you’d like to donate your project, you can send it to Haven’s London centre where they will be gifted to breast cancer visitors. 
Download your free message tag, and find the address here
You can purchase the pattern for the DiamondHaven Blanket on Love Knitting, please click here
When designing the blanket, I wanted the making of the project to be easily portable, so the maker can take it along and work on trains, planes and buses! Of course, It had to be soft to bring comfort so MillaMia Naturally Soft Aran yarn was the perfect choice as it’s insanely soft, and it comes in a beautiful range of colours. I have chosen greys and yellow, as I’m slightly obsessed with this colour combination and yellow is a very happy colour, symbolising sunshine and happy times, hoping it will bring comfort to a person going through very tough time. 
The blanket is constructed out of individual squares which are then joined together. There are two types of squares, one plain stocking stitch and one lacy. Each square is knitted from the centre out, which gives the makers full control of how large you would like the squares to be.  Garter stitch border finishes each square in one colour, when the squares are joined together this gives a lovely definition to the centre of each square.

The squares are knitted from centre, which means you will work using 5 double pointed needles (DPN) and start with provisional cast on. I have created a little tutorial below to help you get started.
There are many techniques out there how to work a provisional cast on, I want to show you one that I use the most and this method requires a crochet hook.
Provisional cast on is a way of making a temporary cast on, one that can be easily removed and will give you live stitches on your needles so you can continue to knit, unravel or cast off. It is especially useful when starting the squares of this blanket as you can just pick up the live stitches while unpicking the crochet edge and gather them tight to close up the centre of the square.
The blanked is knitted using 5 x 5mm (US 8) DPNs, you will need 5.50mm (US I/9) crochet hook, scissors and tapestry needle, main yarn for the square and waste yarn in contrasting colour. I use a hook a bit bigger than the needles as I want to make bigger chains for ease of working into them.
1: Using the waste yarn in contrasting colour (so you can see it when you unpick at the end) make 10 chains, I always like to make 2 more chains than the number of stitches needed for my project, few extra chains just in case. Cut the waste yarn and pull it through last chain to secure. 
 If you look at the right side of your chains you will have a row of Vs, if you look at the wrong side you will see a row of ‘bumps’, we will work into these bumps.
2, 3 & 4: Using the yarn and one DPN that you will use for your project, leaving a tail of around 15 cm (6”), pick up and knit a stitch in the ‘bump’ of each chain until you have 8 sts. 

5 & 6: Separate the stitches onto 4 DPNs, you will have 2 sts on each needle. 

7 & 8: Using the 5th DPN start working in the pattern, until you reach a good size to comfortably unpick the provisional cast on or until you finish the square. 
TIP: When you knit few rows place a marker to denote the beginning or round.  I found it very useful to pin a lockable marker into the beginning few rows of my work, as working on DPNs and placing the marker on the needle causes it to fall off constantly (pic 8).

9: When you are ready to unpick your provisional cast on, thread your main yarn tail through a tapestry needle.
10: With right side facing and using the tapestry needle unpick the knot you made at the end of your chain. 
 
11: Carefully pulling on the tail, unravel one stitch at the time, as each stitch becomes free, slip it on the tapestry needle. 
12 & 13: Once all the chains have been removed you have lovely live stitches on your tapestry needle.
Pull tight on the tail to close up the opening. 

14: Push the tapestry needle to the wrong side of work and weave in the tail around the centre to secure.
15: Hey presto! One square finished with a lovely neat centre. 
Hope you all enjoy knitting the blanket and helping such a worthy cause. 
Anna x


Christmas baubles

I have been completely obsessed with embroidery lately, and have been trying out different stitches. Of course, the first thing I wanted to try is to embroider onto crochet fabric, which gave me an excuse to play with Scheepjes Catona. The cotton yarn is now available in the cutest 10g balls in a huge range of colours and at 55p each, who could blame me! I decided to create something festive and the result are these charming Christmas baubles. 
 

They are pretty quick to make, it takes me around 1.5 hours

to completely finish one, so still time to make few before
Christmas.
Hope you enjoy making them as much as I have.

Materials 

Scheepjes Catona – 100% Mercerised Cotton – 10g –
25m/27yrd
Colours used: 130 Old Lace, 173 Bluebell, 192 Scarlet, 205 Kiwi, 241 Parrot Green, 251 Garden Rose, 391 Deep Ocean Green, 411 Sweet Orange, 513 Apple Green, 514 Jade, 518 Marshmallow.
3.00mm crochet hook
Lockable stitch marker
Tapestry needle
Toy stuffing
Pencil or tailor’s chalk (optional)

Finished size 
The completed bauble measures approximately 9cm (3.5”) in
height and 14cm (5.5”) in circumference around the biggest
part.

Abbreviations

Ch – chain 
Dc (US sc) – double crochet (US single crochet)
Dc2tog (US sc2tog) – double crochet two stitches together (US single crochet two stitches together)
Ss – slip stitch 
St(s) – stitch(es) 
Rd(s) – round(s) 
Rep – repeat 
Magic Loop – You will find tutorial on how to make Magic Loop on my website: http://moochka.co.uk/pages/support 

Pattern note – Please note that pattern is written using UK terminology with US conversion given in abbreviation list.


Baubles 

Using chosen colour make a Magic Loop. 
Rd 1: ch 1, 8 dc into Magic Loop, pull tight on the tail to close up opening, ss to first dc.
From now on you will work in continuous spiral, which means you will not ch 1 at the beginning of round and slip stitch to close round. Placing a marker on the first stitch of round is vital to denote the beginning of round. Move the marker up on every row. 
Rd 2: * 2 dc into next st, 1 dc into next st, rep from * to end. (12 dc) 
Rd 3: 1 dc into every st to end. 
Rds 4 & 5: as rds 2 & 3. (18 dc) 
Rd 6: * 2 dc into next st, 1 dc into each of next 2 sts, rep from * to end. (24 dc) 
Rds 7 to 10: 1 dc into every st to end. 
Rd 11: * 2 dc into next st, 1 dc into each of next 3 sts, rep from * to end. (30 dc) 
Rds 12 to 16: 1 dc into every st to end. 
Rd 17: * dc2tog, 1 dc into each of next 2 sts, rep from * to last 2 sts, dc2tog. (22 dc)
Begin stuffing the bauble. 
Rd 18: * dc2tog, 1 dc into next st, rep from * to last st, 1 dc into last st. (15 dc) 
Rd 19: * dc2tog, 1 dc into next st, rep from * to end. (10 dc)
Change to contrasting colour. 
Rds 20 to 23: 1 dc into every st to end.
Insert more toy stuffing into top of bauble. 
Rd 24: *dc2tog, rep from * to end. (5 dc)
Cut yarn leaving 10cm (4’’) long length for weaving in.
Following the picture tutorial below, work as follows: 
1 & 2: Using tapestry needle, weave in yarn around the opening, I have used contrasting colour so you can see
better. 
3: Pull tight on the yarn to close up the opening. 
4, 5 & 6: Hide the tail of your yarn in the top of bauble by
inserting your needle downwards through the top of bauble,
then back again the same way you took your needle out, to
trap the yarn. Cut off excess tail.

 

Embroidery 

I have used only three types of stitches on the baubles: a
combination of back and straight stitch, running stitch and
chain stitch. I’m not an expert in embroidery (not even close!)
I just try out things and see what the finished product is like. I
think embroidery gives you lot of freedom as you really don’t
have to follow the rules, no need for structure, try it, if you
don’t like, then undo. The wonderful result of embroidering
onto crochet is that the finished result looks rather clumsy (in
a good way), which to me means handmade.   
Crochet fabric does not produce perfectly straight lines so
working embroidery onto it gives you the perfectly rustic
look. 
 

Below is little tutorial on how I worked some of the stitches.
These are just guide lines that worked for me, if you find a
way of working them better, then that’s fantastic. This is the
first time I have tried to explain how to work embroidery
stitches, I hope my instructions will be clear.
Please check out thespruce.com website, I have found it very
helpful for explanation on how to make some of the stitches.
For the snowflake bauble, I have drawn a template, then
traced it onto the side of the bauble using tailor’s chalk as it
dusts off easily. If you do not have a tailor’s chalk use a
pencil or just try embroidering free hand. 

Snowflake
For the snowflake, I have used a combination of back and
straight stitch. 
1 & 2: Thread your yarn through a tapestry needle and inset
it from the back to front, where the centre of the snowflake will be.
3 & 4: The long spikes of the snowflake stretches over 4 rows and the short ones over 2. The long ones are made using back stitch and the short ones using straight stitch. Insert your needle two rows above the centre and out again 2 rows above that. Pull the yarn through, being careful not to pull all of it out. 
5 & 6: Insert the needle back into the same place as the end of first half of the spike (this creates the long spike of the snowflake) and at the same time pull the tip up 2 stitches to the left (this will create the short spikes). 
7: Insert the needle back into the centre (short spike made) and pull the tip up through 2 stitches to the left (this is the first half of second long spike). 
8 & 9: Insert the needle back into the centre and pull the tip up 4 stitches to the left, in the same line as the first half of the long spike. 
10 & 11: Insert the needle back into the same place as the end of first half of the spike and at the same time pull the tip up 2 rows below (this will create the short spikes).
Continue repeating steps 8 to 11 until the full snowflake is made.

Embroider the little branches of the spikes using the straight
stitch, just going 1 stitch to each side of the spikes.
The dots above the short spikes are made using the running
stitch (see below for instructions)
When you finish the star, hide the yarn by feeding it through
the bauble twice, so it gets trapped in the stuffing, cut the
excess tail.
 
Running stitch 
I have used this stitch at the bottom, around the decrease
part and the tops of the snowflake bauble.
Starting at the back 
1 & 2: Insert the needle in and bring the tip up 1 stitch apart. 
Pull yarn through. 
3 & 4: Repeat the last steps with 1 stitch apart all around the
bauble.
Feed the yarn through the bauble to trap it. 

Chain stitch 
I used this stitch on the firework bauble. It looks beautiful
when done in different colours.
I have worked this stitch over one double crochet stitch going
up, down and sideways. 
1: Bring the needle up through back to front. This is your
starting point. 
2: Insert the needle again at the starting point and bring the
tip up 1 stitch away. 
3: Place the yarn behind the needle and pull the needle through the loop. 
4: Insert the needle back into the same stitch you just came
out from, but making sure the loop is secured in-between the
two strands of yarn. This will trap it and you can move on to
the next chain stitch. 

Straight stitch
This stitch was used to create the stars and crosses on the
top of the firework and star baubles.
The stars are worked as described in the snowflake but all
the spikes are made with single thread and over one or two
stitches. The crosses on tops of the baubles are made the
following way:
Starting from the back and around 2 rows up from colour
change. 
1: Insert the needle in and bring the tip up 2 stitches apart.
Pull yarn through. 
2 & 3: Insert the needle from top, 2 rows up and 2 stitches
apart, going downwards, bring the tip up 2 rows below, this
should be in line with the starting point. Pull yarn through.
This is the first leg of the cross. 
4 & 5: insert the needle in the same place as starting point,
pull the tip up through the same point as end of last step. Pull
yarn through. The second leg of cross made. 
6 & 7: Insert the needle, 2 rows down and 2 stitches apart,
going upwards, bring the tip up 2 rows above, this should be
in line with the end of last step. Pull yarn through. This is the
first leg of second cross. 
8 & 9: Insert the needle in the bottom corner of previous
cross, pull the tip up through the starting point of last step.
Pull yarn through. Second cross completed.
Continue repeating steps 2 to 9, working around the bauble.
Feed the yarn through the bauble to trap it.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas


Anna xx 

One last thing; Please excuse the rather wonky wreath, it’s the first time I actually properly shaped one (apart from the ones for the wedding, but they were in ivy, far easier). Quite a good fun though, and costs nothing, I used branches from my garden and local park.