Blankets

I wanted to write this blog for a while now, since the blankets were released really, but things kept mounting up, and recent events meant that I kept pushing it back. At this moment I crave occupying my mind with my soothing craft and even writing a blog again.
Let’s talk about blankets…………….
When the lovely people from Deramores approached me for design ideas I was overjoyed, I haven’t really designed crochet blankets, and this was the perfect opportunity.
I had ideas brewing it was just a case of making them a reality.
My love has gone in every stitch of designing and making them, it was truly a joy thinking of stitches and colourways. I wanted to use the new Colour Lab DK yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners as I worked with it on Runswick shawl and Melmbery socks and I’m crazy about this yarn, but then what’s not to love about it? The range of colours is beautiful, it’s pure wool and very affordable with good metreage, a winner all around. 
One idea, three blankets – When designing these blankets, I wanted the maker to be able to customise it to reflect themselves or the person they are making the blanket for. I took four interesting stitches and made them into squares which are fun, portable and quick to make, but I also wanted those stitches to be able to make one large blanket, without having to join squares.
Bolderwood is named after the beautiful forest which is also a deer sanctuary in New Forest. This is made out of four types of squares which use all four stitches, which are then joined together to form a large blanket. You are in complete control of how large you would like the blanket to be. I have laid them out diagonally in a style of traditional patchwork quilt; starting from the corner you have rows of textured squares, followed by rows of plain squares, each row uses one or two colours.
 
I have loved making this blanket as you can’t beat the portability of a crochet square, you can take them anywhere. I made sure that each square uses one or two colours only. They are also great way to try out stitches you haven’t before. 
 
I have used combinations of textures and plain stitches in colour sequence 
Spike stitch
Cable lattice stitch
Linen stitch
Plain stitch
 Green and grey colourway
 Pink
 Brown and cream
And I used the gorgeous flat slip stitch joint which is my all time favourite 
You can make Bolderwood blanket as large or as small as you like, you are in total control.
If you would like to change the size, make a little layout diagram to help you, use some coloured pencils to see if the colours will look good together.
 
Batchworth is named after the gorgeous lake in Hertfordshire where some of the photos were taken. This blanket is made in one piece using three of the stitches. It starts at the centre in linen stitch, expanding into plain stitch, followed by textured section using cable stitch, ending with a small edging in half trebles and finished off with slip stitch lines along edges of plain section. It is a perfect blanket to make when you are curled up on the sofa watching your favourite shows. 
Little Cloud takes its name from the sweet fluffy clouds. It is a baby blanket that uses the same idea as Bolderwood blanket but using three types of squares: linen, plain and spike. I have designed this blanket in a multi-use size, perfect for cots, prams and as a comfort blanket.
I used the sweet West Yorkshire Spinners Po Beep DK.
 
Dave and I had so much fun taking some of the photos by the lake. The weather was just right for perfectly moody photos. The Batchworth lake is really stunning location and I have used it before for photos, it never disappoints.
Big thank you goes not only to my Dave but also to Carmell for letting me use her stunning house for the Bolderwood blanket photos and for lovely Melinda for arranging it all. Also, to Annette and Magda for all their help, I have wonderful people in my live and I’m so grateful.
The patterns for the blankets are free and available at Deramores website along with yarn packs. 
The yarn packs are also at 10% off for limited time, perfect time to get them 🙂
 
Click on the blankets name below to take you to Deramores. 
 
And of course giant pompoms are a must 🙂
Happy crocheting, 
 
Anna xx

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

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