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

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