Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 in review

Some of my handmade Christmas gifts: Honey Cowl for my mum, stockings for the kinder teachers, Purl Soho skirt for my neice.

It's the last day of the year and as the year draws to a close I inevitably begin reflecting upon the days that had passed. This year has been a big year for me as a maker. I learnt many new things and achieved some of my goals but also failed at things too because some things are a bit beyond me for the stage of life I'm currently in.

Looking at the post I wrote back at the beginning of January where I set out my goals and making list for 2015 I feel pretty happy with what I managed to tick off in the months that followed that post. You can read the full details of the post, or just for a recap here is what I aimed to achieve in 2015:

2015 Making List

Some general aims I have for this year are:
1) To stash less* and knit from my existing stash as much as possible.
2) To knit up those patterns that I have queued.
3) To finish those few projects that I hibernated a long time ago.
4) To give handmade = knitted gifts.
5) To keep trying new things and learning new skills.
6) and under the influence of ex-physio husband; to take care of myself physically as a knitter - stretching and resting the hands, shoulders and neck muscles regularly etc.

Finish Rye socks for Ba
High water for Sir S
Bonnet for Baby Cheng

Baby cardigan for A’s baby no.2
Livie for Miss L (birthday present)
beanie for Sir S (birthday present)

Mitini mitts for SIL** (birthday present)
Windschief for Bro  (birthday present)
Softie for Niece L (birthday present); needs to be sent to USA so I've got to work on it early.

Neon ski bonnet for me; in preparation for our snow trip.
Hat for hubby (anniversary present)
Neon ski bonnet for Miss L; because I want to make a matching hat for my little girl.

Finish Salander leggies for M; which is an overdue present from last year's birthday.
Bella Shawl or Span for me; I think either of these might be a good knit to travel with, but might turn out to be too ambitious.

Start Christmas projects; I know it sounds crazy but some of these presents need to be sent overseas so I better get onto them early.

Socks for BIL
Hat for SIL
Quaintly for Niece L

Scarf for SIL
Socks for Bro
Socks for Ba

Kinder teachers’ presents
cowl for Ma

Christmas stockings for the family
I remember beginning quite strongly in January and managing to tick off the items that I had listed and added a few too. Everything was following the list pretty swimmingly until about March when I got a bit too overconfident and started casting on an extra project here and there when I felt a bit bored with the existing WIPs. It was around this time that I took on a comissioned project for a friend. I found the experience of knitting for "work" challenging, but it was mostly because I accepted the project while I was already trying to knock out a couple of birthday presents for family members.

When little Miss L got really sick around Easter and I was majorly sleep deprived the only thing I (and she) found some joy in was a trip to the LYS and the purchase of a sweater lot of yarn. I haven't made anything with that lot of Shilasdair luxury DK yet but it kind of opened the floodgates to the idea that yes, I can be a sweater knitter. 

That leads me to talk about how I went with stashing less and knitting my stash. I failed miserably at stashing less. I probably went the other way than stashing less and actually began acquiring sweater lots of yarn throughout the year with big dreams of knitting so many cosy jumpers to build my handmade wardrobe. In reality I only managed one adult jumper, a tee, a shrug and a half and an assortment of accessories. The handmade wardrobe is slowly building, hence it being "slow fashion", but the stash is not getting any less. There has just been so many yarns calling out to me this year and you know there is always next year to try better at stashing less.

In terms of some of my other goals, I did manage to make most of the gifts that I gave this year. Even when I was feeling completely time poor and overwhelmed with the prospect of knitting another baby gift I felt even more overwhelmed with the thought of taking two children to the shops. So I pushed myself and made lots of baby hats and even a couple of cowls for girls who had invited Sir S to their birthday parties.

Happy Homemade: Sew Chic Kids have easy shorts that even a sewing newbie like me can manage.

I do believe I kept trying new techniques. I learnt to knit cables without a cable needle, I did a circular yoke for the first time, I knit socks cuff down and toe up, I did some test knitting, I did a couple of KALs and I started sewing. I also made it to The Craft Sessions and had a go at dyeing and weaving and in general had a fabulous time meeting lots of very talented crafty people.

As you can imagine with all these new things that I was trying lots of different projects were being cast on and I did kind of lose track of my making list. Everything kind of fell apart towards Christmas as I found myself becoming a bit of a selfish knitter and all my WIPs were 'me' projects. I decided I wasn't going to be able to knit all my Christmas gifting this year so I commandeered my mother's sewing machine and found the simplest and quickest sewing projects that a newbie like me could handle.

I made this apron for my brother and I got the 'pattern' from Purl Soho.

I guess it's no surprise that this year I made more than I have ever made before. I'm still determing what goals I will set for 2016 but I'm pretty sure it'll be another big year for little ol' me. 

Thanks for reading this little blogging adventure of mine. It's been a pleasure to put my thoughts out there this year and also such a delight to know that there are a few readers following my ramblings. I hope you've had a productive year too and look forward to continuing this journey together next year.

Have a happy new year everyone.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Yarn review: Skein Meadow

Recently I knit with Skein's new base, Meadow to make my Sibella pullover. I finished the pullover last week and got the chance to wear it this week when the cool change swept in to break the first burst of summer heat in Melbourne. As this is a new base for Skein I wanted to put some thoughts out there about the yarn.

When Kristen, owner and dyer of Skein yarns announced on her FB page that she was trying out a new sport weight non-superwash merino base I jumped onto her shop straightaway and snapped up four skeins of the Meadow dyed in 'Ice on the Windowpane'.

When the yarn arrived I was in love. My first impressions were that it was soft and squishy and the yarn had a nice twist in it so I expected it to be sturdy and suitable for a sweater project. I also noticed that the colour was a softer more muted variation of the colourway and concluded that the rawness of the fibre (having not been subjected to the superwash process) meant that it wouldn't take on as much dye in the dyeing process. I was not disappointed by this fact because the muted colourway is still just as beautiful.

When I swatched with the yarn I saw that the yarn had good stitch definition - crisp and consistent stitches in both stockinette and garter stitches. Then I blocked the swatch and even with some squishing of the swatch I noticed that small sections of it remained that dry look. This meant that the yarn was still a bit water repellant, possibly due to some traces of lanolin still being in the fibre. I was falling more and more in love with this yarn with each step and I couldn't wait to actually start knitting a project with it.

When I was knitting my Sibella pullover I decided to alternate the skeins to ensure there would be no colour pooling. Kristen recently wrote a very clear blog post about why it is important to alternate skeins when knitting with hand dyed yarns. She also made an easy to follow video tutorial for alternating skeins when knitting in the round. You can find both post and video here.

Now that I have been wearing the pullover for a couple of days I have noticed a bit of pilling in the underarm area, but that is to be expected with woollen fibre that has not been superwashed. It just means that it will need an occassional brush with my lilly brush or some other depilling device. I am by no means disappointed with the yarn because it is the type of wool that deserves a little bit more TLC.

Meadow is a base that suits knitters who prefer soft merino in it's true form. It will need handwashing and the occassional depill. It will also dye up into softer tones of the luscious Skein palette. It is definitely one of my new favourite yarns.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Blocking, what is it and why do we do it?

Pinning the lace yoke of my newly finished Sibella pullover will open up the lace a little more.

Mats and strong pins are the basic blocking essentials.
Blocking is another one of those things that knitters talk about and nobody else knows what it is. It is also one of those things like gauge swatching that often get skipped and you can be a knitter for many many years and not actually know what blocking (or swatching) is.

Basically blocking is what you do when you wet a piece of knitting and then you lay it out to dry. Sometimes the piece of knitting will require a bit of shaping and pinning in order to pull it into the shape and size that the pattern has indicated that it should be. 

There is a saying that "blocking fixes all problems", while this is not entirely true it does fix some things. One of the benefits of blocking is that by gently manipulating the wet knitting you can even out any tension discrepancies and help the stitches look more consistent. It is also essential with lace work to block the piece afterwards in order to open up the lace so that it will show properly.

Some yarns will not show it's full nature until it has been wet blocked. Some fibres will bloom after they have been wet and that simply means that the yarn will kind of puff a bit after it has dried from being wet. This blooming can affect the gauge of the knitted work and also the crispness of the pattern design particularly when colour is involved.

There are many different blocking techniques and each piece will require a slightly different treatment. However, here is a description of my standard blocking process. I will fill a bucket with water and put a little bit of wool washing detergent in it. I will let the knitting soak for at least 30 minutes to allow all the fibre to properly absorb the water and be saturated. After soaking I will gently squeeze the water out of the knitting; never treat handknits roughly for the risk of felting. Then I will roll the knitting up in a towel to remove excess water.

Lace blocking wires are especially useful when trying to achieve a straight edge on your knitting.
T Pins and wires.
Then I will pin the piece out on a foam mat; either a camping mat or a yoga mat. Sometimes I will also use lace blocking wires to obtain a really straight edge or to pull the lace open with a consistent tension. The pins I use are strudy 'T' shaped craft pins and the lace blocking wires are a set that I bought from my LYS, Sunspun.

I will leave the wet knitting pinned out to dry in a warm spot in the house or outside in a shaded spot. I make sure that the knitting is bone dry before I will remove the pins and wires otherwise the knitting will not maintain the shape or size that you pinned it out to. However, even this does not mean that the sizing and shaping is permanent. I have noticed in particular that no matter how meticulously I blocked my shawls that gradually they kind of scrunch up again. In fact, everything will need to be re-blocked each time it is washed, so I guess when those shawls are scrunching up it is just time for a quick wash and reblock.

I hope that gives you all a basic understanding of what blocking involves and why we do it. Now you can keep me accountable and avoid lazy knitter behaviours by asking me if I've blocked my finished projects before wearing them adoringly.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Losing that blogging mojo

My birthday treat to myself was a yarn crawl and even the little hands couldn't stay away from the yummy yarn.

I hate to admit it but I've been neglecting the blog for a couple of months and just struggling to get that mojo for blogging. It's not like I haven't had things to talk about but I just haven't been motivated to put words to those thoughts, events and projects.

I think in part I have been reticent to blog because of the time commitment that writing takes. As we approached the festive season I felt the pressure to get onto my Christmas making and to sit down and write was not a luxury that I was allowing myself.

Another reason I have been struggling to write is that the brain commitment was a feeling a bit daunting. I was finding the process of putting my thoughts into words was requiring a fair bit of focus and brain power that most nights after putting the children to bed, I just didn't posess. 

So, to tackle these blocks I realised I should simplify things. I need to be more discerning with the content of the posts and to focus on key points rather than getting too rambly. I want to focus on posts where I have learnt something new or had great epiphanies. I want to write about things that will help and inspire other crafters too.

There is so much fabulous content in the fibre world and many people writing or podcasting great things. I'm not aiming to be on par with those who are already doing great things. I just want to make sure that I'm adding to the good stuff rather than just posting meaningless, self indulgent drivel.

Ok, that's enough for now. Stay tuned.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Finished object file: Waterlily Tee | RRHY Cherie Gold sock

It's been a while since I've had a finished object to report about but today I proudly got to wear my newly finished Waterlily tee so I feel it's only appropriate for me to write a bit about it. You can also look at my Ravelry notes here.

This project was my spring knit and thank goodness that I finished it with one and a half months of the season left to enjoy it. Back in August as we approached the end of the winter I had this itch in my hands to work on something for the warmer months. I began trawling Ravelry for tee patterns and projects that were knit with linen, silk or cotton blends. In my pattern stalking adventure I saw some beautiful finished objects of this Waterlily tee from Pom Pom Magazine's Spring 2014 issue.

It is a lovely tee with lace over the shoulders and bust area, then stockinette stitch down the rest of the body and finished with a garter stitch hem. Knit from the bottom up it was a breeze to whiz through the stockinette and while I was working on that part the project was my perfect travel knitting for trips in the car or while at swimming lessons. However, once I reached the lace section it became my 'need to concentrate' project so sadly it got a little less attention then.

The lace pattern was not overly complicated but with a high number of yarn overs I really had to be a bit more conscious of my knitting to make sure I didn't miss one. The other tricky part with the lace was to pay attention to when I needed to do a K2tog or a SSK decrease because that affected the direction of leaning in the stitch pattern. Also, when I was working the neckline for the front panel I had to play around with the decrease to ensure I decreased 1 stitch at a time. To maintain the pattern some rows I would do a sssk or k3tog to do a double decrease and other rows I didn't decrease at all due to the varying stitch count produced by the pattern. I also followed the advice of other knitters and alternated p2tog and p3tog when knitting the back of the neck so that it wouldn't be too saggy. 

I stashed dived for this project and found 2 skeins of Red Riding Hood Yarns Cherie Gold Sock that I had purchased in a preorder last year. The colour way is Princess Leia from Hannah's Star Wars theme and I had originally purchased it intending to make something for Miss L but this tee was calling and I don't regret using it for myself. I am so in love with the colour and the sparkle and I think it works well with the Waterlily pattern. The dominant colour is purple with some subtle bronzey variegation which is not swallowed up in the lace section.

The yarn being a merino, nylon and stellina blend is probably a bit warmer than the Kettle Yarn Co. BFL/ silk blend that the pattern was designed for but I'm wearing it today when it's 23 degree Celsius and I'm comfortable. I want this primarily as a Spring top but I think I can pull it off as an evening top on a mild summer night too.

I am quite happy with the fit of this top on me. It is such an achievement for me to have a well fitting handmade garment in my wardrobe; actually this is the first time I have hit the mark for myself. Love this tee and I'm going to love wearing it.

Friday, 25 September 2015

The struggle to make for me

This whole week I have been buzzing with excitement as I see my little one wear her new lovingly handmade skirt and tunic. If you’re interested, my last post goes into further detail about those two recently finished garments. Now, after finishing these two projects I am back on my slow going adult garments. I am loving the adult knits but I do struggle to actually finish them and long to wear them.

Which leads me to ponder are there any tips for getting through the adult projects quicker?

Does anybody else struggle with making a handmade wardrobe for themselves but the kids are head to toe in mummy made items?

Making for the kids is the thing that got me back into knitting and it is the main drive for my making obsession. I love dressing my children in items that I have made and to be honest it is much more affordable buying a sweater lot of yarn for a little person than for me. Also the gratification is achieved so much quicker with children's projects.

I hope this yummy sweater lot of John Arbon Viola yarn  will become an actual sweater in the near future. Yes, HOPE.
However, I really want to build my own handmade wardrobe and this is motivated by more than the sweater envy I felt while on The Craft Sessions. I want to make my own clothes so that I can be excited about wearing my self made clothes as much as I am excited about dressing my kids in mummy made things.

I also want to engage less with consumerism and the desire to shop when I don’t need. I have become more conscious about how unethical the fashion industry is and self making is a small way that I can make a stand against it. I am also trying to be discerning about where my materials come from and how they have been processed. I am making myself question whether the source is ethical, sustainable and authentic. I want the fabric and the yarn that I use to be natural and that whatever processing it has undergone has maintained the integrity of the natural fibre. I also feel more comfortable knowing that what I’m wearing has been made under fair conditions for the workers.

I saw this saying posted on FB recently, “Why buy it for $7 when you can make it yourself for $92 of craft supplies.” Though the statement is a tongue in cheek jibe at how much makers spend on supplies I read it as a justification for why I make. In my humble opinion something that we can buy for $7 has probably been made by a poor child in a developing nation, who will barely receive a fraction of that money for their labour.

So, with all these thoughts in mind, why is my wardrobe still predominantly store bought? Lack of time obviously is a big factor but there is also a small element of guilt as I work on items for myself. A friend of mine recently confessed to me that she is a selfish maker, preferring to sew and knit for herself than for her kids. So I wonder, is it selfish to work on ‘me’ projects?

Something else I started pondering about was do makers make for fellow makers? Or are our own queues so long that we don’t have time to make for a friend who can make for themselves?

This winter I commiserated to my husband that I desperately wanted some handknit socks but I had too many WIPs already. I wanted someone else to knit some socks for me but to my woe I don’t have enough knitting friends and the ones I do have are probably working on too many of their own WIPs to be able to make socks for me. In the end I did cast on a pair of toe up socks for myself but I barely got beyond the toes because I knit too slowly and I had too many projects on the go already.

The whole making process is a great joy of mine. I am addicted to the authenticity of homemade items. Items where I have personally and lovingly selecting the materials and made by my own hand. There is something organic about the process as I see the beginnings of an item and I watch and feel it grow to completion. I’d just really love it a lot more if I could get through things much quicker.

I'd like to hear your thoughts so please comment and add to the conversation.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Finished object file: Miss L's wardrobe

Miss L in her new handmade wardrobe items: Quaintly top and Gathered Skirt.
This week I've been relishing in the joy that comes with accomplishing my first sewn garment. I am such a sewing newbie so even though the project was the simplest of patterns I am over the moon with joy at the completed object.

I made the Gathered skirt for all ages from the Purl Bee blog. I was instantly drawn to this skirt because of the large pockets featured on the sides and I also love the simple style of the skirt that makes it an everyday kind of item. Another bonus is that the blog provides instructions for sizes 2 year old to an adult 46" hip size. I remember when I originally came across the pattern months ago I shared it with the comment, "I can see myself making this skirt in every size for Miss L." and now after making my first one for her it is very possible that she really will always have one in her wardrobe throughout her life.

As with my knitting, if I am going to make something with love I am going to make it with materials that I love. For this skirt I went on a lovely fabric adventure to The Fabric Store in Fitzroy and selected some chambray for the main fabric and a very cute printed cotton as a contrast for the pockets.

I just love the simple beauty of chambray for everyday wear.
As a newbie I made some mistakes, like not sewing the waistband straight so there is a point where the band is too narrow for the elastic to sit flat so it is folded over. I also had to do the basting stitches twice because I didn't pay attention to the instructions and did them incorrectly the first time. And I wouldn't look too closely at the hem because I'm pretty sure that's not straight either, but despite all these imperfections I am so happy with it. The fabrics are just so beautiful and the pockets are fab.

When I showed Miss L she exclaimed, "So cute!". She very happily put it on and she twirled so excitedly throughout the day.

These little lacy cap sleeves are so beautiful and easy to knit too.
It has been a good week for Miss L's wardrobe because I also finished knitting a Quaintly top in fingering weight (4ply) hand dyed Miss Click Clack yarn. This yarn is such a beautiful colour and it was her own choice. We went to The Handmade Show market in Glen Huntly a few months ago and Miss L picked up this skein of yarn from Kelly's bargain bucket that was sitting on the ground. She did the cutest thing when she grabbed the yarn, she hugged it to herself because it was clear that she loved the squishy softness and the colour. I bought it always intending to make something for her with it and the Quaintly was perfect. It is such a lovely spring top with little lacy cap sleeves and a stockinette stitch body which I knit with extra length to make it a bit tunic like. My project notes can be found here.

Kelly Brooker of Peka Peka Design Studio designed the Quaintly pattern. The pattern is available individually but if you get the ebook you get a set of patterns for the fingering (4ply), DK (8ply) and worsted (10ply) weight and sizes all the way from newborn through to 10 years old. If you're like me and you like to keep you options open in terms of yarn choice then having the pattern written up in the three different yarn weights is great. I have already knit this pattern before in the DK weight in the 18-24 month size and it was a super quick knit. The fingering weight knit went pretty quickly too and I made the 2 year old size with the one skein of Miss Click Clack Merri Creek sock yarn.

The pattern instructions are simple enough to follow and even the fiddly bit of changing between two different needle sizes to finish the sleeves is explained very clearly and not difficult at all. I ended up just slipping the sleeve stitches onto a DPN in the smaller size (2.75mm) and kept everything else on the circular needle. When I came to the sleeve stitches I just held the circular needle aside and knit the sleeves with another DPN of the same size. 

To top of this gorgeous knit Miss L picked out some adorable little sheep buttons from Sunspun during their Spring sale last week. These very cute buttons come from a company called Incomparable Buttons. They are not plastic, so I'm guessing they are ceramic and they are handmade in South Africa through a programme that gives employment to women. These little buttons are so precious and make the perfect finishing touch to a lovely top.

The cutest little ceramic sheep buttons ever.

Miss L is a lucky little girl with her growing handmade wardrobe and her enjoyment of the clothes bring extra joy to both of us. Now, it's time to for us to twirl together.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Back from The Craft Sessions

Women carrying baskets were everywhere at the retreat and I wasn't out of place for once.
I also couldn't help buying a few lovely items from the mini market. Clockwise from L: Home and Away pattern book by Hannah Fettig, Lilly Brush pill remover, Maze and Vale freeform patchwork kit by Leslie Keating and Recycled Harris Tweed project bag by Julia Billings of Woollenflower.
So, I got back from The Craft Sessions yesterday and I've got some big thoughts bouncing around in my head and I'm not sure if I am going to be able to coherently express them because I'm still processing. I guess I should start by saying how fantastic it was to be able to spend a whole weekend crafting in the beautiful setting of the Yarra Valley.

For those of you who are not familiar with The Craft Sessions it is basically a weekend craft retreat that is organised by Felicia Semple and her team. Felicia is known for her blog, also called The Craft Sessions and she is a passionate and creative maker and mother. And after this weekend I have come to think of her as the ultimate enabler because she is also passionate about giving others a space to create as well.

I first came across The Craft Sessions about a week before last year's retreat because I was hungry for a weekend of uninterrupted knitting. I had even ranted to a couple of friends about wanting to go on a "yarn weekend" where I could get heaps of knitting done and maybe even visit some interesting yarn and craft shops in regional Victoria. So, when The Craft Sessions came up in my internet searching I was so excited but though there were still openings for last year's retreat a week out from the event I couldn't possibly make it happen with a husband who works weekends and two young children to care for. 

Some of the gorgeous swag that we got in our lovely retreat bags.

I was determined to make it happen this year and though I had 12 months to plan for it I almost missed out again because I missed the sign up when registrations opened and this year's event sold out incredibly quickly. I signed up for the wait list and later when my friend Jenny of JCL Created Cuddles dropped out I think I got her spot at the retreat. I am eternally grateful for Jenny's spot.

Now, to actually talk about the weekend. I signed up for two day long workshops: natural dyeing on day one and hand weaving. I also wanted to all the knitting ones and though I barely know how to sew I really wanted to do the sew a kids wardrobe class too. Actually who am I kidding I wanted to do all of them because they all sounded great but my skills are limiting at this stage; I would have been a bit of a waste of space in things like the embroidery classes.

I fell in love with Belinda's basketful of naturally hand dyed yarn.

All my samples were dyed with Cootamundra Wattle leaves.

It was hard to capture all the samples that the four groups in the workshop created.
In the natural dyeing class we learnt how to extract dye from native Australian plants and how to dye yarn, linen and silk with those dyes. We did some cool experiments with adding different mordants post dyeing to change the colours of the original dyes. It was all a bit like "alchemy" which is what our teacher Belinda Evans likes to call it. She loves the term so much that she uses it as her creative business name/ identity. You can find her on instagram as 'iamalchemy' and her blog is also titled 'Alchemy'.

I had read a few things about dyeing since I started obsessing about yarn colours. I am interested in trying it out and now I feel a lot more confidence for it because Belinda was such a good teacher. It was so exciting to see how the dye was taken on differently by the different fibres and how they changed when different minerals or chemicals were added to the pot. We definitely had some pleasant surprises when we pulled out our bits and pieces.

On Sunday I took the weaving workshop that was also taught by Belinda. She again inspired all of us in the class with her "organic" approach to her creative process. The other exciting thing about her weaving is all the beautiful naturally dyed yarns that she has at her disposal. She generously supplied some of that beautiful yarn and there were a lot of "ooohs and aaahs" over the colours before we all settled down with our colour schemes. To my surprise Belinda really liked my colour choices. I have been really challenged with colour work lately and picking good colour combos seems like a massive puzzle to me. I think since realising Sir S's colour blindness I have been doubting my own colour perception because colour blindness is inherited through the maternal side of the family.

My palette of pretty naturally dyed colours.
I'm taking Belinda's weaving approach, being "organic" and letting the weaving flow without too much planning.
Overall the whole weekend was fantastic. It was so nice to be able to sit down with my knitting and knit uninterrupted for a solid block of time. I also really enjoyed meeting other crafters and oohing over their projects and their yarns. I had serious sweater envy all weekend and I desperately want to improve my sewing and stitching skills. I have also come away from the retreat with a whole lot more instagram crafters who I can stalk because crafters love looking at what other people are making and instragram enables that.

Finally, here on my humble little blog I want to publicly acknowledge what a fantastic job that Felicia and her team have done and I am so so so thankful to her for taking the initiative to create this retreat for crafters.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Knitting as a lifeline

Most days this is what knit time looks like. The kids making a cubby house and I'm keeping and eye on them.

This month I've found it hard to stay on top of the blog a little bit and it has not really been caused by any extra things such as illness which really makes my absence from the blog no excuse. 

What have we been doing? We have been more active with hospitality and making more effort to catch up with people we want to build friendships with, I have been keeping things going at home as the Hubs has been holding down the fort at church while his boss - the Vicar - was on long service leave and I started trying to host a midweek crafting time for some mummy friends who find it hard to have some 'me' time when surrounded by the kids all day*. Then there is the usual comings and goings of kinder drop off and pick ups, mainly music leading, playgroup attending and keeping the house stocked with food. 

Yes, our days have been pretty full but I have been trying to look at it as being 'productive' rather than being busy. I try not to complain about being busy because I know that everything we do is for a purpose and we have chosen to take these things on rather than being forced to do things. In my heart I know that all our efforts are done through God's strength and I hope that we bring glory to His kingdom when we do it. I know that my rest will come at the end.

Amidst all this productivity what little time I get to sit down I have been picking up the needles and working through a few exciting projects. I did my first test knit for my friend Jenny who self publishes her patterns under the name JCL - created cuddles. I loved her pattern and can't wait to see it released and I can talk about the project in full when that happens. I've also been knitting a couple of items which I intend to donate to the silent auction for a church fundraising dinner in September. Then I also knit a thank you cowl for the friend who kindly put us up in Bendigo when we went to the Sheep and Wool show last month. I have many things that I could be writing finished object files for but just couldn't find the motivation and mind space to blog.

Then last week I read Felicia Semple's post on her 'The Craft Sessions' blog titled "Craft in the Middle of Motherhood". The post just made complete sense to me and it reflected a lot of the thoughts I have had about why I knit and how it has helped me stay positive through parenting and life trials. Felicia talks about "Knitting as a way to find a little headspace. Knitting as a way to find a little calm. Knitting as a way to be a better parent." When I read that it was like a thought that was plucked out of my own brain. 

I had recently discussed with my husband about how knitting has helped me be much more positive and I have coped better with the challenges of life because I knit. I mused at how having a project to work on has been my respite after a long day with the kids and it is something I look forward to picking up when I've finished putting them to bed. I also don't get so affected and wound up with the little frustrating moments and can approach those moments with a more relaxed manner because I think, "Once I've dealt with this I can get back to my knitting."

Don't get me wrong, I am not an absent parent because I'd rather be knitting than dealing with discipline issues. I am not shirking on my parenting but instead I am not letting those challenges get to me personally and getting upset the way I used to when my kids are behaving inappropriately. Instead of going into fight mode with my kids I can approach situations calmly and parent more objectively. Ultimately, I am probably more present because quite honestly, if I wasn't thinking about knitting I would probably be distracted by facebook instead. Pulling out my knitting while my kids play together at the playground or during my son's swimming lesson is a lot more productive than staring at my smart phone for the duration of those activities. I take it as a chance to slow down and just enjoy the activity and the process.**

Over the past 12 months I have seen articles about how crafting can help people relieve stress and can also benefit the brain by encouraging memory exercise and problem solving challenges. There has been much written about how crafting promotes mindfulness because the repetitive actions are very meditative and soothing. One article in The Herald Sun even referred to young women who craft as embracing the "inner nana". I am totally fine with being called a "nana" or granny because I also love how crafting is helping me connect with a lifestyle that is not so common in this consumer, "buy everything" culture. I love making things for my kids to wear rather than heading to the shops every season and buying clothes that don't often last as long.

Another reason I am a knitting mumma is because I want to model this behaviour and attitude to my kids. I want them to see that there is another option to buying and this is my chance to expose them to the maker culture.

So, where am I headed with these thoughts today? To be honest, I'm not completely sure. I just felt like my brain wanted to get these thoughts out there. 

To my friends who read this blog and often think that they want to take up a craft but feel like it's an enormous challenge that they can't attempt, well you have to start somewhere and it doesn't take much to end up with an item that you have made with love, that will be received with love.

So, let's get crafting my friends.

If you're interested in reading more about the benefits of crafting then you might start with these articles.
Link to the Herald Sun article here: "Young women embrace inner nana..."
An interesting piece on the benefits of crafting: "Why Crafting is Great for your Brain..."
The Craft Yarn Council's article about how good knitting is for your health: "The Truth about Knitting and Crochet..."

*More about that initiative another day

**This is a personal thought and not a judgement on other people's habits.