24 April 2015

Introducing: Woolly Wormhead!


I'm feeling very privileged to be interviewing this month's guest on my blog. I've been in love with her work for years and am in awe of her fabulous creative skills, especially her ability to work with one idea in so many different and exciting ways. 

Of course I'm talking about the very wonderful Woolly Wormhead! Woolly Wormhead designs hats.  Many fantastic hats. She is inventive and creative and single-handedly has managed to completely revolutionise knitted hat construction. If there's a new way to knit a hat - Woolly will find it. Her hats are stunning, her photography is gorgeous and I'm a huge fan of her work.

I was lucky enough to meet Woolly in real life a year or so ago and take part in a class with her about decreases and increases. It was fascinating and I learnt heaps, bought her beautiful book Playful Woolly Toppers, but the part I especially enjoyed was when we tried on all her hats to work out which shapes and styles suited us best. Woolly regularly runs "Hat Clinics" where she brings a suitcase of hats and everyone gets to try them on and figure out the perfect shape for them. I was very impressed when she managed to find a hat that flattered every single head in the room and so when I released my recent hat design and heard from lots of you that you "didn't suit hats", I knew that simply couldn't be true and immediately thought of Woolly and my experience with her.

I wasn't sure if she would also remember me when I wrote asking if she'd be willing to do an interview on my blog and so I was super pleased when she said that she did and that she'd be happy to answer my questions. Yay!

Are you ready for this month's interview? I sure am. Without further ado, I'm thrilled to introduce: Woolly Wormhead! If you don't think you suit hats - or even if you do. Read on!

You're one of the first designers that I discovered when I joined Ravelry and the online knitting community. You've been designing beautiful hats for a long time. What do you love best about hat design?

This years sees 10 years of Woolly Wormhead... which is kinda crazy.

What do I love best about Hats? Lots of things! I've a pretty short attention span, so Hats satisfy that well; they're small and there's only one of them. I also travel a *lot* and they're incredibly portable. They're brilliant for learning (teaching) new techniques, encouraging confidence with our knitting. Best of all, they combine my structural/creative/engineering sides. I can create a 3-dimensional structure from numbers and repeats and systems and it's such a wonderful thing to be able to do.

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You haven't always been a knitwear designer; what did you do before and what led you to knitwear design?

Prior to being a knit Hat designer, I was an art and textiles teacher for 11-19 year olds, and prior to that I was an electronics engineer for GEC! My Mum taught me to knit at age 3 and I've always had something on the needles. When I left teaching I picked up my needles with a vengeance and it helped me through a very difficult time. That path led me to where I am now.

Many people tell me that they don't suit hats. I know you take a different view - what don't these people know that they should?

Most of the time picking the right Hat is about framing the face, providing balance.... and knowing how to wear it! That fashion trend of wearing berets to the back, off the forehead? Hardly the best look for most people. And despite how popular beanies are, they really don't suit most faces. One thing you'll often hear me say is "don't be afraid to let a Hat hug your head" - let a beret come forward around your ears - it's a Hat, let it keep you warm! Always allow a little hair to peep out, even if it's just that little bit around the ears. Glasses look brilliant with Hats - they just like a little bit of room.

I'm currently working on a bunch of resources for yarn shop owners, to help them when I can't get there for a trunk show. In the meantime, this link might be helpful: http://www.woollywormhead.com/blog/2013/4/22/get-ahead-get-a-hat-pt1.html


I enjoy wearing lots of hats, summer and winter. What do you recommend people for if they like hats and want to wear them but aren't feeling confident to take the leap?

The best thing to do is to get along to a trunk show and try on as many Hats as you can! Your local yarn store should have plenty of samples for you to try out. Hats are small and relatively quick knitting projects, and whilst it might feel like a waste to knit one and not like it, or not have it fit right, they're very giftable.. I say pick your yarn and cast on :)


You sound like you enjoy the challenge of creating something unique and beautiful. Do you have a favourite style of hat? Is there a hat style that suits most heads?

I think my favourite type of Hat to design is a pointy one, something that sticks up from the head somewhere, but they don't tend to sell well ;) Something with a bit room or slouch is a good thing to aim for - a beret or slouchy beanie - they don't grab the face or squash the hair and are far more flattering to wear. And even though they don't hug the head like a beanie, if you're wearing the right size it will still stay on!


You seem to have a steady stream of new patterns being published using new and different constructions - what can we look forward to in 2015 from Woolly Wormhead?

My latest collection has just gone on pre-release, with a publication date of the beginning of June! Painted Woolly Toppers is a collection of Hats designed specifically for hand-dyed, painted and variegated yarns. We're literally just working on the final edits for it and I'm rather excited! You can expect all the usual Wormhead details - use of technique, multi-directional knitting, structure, multiple sizes - with the added bonus of being able to use those beautiful and seductive skeins that often sit there in the stash, looking a bit lost.

Beyond that, I'm launching a new wholesale venture for my books and patterns, and a complete restructuring behind the scenes. That's almost finished, and I'm very much looking forward to indulging myself in the next collection, 'Turning Heads', which are all exploratory, sculptural pieces.

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Thank you so much Woolly!

Do check out the link she suggested about finding a hat to suit you. It's really interesting and I think you'll find it very useful.

Happy knitting!

21 April 2015

Love Your Blog: Ugly


A few years ago I had a conversation with my mum about what direction I might take my career once my kids grew up a bit. I was toying with the idea of returning to law or alternatively, doing something creative. I wondered out loud if I might be able to do something useful with my law degree, compared to pursuing art and craft which I've always had a passion for but which might seem a little frivolous. 

My mum said that she felt the world could probably have too many lawyers but never too much beauty. It's a comment that I've not forgotten and I think she's right. We shouldn't underestimate the power of beautiful things, images, places and people in our lives. These things are to be celebrated and encouraged. I'd go so far as to say that they're essential for our well-being.

I know I'm a hopeless optimist. Plus, I've been flipping my language to sound positive since I first came across the idea when my first baby was a toddler. I've been trying to say "yes" and look at things from a positive angle for so many years it's become habit. 

So when I heard that this week's theme for "love your blog" was "ugly", I was a bit stumped. I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to say. Ugly isn't a word that I tend to use. 

To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure what I want to say  - but these things have occurred to me:

  • While I don't think that everything made by hand is beautiful, I don't tend to think of handmade things as "ugly". If they don't appeal to me I usually say to myself that they're not to my taste or they're not really my thing. I do think however that the act of making things by hand is beautiful. It's glorious and wonderful and I love it.
  • I try really hard to take good photos. For me it's art. So when you see photos on my blog or my instagram feed remember that. I'll try and show you even the yuckiest thing in a beautiful way. But this is not how my real life looks.
  • When I'm feeling vulnerable I can be quite unnerved by photos other people post. I'm only human. Sometimes I wish my real life did look like a beautiful instagram feed. (These thoughts often occur to me when I'm surrounded by loud, bickering children. Beautiful instagram feeds and blogs are so deliciously quiet.)
  • Mostly, I try to remind myself that no one is perfect and not to judge a book by it's cover. I simply can't believe that it's only me that has challenges and struggles. We're all just icebergs, with a whole lot going on under the surface and sometimes that stuff is down right ugly.
  • Finally, when you really stop and look around there isn't actually much that is truly ugly. There is however an awful lot of beauty. It's all about perception.

If you want to check out what other bloggers have to say on the topic of "ugly" this week - check out A Playful Day for links.

p.s. That's my new shawl design dangled over the fence. It hadn't been blocked when I took the photo and I was still nervous about whether I'd like it. I'm pleased to say that I've since blocked it and I'm thrilled with it. I can't wait to show you.

15 April 2015

Truly Myrtle Podcast - Episode 4!

It's the middle of school holidays and it's taken a couple of attempts to record with four kids around - but I did it! 

Enjoy xxx

Here are the links to the bits and pieces I've chatted about:

Rosewood Wool - Instagram & Facebook

HappygoKnitty shawl club - Facebook

Merakai Studio yarn - Facebook

Don't forget you can find me on Instagram, Facebook and Ravelry

If you want to sign up for my free monthly newsletter - click here!

13 April 2015

Love Your Blog: Beginnings


Thank you so much for your kind messages and comments in response to my blog post last week. I'm feeling so relieved that you enjoy what I have to say! Thank you!

Have you caught up with the recent blog posts and podcast on Kate's blog A Playful day? Kate is the brains behind this series of posts dedicated to loving your blog and I've been feeling motivated by what she and her guests have to say. If you're a blogger (and even if you're not) I recommend popping over for a read.

The prompt for the post this week was "beginnings" and when I first read it I have to admit I thought "oh no, not another one!". Another beginning that is. My last year and a half has been full to overflowing with beginnings - moving halfway around the world, buying a new house, starting a new life, new school, new friends - you name it, we've begun it. My first reaction felt a bit like exhaustion - a part of me is kinda over beginnings.

But, then I played with the idea in my head a little. Maybe it'd be ok? I had lots of ideas - ways to cast on your knitting, tips for choosing new projects, maybe something about starting sewing? And then that ginger yarn in my photo caught my eye. It's a fabulous wee ball of Romney yarn grown, spun and dyed with Henna, right here in New Zealand. I've had it less than a week and I've dying to cast it on but I've been forcing myself to hold back until I've finished at least one more thing ... clearly I don't have a problem with knitting beginnings ;)

"Don't do it!" I told myself. I tried to walk away. I tried to resist. I tried really hard to think of something else. But I couldn't. Whoops! As I grabbed my needles and the wool and cast on, I told myself it was all in the name of research. As I knitted row after row I told myself it was all for the blog. It's a "beginning", I just had to ...

I've got a vision in my head of the perfect sloppy sweater. You know the kind? The curl up in front of the fire on a wet wintery day kind. The chuck it over your jeans to nip out to grab a kid from sports practice kind. The pull it down over your hands while you take an evening wander around your garden kind. The familiar, comfortable, favourite sweater kind. I'm sure you know it. Well, I want that gorgeous, sloppy, cosy, rustic, gingerbread, farm yarn sweater and I've begun designing one.

The yarn is totally different to anything that I've knitted with lately. For a very long time in fact. It's harder and crunchier than a merino or blue-faced leicester. It sits exactly where it's told, unlike an alpaca or silk. According to the blurb that came with the wool, this Romney worsted spun wool comes to life as it knits. It appears finer than other yarns (this is a DK) but after washing and blocking it blooms beautifully and settles into a more standard gauge for it's weight. I'm told it'll soften with wear and washing and it'll hardly pill. Don't these sound like fantastic attributes for a sweater I intend wearing day in and day out? I think so and I'm loving   playing around with it.

Now I've begun I'm letting myself be swept along and feel super excited about my new project. I'll tell you a bit more about the design as I go so you can enjoy the process too - I've got a bit more swatching to do yet, to see if my ideas will look as good in the wool as they do in my head and I've got a bit of learning to do to make sure this sweater fits and falls just the way I want it to.

In the meantime, if you want a play with some fantastic Romney wool too - check out Rosewood Wool on Instagram - I believe they've got some skeins available to buy right now. 

7 April 2015

Love Your Blog: Community & Interaction

Community & Interaction

The Love Your Blog challenge thrown down by A Playful day has come at a perfect time for me. And I'm hoping it's just the kick I need to get me back into my blogging groove.

I love this little corner of the internet. Quite unexpectedly, writing here has become a little like sitting down to sew on my sewing machine. When I sit down and I start to write I breath a sigh of relief and relax. (My kids tell me I do a lot of smiling when I type. I think it's because I write as if you're right in the room and we're having a chat.) But I when I click "publish" and close my computer I quickly forget how much I enjoy it. Writing has become such a satisfying creative outlet for me, something I never could have predicted, even though my career before having children was all about writing. I guess I was writing about the wrong thing ... knitting and crafts are much more fun than legal bits and bobs!

Lately, with the excitement of Instagram and Facebook, I've found myself drawn more and more towards the thrill of quick and simple posts on social media rather than spending time planning, photographing and writing longer posts for my blog. I especially love the chatting and interaction with so many people on social media and wondered if anyone was really reading my blog any more and whether my limited time was better spent elsewhere?

So, the challenge is timely. I do love writing here. I don't fancy stopping, although I'm considering blogging a little less frequently and I'm just going to cross my fingers that you're still reading and will enjoy watching my Love My Blog posts pop up over the coming month.

The first prompt for the challenge is "community & interaction". Oh where do I begin?! Knitting is all about community & interaction for me and since I blog about knitting you'll not be surprised to hear how for me, blogging is also all about community & interaction.

Take a quick look at my photo. I think I can sum it all up with that one image.

  • The gorgeous pink at the back is a Granny's Favourite cardigan for my middle daughter. The pattern was designed by Georgie Hallam. I've knitted so many of Georgie's patterns that I feel like I know her ... Imagine how excited I am at the prospect of meeting her later in the year?! I can't wait. I wonder if we'll have lots to chat about? The pink yarn was dyed by my me and my daughter and a few years ago I was completely inspired to try dyeing by Annette when she talked about dyeing yarn on her podcast Gentle Ribbing. I bought the undyed yarn from a mill here in New Zealand and I visited the mill shop at Skeinz many years ago. It'll be fantastic to peek behind the scenes when I'm there in a few months time too!

  • The red knitting is a nearly finished Tiny Tea Leaves cardigan for my youngest daughter. I've had my eye on the pattern for years but it was my online friend Kat Goldin that inspired me to cast it on after I saw that she was knitting one on the other side of the world in Scotland. I knitted it in very glorious Zealana yarn that I bought years ago during a trip home to New Zealand from the UK from a little yarn shop that's sadly now closed.

  • The mushroom coloured knitting in the front of the photo is the beginnings of a Coraline cardigan for my eldest daughter. I've met the designer Ysolda Teague a couple of times, the first time at Knit Nation in London in 2010 - the event that changed my life. She was lovely and her rack of cardigans was fantastic and I realised in that moment that I could probably try designing something too if I wanted. I'm using yarn that I bought in France years ago from a little old lady in a teeny tiny wool shop stuffed with shelves of yarn that I had to stand on a stool to reach.

  • The beautiful yarn in the middle of the picture is brand new. It arrived in my postbox today. I "met" one of the dyers last year on Instagram before she started dyeing wool. She's also from New Zealand and I've enjoyed getting to know her a little through her photos, although we've not met in person yet. About a month ago she announced that she was planning to start selling hand-dyed local Romney wool. I couldn't resist and that's my haul from Rosewood Wool's first stocking. It's glorious!

  • See the plum sparkle on the right hand side? It's a fabulous skein of hand-dyed yarn with just the perfect amount of sparkle dyed by Jo at Meraki Studio. I've met Jo - in fact I bought this yarn from her at the first Auckland Woolfest last year. It's slowly becoming my next shawl design ...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, for me, every single aspect of knitting has a story and a link to my community, whether it be my neighbourhood community or my online community. And, as a raving extrovert that loves a party, I relish this side of knitting and blogging about knitting. I love the knitting community, I love the interaction, I love the people and I love the stories. I can't imagine knitting any other way and writing this blog has really and truly changed my crafting and my life. Someone pass me a tissue!