Truly Myrtle Podcast - Episode 18 : With Deb from Outlaw Yarn!




Hey everyone! Welcome to the very first podcast of 2016!

I had a ball chatting with Deb from Outlaw yarn about starting a yarn range, finding inspiration, possums and exciting things afoot for Outlaw. Enjoy!


How To Block A Crescent Shawl



Am I the only one obsessed with twirly ends on a well blocked crescent shawl? I discovered them last year after playing around with a lot of blocking and have fallen head over heels.

I see a lot of photos of shawls stretched out for blocking. Lots of you send them to me (thank you!), I spot them on Ravelry and there are plenty on Instagram too. I must confess to often wanting to reach into the photo and do a little rearranging so your shawl blocks out even better. A well blocked shawl is usually bigger, smoother, shows off the lace more clearly, drapes beautifully and is easier to wear.

Triangular shawls are fairly easy to block. The shape is obvious - the top edge lies straight and the body pulls outwards and down to a neat central point.

It's crescent shawls that seem to cause most of the confusion. Crescent shawls that start at the top centre with a couple of stitches look as if they want to sit with a lump in the centre of the top edge. It's difficult to see that in fact that lump can be curved right around so that the top edge ends up a neat "smile" shape with the ends of the shawl swooping up and sometimes nearly touching at the top.

I find wires are super helpful to get good smooth edges on shawls, no matter what the shape. And T pins are fantastic too. I know that you can substitute regular sewing pins but I think the T pins are a great investment if you're planning on knitting a few shawls. They're strong and will hold your shawl exactly where you want it.

I made a couple of tutorials last year to show you how I block shawls and I've included links to them below. If you're keen on twirly ends and shawls that drape beautifully, do take a look!




p.s. If I take a while to respond to your comments this week, don't panic. This post will be published when I'm on holiday. I thought it would be nice to keep the blog posts coming even while I'm not at my desk. We'll be back to normal in February :)


Designing - On The Needles Or On Paper?



I don't know what I thought designers did before I decided to try being one. In fact, I'm not sure I really know now. I mean, I think there must be as many ways to design a knitting pattern as there are designers. I certainly hear people talking about completely different methods of getting a design from their heads onto the paper.

Some designers talk about "designing on the needles". They try stitches as they go, experiment with shaping, construction and colour combinations and rip back over and over until they get what they're looking for. And then they write it down. Well, then they try to. The most common thing I hear from designers is that when they're designing "on the needles" they invariably make scribbled notes, later forgetting what on earth they've written and not remembering what they've done they have to reverse engineer their design to make sense of the illegible writing (or no writing at all) and numbers (or none at all). "Must make better notes" seems to be a common resolution. It seems fairly universal that we fail to remember specifics of what we've knitted once we've finished, no matter how obvious and easy it seems to us at the time.

Another type of designer plans, swatches and meticulously practices various parts of their design in advance. Writes the pattern and then picks up needles to knit the sample. And "boom" life is easy and they're done. I like that type of designer. I rather long to be that type of designer. Unfortunately, I fear I fall smack between the two types of designers I describe.

I start well, swatch, practice, knit ideas and try things out. Then, I sit down and write the bare bones of a pattern. Often I make charts and knit from those, adding the written instructions later. But, usually, a wee way into my knitting, when I start to see things coming together, I change my mind. I start designing "on the needles". And, it's slippery slope from there into the chaos of scanty notes.

It's easy to get caught up in the ideas and the yarn and the needles and totally forget to write it down. Or, almost worse, make tiny amendments to the existing pattern in front of me, in pencil that is barely legible and smudges easily. And, then make another note - draw an arrow to a blank space on the page and draw a big star in a circle (because that will surely mean I absolutely know that this is the right bit) and scribble something else. Sometimes, I forget completely to cross out the first (now wrong) amendment. Other times I change my mind yet again and with a quick p.t.o. turn the page and write something else that doesn't quite match up with what I had before ... and then the kids run in ... 

My efforts with my computer haven't been that much better. Sometimes I change my mind and decide that actually, what I had first was better. So I want to revert to the original but oh dear, I have rewritten and already saved the new version ...

One of my goals this year is to "make better notes." Hahaha ....

p.s. If it takes me a little while to respond to your comments don't panic. This post will reach you after I've headed off on holiday ... I thought it would be nice to keep my blog posts ticking along so I've written a couple of posts in advance. I'll be back soon!

Needles I Love


I first learnt about circular needles in 2010 at the yarn festival that changed my life. 

I was too nervous to ask anyone knitting with them what they were or where they got them and I was too swept away with all the beautiful yarn and wonderful designers to think of trying to buy some but afterwards my friend told me she had circular interchangeable needles and explained what they were all about. Of course, I needed to try them, immediately.




KNITPRO

My first set of circular needles were an interchangeable set from KnitPro. I went all in and bought a Deluxe set of rosewood wooden tips which included 3.5mm (US 4) through to 8mm (US 11) tips, and a range of cables. The wood appealed to me after a lifetime of metal and plastic needles and for a while I thought I was converted to wooden needles forever.

I loved my KnitPro's - they were such a pleasure to use. There was a little adjustment period while I got used to them but I quickly found I was able to knit so much faster! I'm not sure if I  actually used my long straight needles again? I certainly can't imagine using them now.

So, for a few years I thought I my KnitPro's were simply the best. And, they are pretty jolly good. I still enjoy them. Of course I've broken some of the smaller ones, either by sitting on them or knitting very vigorously ...  I've heard other people complain about them unscrewing or yarn getting caught between the needle tip and the cable and I've never had those problems with my wooden ones. I tighten them up firmly with their little T-pin and don't tend to come loose. I did try some metal tips later on and found that they were harder to tighten - they're a bit slippery. Perhaps some rubber gloves would do the trick? lol!

Eventually, I started to notice whispers about "other" needles ... and I found it increasingly difficult to resist getting some more.

I haven't actually been able to bring myself to buy another whole set of needles -  yet. I can't quite justify it given I already have so many. But I have bought individual needles here and  there to see which ones might be in the running for a big needle splurge some day.

ADDI

To be fair, I've only tried a couple of Addi needles - some fixed lace needles - the brass coloured ones with the red cable and some larger fixed metal ones with a gold cable. But I don't like them. The needle tips on the lace needles are fine, they're good and pointy in comparison to the rounded KnitPro tips but I'm not keen on how they darken when used and they smell so brassy to me, it's off-putting. The one thing that really drives me bonkers about Addi's are the cables. They are so kinky! My silver needles are almost unusable. Ok, so that might be a bit dramatic, they're just not good to use because the cable is so bent. Overall, they're super springy and want to leap back into loops. It drives me mad.

So, I'm not an Addi fan. I tried.




HIYA HIYA

I got two sets of fixed Hiya Hiya needles with metal tips after finding my KnitPro needles too rounded when knitting lace. I was on the hunt for pointy tips and found someone near me selling Hiya Hiya needles so I thought I'd give them a go. I love them.

Firstly (and rather ridiculously), they're so pretty. I love the silver needle and the pale blue cable. It looks so fresh and happy. They have a longer point at the tip than the Addi's and they slip into stitches so easily. While the cable is pretty good and doesn't zing back into a spiral my one gripe about them is that the cable has bent to a 90 degree angle where it joins the tip. I'm pretty sure that they didn't come that way and my quick scan of pictures on the internet didn't show any that looked bent so I can only assume that they've bent over time. It's not awful to knit with but it makes me wonder if one day I might end up with a needle in one hand and a bunch of stitches still on the cable in my lap.

CHIAOGOO

They are as gorgeous as they say. Truly.

Because they're so crazy expensive and I've only recently been able to buy them here in New Zealand, I only have three sets of Chiaogoo interchangeable metal tips and two cables. If I make that big splurge someday (and oh my goodness it would surely be $BIG!) it'd be for a set of Chiaogoo needles. I think they're that delicious to knit with.

Before I had the Chiaogoo's I wondered why people obsessed over pointy tips. It seemed almost sadistic and I wasn't sure I wanted to wield dangerously sharp needles as a form of relaxation? It seemed a bit over the top. But then I started knitting more lace patterns and found my wooden tips just didn't cut it. I needed to knit yarnovers, decreases and increases at a similar speed to my regular knitting and became a little cross with rounded tips that didn't find holes or stitch bars quickly and easily. I started to see the appeal of pointed tips, especially slippery metal pointed tips. Once I tried them, I was completely converted.

The Chiaogoo tip is the longest yet and it's fabulously pointy. At first I poked holes in my right index finger because I have a rather annoying habit of pushing my needle back with that finger after completing a stitch. I try hard not to do it but my pesky finger is desperate to leap to attention and push back. These days, I either manage to not push more often than I push, or  I've developed hardened skin on the end of my finger - whatever, I rarely have that problem unless I'm crazy knitting all day long.

The other thing I adore about the Chiaogoo's are the cables. The red cable looks reinforced, does not kink one little bit and has a spectacular texture to it that makes it seem sturdy and reliable. The joins are seamless and I never have a problem with stitches catching or getting stuck where the tip joins the cable.

I've heard people complain about the noise the Chiaogoo needles make. At first I didn't notice any noise but after listening for it I see what they must be talking about. It's a gentle "swish-swish" as the needles run over each other. Other needles make a noise too but I think the burnished finish on the Chiaogoo's make it slightly louder. I have to say, I actually enjoy the swish. It's pretty rhythmic and reminds me of background wave noise when you're staying near the beach.


So there you have it, my ideas on needles. I'm rather hoping we'll have a "Great Knitting Needle Debate now. I'd love to hear what you think. Do you have favourites? What should I try next? I'm all ears :)



The Comparison Game


"Comparison is the thief of joy" - Theodore Roosevelt

I never really understood this quote. I mean, I understood the words but it didn't resonate with me. I couldn't relate to it, didn't understand it in my bones. But this last year that's changed, I began to know properly what it meant and it was the first topic that leapt onto my list of things to talk to you about.

Comparison has never previously been something I've battled with. I don't know why. I never wished for different parents when everyone else did, I didn't covet my friends' wardrobes or holidays, I don't feel less than enough when I visit friends in their amazing homes nor lust for a lifestyle that I'm not living. And, I'm not some sort of saint. It just never ever occurred to me to compare. I wonder if it's because as a kid I truly absorbed my mothers mantra of "you can have/do anything, if you just put your mind to it" and I grew up believing that if I really wanted whatever it was that someone else had, it was a choice, not a problem. I really don't know. What I do know is, that if I visit a home that I adore, I'm more likely to be motivated to come home and enthusiastically clean mine, than I am to feel bad about my old sofa and dated decor.

So, this past year, when I have caught myself playing the comparison game, comparing myself and my designs to others, it's been as devastating to see that side of myself as it has been to feel the crushing emotions that comparison brings. It's awful. And, I started to truly see comparison for what it is. The thief of joy.

I want to tell you that I've figured it all out. That I have a tried and true method for putting comparison back into it's box and moving on full of self-worth, confidence and joy. But I don't. This thing is a gremlin that hides behind the curtains for a bit then jumps out and bites even when I'm feeling particularly good.

I'm trying to dissect it. Trying to unpick it and make sense of what's happening. I've talked about it with my mum and she expressed surprise to hear that I was feeling intimidated and unsure after comparing myself with others. She said it wasn't the me that she knew. That made me feel better. Maybe if I can get some distance from this feeling, see it as something that's affecting me, rather than a part of me, I might work out how to beat it. Because after all I am the same person. I'm not wallowing in self-pity and worthlessness - it's just that sometimes, I'm caught off guard.

I've worked out when it mostly happens. First thing in the morning when I reach for my phone and scroll though instagram and someone young and fabulous posts a picture of their  beautiful new design. Now, before we roll our eyes and talk about the downsides of scrolling through social media to start my day, I want to point out that it doesn't happen every time. Just sometimes. And more often than not, whatever they're doing is not something I would wear or design myself. So what is it all about?

I wonder if subconsciously I'm feeling nervous about my age? Maybe it's all part of being aware that I am moving into a new phase of my life? Maybe it's the frantic pace of social media and the feeling that life is moving so fast? Maybe it's my nerves around figuring out my style? Or maybe, like my mum suggested, it's about my naturally competitive nature? I'm  competitive in a quiet sort of way. I love to see others succeed and feel super excited when they do but at the same time, their success makes me feel motivated to do well too. I guess that explains the whole cleaning my house thing I talked about.

My best guess is that it's a combination of factors and perhaps I need to figure out how I'm feeling about being the mother of teenagers, how I can hold on to the pace of life that I want, how I can be gentle with myself about experimenting with ideas while I figure out which ones best represent "me" and how I can turn the negative energy I've been feeling into positive action. But mostly, being kind to myself and changing some of the self-talk that happens when my joy is stolen. I need to start talking to myself like I'd talk to a good friend.

Thank goodness, I know I'm not alone. I hear a lot of talk about comparison in the creative world and I expect it's particularly relevant there because, to my surprise, I've found that producing creative work and making it public is a terrifically vulnerable thing to do. Self-doubt must come with the territory.

Before I go, I wanted to thank you all so much for your incredibly kind response to my last post announcing my return to blogging and my intention to talk about the uncomfortable feelings I've been experiencing. You are amazing and I'm so completely thrilled to have such a generous and fabulous community around Truly Myrtle. Thank you!

Now, tell me you understand Roosevelt's quote too?!