Love Your Blog Challenge

Love Your Blog: Gratitude


I have a funny relationship with the word "gratitude". I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's because I don't tend to use it? I'd more likely say; I'm "thankful" or "appreciative" or "touched" or "thrilled". Maybe it's because it feels a bit formal and I'm particularly informal? Maybe it's just because I've been spending too much of my time recently moaning, groaning and grumbling than feeling grateful. My old self would always be looking around for the good stuff but lately I'm having to remind myself to stop, see and appreciate what's right in front of my nose. I'm afraid I've been far more grumbly and grouchy this past year than grateful.

Our move from the UK back to New Zealand has been hard work. Not just physically but emotionally too. I knew it would be hard because we've moved countries before, but this time it's felt so final and I'm not sure I was entirely ready for that. I have been trying hard to look for the positives and get stuck in to my new life but I've really missed my friends and my Cambridge life and it's been a very slow process readjusting and letting go. Unfortunately, over this past year, many days and even weeks have gone by when I've not felt anything resembling gratitude, appreciation or thankfulness.

Although I'm improving, every now and then I'll still look wistfully over my shoulder at my old life and compare it to my new one. I'm trying not to say it aloud because that is super annoying to everyone else but to be honest, it's getting a little tedious even for me now and I'm ready to shake off the funk. I've been trying to cultivate more good feelings and I've actually been looking around me and listing things that I'm feeling thankful for because I'm determined to get over this natural grieving as quickly as I can. It definitely helps that there are loads of things to be happy about, and when I stop to notice them I feel good.

  • Living in the countryside is gorgeous. It's spacious and green and the air is fresh;
  • My family is close by;
  • Chickens are fun;
  • New Zealand Summer's are amazing;
  • The growing yarn scene here is exciting;
  • There are lots of fantastic people doing interesting, creative and off-beat things in New Zealand. You just have to hunt them out - luckily I've already found some of them;
  • Someone breeds alpacas on my street and soon I'm going to pluck up the courage to knock on their door;
  • I can grow veggies all year round;
  • There's a stand of beautiful autumnal golden and orange trees about to lose their leaves at the end of my street and I love seeing the change of seasons in them;
  • My kids are barefoot and happy.

It's a good list. I'm sure I'll find a few more things tomorrow.

I'm also fond of showing that I'm thankful by giving or doing something for someone, especially when they're not expecting it.

This past few days I've been receiving lots of tips and suggestions for washing fibre from Instagram and Facebook. I love that about the internet, there is so much collective experience and it's available right at your fingertips. I'm really appreciating the advice and so far I've tried three different ways to wash various pieces of the suffolk fleece from my friend's sheep. I'm amazed at how white and fluffy it's becoming! This same friend gave me an old spinning wheel a while ago too and I've been plotting a way to say thank you to her for her lovely gifts.

My plan is to prepare and spin the fibre on her wheel (assuming I can get it working!) and then knit her a hat with the wool. It might be a while before I get everything done (I still need to figure out carding ...) but I'm really looking forward to giving it to her and saying thank you.

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This post is the last in the Love Your Blog Challenge launched by Kate from A Playful Day. If you fancy seeing what other people have written for this week's theme "gratitude" you can see them here. xxx

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.

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!