What a great weekend that was!

9 days on and I’m just about recovered from a very exciting working week – and thought I ought to let you know about it all.


On Friday 9th September I was lucky enough to spend the evening with the fabulous Erika Knight and Arabella from her team! They came to do a pop-up shop at Fringe, where I teach my workshops and generally sort out the knitty things. We had such a lovely time – we invited our regular knitting fans, and people from the twice-monthly Meet and Make group. There were sample garments to adore, gorgeous yarns to squish and lovely books to leaf through. Erika and Arabella are just so interesting and fun to be with, everyone loved talking with them. AND – [drum roll] – as they really love Edna, and Erika is working on some dog sweater designs, I think she has her first modelling gig! She was not entirely with the program about this, but I’m sure she will get into the swing of it once she is being fussed at their studio. So watch this space, she may become a diva.

Then, after a hectic day of the pop-up shop the following day, I headed up to Avenue Mews where my studio now is. It was the annual MewsFest, a really fun event that’s organised by  Jet from Can’t Buy Me Love, and Ruth and Meghan from ChaChaCha Vintage. There’s music, food, vintage clothes and cocktails, all with a cool retro vibe inspired by the little news community. Open studios were planned, and at Lavender White, my next door neighbours, they had book readings organised. Can’t Buy Me Love had a DJ and old-school decks, and a mojito bar.


By 5.30 it was absolutely chucking it down with rain, so my ever-patient partner put up my gazebo in the wet, and we tried to set up my little stall of wares out on the mews. It was extremely soggy, and I was soaking and bedraggled. I felt like packing up. All around me others were setting up food and vintage stalls, and the valiant musicians were starting to tune up. By about 7.30pm the rain finally cleared, JUST as I’d got to the point of thinking I might give up and go home – and suddenly, within a few minutes, the tiny mews was packed with people. The mojitos were flowing, the ukulele band got going, tasty food smells started wafting about and we all got much more into the party vibe.

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by 11.00 I’d had more than a few mojitos, I’d sold lots of things, met new customers who want to come to commission pieces and have lessons, seen brave friends who came to support me (thanks Kelly, Monica, Nic, John and Jude!) and generally had a really great time. Dismantling our stall was a lot quicker than putting it up had been, and we trundled off home in a very good mood indeed. I’m already planning how we can do a Christmas version – Phil Spector anyone?


A new venue and a fresh start


In January 2016, I was determined I would maintain a routine with the virtual world; I’d get a grip on Instagram (check!) keep up with Facebook (ummmm) and write regular blog posts (#fail). What actually happened is that a flood at my studio set off a practical crisis and a subsequent crisis of confidence, all of which dragged on for many months. I didn’t feel like writing, let alone designing, and I buried myself in the production and orders I had, ignoring the looking necessity to move forward.
Briefly, a botched maintenance job  at my old studio  resulted in a fairly serious flood, that damaged a lot of my equipment and materials. Luckily, my finished pieces were higher up and they were unaffected. But the subsequent battle (ongoing) to extract compensation has been draining, and it’s been a lesson in naivety on my part. I was left feeling soured, badly treated and unable to feel happy working in that environment any more. Thankfully, I have friends with their ears to the ground, and someone told me about a little studio that was about to become available in Muswell Hill, right where we live. It’s on a tiny mews street that houses some very cool little vintage shops, and is something of a hidden gem in the area. The studio was housed above one of the vintage shops, and is let by actual lovely human beings, rather than a corporation. I went to see it straight away, and although it’s tiny, it felt absolutely right, like home. I knew other people had viewed it, and were about to view it, so I had to move fast, and also might not be chosen as the new occupant.

Then, after chatting with the shop proprietor, I discovered I knew the previous tenant a little. So that made it feel even more right. But THEN, when I was lucky enough to be offered the lease, the landlady told me that she’d looked at this blog and realised that many years ago, an old friend of hers (who is an old work colleague of mine!) had bought her one of my little pixie hats for her son. So she had seen that I still made them, and felt it was meant to be. How serendipitous is that?

Fast forward to now. I spent 4 months extricating myself from my previous studio, but am now happily settled in Avenue Mews. I had a purge of stuff I didn’t need, stuck the excess in the garden shed, and set up my machine knitting kit and my shop stock. Edna has her little spot on her blanket, there’s a cute roof terrace to sit out on and have a cuppa, and jolly bunting waves at me from all along the street. The bakery opposite wafts in tempting smells, I have my favourite radio station on all day, and at some point in the afternoon, Edna and I stroll along to La Dinette for a canele or a financier. Plus, every time I come in, there are new fabulous things in the shop downstairs, inspiring me onwards!

I’m going to pretend it’s January now, and reset my intentions. I’ve got new designs to share with you, events to invite you to, and endless silly dog photos. If you’ve had the patience to read this far, it’s the least I owe you to try and make this worth a visit! A bientot, mes amis!

Quick Update

It’s come to my attention that I’m listed as being at the next Myddleton Road (N22) market on December 6th – this is not the case, as I’m actually going to be at Burgh House in Hampstead NW3 that day (as my last blog post outlined). The lovely folks at Myddleton Road must have left me in the stalls list after the last market I did with them in September. I’ll be back there in March 2016, but if you want to find me and my knits this weekend, then come to Hornsey Town Hall on Saturday 5th, between 10.00 and 4.00 – and Burgh House on Sunday 6th – between 11.00 and 5.00. Phew! Hope that’s cleared things up!!

Where am I? instalment 2

You might remember in my last post I wrote about a stock purge; now, this post will let you know where I’m going to be with my new pieces, (and at some venues, with a sale box of bargains), over the coming months.


Firstly, it’s the annual Open Studios event at my studio complex, The Chocolate Factory in Wood Green, north London. This runs from Friday eve 13th November (6-9pm) and Saturday 14th Sunday 15th (12-6pm each day). There are so many artists throwing open their studio doors for this it’s a really great event and you can pick up everything from a thousand-pound masterpiece sculpture to a pretty glass tree bauble. I’m right at the very end of the A200 studios corridor so do keep going around the little bendy bit, if you haven’t been to my gaff before.

Because I’m in my own space, I can show all my pieces; I usually have to pick and choose when I go to other venues as a table limits the amount you can display effectively. But I have lots of room, so there will be some specials for the event that I won’t be taking on to other shows afterwards.

I’ll also be demonstrating machine knitting and hand knitting and crochet throughout the weekend. There will be a special offer for anyone who books classes with me at the show, and I’ll have copies of “Knitting Basics” available to buy at a discounted price.


Then, on the weekend of November 21st and 22nd I will be at the annual East Finchley Open (EFO) group’s Christmas fair as a guest. I’ve done this one for the last two years and it’s always full of lovely artists and very discerning, kind customers, so it’ll be good to be back there again. This show is at the new campus of The Archer Academy, behind the main street in East Finchley – see link for map.

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After that, I’ve a couple of weeks to catch my breath then it’s on to December fun and games: December 5th will see me inside the magnificent Art Deco Hornsey Town Hall as part of the new Diddy Dots/Crouch End market crew. Find us at Hornsey Town Hall, London N8, 11-4.

Art Fair A5 poster 2015 Burgh House

The following day, December 6th, I’ll be at the grand old Burgh House in Hampstead, as part of their Christmas Fair. Again, I’ve done this before and it’s lovely to be in such a venerable, beautiful house.

Lastly, but definitely not least, it’s the most fun of the lot, the fabulous Blink Yule on 12th December at the quirky Earl Haig Hall in Crouch End. I love this one, it’s such a brilliant atmosphere created by Sue and her team, and with the grotto decorations, mulled wine and cool music, you can’t help but have a good time. Then I’m done for the year, and have a birthday the day after so I’ll be having a nice rest then.

Of course, before, between and after these events you can still pick up my pieces from the stockists listed on my stockist page, and from my Etsy shops. Last dates for Christmas orders will be noted on the shop announcement shortly, so do take note of them, though you know I will always try my very best to get things to their destination on time!

That’s it folks – you know exactly where I am now, both metaphorically and physically – hope to see you in one of those realms very soon!

Where am I? instalment 1

How cryptic…I guess this is a double-edged post so I’ll write in two parts: firstly, I’ll explain my quietness over the last few months and lead you neatly to instalment 2…

After such great intentions about writing a blog, I haven’t managed to achieve what I aspired to – which was regular and entertaining or informative posts. I’d love to pretend I was totally on top of my social media output and that it was a breeze to keep up. But in fact, being of a generation who’ve had to sort of get used to this sort of stuff, I’ve found it’s slipped to the bottom of the task pile some days when in fact it should have been at the top. So, I’m going to try and be better. I’ve also been having something of a business re-jig: I participated in a couple of craft markets in September and when I displayed my knitted wares, I thought that something was missing….couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I wasn’t happy with how things looked. Luckily for me, my dear friend Jacqueline Curry was visiting me from Australia at the time, and she was kind enough to agree to give me a brutal and honest critique. Jacky is a really talented woven textile designer for InStyle textiles in Sydney: she comes over for London Design Festival and totally has her finger on the pulse. You can see her discussing some of her designs here.

So, we went along my display and literally did “yes/no” for each product. With Jacky’s help, I agreed to jettison some items that are not as current, and we were left with a much more coherent range of colours and pieces. My next task was to create a display for the foyer at my studio complex – here it is: do you think it looks like a ‘together’ range now?

Here is a little collage of my display at the Chocolate Factory's foyer (I am usually only to be found upstairs!) during October 2015.

Here is a little collage of my display at the Chocolate Factory’s foyer (I am usually only to be found upstairs!) during October 2015.

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You might notice I’ve got some natty new green boxes now, as well. They are from a brilliant company called SelfPackaging who are based in Barcelona, but their service is so speedy they might as well be based down the road! They have an amazing range of flat-packed boxes available to choose from, so do check them out if you need to create interesting packages for your own goods or for gifts.

IMG_0972 IMG_0956  IMG_0967IMG_0966 IMG_0969IMG_0968 IMG_0975   sale colours!!

So now that I have had something of a purge, I have also been able to make a big sale section in my Etsy shops: I’ve almost finished listing the sale pieces in Cheese at Fourpence, and Lord and Taft will follow next. These pieces are all perfect (unless stated as “samples”) so it’s a good time to get a pre-Christmas bargain (oh no, I went and said it, didn’t I?)

Right – if you want to know what’s come next, then stay tuned for instalment 2, coming next…

The lure of a new season

So it’s July, and I’m making fluffy winter hats. Maybe it’s a little deranged, it’s certainly a hot business, but there’s method in this madness. You see, the warm, wool-free summer months are the best time to devise and make a new winter collection. Not only do you have the luxury of feeling you have time to play, to experiment and get things wrong (because nobody needs to actually wear this stuff yet, right?, I’m looking at you, English summers!) but it feels exciting to be using a new selection of materials, colour combinations, textures and fibres. In case you are wondering about my process, it starts with a lot of trend research. A little snooping and being a flaneur in the right parts of town. And a degree of gut feeling. Twice a year, I will treat myself to the new issue of Textile View magazine, which I have used for years. It’s a textile nerd’s delight and probably dull as dishwater to anyone looking over my shoulder and seeing  photos of squares of fabric and linear fashion doodles. But to me, it’s like breaking news. I love it, and I spend days poring over it, absorbing the new season’s feel so that I really understand it before I go on.  Then, I’ll look in edgy stores and I’ll people watch in the East End, Brixton, or wherever a new vibe seems to be going on, and I’ll make notes on any new street trends I can see. Finally, I’ll come back to the studio and start gathering yarns, colour chips, images and swatches. I’ll doodle and sketch before playing about on my needles, hooks and machines to produce some samples. Then tweaking goes on for a bit, before I decide whether to put a design into my shop or not. This coming season, there are 4 main stories, only one of which I don’t think I’ll use much. It’s pale and neutral and doesn’t really suit my work much.     There’s a bright story, full of unexpected yarn combinations, like sheer striped with thick and chunky, and with blocky, graphic colours, some of which haven’t been round for a while (I really like that emerald green). So far, my work on this one has yielded thoughts about geometric patterned knitted ties, colour work crochet purses, 80s Memphis-type patterns knitted into socks and bags, and busy patterned scarves. I’m enjoying playing about with these ideas.       There’s also a very wearable country-tweed with a twist story, that knits fine yarns together to produce subtly-changing shadowy stripes. I’ve done some pieces like this before, and I’m adding in more texture this time, to keep it fresh. The colours of peacock, grass green and gold are really new and lovely to combine. I’m still at the early stages with this story but it feels like it will inspire some new colour combinations.               Finally, my favourite story is season has to be the ‘interesting darks’ theme. Maybe it’s the old Goth in me but I am so happy when colors you can’t quite define come into vogue like this: a plum shot with deep violet, a greeny-black that is as rich as a beetle shell, a dark grey petrol…Within this theme there is the idea of adding a toot of metallic or glitter somewhere. Just a touch, mind, nothing ostentatious. When paired with the fluffy, furry and feathery textures that are also in fashion, this is intriguing, as the glint of metals iridescence peeps out at irregular intervals. I’ve been gathering yarns for this theme, and am leaning towards fluffy hats, snoods and big cosy scarves, all with a hint of shine somewhere. It’s fun combining yarns I wouldnt have paired before, and I am even using some of my archive Italian yarns from the 1990s, which seem to suit this look so well. I’ll add photos of the new finished pieces to my gallery page as they are complete, and they will be in my shops by the start of September. Just in time for the really early bird shoppers! So you see, it’s not so mad after all to be knitting warm hats in July….

The Making of A Square a Day/The Big Book of Granny Squares

I thought it might be good to explain how the process of producing a pattern book goes: it might not be quite what you imagine! Although I’ve worked on two different ones now, there were many elements in both that were much the same, but I will talk about A Square a Day first, then tell you how making Knitting Basics went in a later post.

The first thing that was decided was the concept of the book. In the case of both my first two books, this had already been developed by the respective publishers, and I was recruited to produce the book. The titles were  pre-chosen, as were the covers. I was contacted by the publishers after a recommendation from a colleague (thank you Catherine!) and I then met with them and agreed the details. We then went back and forth a little until we were happy with the format. I was warned that it was a”big book” and “a challenge” but I decided that you don’t get offered an opportunity like this every day, and anyway, writing a book had long been on my bucket list. So I accepted the offer. Formal contracts were drawn up then it’s off you go! {L-R below: by me, Lucy Adam, Katie Clammer]

flotilla mint choc chip Starfish photo

The UK publishers were Ivy Press, based in Lewes, Sussex, in a little dog-frendly office that I loved visiting. They’d already sold the rights to Interweave Press in the USA by the time I was brought on board; the book was to be produced in US terminology and it would be translated into UK terms once it was finished.

The book then got thrashed out in more detail: I couldn’t make all 365 designs myself in the time available so I had to find some co-contributors. I had already known Lindsay Obermeyer and Pauline Richards for many years, so I got them on board, and the publishers suggested 3 more people, Lucy Adam, Katie Clammer and Deborah Smethurst, all of whom have now become good friends! Finally, I found a younger member of our team when I attended the New Designers show in London: Lindey Tydeman’s work has a fresh aesthetic to it that I really wanted to include. I spent a long time trying to come up with some sort of formula for making sure there was a good spread of projects in each chapter: I had to consider levels of ability as well as type of stitch/pattern. In the end, I made a cloud spreadsheet that all the contributors would be able to access with a password, so that we could all see what was assigned to us, and who was making what (and thankfully, we only had a couple of instances of people duplicating patterns, so not much wasted effort.)

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Over the following months we spent hours Skypeing, calling and meeting up to share ideas, support each other and check our work. I checked all the other contributors’ patterns by making up the squares and annotating anything I found wrong. My own were to be checked by Interweave. All the text was then gone through by our fantastic copy editor, Marie Clayton. She misses nothing! We submitted our squares in batches, and made sure we all got to see them all laid out, as they looked so lovely all together in their rainbow palette. The photos above are of our first batch being submitted back in December 2013. We noticed around this time that the book was listed on Amazon already, even though we were still making it! That was amazing to see, and also to see that people were pre-ordering it from a really early stage. Because page sizes are so tight, and it was already a pre-formatted book, our instructions sometimes got abbreviated by the editing team, but as I know I can be a bit wordy, I was happy to bow to their experience in these matters and trust that all would still be clear to the reader. [below: 3 squares by me]

zigzag audrey god's eye

Once the first batch were in the design team at Ivy Press got the squares photographed then started making layouts of the pages, and sending them to me to check. There were a few squares back to front or upside down, but this was quickly rectified. Once we were happy then this batch of pages went off to Interweave Press in Colorado, our US publishers, to check and comment on. Luckily they had very few things for me to amend. I then started work on the instructional pages at the front whilst simultaneously working on the second batch of squares. That was a crazy busy time! LOTS of very late nights, some all-nighters, lots of hand cramps and arnica gel, but strangely, a never-ending supply of fresh ideas that just kept coming! I’d notice things when I was out walking my dog, like the pyracantha berries in our local park, and then I’d come home and create a design from it, it was very stimulating and exciting. [below: 3 squares by Deborah Smethurst]

waterlily Lotus Niamh

The instructional pages took some time to put together as I had to source lots of illustrations fresh for this book. I wanted to apply the teacher’s rule of “assume nothing” so decided I’d rather over-explain than leave people wondering. Once we had everything ready for that section, Marie checked the text and the drawings were made, then I checked it all again before it went off to Interweave for their approval. Meanwhile, the final batch of squares was being put together by my team, and I was checking their patterns. It got harder as we approached the end, because we often found we had ideas that didn’t fit into the skill level that was needed for the last few squares, or we already had too many of that particular technique. We actually talked about doing a volume 2, can you believe?!

Towards the final stages of the book I had to pull out for a while, because sadly, my mum died and I was very caught up in dealing with her affairs, as well as grief. So my last squares were checked by Deborah, and also the last bits of text. The UK translation happened at that stage, but I never saw the UK version of the book until it actually came out, because I was so out of the loop at that time.

[below L-R: by Pauline Richards, Lindey Tydeman, Lindsay Obermeyer]

strata gridlines target

Once everything went in, all went quiet for a while, as the books were being physically made at the printers. I sent in some marketing info, with ideas as to who to send review copies to, then before we knew it publishing day had arrived! I didn’t have my author copies yet but I sent for one on Amazon as I was so impatient to see it. I also went to Foyles bookshop in central London and there was my book, proudly on the shelves with all the other crochet books! It was very surreal to see, after all that work, so gratifying! In early December I got my author copies and extracts from the book, and reviews, started appearing in magazines. #crochet magazine featured 4 of our squares and called them “cool”, which was very flattering!

I then received a copy of the US version and started to see reviews cropping up all over the Internet, and I was also able to see the Amazon sales figures every day. I think the really high point came when Moogly ran a competition to win ONE copy and they had almost 50,000 entries. That was pretty mind-blowing! [below L-R: by Deborah Smethurst, me, Katie Clammer]

confetti cherry pie Rosebuds photo

Now that the book has been out a little while, I’ve calmed down about reading the reviews every single day. Inevitably, a few errors seem to have slipped through our checking net, so I will find a way to post errata both in the UK and the US. People have been really positive and lovely about the book, which is just great. It’s very exposing, putting yourself out there for public consumption and appraisal. I try to learn from any suggestion or criticism, though. Each one will help me make my next book better!