Saying Yes, Not Saying No

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and get in touch after my last post – blimey what a confused lot we are! Thanks also to the kind friend who reminded me that we can never please all of the people all of the times – and that no-one can do everything. The task of living a “good life” becomes overwhelming. It’s much easier to break down our intentions into steps (big and small) and recognise successes and failures as part of the journey. I was also reminded of the short  film The Story of Stuff, which was released ten  years ago If you haven’t seen or heard of this, do go and check out the website or listen to the Story of Stuff Podcast.

And special thanks to the person who reminded me of my own advice: When you want to encourage people to change their behaviour tell them what they can do, not what they shouldn’t do. So, heeding my own advice, here’s what we’re saying “yes” to.

We’re saying yes to:

Re-usables

I’ m digging out my crochet cotton make up remover pads (that means saying no to future purchases of disposable cotton wool). You’ll be able to find the free pattern over on my knitting and crochet website later this week.  I’ll remember to take my Sigg water bottle out with me to avoid any temptations to buy bottles when I’m thirsty. I’m keeping up with the habit of carrying a cotton tote in my handbag (no accidental plastic bag purchases). We’ll continue to drink fresh coffee made using our cafetiere and compost the coffee. When a single use option is the only option, we’ll say no, or find a way to repurpose the packaging. We’re already well down this path, but we can definitely do “better”.

Meat and Dairy:

Yes, I know all about industrial meat production, factory farming and food waste. I’ll keep buying free range meat from the local farm shop, eggs from a friend and cow’s milk from the self serve machine at our local farm. This is the issue which seems to create the most conflict among groups and individuals trying to promote a greener or more ethical life. I don’t want to argue about the merits for and against (I was vegan, I worked for an anti vivisection charity, I am at peace with my choices). We’ll continue to eat plenty of fish and vegan dishes (they’re already a part of our weekly meal plans) and I’ll make sure to bulk  buy and freeze so we don’t waste anything and reduce the overall amount of packaging that comes into our home.

Buy more glass:

When I do buy something in a container I’m choosing glass first. All the research I’ve done (and my own gut instinct) leads me to believe that plastic is just scary. It leaches chemicals, it’s hard to recycle, it pollutes the ocean (I don’t want to lecture – make up your own mind, but we’re definitely heading towards a life with less plastic). Mr T drinks goat’s milk and so I’m choosing tetra pak over plastic, because so far what I’ve read makes me believe that’s slightly “better”. But I’m learning as I go. If I can source a local supplier of goat’s milk direct from the farm, that will be even better! Ultimately I’d like to see our whole packaging mountain reduce, but small steps…

Growing our own and shopping local:

I love to grow my own food, watching seedlings grow is so exciting. Every time I walk into the garden I am thrilled that it won’t be long before we’re putting home grown food on the table every day.  I like to know where my food comes from, trips to the local farm shop and markets are great places to meet the people who feed us and to ask question about the origin of what we’re buying.

Faitrade:

We’ve always bought Fairtrade tea, coffee and chocolate. Over the years it’s become easier to buy a whole range of Fairtrade foods and fashion. I like that Fairtrade principles pay attention to the environment and to the people employed. It feels good to me that people and planet matter to the organisations that run and support Fairtrade.

So there you are, five easy wins towards reducing my eco guilt. Your choices might be different, that’s fine. The small stuff adds up to big stuff.  Slowly, very slowly I’m hoping we’ll see a reduction in the stuff we throw away (that’s my biggest indicator) and that will mean less stuff bought. We’re also going to be more mindful about what we do buy, and how we dispose of it.

I’ve been reading blogs and books (on my kindle) about people who have adopted plastic free, or zero waste lives. I can’t help being inspired, but I know that this lifestyle isn’t an option for us (at least not yet). It would just be too hard, too overwhelming and I know that my Lupus affects my choices and my lifestyle whether I like it or not. I’m learning that my “Greenish” life is a journey, not a destination and I’m grateful to have you all along for the ride!

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Will Crochet Design Make Your Fortune?

Or, How do you measure success?

2ou30mdtsey-giulia-bertelli.jpg

OK, I’m talking about crochet design here, but this applies to all creatives. The truth is, most creative occupations won’t earn you a fortune. There are exceptions. Talent,  hard work and lucky breaks have led to a few highly successful careers in knitwear design (and other sectors).  We think that getting published in a few magazines, getting a book deal or hitting the “hot right now” stream in Ravelry* will be a spring board to fame and fortune. It might, but the chances are you won’t be able to give up the day job just yet. At least not if you’re responsible for mortgage payments, rent or  food and living expenses. Freelance crochet design will not bring you financial security. There are a few who are trying and succeeding. Talented people who have invested heavily in self publishing, mastered the art of online promotion and built a following of makers who leap on every new design with gusto. These are the lucky few. (although it isn’t really down to luck;  hard work, determination and the support of friends and family all contribute).

So, if financial security  isn’t guaranteed how else do we measure our success ?  Does it matter if money in the bank isn’t the bottom line? Freedom to live a simple life, cook from scratch, grow veg and spend time with friends and loved ones is my “success indicator”. If I worked full time, invested heavily in my brand and really, really committed myself to design then I would earn more money. But, all of the above would be neglected. I know that when I spent two days working  in London each week there were too many ready meals in the freezer, a weedy veg patch and a sulky family who  missed me. I lost touch with friends and spent weekends filled with working mother guilt trying to compensate for time spent away and  texting goodnight from trains. I felt like I failed at everything and I resented my job and my family for not being able to cope without me. The money was great, but it didn’t compensate for the things I missed.

Crochet design, writing features and occasional books won’t make my fortune, but it has brought me friendship and  job satisfaction. The money I earn feeds our family, feeds my yarn habit and most importantly sustains my creative soul. My riches aren’t money in the bank, they are small flashes of delight in an ordinary life. Of course, none of this would be possible if Mr T didn’t have a successful, rewarding job. But that doesn’t mean my work is just “play”. We have found our own “work life balance”. but it has taken us 30 years to get here!

So, will crochet make your fortune? Perhaps  not, but maybe that’s not why you crochet?

Photo Credit: Giulia Bertelli for Unsplash

 

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Bargain Book Finds

hooked-cover-imaage1Book bargains are great news for readers, especially if you’re on a tight budget like me. And as a writer, I am happy that my books might be picked up by readers who might not want, or be able to pay full price. I have discovered some brilliant designers by shopping in  bargain book shops and my local charity shop and I can never pass the door of a second hand bookshop without peeking inside for “just a minute”. Luckily, Mr T shares by book love, so he’s happy to accompany me.

Lately, I have snagged some absolute bargains while mooching in The Works. These include the wonderful Claire Montgomerie’s book Hooked, which I picked up for the bargain price of £4 and Knitting from the North by Hilary Grant for just a fiver!

Both books are excellent and I love them both. I noticed both are also on offer at other online bookshops (including Amazon and The Book Depository), so if you still have Christmas money to spend, these are both perfect choices – you won’t be disappointed. Even at full price they are both excellent value and will earn their keep on your crafting bookshelf as you dip into them time and again.

So, what makes them such great books?

let’s start with Hooked by Claire Montgomerie. Once Editor of Inside Crochet magazine, Claire has a long list of successful knitting and crochet books. Hooked, published in May 2016 is her latest and perhaps best crochet book (that’s just my opinion). It is filled with beautifull projects aimed at beginners, but even the more experienced hooker will find themselves wanting to make almost everything. The styling and photography are fresh and modern. I love the colour palette Claire has chosen – and can’t help noticing she’s sneaked in several projects with her own favourite colours – the Chevron Clutch, Granny Square Blanket and Tiny Coin Purse are stunning.

As you would expect, the first chapter takes you through the basics, holding your hook, reading a pattern and basic techniques. Subsequent chapters are designed to extend your skills and challenge you to try new techniques. The Striped Pencil Case for example has a useful tip about avoiding “jogs” in your stripes. There is a useful glossary at the back and a well designed index so you can look up projects and techniques easily.

I have recommended this book to lots of crocheters (new and more experienced) and I know a couple found a copy under their tree, so I’m looking forward to seeing their makes. So, congratulations Claire on producing another beautiful and useful book to add to my groaning bookshelf!

Next,  Knitting from the North by Hilary Grant. I just adore this book. Filled with colour work patterns inspired by Fair Isle and Icelandic knitting techniques this isn’t a book for beginners. It’s light on technical advice, although there are a few pages at the beginning which skim over double knitting, grafting and making a pom pom. You’ll also find advice on caring for your knits and how to prevent moth damage. If you haven’t tried stranded colour work before I’d recommend a good technique book or a patient friend to guide you through some simple techniques, and you might find yourself looking up provisional cast on tutorials and working from charts if these aren’t already aprt of your knitting skill set. But, few knitters will be picking this up expecting a “how to”, it’s a snapshot into Hilary Grant’s creative process, her design inspiration and a chance to knit some truly beautiful accessories.

The real beauty of this book lies in  the short text that accompanies each pattern and of course the photography. Each pattern is accompanied by a stunning collection of images which are  almost a love letter to the Scottish landscape. The first project, Beacon Pom Pom Hat is less than half a page, but the 3 pages of photographs which accompany it had me gasping at how such a simple knit can be so beautiful. It is also a perfect project for the less confident knitter to begin with.

This collection adapts some of Hilary’s most popular machine knits and  is filled with graphic patterns, flattering shapes and simple designs that hand knitters can recreate at home. Practical hats, snoods and sweaters suitable for all skill levels will inspire you  and no doubt (like me) you’ll find yourself googling trips to  Orkney to see for yourself the stunning backgrounds showcased in the photographs. The colours chosen for each design are beautiful, although it’s rare for me to knit anything in exactly the same colours as shown in the pattern, this is one book where I would be tempted to make everything just as it is.

In short, I love this book. I have spent hours just gazing at the photographs, planning projects and colour schemes. It’s a book I will buy for friends and certainly not one I shall be lending out. It will sit with me for years, and every now and again I shall knit myself something beautiful from it’s pages.

 

 

Momma’s Got a Brand New Website

shutterstock_138222647OK, so for a long while I fell out of love with Baking and Making, it didn’t really seem to fit what I do any more and it has become little more than a place to list where I’ve been published each month (not much fun to read eh!) . I’ve written before about this and for a long time I’ve been trying to find a solution. I love that so many of you stop by each day to read and feel bad that it’s become a bore!

I’ve toyed with other blogs, trying to find a “creative outlet”, but that didn’t seem to work either and to be honest, most of my day to day thoughts I post on my facebook page or instagram, so a “real blog” didn’t seem to be so appropriate to my business any more.

I’ve also begun to sell more “ready to own” crochet items in craft shops and galleries and wanted a “label”, something to make them stand out and identify my “brand”. That’s how Granny Cool was born, and slowly (very slowly), I’ve been building my website, organising stockists and trying to juggle all this with my magazine work, writing a book and living a life! Selling under my own label is really exciting, it’s how I started (making small kits to sell to classmates at school, selling baby hats at NCT sales and in recent years designing patterns for Craftseller, for others to sell). I love the freedom of making, of not having to stop to think about writing down the pattern. I have no intention of giving up my design work (look out for some really lovely designs coming soon), this is just a slight change in direction.

Over the next few months I’ll be moving the free crochet patterns and other bits and pieces over to Granny Cool, but this site will remain. It won’t be deleted or disappear, but you’ll see less and less crochet patterns and more varied new posts.So, if you really want to stay in touch it would be fabulous if you could hop over to facebook and like my page, or even better take a moment to add Granny Cool to your “favourites”.

Over at Granny Cool, I’ll be  letting you know about sample sales and new pattern releases and on Facebook, I’ll be posting links to my favourite blogs, great designers and general chat, so it would be lovely to see you there (post a link to your facebook pages on there too, so I can say hello!).

Thanks for sticking with me!

 

 

Learn to Crochet Workshops 2015

7th March 2015 Gallery Artemis, Cockermouth Cumbria – Learn to Crochet for Complete Beginners

I’m pleased to announce my first confirmed date for 2015 will be in my adopted home town of Cockermouth, Cumbria.

Gallery Artemis is a contemporary gallery and art space which supports local artists and makers and sells a range of jewellery, decorative pieces and paintings by local artists.

The class costs £45, which includes all the tools and materials you’ll need on the day. In addition to the basic skills and stitches, you’ll take away a kit to make a pair of wrist warmers.

The course runs from 10am until 4pm, with a break for lunch. All refreshments are provided, but please bring a packed lunch (or buy from one of the many delicious eateries on or near Main St).

You can book directly with Gallery Artemis by phone, or if you’re nearby why not pop in and take a peek at current exhibits, which include some gorgeous fused glass piece by my friend Helen, and my own boiled wool purses. A full listing and course description is available here.

Cockermouth is well served by public transport and has plenty of local parking. It is familiar to many yarn lovers as the home of Woolfest. I’ll be in Cockermouth all weekend, so if you’re tempted by the chance to learn to crochet, but will be travelling some distance, why not make a weekend of it? I’ll be happy to point you in the direction of some great local sites for yarn lovers, such as The Wool Clip in nearby Caldbeck.

For more details, you can email me (todhunter63[at]gmail.com or contact Yvette at the Gallery on 01900 267090

Hope to see you there.

A Secret Revealed: Part Two

Stonewall Cushion, photo credit: V. Magnus

Well, it’s been a while, but as promised here is the second instalment of “things I couldn’t tell you”!

It’s often hard to know what to do with designs that have been published in magazines, the sensible thing to do is to reformat them and start selling them as individual downloads online, but this means new photography, confirming yarns are not discontinued and having the time / inclination to do all of the above! Excuses, excuses I know…

So, quite often patterns sit here, waiting for me to “do something”. Occasionally I add them to my online stores such as Etsy and Ravelry. Mostly I add them to my “list of things to re-knit and rephotograph” and they never see the light of day again. I can’t tell you how many designs I have that aren’t even listed on Ravelry, not every magazine commission is listed. Uploading  private commissions, book designs, and one off designs for yarn stores etc just don’t make it to my exceptionally long to do list, so what you see online is just a snapshot of what I have actually been working on.

stonewall (c) V Magnus

Then, sometimes, I love a design so much I am determined to see it have a new life. These three designs were originally commissioned by Claire Montgomerie for Inside Crochet and The Complete Guide to Knitting (the Stonewall Cushion made a brief appearance in “Yarnwise”, then languished unloved until it was rediscovered and republished).

Silsden. Photo credit: V. Magnus

Silsden. Photo credit: V. Magnus

The Log Cabin inspired blanket pictured above is one of my all time favourites. Reknitted and updated in gorgeous Whitfell DK, a 100% Baby Alpaca, this is the softest, snuggliest blanket you could imagine and I’m thrilled to say the pattern is now available on Ravelry via Eden Cottage Yarns (click here for pattern details)

I love designing homewares, our living room is full of cushions and throws and one day I would love to put together a collection of my favourite designs for publication. Cushions are brilliant, they are relatively quick, a great way to try out new stitches or techniques with no need to worry about shaping or fit. Like the Silsden Blanket, the Stonewall cushion  pattern is also available via Eden Cottage Yarns. If you were at “Ally Pally” (AKA the Knitting and Stitching Show) recently, you may have seen them on display.

Silsden Blanket. Photo Credit: V. Magnus

Vikki’s gorgeous photos really show these two designs off to their full advantage. Both look more complicated than they really are and could easily be tackled by a beginner who has mastered the basics.

But, there’s more. I also have some gorgeous accessory patterns available, and although I’ve shared pictures already on Instagram, I’ll be back next week to show them off here.

Finally, huge thanks must go to Clare Devine, who tech edited and polished up my written patterns into the gorgeous new Eden Cottage pattern format. They really do look fantastic.

A Secret Revealed: Part 1

Maisy Roper (photo credit Eden Cottage Yarns), a sturdy bag in 100% Baby Alpaca Chunky

Since May, I’ve been hard at work on a new design collection for Eden Cottage Yarns. Finally I can share with you all the projects that have been keeping me busy over the summer. When Vikki, the creative force behind my favourite yarn brand asked me to collaborate on a new collection I was thrilled and a little bit overwhelmed. There were days of sketching and swatching, weeks when all I seemed to do was rip back or take refuge in the garden when “nothing seemed to go right”. Finally I felt ready to show my initial ideas to Vikki, and thank goodness she loved them as much as I do!

Phyllis Turner, a crochet purse in 100% Baby Alpaca DK (photo credit: Eden Cottage Yarns)

Each design features a different fastening or handle, all available from Bag Clasps (more about this in a minute) and are suitable for beginners. The crochet bag and purse are my favourites, incredibly quick and simple to make, but elegant and definitely a match for anything you can buy on the high street. By using a smaller hook than usual, they don’t require a fabric lining and can easily be completed in a weekend.

The whole collection will be on display at the Knitting and Stitching Show, which opens at Alexandra Palace on the 8th October. If you’re visiting, you’ll be able to see all my new designs for yourself, but the patterns and even kits which contain everything you need to make a bag of your own.

Poppy Miller, a knitted clutch in a luxury blend of baby alpaca and silk 4 ply (photo Credit: Eden Cottage Yarns)

Special thanks must go to Julie at Bag Clasps, who had no idea why I was ordering such an eclectic selection of her products,  but sent out dozens of purse frames, handles and accessories with speedy and efficient service. I hope she’s pleased with the results.

Lucy Fisher, a capacious project bag knitted in 100% baby alpaca chunky (photo credit: Eden Cottage Yarns)

If you’re not heading off to “Ally Pally”, you can see photos (and download patterns) on Ravelry, and I’ll be sharing pictures on twitter, facebook and instagram all week.

Betty Carver, a tiny knitted purse in a blend of baby alpaca and silk 4 ply (photo credit: Eden Cottage Yarns)

Next time I’ll tell you about some old favourites and new designs which are also available in Eden Cottage Yarns, but for now it’s back to the sketch book to start work on the next collection!

 

Introducing #Crochet Magazine

If you look for crochet inspiration on the magazine stands right now, you’ll be spoilt for choice, there are some fabulous autumn issues on sale.

issue 1 coverThe latest “new kid on the block” is #Crochet, and I’m pleased to say it features two of my favourites designs  alongside a brand new collection I designed especially for this first issue.

Up first is this gorgeous stool cover, which I designed for the Dorling Kindersley Book “Crochet”. I have always loved the colour combination I chose for this project and I’ve used it several times since. Every time I see it pop up in print it makes me smile and cheers up a dull day!

dk crochet stool cover

I was also very chuffed indeed to see the New Lanark Wrist Warmers I originally designed for Love Crochet make an appearance, made in one of my favourite British wools, they are simple, quick and make ideal gifts.

new lanark wristies

Finally, the editors asked for a collection suitable as a desk set. Designed in rainbow brights, the tiny garland is just the right size to hang across a filing cabinet or computer screen. The pencil case and pot holder continue the rainbow theme and you’ll even spot an ipad cover and phone cosy – ideal as a beginner project.

iphone cosy

I may be slightly older than the demographic this magazine is aimed at, but I have to admit I loved it.  There is a crochet collar by Emma Escott (pictured on the cover), which is beautifully styled and really shows off her design to best advantage. I also love Sarah London’s Turkish Delight blanket.

There is a great mix of projects and interviews in this first issue, so do look out for it. Priced at £7.99 it would be a great gift for someone who has recently taken up the hook, or even as a special treat for yourself.

The next issue should be on sale before Christmas and I’ve hooked up something rather pretty for that one –  no clues now – you’ll just have to wait and see!

More September Makes: Love Crochet

love crochet cover imageA break from the festive theme today. These pretty kitchen makes appear in Love Crochet, which is on sale now.

chilli garland 1

The Chilli Garland uses DMC Natura Just Cotton, which is a fabulous yarn for crochet and the colours were perfect for this kitchen accessory. I am quite fond of crochet garlands, they are a quick way to add a bit of handmade charm to a room.

pot holders 1

Also inside I have designed a set of cotton pot holders, which are very useful to have in your kitchen (and these ones are machine washable). The editor also asked for a set of egg cosies, and in the vibrant shades of Pink, Orange and Green would really perk up your breakfast table.

egg cosies

More Festive Makes

YOUR-HANDMADE-HOME_NO-8While you were all busy planning your summer holidays, I was working away on these cute little tree decorations. I don’t often venture into the world of amigurumi, but I quite enjoyed making this little couple. They’re very easy and lots of fun to embellish with scraps of ribbon, buttons and beads.

gingerbread menThe trend for mandalas continues, and these little tree decorations would also make great coasters.

mandalas traditional

You can find both of these patterns in issue 8 of Your Handmade Home, which is on sale now, as always there are some lovely ideas for your home and my projects have been styled and photographed beautifully – much better than my efforts!

 

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  • I’m Tracey Todhunter. I’m a freelance writer. specialising in green / ethical living – with a “sideline” in craft!

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  • Borage flowers. The leaves & stalks make a brilliant plant food, the flowers are edible - but I grow it because it's just so pretty - & the bees love it.
#girlgardener #mygardenrightnow #permaculture #herbs Away with the fairies! Lovely wander around Stonyford Cottage gardens today. Lots of inspiration. Finished a new shawl. Far too hot to wear it, but luckily my shed is a great backdrop! Yarn is King Cole Riot. 
#crochet #crochetgirlgang #neverenoughshawls #sheshed #madenotmanufactured #crochetlove Free food! Next best thing to growing your own food is eating other people's homegrown. I'm looking after my neighhour's garden & boy does he have a lot of radishes just now! I have written a blog post about more of my favourite (almost) free foods. Link in profile, now I'm off to pickle these radishes.
#frugalfood #foraging #ediblegarden #growyourownfood #girlgardener #allotmenteering #eattheseasons #permaculture  #zerowaste #slowliving #gardentotable #organicgardening #forktofork I'll admit it, I grow this mostly for it's amazing colour - but the stems are delicious sauted with chorizo or streaky bacon!
#mygardenrightnow #girlgardener #girlsthatgarden #permaculture #growyourown #ediblegarden #bakingandmaking #slowliving #organicgardening I do love a formal garden. I walk through this one every Friday on my way to knit group.  Castle Park is a hidden gem.
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