Firstly, may I offer my sincerest apologies for being out of contact for so long.  What was my normal routine was thrown by a change in Youngest Son's own where he went from swimming after school (at the same time as his older brother) to a Monday morning.  Much better suited for a three year old, I'm sure you'll agree, but not so ideal for the Monday-morning blog-writing Mummy.  And despite being a stay-at-home Mummy, my week is surprisingly busy with teaching, volunteering in school and the odd yoga class – and that's before nursery and then school finishes and we're back into full-time Mummy mode.  So yes, hands up: I've failed to find a new time to write to you (but on the flip side, these morning swimming sessions seem to be working).

This delay in communication has been particularly frustrating as I've been so excited to tell you about the Edinburgh knitting retreat that I taught at: The Geeky Puffin Knit Palooza.  In finally putting fingers to keyboard, I'm relieved that a full month has not yet passed since it was held - but it's got pretty close.   And brings me onto the second excuse I have for being so poor at keeping in touch: I returned home from Edinburgh with an eye infection which took a good four days to start responding to the prescribed antibiotics.  Such an infection is never good and it's also debilitating for a knitter (and other such hand-to-eye people): I couldn't knit, nor read, not write; television didn't hold much interest – though, unfortunately, my snacking wasn't unimpaired and that quickly became the method by which I passed my evenings.  (So yes, if you're wondering why you're seeing me running the roads around Reston slightly more frequently than usual, now you know.) But all is now well and here, at long, long last, I am.  How are you?

May I tell you about the Knitting Palooza? Oh my!  It was fab, just fab.  I will admit that my expectations were woefully low and that I was quite anxious at the thought of three nights away without knowing a single soul at my destination.  Once upon a time, never such a negative thought would have crossed my mind - indeed, when I was first approached to teach at the retreat, I had a hard time keeping the smile from my face as I explained to Husband that my over-night attendance was part of my tutoring benefits so it was only sensible to use the offered facilities.  Sensible, yes – and maybe a little desirable too.  But then my confidence, my naive assumption that all knitters would happily get along was shattered: I had taught at a large knitting event, one where entertainment was provided in the evening after a short intermission of yarn-related services.  Working under the false assumption that I was bound to see some old faces or meet some new, like-minded knitters, I opted to stay.  The confusion about who could and couldn't remain in the building during the interval resulted in my wandering aimlessly around a nearby shop and then making an early return to the venue.  The more organised of us had stayed and ordered in food and if there had been a general invitation to participate, I was unaware of it.  In the minutes while we waited for the room to become available, there was more uncomfortable milling about, searching for a familiar face and then facing disappointment of not finding a friend or an invitation.  Already tired from the post-adrenalin rush of some pretty-good workshop feedback followed by a most wonderful alpaca-related purchase, I have to admit that I was crushed.  In my exhaustion, I took the rejection personally and went home.

Many months later, and after repeated re-assurances as to my personal hygiene and character, I began to wonder if the size of the event had, in fact, been one of the barriers to more easily striking-up new conversations with new people.  In large numbers, perhaps any willingness we individuals might normally have to be more inclusive and welcoming is lost, for we delegate those responses to others in the group who, it appears, are probably operating under a similar mode.  Combine this with the oh-so-disappointing realisation that the knitting world, just like every world, has it cliques and you have one isolated and lonely Katherine.  So you can understand my trepidation for the GP Knit Palooza – but never has a fear been so unfounded.

The Geeky Puffin Knit Palooza was a residential knitting retreat and, as such, its numbers were much smaller – but I reckon that for the thirty or so of us who were there, it was just perfect.  Right from the moment I swallowed my nerves and asked to join a group of knitters in our pre-dinner knit (Thursday night dinner being the first official event of the retreat) I felt welcome, liked, included, happy – and so, so relieved.  That first dinner was a delight – as were all our meals.  As were all our times, in fact. 

Please forgive me if I start gushing but I'd like to say a big "thank you" to everyone else for going.  You are all, without, exception wonderful - and that's not just the three Katherine's :-)  It was an honour to meet you and spend time in your company.  I am delighted to have made new friends, people who I know I'll see again and who I can't wait to do so.  You all made the weekend so positive, so very special and you have restored my faith in the general hand-wavy love and acceptance that I had assumed was shared among fellow crafters.  You have returned the soul to collective knitting; in fact, you – and others like you - are the soul of knitting.

Can I tell you about the food?  It was delicious! Proper, "home cooked" in that substantial, country-kitchen type way using seasonal ingredients (including apples from their garden) to create a variety of delicious and well-thought dishes – and for all our palates, whatever our dietary needs.  It was difficult – if not impossible – to over-indulge.  Which brings me onto the yarn.  Oh my word.

Oh. My. Word.  Never, ever, ever, have I splurged so.  And I have no defence, none.  So here, for the prosecution, is a photo of the goody bag that we received upon registration.  Pretty awesome, eh?  And then there were the door prizes: Yarn, patterns, bags, notions, needles, more and more and more.  Prizes every night.  So clearly (clearly?) what we needed was an opportunity to buy more ourselves.

Two words: Yarn Crawl.  No, four words: Yarn Crawl [and] Vendors Market.  24 hours of yarn madness.  To avoid congestion while we crawled around some of Edinburgh's yarn shops, we were divided into three groups and my fellow team-mates and I started at "Kathy's Knits".  You'll know that I already spend a large amount of time there and am quite familiar with her stock (indeed, some of it has already taken up residence in my studio) so I felt that I was on safe ground.  Needles, I needed needles for a project I had been gifted (as unbelievable as this sounds, I can assure you that it’s absolutely true) – plus a(nother) pair of sock blockers.  For displaying my socks at workshops – so work related then.  Then we went onto "Ginger Twist" and that’s when the trouble started.  In hushed conversation with another attendee (soon to be known as my "Enabler"-  as only a wonderful and trusted yarn-friend can be called), I had confessed that I wanted nothing.  Nothing.  I already had enough yarn, more than enough. And I was looking forward to casting on my next Rowan project.  I needed nothing.  And I really should have taken her up on her offer to swap debit cards.
For those of you know don’t know, Jess from "Ginger Twist Studio" dyes her own yarn and it is glorious.  Strong, vibrant, take-me-now colours.  But I was immune.  You know me and my "if I don’t have a pattern, I'm not buying any yarn" foible. So I bought my first ever copy of "Pom Pom" magazine (I've clearly been living in a cave) – and maybe one or two back issues – and "Great White North", the most recent collection of patterns from the brilliant Tin Can Knits (I'd particularly fallen in love with their cabled jacket, "Jones", for one or two little boys that I know and love).  I had actually paid and was leaving the shop when zap! The blue of Jess's magnificent "Splendor" DK shot through my protective cloud of indifference and I was, quite literally, smitten.  That'll be four skeins please – so I can knit this lovely cabled jacket for my boys.  Sold.

The wait for our bus allowed temporary recovery from the "spend guilt" and by the time I'd stepped on board, I'd managed to rationalise my purchase, re-order my knitting queue and set the world to rights.  Which was a particularly stupid thing to do just as we were arriving at "Be Inspired".  Oh. My. Word.  Remember that Katherine who doesn't buy yarn unless she has a pattern?  Well goodness only knows where she went!!!  The Enabler has spotted some "well known" sock yarn that Katherine had never heard of – and she was politely enthusiastic (although inwardly ambivalent) until she spotted her own skein of "Treasure" (yes, that's what it's called).  Then there was the "Crushed Raspberry" – but think damson or blackberry for a better idea of the amazing, rich colour: A single skein in lace weight.  For what?  For my shopping bag, obviously.  Seriously!  Who was this woman?

And it didn't stop there, oh no: Turned out The Enabler had her own table at the next day's Vendor's Market and so I stayed late after dinner to help her set-up – if, by "set-up" we mean shop some more.  And then there was the market itself where more (more!) was purchased.  These purchases I am 100% comfortable with as they are all gifts for other knitters I know and love; they were bought with them in mind in the hope that they like them as much as I think they might.

At the end of all this, the display of yarn and yarn-related goodness in my retreat room really did have to been seen to be believed – and for that reason there is no photo documenting my fall.  I was shocked, truly shocked at my complete lack of control.  Fear not, it wasn't like we were going to be without food or fuel as a consequence but I felt as though I crossed a line, entered some dark side of stashers.

And then, as is so often the case, the balance in my world was restored by the kindness of a friend: The Enabler gifted me some yarn.  In light of everything that I have just told you, I know that this sounds ridiculous but I treasure this gift.  It's the prefect shade of a brand new yarn that she knows I admired that I can use to knit a pattern from the brand new edition of a magazine that she introduced me to.  So completely perfect – and I can't wait to cast it on.

Clearly I could go on and on... I haven't yet told you about the "Layer it On" KAL or the Instagram Scavenger Hunt or the specially dyed yarn or Kate from "A Playful Day" – but I should probably start drawing this to a close.  However, a blog about the palooza would be incomplete without thanking the organisers: C.C. and Damaris Almon, and Sam Boggia.  And thank them, I do.  They thought of everything.  Their choice of venue was original and wonderful; the range of classes they selected for their attendees were unusual and inspiring; the yarn crawl and vendors market were evil and totally unnecessary.  Err, sorry no, they were great: Great to meet local crafters, producers and sellers; great to spend so much time with new friends doing just that; great stocking up for the yarn plague.  They provided bus tickets and after-dinner treats; on our behalf they obtained contributions from the great and the good and the select and the local.  But, much more importantly, they brought together a group of strangers who, over the course of three days, formed strong and lasting friendships.  Now that's amazing – and so are you.  Thank you, thank you very, very much.
If I seem a little distracted, I apologise, but I am: Our beloved Bailey (the short-haired ginger and white cat) is AWOL. I blame myself entirely for this out of character behaviour as I introduced another, a fourth, cat into our fold.  She needed a home; I thought that being a "she", Emily would cause less disturbance to the boy cats' hierarchy and not encourage them to expand their own territories, heading straight for the A1; I thought that since she was an older cat (i.e. not a kitten), she wouldn't disturb the peaceful equilibrium that the three boy cats have established. I fear that I may have been wrong on all counts.  The fact that Quigley (the long haired ginger and white cat) is, unusually, sitting beside me as I write is doing nothing to allay my fears.

So, September... Wow. Where was that Indian summer that I had convinced myself would happen?  The lack of sunshine and heat did nothing to encourage me into the garden and so, other than harvesting the odd vegetable for mealtimes, I – we – have done nothing.  And so, just like that, we're back to our default "neglected jungle" look with an added sprinkling of self-recrimination as we seem to have lost most of our forward progress.  Okay, "some": We had a pleasing harvest of potatoes – although most of these are tiny - and other vegetables; not so much of autumn fruit. And, again, the learning continues - so while growing potatoes in pots is my chosen way forward, I shall sow fewer per pot in the hope that they might reach a size where they don't drop through the holes in the basket.  
Clearly jacket potatoes are out of the question but, perhaps like our eggs, Deanfoot's garden produce is always sized small (if it's being produced at all – and yes, I am now referring to the eggs and the complete lack of them.  Eggs to eat, I mean: We've had plenty of unexpected chicks this year!).
On the positive, the drop in temperature has allowed me to revert back to my autumn / winter wardrobe and it seems that I'm most happy in a short skirt and thick tights: Warm, practical and non-boy-like: Can still chase my boys and a football around while not always being that Mother-of-Boys who solely lives in jeans and trainers. Obviously I have my version of this but, due to my addiction to the rather wonderful Sweaty Betty, it tends to be leggings and hoodies for my pre-run / pre-combat / pre-yoga look (I do my upmost to keep the post-exercise look to myself, it being entirely unglamorous in a way that not even my lovely athwear can distract from).  I've also made the time to evaluate my wardrobe and remove items of clothing that do not fit, do not suit and have only been kept for sentimental reasons.  Some of these items have actually left the house, gifted to friends and family; others are lurking in a hidden corner while the umbilical cord loosens; and yes, this is soppy ol' Katherine, so it's no surprise that others haven’t even made it out of the drawer! But what has been left is a space: Now all my knitwear, hoodies and vests fit in their designated drawers.  Amazing.  And, believe it or not, there is a little more room say, should any of the balls of yarn make if down from the studio, magically transformed into clothing (because if it's going to happen, magic is what's required).

This morning, I tried to recall all the knitting that I achieved last month and, to be honest, I am struggling.  There was, of course, the second of the Learn to Knit blankets, originally knitted as two panels but then quickly expanded to four. (Two, is what’s being offered by the classes at Kathy’s Knits; a four-panelled blanket is, my in opinion, better sized and given the enthusiast that I am, the original just had to be increased to demonstrate so.  Queue eye-roll from Husband.) 
And, of course, there are the two teddy scarves (with a polite request for a third to be made).  The completed "lounge sock", with its pair started.  The children's book commission started... But not a great deal really.  
And then I remember that September has been an extra-ordinary month work-wise: Not only have I been teaching every Tuesday evening (at Kathy's Knits, lower left photo) and Wednesday morning (at Oblo, lower right photo) but I've also worked two weekends, one of which on both days.  Plus I went to my first Woolly Wednesday in a very long time (and I'm looking forward to making a return visit this week) – and so on top of all the other things that we do in our normal lives, perhaps not actually getting that much off the needles is understandable?

{Short intermission while I make a fuss of Bailey, returned safe and sound!}

Of course, this flurry of activity was never properly considered in my September Plan, which now means that I'm off target.  (The target is to have a least one month this year when I can knit purely for pleasure; it's now the beginning of October and I still have workshops to prepare for; I'm also running out of calendar months.)  The toy that I'm currently working on is taking its toll, quite literally.  The combination of using such small needles (3mm) to create a dense fabric is also creating havoc with my hands:  I have to wear plasters on my finger tips to prevent any further puncture wounds from the needles and plasters over my nail beds as the wool is rubbing away the skin.  Knitting with plasters is slow and awkward and so the project is taking a lot, lot longer than hoped.  To be utterly honest with you, I will be most relieved when I've finished (although the tiger is looking rather cute).  If I can finish him this week, I will be pleased (understatement).  Then I can knit-up the cable gauntlets while we're on holiday next week – rejecting the post-summer-holiday rule about never taking work knitting away with me and trying to forget my aim to continue some trans-seasonal knitting for myself.  And then I'll be straight into the next flurry of work: Teaching at the Geeky Puffin Knit Palooza and with Woman's Weekly at the Christmas Craft Show in Glasgow.  And we mustn't forget the two Christmas Knitting crafternoons – here, later this month, and in Llanidloes, Powys, in November.  And then, maybe then, I can knit for me?  Unless I get any silly, too-late ideas about Christmas knitting for other people!!
Normally, I'd be running at this time and not only does this help combat the excesses of the weekend, but it gives me a chance to sort out the mess in my head and I usually return both physically and mentally invigorated.  But not today.  For some unexplained reason, my toe – the one I broke – aches and although I'm now pain free (thanks to some ibuprofen), I'm trying to be sensible by not pounding it for three miles around Reston.  But this is doing nothing for my swirling mind.

Yoga is my next port of call but, before then, I'm hopeful that this time with you will help clear some of the fog in my head as I've an inkling that most of this uncertainty has arisen from some knitting-related madness – and not, in fact, the new purple leggings that I'm wearing for the first time today.

I suspect it's all to do with the sock.  You remember that sock, the first of my "abandoned" knitting presents that I resolved to put into my handbag to knit on the move?  Well, it's all I've been knitting.  Pretty much all week.  Oh, though that's not true: I cast on on Wednesday and could have completed it last night, only it's too small.  Which is fine – I'd guessed that it would be (designed for sizes 4 – 7 and me having size 8 feet).  Now knowing that I've got some spare yarn to work with, I can take the toe back and knit a couple more rounds of the foot and then hopefully I'll have a completed sock that I can wear, rather than a completed sock that'll be gifted to someone with smaller feet.  It's just that the sock wasn't supposed to become the all consuming project that it's turned into, proving exactly why I can't be trusted with multiple projects on the needles.  This might be marginally more acceptable if the only other knitting that I'm doing is for my own personal enjoyment, but we also know that's not the case.  And so the deadlines slide. 

Since these are "Katherine" deadlines, set to be weeks in advance of the actual deadlines, I shouldn't worry.  And I certainly shouldn't let it spoil the near-week I've had "off" from work knitting.  I've enjoyed knitting the sock, I really have.  Not only has it reminded me how very much I enjoy sock knitting but I'm also enjoying the anticipation of being able to share with the present-giver an update on my progress and, ultimately, a completed pair.  They're also my first pair of cable socks (big tick) and they use a slip-stitch heel – which makes a change from my usual flap approach. An arran weight on 4mm needles, it's also been a fast knit and – if memory serves me correctly (!!!) – the socks could also contribute to Team Pink's "show and tell" entry at the Geeky Puffin Knit Palooza.

Speaking of which, I could just jump right on this sock knitting train and compete the preparation I have to do for my sock class there – good for the knitting obsession and good for clearing some brain space.  Once done, I can continue my cable obsession with the fingerless gloves, also for the knitting retreat.  So perhaps this hadn't been such a bad thing after all?  Perhaps these socks were just the project I needed to re-inspire me to work.  They truly are the gift that keeps on giving.

And speaking of giving, this Sunday's crafternoon tea is in aid of Macmillan cancer and so if you’re not doing anything between 2pm-4pm, perhaps you’d like to eat some cake for charity?
Well, this is a much happier version of Katherine signing off. Thank you for helping me identify and embrace the positive of these last few days.  I had thought that I'd wasted them and was burdened with the worry that I had – and not for the first time – left too much knitting for too little time (2am bedtimes really aren't the solution).  But it's not true and my Monday – even with its manic mileage – is so much brighter.  Thank you.  And I hope that you have a good Monday and a great week xx
In preparation for yesterday's "Learn to Knit Socks" workshop, I was searching through my stash looking for some example sock yarn. I already had several pairs of knitted socks (for display) and some "fancy" sock yarn (what else are you going to call Rowan's Fine Art?) but I just wanted a ball or two of some staple yarn (which, in my case, means Regia).  I did indeed find what I was looking for (just one ball, mind), plus take the opportunity to use some of my "Yarn of the Month" samples (and you thought that they were a *complete* waste of money!).  But I also re-found all the other waiting projects, and I instantly felt over-whelmed and more than a little sad.

One day, if I'm feeling brave, I might actually take out my stash in its entirety and photograph it for you to see.  Most of it is already allocated to projects as you know this is how I buy my yarn: Pattern and yarn together. Single skeins of yarn beauty don't attract me in the way they do others as I just can't handle the uncertainly of what to do with them.  So yes, I'm aware that I have a stunning wardrobe of knitwear just waiting to be knitted.  And yes, while the autumnal weather settles in nicely for the duration, and I'm forced to wear fleeces for the want of a knitted jumper, I again feel the disappointment of not having knitted more, of not feeling ready for this change in weather. But I'm well used to such emotions: I experience them at least twice a year, usually around this time and probably about six months earlier.  And yet I still haven't knitted my trans-seasonal garments.

As frustrating as this is, it isn't these projects that give me the most angst.  It's those that have been wonderfully and oh-so-thoughtfully given to me – and that still remain in a state of unknittedness.  For example, I stumbled across some gorgeous Exeter sock yarn, especially chosen in a blue and green, along with a pattern for a lovely shawl – all to co-ordinate with my blue and green tartan skirt that was a staple in last year's winter wardrobe (and will, no doubt, be making a repeat appearance this year).  How perfect would it have been to be able to wear both skirt and scarf together (obviously with a few more items of necessary clothing!)?  But instead I just feel regret – and worry that the present giver will think that I don't like present.  But I do, I really do.

This is just the tip of the proverbial gifted yarn iceberg: There are other scarves and socks and hats and bags just waiting to be knitted.  Sure, they're in good company but these gifts weren't purchased to spend their lives hiding away in a chest, they're supposed to be knitted, worn, cherished and loved.  And I can't tell you how sad I am not to have fulfilled this intention.

My time, just like yours, is limited - and I have chosen to use some of this time to knit for my work.  This means that when the boys are in bed and I pull up my needles while Husband and I settle down on the sofa, it's for work that I'm knitting.  Granted, I'm still knitting.  And granted, this is still pretty brilliant – but I would like to be able to make a start on some of those gifts.  I could, of course, re-prioritize my commitments to make more knitting time.  I could, for example, not post blogs as frequently as I do – but I really enjoy my Monday morning natter with you (and secretly hope that you enjoy hearing from me). I could stop volunteering in school – but helping establish the new library is important to me as I believe it's important for my boys and their school-mates. I could stop offering my knitting classes but, err, I don’t want: It’s the foundation of "Knitting with Katherine". I could stop going to yoga but I've only just found this class and, for me, it's the perfect tonic for my Friday morning: It helps settle me for the onslaught of Friday afternoons (and the roller-coaster that comes with two very tired little boys), sets me up for the weekend and supports my own private practice.  Of course I'll have more hours available when Youngest Son joins his older brother at school but I'm not going to let myself fall into the trap of wishing away our time.

So, what is the solution?  Firstly, I'd like to apologise to everyone who have gifted me yarn: I'm so, so sorry that I haven't knitted your beautiful and thoughtful gifts to their end.  It is not because that I'm ungrateful or that I don't like what you've given me.  Far from it: I am spoilt because you know me so well as to tick all my yarn boxes.  Thank you.

Next, and if you allow, I will try to stop seeing your stashed yarn with regret, instead relishing the textures and colours that you have chosen, and embracing the promise of project's end.  I will try to feel less shame for my tardiness and apparent idleness and instead take pleasure in your kindness and love.  For if the tables were turned, I would be devastated to learn that my gift to you could cause such heart-ache.

And I will start to knit some of those wonderful treats that you have given me: You cleverly chose projects that are small and portable so I will select one, cast on and then it'll be ready to accompany me where ever I go (knitting on the move, ahhhhh).  Yes, there will always be work knitting.  And yes, there will always be a desire to knit for my boys.  But you have given me a most cherished gift: Permission to knit for myself.  And not just the knitting – or even the finished garment – but you've widened my yarn world (you know how I tend to shop) and given me the opportunity to experience other designers.  So thank you, thank you ever so much.

Should you wish to treat me again, might it be possible for you share a little of something too precious to measure: Your time.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to sit together awhile, perhaps catching-up over a cuppa – and maybe knit a couple of rows of your gift in your company?  Sounds pretty perfect to me.
On Saturday, I did "Body Combat" for the first time in two months and boy, do I feel like I've been in a fight: My shoulders and upper arms ache and hurt even when carrying out the least taxing of tasks, and my legs feel tired and heavy.  Yet, despite the physical discomfort, I'm pleased that I went – and know that it can only get better from here on in.

For those of you who don't know, "Body Combat" is my most favourite exercise class and our teacher, Laura, is superb: The perfect combination of fitness and strength, grace and balance, care and humour – and she bakes.  Yes, turning up to the last class in the week before Christmas with a selection of home baking is going to win you a place in my heart – especially when I might have been afraid that such goodies would never pass your lips, let alone have a home in your kitchen.

For a class that I claim to love so much, you'd be perfectly within your rights to ask why I had let my attendance lapse for so long.  Firstly, there was the school summer holiday, half of which was spent enjoying the company of my parents followed by a fortnight away in North Wales.  And then it all fell apart.  A combination of Husband being home late / away soon allowed those feelings of apprehension and self-doubt to re-seed and grow.  I remember when my friend J took me to my first class: She may not realise what trust I had in her and our friendship to allow her to witness the potential humiliation that might have occurred in that first session.  She had been going for months; I had done no formal exercise for a long, long time – and yet I survived and with every subsequent week, my fitness and co-ordination improved and I grew to look forward to my weekly kick (and punch) of combat.  And it was these memories of that pure pleasure that finally took me back.

Such feelings are not only restricted to combat, I know – and it's been particularly helpful to ponder on such emotions as I begin another series of "Learn to Knit" classes.   Let me premise this by saying that I do know that not everyone thinks in the same way I do, but let's assume that if they did, we'd be close to covering the worst case scenario.

It can take a lot of courage to attend a first class of anything and I hope that I never underestimate the journey that it may have taken some to reach the point of stepping through the door.  Sometimes it's easier to come alone; sometimes not; everyone is different. May I reassure you that I am delighted to see everyone who attends my classes and genuinely believe that it's a real honour that you have decided to spend some of your precious time (and hard earned cash) learning or developing your craft.  So thank you, thank you for coming.

As an adult, learning anything from scratch can be intimidating.  Sometimes, we burden ourselves with the pressure of past failed attempts or the expectation that since we're "grown-up", we should be able to do this (whatever this is).  That's not very kind to yourself.  You're speaking to the knitter who refused her own mother's patient attempts to teach her to knit – so please don't even try to compete with me in the arena of missed opportunities.  That said, I now have great joy knitting with my mum or, because of the miles between us, talking about knitting – it is most definitely one of our binding common interests.  So try not to focus on the past, embrace your newly-found interest and see where it leads you.

My learn to knit classes are small in the hope that I can give you and your class-mates the individual attention that you may need.  Learning to knit is not a race.  With most that we do, we do at a different pace and style from those around us – and knitting is no exception.  Some will find the first pair of needles work for them; others will find them heavy, alien and uncomfortable.  Do not fear: Like shoes, there are others we can try.  Some will find the actual holding of needles clumsy and child-like.  Don't worry, relax – and, as you do, you'll find that your shoulders drop, some of the tension will leave your back and your arms will find their own natural position to rest.  Some won't understand the pattern or instruction – and that's for me to sort out so please do let me know if I've been unclear.  It is my absolute aim to help you reach your knitting goal so please, please let me know of any way that I can help.

Like any other endurance task, in order for your body to remain alert and energised, you need to keep hydrated and fuelled.  Yes, I'm serious – and no, you're not the first person who doesn't believe me.  Consider this: Before you attended my class today, when did you last (ever!) sit down and knit for two hours solid?  Indeed.  This is particularly significant when learning to knit as your brain is probably in over-drive trying to remember all the details of the new methods I've been showing at you, not to mention the names of your class-mates, the important task you remembered that you hadn't completed as you travelled to the class and the inspiring comment that one your colleagues has just thrown into the group.  And so I recommend sugar, water and perhaps caffeine.  In what form is entirely up to you, but I tend to find that a nice cuppa and a biscuit work and don't get your hands sticky.

And then there's the fatigue, both physical and mental.  Particularly anxious knitters may have an acute case of "knitter's claw" where their exhausted fingers are rendered immobile and curled up into the palm of their hand.  Know that one.  The neck and shoulders of other knitters may ache from rigidly sitting around their needles.  Yep, experienced that too.  And then you may be completely wiped out from the effort of single-mindedly concentrating on a new task for two hours.  Oh yes – and I don't need it to be new to make me tired.  And again I say: "Be kind to yourself".  If it were a yoga class, you would be advised to take a few breaths in child's pose to help recover and, although you're very welcome to do the same in any of my knitting classes, you might prefer to down tools for a few moments and relax in your seat.  Perhaps take the opportunity to flick through some knitting books or magazines, squidge some yummy yarn or unwrap that chocolate that's been calling to you for the last hour?  Better to pause or even stop for the day that make a mistake because you're tired and putting yourself under unnecessary pressure.  We're just learning to knit – and I'll see you again next week.
I cannot believe where the time has gone, can you?  One minute, it's the school holidays where, when allowed, my head has been full of making plans and preparations for my Big August Premiers (everything seems to happen at once, doesn't it?) – and the next minute, they're all over, done and dusted.  And it's onto the next.

Knitting-wise, even I have to admit that August has been a good month!  Not only did we have the first ever, whole day workshop at Deanfoot (showcasing my very first lace scarf design) but Nick Sharratt used the scarves that I had designed for him to help launch his new children's book, "Shark in a Park on a Windy Day" at the Edinburgh Book Festival.  And, if that wasn't enough, we're soon to release the patterns – "Scarves in the Park" - which will be another first for me as I explore the world of pattern selling.  I also designed a brand new project for my "Learn to Knit" classes and started working on another commission for another children's author. Wow, actually "wow".  Do you know, if you hadn't given me this opportunity to reflect and review, I might never have known. In classic-Katherine style, I'm already busy with the next thing without really giving a moment's thought to what we've achieved.  So thank you, thank you and thank you :-)  
It's all been a lot of fun though and, of course, it's not been something that I've been able to accomplish on my own.  This isn't the Oscars so I won't keep you with a long list of thanks but I am very much a team player, and I really appreciate being able to bounce ideas off family and friends, turn to them when it all feels a little too much – and serve cheesy pasta the umpteenth time at home.

My outside world has also been making demands of its own: It's been harvest time in the garden and we have, quite literally, been enjoying the fruits and vegetables of our earlier labours.  Now I could turn into my father and start harping on about the wonders of home-grown produce and how I've never tasted peas so sweet as those from my pods – but even I know where the line is.  For those of you who follow my twitter feed, you'll know what fun I've been having racing the clock to cook the veg plucked straight from the garden in the quickest time possible – but as you also know, I'm a woman of extremes and so we've also enjoyed some of the earlier harvest that we froze - in a gooseberry and strawberry cobbler.
The chickens have also been providing us with more than their usual excitement: We have had three clutches of eggs hatch this summer and "Apple" has gone AWOL so there might be one more. (In case you're wondering, Apple, Blackberry and Samsung are Pepper's offspring from last year.)  Primrose, Custard's daughter (I hope you're keeping up?!), was finally released from her run last week with daughters Calamity (Jane) and Katie (pronounced "Kadie") – so named because Calamity had a nasty fall from the top of her little house.  Pepper and her 11 chicks are still in their post-natal run and I reckon that five or six of those are girlies (if only they would keep still for long enough to count!).  And then there's Blackberry and her three chicks (too early for me to tell).  Having, err, "dispatched" of Primrose's cockerels, Husband is bracing himself for Pepper's lot and not at all impressed with the prospect of Apple sauntering out of the long grass with a line of chicks behind her. Clearly one of our priorities next year will be keeping the side of the burn under control and less jungle-like if we ever hope to spot broody chickens as well as any recently laid eggs.  (We had to buy eggs again – seriously?!!)  A formal run would, of course, solve all these issues but it's clear that our chickens love having the freedom of the garden so we've no plans to change that.  But let's see what happens next year.

As I look forward to September, so too do I find a bulging "to-do" list. Thank you to those who have registered for the "Introduction to Socks" workshop -  there are a few more spaces if you want to join us on Sunday 13th.  Then there's "Professional Finishing" in Edinburgh at the end of the month – as well as "Learn to Knit" being offered both in the capital and closer to home.  And then it's time to look forward again, to the exciting times at the end of October, including a festive workshop here, working with the fab team at Woman's Weekly at Glasgow SECC and the imaginative Geeky Puffin Knit Palooza in Edinburgh.  Happy days....  And may I wish you all happy days too xx


On Saturday, I held my first ever full-day workshop at Deanfoot - though when I say "I", I really mean it was a team effort.  One of the vital team members was Dana, most wonderful friend and skilled crafter herself (have you seen her gorgeous children's clothes?).  Dana, and her military-style organisational skills, meant that the quiet preparation all came together at just the right time.  With some additional help from Sheena, little miracles kept occurring: Furniture magically moving back under the gazebo, dishes cleared and who can forget the ball-winding dance!  Thank you both very much.

Another key team member was Jenny from The Core who brilliantly led our yoga and, rather fantastically, the weather allowed us to practise outside!  I don't have a great experience of yoga (unless wishing that I had time to do more counts?!) but I was very surprised at the difference it made doing it outdoors: It was simply wonderful.  I have come to realise that there are probably few "perfect" places to practise yoga – even in a designated studio there will always be some untimely sound (usually at the relaxation part) – such as a lorry driving past or someone entering / exiting from a neighbouring building.  So long as these don't interfere with your practise or create a distraction from which you can't separate yourself then these, as with lots of aspects of life, are things that we can try to accept and move on from.  So while we were outside with the birds chirping in the trees around us, the water falling gently down the stream into the pond and enjoying the soft breeze upon our skin, yes vehicles continued to use the nearby road, trains ran along the track behind that – and a one of the resident cats had a quick sniff to check that the group of women lying in corpse pose weren't actually dead.  This is me, so yes, I did fret a little that these "nuisances" might adversely affect the others but they seemed to take them in their stride – and were hopefully too consumed by the super class that Jenny had prepared.  She pitched it to exactly the right level for all of us and executed it with her usual grace and friendliness – making everyone feel included and able, no matter what their (my!) actual ability.


Now you know that no workshop of mine would be complete without food playing quite an important role and so immediately after yoga, we sat together and enjoyed a breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt, croissants and muffins.  And then the knitting started!

This was an introduction to lace knitting for which I had designed a simple, but elegant, scarf using the falling leaf pattern, knitted in the ever sumptuous "Fine Art" from Rowan.  "Antoinette" is designed to be beautiful yet functional, with a loop to allow the scarf to loosely fasten without flapping around shoulders or needing constant adjustment (spot the mother with two young children!).  I am delighted to report that all knitters produced some simply stunning pieces of work!  It was a joy to see confidence building as each row was completed, share in the satisfaction of seeing the pattern coming to life and a real pleasure to enjoy the different colour ways of the Fine Art as the scarves grew on the needles. 

One of the major learning points for me is the revelation that chocolate brownies are essential for lace knitting – for which I also need to thank Dana (I'd baked them for afternoon consumption - of course we had enough for two servings!).  During that first row of knitting, which is always a bit tricky following the cast on and particularly if you've just learnt a new method to do so, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed: So much to take in – new techniques, the counting, the repeats, the counting, the keeping your place in the pattern, the counting, the occasional TINKing, the counting and then oh!  The blessed relief of reaching the end of the row with the correct number of stitches!  It can be exhausting!  And put that way, it's blindingly obvious that brownies are required – and seemed to do the trick just nicely.

There was of course lunch after which we relaxed comfortably for another hour or so of knitting.  If I could have bottled the atmosphere in the studio...  It was just so wonderful to be part of that group at that time.  Most of the major knitting hurdles had been crossed and people seemed content to carry on knitting at their own pace, enjoying the chat and the music (thanks again, Dana).  

Little Miss Worry Pants (that's me, in case you’re wondering) always starts to feel uneasy at such times because I worry that I'm not doing my job if I'm not busy helping others – but there's something to be said for just being one of the knitters, and that thing is "thank you. Thank you very, very much". 


Our day concluded with a soak in the hot tub.  Not really sure what needs to be said about sitting in blood temperature water with the sun shining down on you: Bubbles, bubbles and more bubbles.  It was a bit difficult to get out – as Husband will affirm as he found Sheena and me still wallowing nearly two hours later!

With requests for another knitting and yoga day retreat, I'm already planning new versions of Saturday including an exciting collaboration with Sheena, Seamstress par excellence and the talent of SeamSew.  So keep a look out for more information – or join my mailing list (by emailing me) so that you're always among the first to know.

Which leaves me to say an enormous "thank you" to everyone who came.  Thank you for sharing so much of your precious time with me, thank you for being such excellent company, thank you for making a truly wonderful day xx

It seems as though I've hardly spent any time at home this month – through a combination of my machine knitting workshop (which you already know about) and a fortnight's holiday in North Wales (that started with a quick jaunt into mid-Wales to collect a new knitting machine; it's like my life revolves around knitting).  This is my first full week at home and whoosh!  It's the end of the month already.
On reflection, it seems that July has been a productive knitting month – and no, I'm not just referring to the machine knitting that is super speedy and also super satisfying.  The scarves needed for the Edinburgh Book Festival are near completion and yesterday, I finished the final panel of the baby / fireside blanket that I've designed for my next series of "Learn to Knit" classes.  (Lots and lots of motor home knitting :-) ) This morning, while the panels lay drying, I cast on the first 41 stitches of the lace scarf that I've designed for my yoga retreat day and I'm really looking forward to making some progress on it this evening.  So yes, all work knitting but hey!  I can't complain when knitting is my work (and don't worry Team Pink: I'll be uploading some images of the completed items to the Geeky Puffin Knit Palooza KAL – and that'll hopefully earn us a few points).

I was about to tell you that I haven't bought any yarn this month and in one sense this is quite true: I haven't actually been to a yarn shop, fallen in yarn love and left with a bulging rucksack, trying to maintain an air of innocence while avoiding eye contact with my beloved Husband.  In reality, this is a massive three black sacks of random yarn away from the actual truth – for along with the knitting machine, came three bin bags of yarn on cones.  I am so completely overwhelmed by the amount that they are still on the motor home from where they accompanied us on the hundreds of miles of our holiday.  I have tidied up one of the sheds to act as a quarantine area in preparation for receiving a more ordered version of this cargo – but then it started raining and that put an end to it.

Speaking of rain, there does seem to have been rather a lot of it – mostly, I'm pleased to say, in our absence.  It has run riot with the vegetables that I was lovingly growing: I'm am not exaggerating when I tell you that the spinach is as tall as I.  As a vegetable, it's pretty useless – having outgrown its worth and gone to seed – and I fear that some of the others might be going the same way.  But not all:  I have some plump looking beetroot, not too scrawny leeks and below some giant leaves, wee broccoli crowns (is that what you call them?).  Somewhat predictably, the boys are far less interested in the patch now that there's a definite risk that I might actually expect them to eat some of the produce.  Leeks, apparently, are poisonous in anything other than leek and potato soup; I fear I may be "hiding" the beetroot in chocolate cakes – and perhaps doing similar with the courgettes.  Might be on safer ground with the peas and, since the tomatoes remain a stubborn green, we might be saved an additional argument or two.

It has been a terrific learning experience though, and I'm really excited about next year.  The strawberries were delicious – but there weren't enough of them.  And even though they'll be moving into the smaller greenhouse next year, there's still room for at least a couple more plants.  Under the advisement of one of my neighbours, I will be growing next year's tomatoes in the larger greenhouse and, due to my training in the identification and removal of side shoots, the plants may look less jungle like.  I will also sow the seeds earlier – although, in fairness, given the lack of heat this summer and particularly these last three weeks, there isn't a huge difference between the late and early versions. 
I'm also hoping to better plan our holiday.  While it's nice to go away in the summer – and indeed, we were very fortunate with some great weather in Wales – it's a really silly time to go away in terms of the garden.  We missed the last of our strawberries and it was only with the help of my mum that we harvested fruit from the gooseberry bushes – now all safely stored in the freezer awaiting transformation into jam, crumble, curd or other.  Although we installed an automated watering system, it's the finer details that can make all the difference – like controlling the temperature of the greenhouse by opening / closing windows and doors at the appropriate time.  And the not so delicate tasks such as harvesting your produce before it goes to waste.  Husband doesn't agree with me and so perhaps another solution is that a keen gardener or two could holiday at ours while we're away – applications in writing, please, care of the Lady of the House.

Of course, no blog would be complete without mentioning the chickens and my word!  What a chaotic lot they turn out to be. The day after my June blog, Primrose (the hen that I'd "imprisoned", remember?) became the proud mother to eight chicks.  One went mysteriously missing, the less healthy one died and so we're left with six.  Want to hazard a guess at the number of cockerels?  Four.  Then one fell and got trapped in the wire of the run and looked, for a couple of hours, as though they might not make it.  Want to guess the sex of that bird?  Female, of course.  However, I'm most pleased to report that under the loving care of another of our brilliant neighbours, she has recovered and is now back with her mother and siblings.  Just call our neighbour Dr Dolittle. But this is not all the news. Oh no.  We were still a chicken down.  The day after our return I had searched the garden for said chicken and had found a clutch of 10 eggs and feared that their mother had been got by Mr Fox, Fantastic or otherwise. Dr Dolittle had also searched for her while we were away and this man is an expert (you may remember that while we were on holiday last summer, he discovered the same chicken sitting on 11 eggs, 10 of which hatched.) Anyway, just two days ago I was taking a friend over to the kitchen garden to show her the jungle that it had become when Pepper came strutting out of the undergrowth with 11, yes eleven, chicks!  Five beautiful black ones, five creamy yellow and one gorgeous little yellow one who was clearly the last to hatch as was struggling on its feet.  They are now all safely ensconced in post-natal unit number two.  And yes, start placing your odds for the number of cockerels in this batch.

What next? Well, I should probably start eating some of the food I've grown – rather than staring at it helplessly, which is my current approach.  And I should also do something about the weeds, at least some of them: "Natural" is all very well, but we're sporting the Amazonian look and this really isn't compatible with collecting eggs from free-range hens (or, indeed, monitoring their numbers).  Knitting wise, once the lace scarf is finished, that's all my work knitting complete for workshops up until the end of October – when I'll be teaching at The Geeky Puffins Knit Palooza and Crafts for Christmas at Glasgow SECC.  The latter doesn't need any formal prep as the brilliant people at Women's Weekly will be providing the patterns and handouts.  The former requires a brand new design for a brand new class (exciting!) and even though my second workshop is familiar ground (sock heels), I'll want to revamp it especially for the occasion.  Oh! Speaking of socks, I've changed the format of my sock workshop here: It's now going to be a full day (10:30 – 16:30) on Sunday 13th September.  More details can be found here.   This wee break in the work schedule might actually mean that I get a chance to knit for pleasure.... Watch this space!!

It's that time of year when the thoughts of us, in the northern hemisphere, are likely to turn to summer holidays. It may be that you're not going away – hoping to enjoy the best of the summer sunshine at home – but for those of us with school age children, this is most definitely holiday time, if only a holiday from school.

We're preparing to go away for a fortnight in our motor home (potential thieves be aware that I have the most excellent security system in the form of my most kind – and vigilant – neighbours; please don't test them) and by preparing, I mean we're in that oh-so-dull packing stage.  Under the "essentials" category of the Packing List is "knitting" which, since the introduction of The Plan, where I've remained a one-project-at-a-time gal, is very easy to transfer from home to motor home: I'm going to take my current project (a scarf) and the next project in the queue (baby / picnic blanket).  And a spare, of course.  A fortnight is plenty of time to knit these – although we're also packing our bicycles, wet suits, surf boards and walking boots which suggests that the entire time may not be dedicate to knitting.  And there, my dear Katherine, all your knitting plans start to unravel.

This isn't to say that I don't enjoy any of the other activities – because I do, very much, and this will be the first time that we put the boys in wet suits and introduce them to the waves so wish us luck! – but it really does interfere with the potential knitting achievements.  It's at times such as this that I have to remind myself that I'm taking holiday knitting, I'm not going on a knitting holiday – and in terms of the knitting, the ramifications of this distinction are huge.

Clearly you're speaking to a woman who wants it all: Near endless hours of knitting, interrupted only for activities of her choosing.  It was one of the motivating ideas behind my yoga / knitting retreat day: Start the day practising some yoga, then spend the rest of the day knitting with beautiful yarn, eating delicious food, and just generally chilling out before going for a soak in the hot tub.  Heaven.  While it's only a day, I'm hopeful that the meditative pace of the day will really help those joining me to fully relax so that they'll feel refreshed – as well as pleased with their knitting accomplishments.

The next sensible step would be to take the knitting retreat idea to more than one day and I'm delighted to be teaching at just such an event this autumn: The 2015 Geeky Puffin Knit Palooza, in Edinburgh from 29th October – 1st November.  There's no mention of yoga but there is cake and plenty of knitting and other yarn-related activities:  Attendees get to chose from seven classes (yours truly is teaching "Beginner Magic Loop" and "Sock Heels Master Class"), have plenty of dedicated yarn-ogling opportunities in the form of exclusive shopping time at the specially-organised vendor market and a yarn crawl. I'm particularly looking forward to Kate's – of 'A Playful Day' fame - class: "Getting to Grips with Social Media", where she'll be talking about using social media's 'Big Four' from both sides of the crafting fence: For business and for pleasure .  And let me tell you about the goodie bag:  Created by Sam of Knitrundig and filled with delights such as a skein of yarn in an exclusive colour way (dyed by Jess of Ginger Twist Studio), a notions pouch (again sewn by Sam), an exclusive set of stitch markers (made by Zena of Little Yellow Uke) and three patterns - surely the cherry on the cake of any knitting event? With all of these goings-ons (and more!), you might start to wonder if there'll be any time available for knitting but fear not!  The retreat has been organised with this priority in mind and so I'm looking forward to spending lots of time with my needles, meeting old friends and new.  (And if you fancy joining us, I believe there are a few tickets left.)
Well, it's about the time that the boys start taking apart the inside of the motor home in search of their toys and Husband makes threatening sounds about leaving without the knitting (he thinks that the contents of the emergency yarn cupboard should suffice for the trip.  Doesn't he realise that’s for an emergency?!!) and so I will wish you farewell and hope that you have a wonderful few weeks.  I look forward to catching-up with you on my return xx
I'll be honest with you: I was really apprehensive about attending Heriot Watt’s "Machine Knitted Fabrics" Summer School.  It wasn't because I didn't think that I'd like it (although that was a possibility), it was that I would like it.   Perhaps even very much. And that's precisely what happened.

Like yours, my knitting time is very limited.  And up until now, by "knitting" I meant "hand knitting, with needles".  And if I don't have enough time to hand knit, then I certainly don't have time to machine knit – do I?  Well, it appears that I'm going to have to make the time as machine knitting is really rather wonderful.

My immense enjoyment is due, in no small part, to the excellent teaching from members of the School of Textiles and Design, specifically in the knitting department (a university with a knitting department, now that's cool):  Plenty of clear, practical demonstrations, supported by handouts, and lots and lots of time to play. There were no formal aims or objectives, just a general invitation to try to replicate each new technique and then play.  No limits on the time dedicated to producing each sample or developing the new skill.  And no limits on the yarn – it was all pretty brilliant.


Now, if this is sounding too childish for your liking, try replacing "play" with "research" in the above paragraph - it was just really, really fun research: Look how combining a change in colour exaggerates the shaping introduced by the tuck stitches.


See how using the same punch card can produce such varied results when changing the stitch pattern or colour way.


Look how I can make train pictures (okay, that was properly playing!).


We used punch cards to make our Fair Isle patterns and I confess, it did feel a little like cheating.  I know that when we choose a specific design when hand knitting, we follow the colour changes and stitch pattern as set by the designer – and using a punch card is only one step further along this process – yet I somehow felt remote from the knitting. I wasn't responsible for the colour changes, the machine took care of all of that itself: I literally selected the two colours, put one behind the gate and left the other in front and knitted.  Job done.  Changing the second colour in-pattern required a little more user input to get the precise timing of the new colour to match the desired position, but after the initial adrenalin rush of getting that wrong and then right, it went back to feeling rather mechanical.  Which, of course, it is.

I loved the cabling. It's probably no surprise to you since I love hand-knitting cables but I really enjoyed the interaction necessary to machine knit cables.  In the same way that hand-knitting cables isn't hard, knitting cables on a machine also isn't hard, it just requires care and patience.  Manipulating the stitches by hand – using a "transfer tool" to swap the required number of stitches from one needle to another - made it one of the slowest techniques that we learnt.  Slow for machine knitting you understand.
This was one of the many (positive) surprises for me: The true speed of knitting with a machine (and this is only a domestic machine, powered by my right arm).  While creating a series of seven cables, and with knitting seemingly pouring off the machines beside me, I started to feel frustrated at my lack of progress.  And then I reflected: The front panel that I completed for my 45 cm x 45 cm cushion took less than three hours to knit.  And that included tinking back three courses (= rows), each with 128 needles (think stitches) as I'd forgotten to register the card for the Fair Isle pattern (I'd messed up the Fair Isle).  Three hours.  


The second panel of the same size but without the cabling (and without the tinking) took a little over an hour.  Yes, I think I could find the time for machine knitting.

Working in such a creative environment had other benefits too: We regularly chatted to and then admired the work from fellow students who spent their week sewing, weaving or screen printing – meaning that most of us want to return in next and later years to try projects in other disciplines.  We were shown Heriot Watt’s state-of-the-art Knit Production Unit, where the highly sophisticated machines are pre-programmed with the complete design of the garment allowing it to be knitted entirely in one piece (and hence the reason why our work, using the domestic machines, was referred to as "hand knitting"). And I changed.  Not only my views on machine knitting but so also my aspirations for what I'd like to achieve as a knitter.  I even changed the style of my dress!  Out came those large beaded necklaces gifted to me by loving family members but previously considered too "out there" - all of a sudden I wanted to wear these with bold colours and stunning knitwear – but this is still me that you're talking to and so far, I still want that to be hand knitted.

I'm genuinely delighted to have completed the summer school. I already had a knitting machine and I'm thrilled that I'm now able to use it and that some of the reasons for buying it may be realised.  If I tell you that I've just purchased a second knitting machine, to knit chunky fabrics more akin to my hand knitting, then perhaps you'll have a better idea of the full impact that this course has had.
A big thank you to all my class-mates: Your company both in and out of the classroom made the week most enjoyable and your knitting was truly inspirational. 
Thank you to our tutors: Angela, Colin and Ursula.  You're brilliant! We all benefited hugely from your expertise and new ideas.  

And a massive thank you to my parents for making this possible by staying with us to look after not just my boys, but all of us – and so very well indeed.