Feeling grateful

18 Jan

I cannot believe how amazing it feels to take regular exercise. That might sound like a dumb thing to say, but it’s so easy not to do it, to find excuses to sit on your arse.

Six months ago I suffered an appendicitis infection, and because my symptoms were atypical the hospital refused to take me seriously. They kept trying to send me home.

If I’d done as I was told by the doctors who misdiagnosed me – who basically made me feel like an inconvenience for daring to insist I was ill – my appendix would have burst and there is a significant chance I could have died. It was a very, very frightening experience.

When I was in hospital I noticed something I had never noticed before. Nearly every patient I saw in hospital for treatment was overweight. It shocked me to my core.

It is true that if you are overweight or obese and take regular exercise, don’t smoke, eat your five a day and drink only in moderation, then you are no more likely to die early than anyone else. Studies have shown that, as long as you look after yourself, it doesn’t matter what size you are. And I honestly believe that if you are happy with your body, whatever shape and size it is, then that is all that matters. Live your life on your terms. I am NOT judging you.

BUT, for every one of the the above ‘healthy’ behaviours you don’t do, your risk of an early death increases substantially. I felt like I was being given a warning and I listened.

So after I came out of hospital I started to look after myself much, much better. I didn’t want to ever set foot in that place ever again.

Over the last six months I have, first recovered from my operation, which took about a month, and then gradually worked on improving my overall health. I have stopped drinking Diet Coke and cut way back on junk food. I have increased the amount of fruit and veg I eat, I have cut down on booze, I have started walking everywhere instead of getting the bus, and I have slowly built up the amount of swimming I do (my favourite exercise). I haven’t done anything extreme, like decided I can’t eat carbs, or cake, or drink wine, or dieted, or worn myself out with too much exercise. I have just been a lot kinder to my body, and it has paid me back, by doing things I never thought it could do.

This week I swam three and a half miles crawl, across three separate swims. My longest swim of the three, the longest I have ever done, was 1.6 miles/ 2.6km, which took me 1 hr 2 minutes, and 104 lengths crawl of our pool. Afterwards I felt absolutely fine. Not even tired. I only stopped because I didn’t want to miss my daughter’s bed time. I reckon I could have done another mile easily.

Today I went for a walk with some good friends, whose oldest daughter is best friends with mine. As six year olds are wont to do, they had a tiff, and I needed to help them to make up, but they were about 200 yards apart. So I took hold of my daughter’s soft little hand, and helped her run to her friend. I ran the whole way. And I didn’t get out of breath – not even a little bit. I just ran, like it was the most normal thing in the world. It took no effort. I felt like I could run forever.

The human body is such an amazing thing. To go from suffering a life-threatening condition to being able to swim a mile or run without even feeling it, in such a short space of time is incredible. I feel so grateful for that horrible, agonising infection, and for that terrifying stay in hospital.

If you are someone who doesn’t feel great about their body, please just try looking after it better. How you feel matters so much more than how you look.

New year, new rules, and thanks

13 Jan

I’ve been away from this blog for a year. I didn’t exactly give up. Life just got in the way.

But tonight I logged in again. A friend had suggested I review some kits from my old muckers at The Makery and I realised I actually wanted to.

I checked my stats with trepidation, thinking “well, no one can be reading it now”. Turns out you still are. So thank you for coming back for more, even when there was no more to be had. Maybe I’ll review those kits after all (if they’ll still have me!).

Anyway, while I’m here, I want to tell you about my new year’s resolution.

No diets (fuck the diets), no giving up wine/ chocolate/ cheese/ meat, no taking up running (my heart is willing, my pieced-back-together knees aren’t). I’m still doing the yoga, but that’s a pleasure, not a punishment.

So, something else.

2014 is my year to give. My new job means I now walk past a Big Issue seller every day I go to work. Often I find them intimidating, or strange. But it’s easy to judge people you don’t know. Decide who deserves help (or more usually, doesn’t).

Time to start giving back. So I’m buying the Big Issue every week, and making sure they keep the change. I’m giving more to charity – chances are, if you put an envelope through my door this year asking for money you will receive it.

And I want to be kinder. Gentler. Help people more. Funny thing is, when you help people it makes you feel good. It really is win-win.

You’ll still find me knitting here, and sewing, and crochet, and quilting. I’m not stopping that. But I want to give more. I hope you can join me.

Have a very happy new year.

Happy New Year!

1 Jan

Well, goodbye 2012. It was nice knowing you!
It’s been an exciting year for me. In the spring I set myself a goal of having 20 patterns available on Ravelry, which I achieved as the year drew to a close. I’ll have 10 more coming out in February, which were finished some months ago – more on that soon.
Over the summer we published issue 50 of The Knitter, with a frankly bonkers 50 patterns, and redesigned the magazine.
My only regret was all that work meant I could only take a one week holiday while
Storm had 7 weeks at home before starting school.
I made some new friends, and got to know some others better.
My journey as a minimalist is now in its third year. At Christmas this meant having an emptied car driving home after the festivities, and actually being able to see out of the back window for a change! Being a minimalist doesn’t mean all white interiors and a penchant for Philippe Starck (at least, not to me). It means fewer possessions, and more real life. Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist are both great places to start if you’re curious.

While letting go of possessions has felt relatively easy, one of my biggest challenges as a minimalist is reducing my commitments. For about four months over the summer my workload meant I barely had a moment to just ‘be’, and also resulted in much reduced blogging here.

So my goal for 2013 is to look at balance, say no a little, and have some more fun and get some more adventure in my life!
I’ll have 2 pattern collections coming out this year, but first up is a very exciting trip to New York for Vogue Knitting Live.
In the meantime, here are my key moments of 2012. I hope you had a good one, and wish you all the best for 2013,


1) Storm starting school. And starting to read and write. Just wow.
First school packed lunch. Awww.
2) Making new friends and renewing old bonds

3) The death of one of my oldest friends – in itself a terrible loss, but with some surprising silver linings.

4) Starting and finishing (!) quilts for my dad and Storm

5) Being able to call myself a designer – after 20 plus years of dreaming about it


6) Watching my husband launch his fledgling breadmaking business

7) Helping Storm learn to swim and being able to share my passion for swimming with her

8) Handmade birthdays and a minimalist Christmas
Christmas chutney!

9) Being constantly reminded that happiness in work, family and friends is more important than anything money can buy
10) And this picture… (thanks Steven)

We have a winner!

21 Nov

Hello my lovelies. Sorry not to announce this sooner. It’s amazing how silly little things like sending a magazine to the press can get in the way of the best laid plans!

Anyway, to keep it short and sweet, we had 17 lovely entries to the Blue Sky Alpacas yarn giveaway and I’m happy to say that ‘stormandateacup’ (who made the 6th comment) is the winner.

Obligatory random number generator shot;

And here’s a wee reminder of what you’ve won…


Nom nom nom!

Thanks to everyone who entered. You all rock!

Pumpkins and yarn: Giveaway

4 Nov

Why hello there!

How was your Halloween? Storm still hasn’t worked out that she can go trick or treating, so we had probably our last year of staying home, pumpkin shining outside, to welcome the neighbourhood ghosties and goulies.

Instead of being dragged around the streets in the pouring rain, we handed out sweets (Storm dressed as a witch) to the small number of kiddos who darkened our door.



During the day Storm had one of her friends around from school, and we got the little ‘uns to draw their idea of a perfect pumpkin, which we then carved out.

Mine was OK I think…


…but I should have got a pic of the pumpkin wee Frankie’s dad carved. He’s a model sculptor for animation and honestly, I have never seen anything like it!

Anyhoo, as it’s Halloween (well, was) I have a little giveaway of some pumpkin yarn!

The nice peeps at Blue Sky Alpacas are offering the yarn to make one of my Popsicle Shawls


…in a suitably seasonal colour.


Normally this yarn  – yummy Organic Cotton Worsted – comes in hanks. I wound it up to make a third shawl for Mollie Makes, but ran out of time when a deadline moved.

So, rather than hoard it, in the spirit of minimalism, and sharing, I’m giving it away!

For a chance of making it yours, just leave a comment below and I’ll draw a winner at random on November 10.

Happy hauntings!

Popsicle Shawls in Mollie Makes

28 Sep


A little over a year ago a pretty little craft mag was launched. Mollie Makes has taken the making world by storm, with its heady mix of beautiful projects, inspiring features and one to ones with some of the world’s top crafters.

I was a subscriber from issue one, so I’m absolutely chuffed to say that I’m in the latest issue. Hurrah!


My Popsicle Shawls are a fresh twist on a classic – a mini shawl that thanks to a little clever shaping, won’t fall off your blinking shoulders!


I wanted to create a design that was easy to wear, simple to make, and grew quickly. You can knit up a Popsicle in a couple of evenings, and all the stitches are very straightforward.

The yarn is Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton Worsted (nom), and the pattern uses 6mm needles so blink and you’ll miss it!

The first one I knitted – the lime shawl, started life as a mini strip of garter stitch. I was trying (again) to teach my daughter to knit, and this is what we ended up with after a little while.


But she quickly lost interest (she’s allowed, she’s four) and I sat and stared at this 2cm strip for a few minutes, thinking, ‘well, I’ve knitted that, I don’t want to undo it, what can I do with it?’

Then I remembered a neat technique to pick up around the 2 short sides of a rectangle, and knit out to create a shawl shape. So I looked up Elizabeth Zimmerman‘s Pi Shawl formula, which I’d been wanting to try, and started from there, developing the shape to fit around the shoulders properly.

The increases are all partnered with dropped stitches to create long eyelets, and add a bit of interest, but unless you’re an absolute beginner, this shouldn’t be beyond you!


Once I’d made the lime shawl, I had another go with blue, and refined the design a bit, to make the lower edge more ruffled. A bit girlier perhaps.


I roped in my stylish friend Helen for the photo shoot (check out the feather necklace) and her hubby Tim helped out with holding reflectors and gave me some tips for getting the best shot (he is a much better photographer than me).


We also had two pint-sized helpers – Storm (mine) and Jet (Helen and Tim’s little girl), plus their new baby. We were quite a sight!

We shot in front of a wall painted by Bristol street artist Inkie, who you might have heard of in connection with Bristol’s famous street art gallery See No Evil.


And if you haven’t encountered See No Evil, look it up – it’s amazing.

Ttfn and happy knitting!

New designs in Simply Knitting

7 Aug


Oh hello there! I’ve been a bit busy of late, hence the tumbleweed blowing across your screen for the last little while.

Here’s why…


The new issue of Simply Knitting is out this week and I’ve got three patterns in it. Huzzah!

First up is Zest, an ombre cushion, with a flash of colour just for fun.


It’s knitted in Rowan Big Wool on 10mm needles, so it goes super fast – the whole thing took just a couple of evenings to knit. You start from one corner with just 3 stitches and increase out to the widest point, before decreasing again.


The back is envelope style, which means no sewing on buttons or any faffing at all really.


If you want to make the whole thing in one colour it takes less than three balls.

Also in this issue is Play Time, a dress for little girls, modelled by a familiar face, if you’re a ‘regular’ here at Nana Taught Me How…


I used PeterPan Sweetheart DK, which is machine washable (hurrah!) and super-soft against young sensitive skin.

It’s sized from 9 months to 6 years, and the smallest size is quite a bit shorter than the others so your crawling tot won’t get tangled up in a long skirt.


I bought dresses for Storm she never got to wear because she was a late walker – crawling and long skirts do NOT mix.



Thanks to Frances Jago for her sterling knitting, Phil Sowels for the lovely photography of lil’ Storm, and Sarah Clark and Al for helping me wrangle her on the shoot. That lollipop was the only thing keeping her from escaping!

Last, but not least is Happy Days, a cheerful polka dot cardigan with cute picot edgings.


The magazine has helpfully included a step-by-step tutorial for Fair Isle knitting in case you’re new to it.


And it’s on the cover. Whoop!


So, a busy month!


I’ll have more design news very soon. Ttfn!

19 Jul

I have seen this yarn. And it ROCKS. Get your pre-orders in!

J&S Blog

Today we’re launching Shetland Heritage yarn, the newest addition to the collection.

Shetland Heritage yarn recreates the original characteristics of handspun ‘wursit’ used in old Fair Isle garments. The yarn is replicated from that found in knitted Fair Isle garments in the collection of Shetland Museum and Archives.

Wool experts, specialist dyers, curators and knitters have worked together to develop and trial Shetland Heritage yarn, which is worsted spun from Jamieson & Smith’s combed tops to give a soft feel, and a smooth finish. The yarn is slightly finer than the four ply we use today to knit stranded colourwork and Fair Isle. Instead, it gives a definition and complexity of colour and pattern that goes right back to the nineteenth century.

Shetland Heritage Yarn is part of a collaborative project between Shetland Amenity Trust, Shetland Museum and Archives, Curtis Wool Direct and Jamieson & Smith (Shetland Wool Brokers)…

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Choo choo!

23 Jun


Storm’s birthday was over the Jubilee weekend, so we postponed her treat for a couple of weeks as everyone was away on the big day. Something tells me we won’t get away with that next year…

I’ve wanted to go on the Avon Valley Railway (real steam trains!) for yonks, so this was my perfect excuse, haha.

We packed a picnic, roped in some family and friends, and somehow secured the only sunny day in a fortnight of rain. Hurrah!

I wish all train stations still looked like this…




They swap the engine from one end to another half way through the journey so we got to see this…


And this…


Everyone seemed to like it…




I loved watching this…



And seeing this…

(expert tickling by Abby)

And then we had cake (lemon – yum)


And went home. Job well done I think.

Happy birthday chickie!


Isla dress: New child’s dress pattern in The Knitter

15 Jun

Word up peeps. Just dropping in to say I’ve got a new pattern out this week in issue 46 of The Knitter, whatevs.


Isla is a kiddo’s dress in Rowan’s lovely new Wool Cotton 4 ply, which is a fantastic yarn for spring/ summer, and most importantly for the Head Laundryperson in your house if you have a nipper, it’s machine washable.

It’s sized from age 2 to 10 and doesn’t take much yarn – even the largest size is 5 balls of the main colour, with tiny amounts for the colourwork.

Storm was kind enough to lend her modelling skills to the shoot…


With hindsight, I should have added extra length to her ‘sample size’ as she is way taller than an average 3 to 4 year old – so it look super short. But it’s easy to lengthen if, like me, you’re the proud parent of a baby giraffe!

Look, matchy matchy!


The bottom section is knit in the round and there’s hardly any shaping so it’s a great first Fair Isle project too.

Most exciting for me, this pattern is now available online to buy from The Making Spot, along with some of my old designs. Welcome to the 21st century peeps! Not that I’m saying don’t buy the mag, but, if you want to cast on, like NOW, you can – hurrah!

More design news coming up really soon…

PS. Thanks to Al, James and Sarah for helping Storm have a great time on the shoot, Frances, for her amazing knitting, and Phil for taking such lovely pix.