A winner and an update

Wooly Woofers 061Last week I ran a giveaway for a copy of Woolly Woofers by Debbie Bliss. Thank you so much to everyone who entered. The winner is nswifty, congratulations Niamh, I’ll be contacting you as soon as this post publishes and will get the book to you early next week. I plan on running more giveaways, most likely my favourite patterns, using Ravelry’s ‘send as a gift’ facility. Using this option I can gift a pattern to anyone with either a Ravelry account or email address. Giveaways are so much fun.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 09.49.03So I also mentioned an update. We’ll I finished two WIPs from my list; the baby cardigan which is going to it’s new owner today and the shawl has finally been bound off and blocked. I’ll have photos to share next week. And I’ll be starting the second slipper for my sister in law this weekend.

I also need to make a list of FOs that never got a photo shoot, which I hope will be remedied this weekend:

The one thing I will say in my defence, it’s hard to photograph things in the winter. I’m never home during daylight during the week and at weekends it’s pure lucky if you get a bright day. But come rain or shine I’m taking my camera out this weekend – I am going to force the creativity back into myself if I have to.


Lamenting the loss of my knitting mojo

You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet around here lately. One of the reasons for this is because my knitting mojo seems to have taken a sabbatical. In fact my creativity full stop has gone on holidays so I haven’t even felt much like writing.

But I am determined to break through the barrier and get back to my knitting and my blogging. Because even though I don’t really feel like doing either I still miss them.

Cadeautje by Ysolda TeagueSo what have I been up to? Well the last project I actually finished were a pair of Cadeautje by Ysolda Teague for the Knitmas swap I took part in before Christmas. I finished those at the end of November and I didn’t even have time for a proper photoshoot before posting them. Since then I’ve started several projects but have yet to come even close to finishing any of them.

Awaiting finishing are:

  • Cladonia by Kirsten Kapur. I’m about a third of the way through the picot bind off on this one, and it’s been sitting waiting to be finished since about mid-November I’d say.
  • A second pair of Cadeautje by Ysolda Teague for my sister-in-law. I finished one slipper in time for Christmas but the second has yet to materialise. Sorry A! I had also planned on knitting a pair for my husband and a pair for me. I’m not holding my breath.
  • Mug Sweater by nawano. I had a great idea to knit mug sweaters for each of my colleagues for Christmas, I think 15 in total. I even knit, blocked and seamed about half of the bodies and bought the little clasps for the hands, but that’s as far as I got. Maybe for Easter?
  • Bronntanas by Ysolda Teague. This was for a special friend who agreed to do some graphics for my blog. I’m a couple of rows past the brim. I’m using my favourite Coolree yarn and it’s a really straight forward pattern so I don’t know what’s holding me back. Sorry Y!
  • Super Easy Baby Blanket by Purl Soho. God! I haven’t even started this one, but did choose the pattern as well as some yarn I picked up at HandmAid. I know at least 3 people who are pregnant at the moment so this was planned to be for one of these new humans.
  • Chevron Baby Blanket by Espace Tricot. I bought the yarn for this blanket in the sale in This Is Knit just after Christmas, again planned for one of three new humans. I even mananged a few stripes before realising I had cast on too few stitiches it was too narrow. I need to rip this out and start again.
  • in threes: a baby cardigan by Kelly Herdrich. I’m actually making some headway with this one, mainly because this fourth new human has actually arrived. Having said that though progress is still slow.

I am a monogamous knitter so this does number of WIPs does not sit well with me. At all. But I have a plan. My plan is to finished the In Threes cardigan for the newly arrived new human. Then I’m going to finish my Cladonia (that I cast on in October!). Then I am going to knit my SIL’s second slipper. Then I’m going to reassess if my knitting mojo has fully returned and see where I go from there.

As I mentioned there are three new humans on the way over the next year, and each of them belongs to a close friend or family member so I suspect there will be much knitwear needed. And that’s ok, because until my knitting mojo returns with gusto small, easy projects are probably all I will manage. I have a feeling 2015 is going to be a year of baby knitting for me and that’s ok.

My struggle with animal welfare charities and a possible solution

Many of you will know that I am passionate about my dogs and animal welfare. I advocate for adopting rather than buying pets and for neutering your cats and dogs to help keep the animal population at a sustainable level, which will hopefully mean less cats and dogs ending up in animal shelters.

In the past I volunteered with a local animal shelter and also fostered for them. I’m no longer involved with that charity. I don’t really feel like going into details about why, but essentially I was uncomfortable with the direction the management was taking the shelter and I no longer felt I could support them.

6 week old pit bull puppiesThere has been a fair amount of bad press recently around several animal welfare ‘charities’ in Ireland. It’s all left me feeling very hurt and disillusioned to be honest. There are so many amazing people out there fighting their hardest to improve the lives of animals in Ireland, who have dedicated their lives to the cause. And these so called charities are somewhat undermining the work they are doing.

But this post isn’t about that. This post is about something someone said to me recently. We were talking about how difficult it is to know which charities are worth supporting (both my time and/or money) and my friend suggested that

One way of supporting animal welfare charities is to pay your donation directly off their vet bills.

You see the thing is that most animal welfare charities have huge vet bills, even if they have negotiated a good rate with their vet, they are still going to rack up big bills. At the very least animals in their care should receive vaccinations and be neutered before being rehomed (or be neutered when they reach a suitable age). And some animals may need vet care for small illnesses or even more complex treatment. So if there is a charity you would like to donate to but aren’t sure about their credibility then why not contact them and ask for their vet’s details and pay your donation directly off their bill.

(c) halfadreamaway.com

(c) halfadreamaway.com

This makes so much sense to me in so many ways. For one if a charity is reluctant to let you do this you’ll know pretty quickly that they may not be worthy of your donation. And it also means that you know that your money is going directly to helping the animals and not on promotion or other costs. I often read appeals for different animal welfare charities on Facebook, and from now on I will definitely use this approach so I can still feel like I’m involved and like I’m making a difference in the lives of animals, without potentially being taken advantage of. This will give me so much more confidence in donating again to animal welfare charities.

Why I blog

Last week I wrote about my crisis of blogging conscience. In that post I explained that my purpose for blogging wasn’t clear to me any more, that I was getting hung up on stats rather than just writing because I enjoy it. Thank you so much to everyone who left feedback on the post or on Twitter, it really helped me figure things out.

Progress 016One of my lovely commenters (I love comments, I can’t lie about that) had three clear reasons as to why she blogs and this prompted me to put down in writing why I am doing this to see if this could clear up my niggling doubts.

  1. I blog because I love writing: I’ve always loved writing, ever since I was young, and I think I’m a little bit good at it.
  2. I blog because I love knitting: They say write what you know, so I write about things I’m passionate about – knitting, libraries and animal welfare.
  3. I blog because I take photographs: I was taking photographs long before I started blogging but this gives me somewhere to share them, rather than just having them sitting on a hard drive.
  4. (and I’m a tiny bit narcissistic (aren’t we all? she whispered hopefully): I’m proud of my knitting, my photography, my writing and I want to share it.)

So there you have it. I love writing, I love knitting, I love photography and I’m a tiny bit narcissistic.

Why am I blogging?

Am I having a crisis of blogging conscience? I’m not sure.

I’m not even sure where to start with this post – my thoughts are jumbled and conflicting. I’ve been blogging for *goes to check* three years now (holy crap!) I’ve updated the layout of my blog in the last year or so and in the last few months I’ve tried to publish content on a more regular basis. See? There I go, calling it ‘content’ instead of just the ‘stuff I write’. I’ve asked a friend of mine, who is a graphic designer, to help me with a new blog header and she has already showed me the most brilliant ideas. And I’ve started reading more about SEO, how to increase the number of comments I get and how to get my stats booming. I’ve become hung up on stats and clicks.

There I said it, my dirty little secret is out.

Part of me thinks, why shouldn’t I want my blog to be successful. I want people to read what I write – that’s the whole point. But when I find myself going back over old posts to tweak keywords, titles, image caption and links in order to create an ‘evergreen post’ (I know! Vomit!) have I gone to far? Or is this just promoting my blog a bit better?

And why am I promoting my blog? Yes, I want more people to read and engage with what I write but I don’t make any money from this blog, nor do I see myself doing that in the future. So why have I become so caught up with improving my stats and emulating the big, beautiful blogs out there?

When choosing topics to write about am I prioritising those that I feel will get more click rather than just writing about what’s in my head or on my needles that day? Is there a chance that I’m alienating other like-minded bloggers by trying to be too flashy?

And do you know what? I’m not even sure all this extra effort is even paying off in terms of hits.

Should I just go back to writing about what I love? (I’m still writing about what I love but in a much more considered way.) Why am I blogging? And what’s the point? I’m not sure that I know the answer.

Ok, brain dump over, let’s hope I don’t hit delete rather than publishing. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments (because the narcissist in me craves your attention and comments, aaaggggghhhhhhh).

We have a winner!

Actually we have three winners!! Last Friday I told you how the lovely people at the Knitting and Stitching show got in touch with me and offered three pairs of tickets to the show for me to give to my readers. The show runs in the RDS, Dublin, from October 30th – November 2nd.

Random numbersThe competition closed at 12 noon today and I used a random number generator to choose the winners. Congratulations to Ann,Daniela Simmons and joanfrankham. I will be in touch with each of you to arrange postage of the tickets as soon as I publish this post.

In search of

So the other day I can across this Pin. Isn’t it beautiful? I have two similar coloured yarns in my stash that I bought in Loop in search of a project. But then I realised that there was no link associated with the pin so I couldn’t find the pattern. I tried tracing the pin back to the source through Pinterest but got bored with that. Then I tried asking on Facebook and Twitter and it was here that I found my answer. Which in itself is quite amazing, that I can post a picture of a knitted shawl and someone will recognise the pattern. Thanks April!

giniew's L'envoléeBut. That would make a relatively boring and short blog post. I remembered that you can search Google by image and wondered if this type of search would find the pattern for me (had someone on Facebook not recognised the pattern). The video below explains how to do this better than I could.

I had never noticed the ‘search Google for this image’ option when right clicking an image before (I use Chrome, but this option is apparently available in Firefox too). So I right clicked on the image in Pinterest and looked through the search results. It took a little bit of digging (i.e. clicking through to the second page of results) to find what I was looking for before finding a link to the original blog post featuring the image. Bingo! The blog post then linked to the pattern on Ravelry. So just a few clicks I had what I was looking for – the pattern for the shawl in the original image.

As well as showing matching images, the search for the images service shows visually similar images. A few immediate uses (as well as finding knitting patterns, naturally) for this service jump to mind. I could use this search to see if my images had been used on other sites without my permission. But I could also see my mum, who is fascinated by botany, using this type of search to find the names for flower and trees that she comes across. You could use it to do all sorts of research that just isn’t possible using text searching. Can you think of any other uses for this kind of search? The librarian, as well as the knitter, in me is fascinated by my new discovery.

Seeking Inspriation

I’ve been trying to write a blog post for some time now. But I seem to be lacking inspiration. Or perhaps motivation. I’m not sure. I’ve also been feeling some blog envy recently, there are some beautiful sites out there. But rather than being inspired by them, I feel instead a bit dejected that I don’t have the skills to make my blog what I would like it to be. Or maybe I just haven’t given it enough attention yet. Whatever the reason, blog posts have been started but none finished.

But I have been knitting.In the last week or so I have finally put the finishing touches to two dog jumpers and one human hat. But the weather has been too warm recently to ask the dogs to model warm jumpers for my amusement so I don’t have any FOs to show off at the moment.

Yarn 001I am still working away on my Winnow and I’m on to the border now. This is going to take forever. Forever. But it will be beautiful and it will be worth it.

Yarn 031And finally I had a good root through my stash to put together a donation to HandmAid. This is a fabulous craft day in aid of Laura Lynn Hospice. As well as being for a worthy cause it’s also a really fun day out. I’d encourage anyone in the Dublin area on September 27th 2014 to pop along.

I’ll get my blogging mojo back soon I hope. Is this something you have experienced as a blogger?

St. Patrick’s Day in New York

Before I begin this post, you may (or may not have) noticed my blog looks a little different. I spent the weekend playing around with different WordPress themes and getting to grips with some (very basic) CSS coding.I love coding when it works – when it works. Let me know if you have any feedback on the new design. I’m going to keep tinkering so it may change again, you never know.

NYC2014 244Our recent trip to New York wasn’t just about yarn shopping. The main reason for the trip with the Finglas Concert and Marching Band was to play in the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

NYC2014 019Naturally I brought my camera with me and had a blast shooting away on the parade route. I borrowed an 18-200mm lens from my Dad and it didn’t disappoint. It allowed me to get up close and personal with my subjects while marching along behind the band.

NYC2014 217Despite the fact that I was moving, and the camera was moving, and the crowd and musicians were moving a nice quick 1/200 second shutter speed allowed me to freeze the action.

NYC2014 048I took so many photos I’m really happy with but here is a very small selection to give you a flavour of the parade.

NYC2014 239I can’t even begin to describe how cold it was on the parade. It was a much dryer cold then we get in Ireland. The instruments froze, something none of the musicians had experienced before, and fingers went numb and refused to do what was asked of them.

NYC2014 255There weren’t as many spectators as I was expecting, but then it was between -2° and -4° on a Monday morning so hardly surprising. But those that did come out to watch the parade did so in style.

NYC2014 230But despite the cold it was a really great experience and one I will always remember. Thank you Finglas Concert and Marching Band for allowing me to be a part of it.NYC2014 291

The Fairy Tree in Marley Park

Fairy Tree in Marley ParkThere is a fairy tree in Marley Park, my local park in Rathfarnham. I don’t really remember when the fairies moved in but I love visiting it when I go for a walk. I did a bit of digging around online (I’m a librarian dontcha know, I’m trained to find stuff) and found a little bit of information about how the fairy tree came to be.

It was part of a special care for birds  project (pages 11 and 12) organised by St. Michael’s House, one of Ireland’s largest providers of community-based services for people with an intellectual disability and their families, in 2010.

Fairy Tree in Marley ParkAccording to the newsletter the “fairy tree is designed to keep the imagination of young children alive, as they wander through the forest and then are surprised to find the small fairy door at the base of the 300-year-old beech tree. As they look up and see the fairy castle, they remain enraptured by the magic and as we wait in excitement to see if the birds in the forest will react as positively and take up residence in their new home.”

Fairy Tree in Marley ParkChildren are indeed inspired by the fairy tree. They use it as a wishing tree and you’ll find little notes pinned to it. It’s really a very special place, I really do believe the fairies live there. I mean someone has to be adding the extra doors, windows and even a washing line to the tree. Fairies are as good an explanation as any.

This Google Map might help you find the Fairy Tree if you’re not familiar with it.