I really believe that you can knit anything. All it takes is a knowledgeable guide to give your skills a boost.
I teach classes in the Ottawa area and over Zoom. Keep scrolling to sign up!
You can also find my video tutorials on YouTube (and in the “Videos” menu at the top) and written tips and tricks here. I sell knitting patterns here and on Ravelry.com. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook as well for up-to-date pics of the latest things I’m knitting and painting. Thanks for visiting!
Hello to my lovely knitter friends! Do you ever feel like you’ve been split into so many pieces that you’ll either split apart or grow tentacles? Right now, I am a mostly happy octopus (metaphorically, of course) who sometimes feels like a broken umbrella.
I like to have a few things on the go because I like rotating between projects and disciplines. I even have multiple — many — countless — knitting projects on needles at all times. I work on them based on each day’s needs: stimulating or soothing, working or playing, designing or learning, interesting or urgent.
In the same way, I love teaching many different classes at a few locations. I get to meet so many lovely people! And I get to soak in the glorious and diverse atmospheres at the local yarn shops in my area. Right before the at-home times, I was teaching in most of Ottawa’s yarn shops almost weekly. It was so fun! But of course, then we all had to stay home, so I pivoted to teaching over Zoom and painting at home. I’d been longing for the time to improve my acrylic-paint-handling skills, so I used painting to propel me through the long weeks.
Right now, at the near-end of August, my brain is very full of “launching” our two oldest teenagers out into the universe of … university and college. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) We are packing and checklisting and knitting our way through our very big feelings about this. They’re almost ready to go, so today I find myself here, writing to you. There are only so many closets I can clean before I need a break, even though now the closets are half-out on the table and not remotely looking “clean,” just exposed. But I reassure myself that as soon as the oldest has moved into his dorm, his piles of packing will go with him. And I’ll eventually figure out where to move that little pile of mysterious metal bits and old pins and tiny sunglasses for toddlers. Like, why do we have all these old, dead cell phones? It isn’t for nostalgia, I can assure you.
I’m looking forward to September 5th, the first official day of Having the House to Myself for A Few Hours. I’ll probably spend most of it baking brownies and thinking about how the kids are doing, but still. Glorious solitude! I can almost touch it.
And then, I’ll become nice and busy, myself. I’ll be teaching four knitting classes a week (two at the space I rent, and two at Maker Savvy in Kanata), as well as painting and filling custom painting orders. I’ve been working on building up my art business and neglecting my pattern writing, but I love teaching so much. I joined my local arts guild, and we’ll have an art show in the fall (November 18-19th! Save the date!), and a few weekends before that, I’ll be teaching a workshop at a knitting retreat. Thank goodness I have so many lovely things to look forward to! They’ll keep me busy while I’m missing kid #1. Kid #2 will be commuting to school from home, so although I’m sure he’ll be so busy we’ll barely see him, I should find him in the kitchen now and then.
For those of you counting, that will leave 3 whole other kids still at home. But after all those years of chasing toddlers and dragging recalcitrant kids out on shopping trips because they couldn’t stay home alone, we’ve mostly graduated to having All Teenagers. The last one will join the teen category later this fall. It is amazing and weird and wonderful.
So now that you’re all caught up, here are some key dates coming up this fall:
September 12th: Learn to Knit with me for 6 weeks at Maker Savvy in Kanata
October 24th: Learn how to read your knitting and fix mistakes with me at Maker Savvy (one small workshop)
November 3rd: Knitting retreat (I think it’s probably sold out by now)
November 18-19th: North Grenville Arts Guild’s WonderFALL Art Show in Kemptville
November 14th: Learn Brioche Knitting at Maker Savvy (4 weeks)
December 12th: Christmas Project Workshop at Maker Savvy
I’d really love it if you joined me for a knitting class this fall! And would you mind taking a look at my paintings and telling me what you think? I really love doing custom pieces, and wouldn’t it be so cute to do paintings of favourite old knitted items or colourful skeins of yarn? I have so many ideas.
Hello, my knitting friends! My fall knitting classes are right around the corner. How was your summer?
I’m enjoying the last of our summer weather, but I have to confess: I’m starting to think about autumn and all the coziness it brings. My yearly urge to watch You’ve Got Mail (“Don’t you just love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies.”) is getting stronger and stronger. I’m holding off until at least Labour Day weekend. Probably.
I’ve already been back-to-school shopping, hunting for uniform pieces for my kids and making lists of who needs how many pencils and shoes. My oldest has graduated high school (!!!!), and my youngest will be starting in junior high. I’m freaking out. Those years when it seemed like they’d be small forever have gone by waaaay more quickly than my own childhood felt. Now I have a house full of tall, muscular man-children and a pre-teen girl. We buy a lot of groceries, but their wittiness and hilarity has only increased with age, so I’m having a great time in general.
In knitting news, I’ve been working on two brioche pieces, a shawl and a scarf, using a swirly pattern that I find really addicting. I’m working on writing up the patterns. I’ve taken such a long hiatus from pattern writing! Right after the stay-at-home orders first started, my computer crashed, and I lost a lot of things, including the patterns I’d been writing at the time. It was just too much for my brain and heart to handle, so I decided not to think about it. And then I took a long break from creative knitting; I kept teaching my classes (over Zoom), but my own knitting projects were of the comfort-knitting variety: plain socks, tiny birds (from Arne & Carlos’ book Field Guide to Knitted Birds), happy mittens.
I turned all my creative energy, at that time, to practicing my painting and drawing skills. I’d been longing for more painting time, and suddenly I had only time on my hands! Since I was lucky enough to have the safety and space, I really focused on developing my paint-handling skills. I decided to systematically experiment with various acrylic painting skills, colour mixing, and anatomy drawing.
You know what? All the things I’d learned from knitting and teaching were enormously helpful. And the books I’ve been reading lately (see below) have amplified and explained a lot of what worked and why. (I love reading about brains and learning; it helps me with my knitting classes, but also with my own life.)
What I Learned About Learning from Knitting
Mistakes are part of the process
First tries are never perfect, and sometimes they’re even hideous, but they’re necessary projects to make before you can get to the good stuff
There are tips and tricks out there for any new skill, and sometimes I struggle with things that I could have found better advice for; so now, I search for the advice
Trial and error are great teachers
A good teacher can tell you things you didn’t even know you needed to search for
When I’m struggling to understand something, that doesn’t mean I’m bad at it and should stop; it means I’m in the process of learning how to be good at it
There’s no such thing as failure. A mess is a potential learning experience, a necessary piece of information on the road to mastery. The only way to “fail” is to stop trying in new ways.
We all learn and assimilate information and muscle-memory skills in slightly different ways. Being proactive about finding the right-for-you sources of learning makes things a lot easier. (Personally, I like a good diagram, and I need to try something myself before I really understand it.)
The more mental models we have in our brains, the easier it is to understand new information. But it takes time to build the mental models.
Skills take time to acquire and settle in. I need to give myself time before lamenting that I’m terrible at anything. (Weird example: I don’t kill house plants anymore! I killed an ivy plant once and then called myself a plant killer for years. It turns out that I just needed to look up a few tips, keep the plants in the kitchen where I’d see them every day, and stop drowning them.)
I’d been wanting to paint for years, but two big things were stopping me: I had undiagnosed ADHD, and I had terrible self talk. I thought that if my natural talent couldn’t make a good painting, then maybe I wasn’t that good, after all. And my brain kept changing channels away from painting, so when the negative thoughts started, I had no internal resources to carry me through. I had zero grit. I gave up on things when they got hard. And I didn’t understand how my own brain worked.
Mastery, Deliberate Practice, and Grit
In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth writes about her research into high achievers and what sets them apart. It turns out that the predictive element wasn’t talent or aptitude or intelligence, or any of the things most of us would assume. It was (surprise!) their grittiness. They were dogged in their pursuit of their goals.
“They were the opposite of complacent. And yet, in a very real sense, they were satisfied being unsatisfied. Each was chasing something of unparalleled interest and importance, and it was the chase — as much as the capture — that was gratifying.” ~ Angela Duckworth
In the book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, the authors delve into the adaptability of our brains. It turns out — and you’ve probably noticed this already — that our abilities are not fixed, that “the brain — even the adult brain — is far more adaptable than anyone ever imagined and this gives us tremendous control over what our brains are able to to. In particular, the brain responds to the right sorts of triggers by rewiring itself in various ways.” New connections can be made in our brains, and existing pathways can be weakened or strengthened. Our brains physically change as we learn new things and acquire new skills.
“Why are some people so amazingly good at what they do? Over my years of studying experts in various fields, I have found that they all develop their abilities in much the same way… — through dedicated training that drives changes in the brain (and sometimes, depending on the ability, in the body) that make it possible for them to do things that they otherwise could not.” ~ Anders Ericsson
Talent (how quickly we acquire new skills) and genetics play a small part, but effort and perseverance win in the end.
I love this. I love telling my kids that if they can find just one thing that sparks their interest enough to drive and sustain them through a life of effort and deliberate practice, they can become masterful at it. They don’t need to start with special talent or be the best at it in their class. Those things won’t help them in the long run.
As a recovering giver-upper, I’m also relieved to know that grit is another skill that can be built into the brain through deliberate practice. I don’t need to be good at everything (and that’s impossible anyway), and I don’t need to see instant results. All I need to do is keep showing up and practicing, keep making messes and learning to troubleshoot, and keep experimenting.
Mastery isn’t an end point, it’s a lifestyle. Sarah Lewis writes in The Rise, “The pursuit of mastery is an ever onward almost.” “Masters are not experts because they take a subject to its conceptual end. They are masters because they realize that there isn’t one. On utterly smooth ground, the path from aim to attainment is in the permanent future.”
She gives so many examples of high achievers who won awards and gained “success” (recognition, money, fame, etc.) and traced their paths backward in time to find what came first. Their paths toward Nobel prizes or great discoveries or incredible novels were littered with spectacular failures. The difference was, they kept going. Instead of becoming stopping points, those moments were waypoints and learning experiences.
Sometimes the mistakes themselves became literal breakthroughs. You just don’t know until you give yourself the freedom to experiment in ridiculous ways. Until you allow your projects to be risky and imperfect.
Creativity and innovation can only exist in spaces free from judgment. “During improvisation, areas of a musician’s brain involved in self expression lit up and parts that control self-judgment were suppressed, freeing up all generative impulses. Neuroscientists describe this permissive state where the mind allows for failure without self-condemnation as disassociation in the frontal lobe. The rest of us call it the basic tenet of improvisation in jazz — not to negate, but to accept all that comes and add to it, the foibles, the mistakes, the exquisite beauty and joy.” ~ Sarah Lewis
You Can Knit Anything
This is why I really believe that you can knit anything. It might not be literally true today, but with deliberate practice and a lot of fun, there’s no reason why we can’t each build up whatever new skills we choose to put on our lists.
Of course, there are only so many hours in a day, and our unique interests are really what drive us onward in our obsessions (ahem) passions. I will never become a master at auto repair or doing my laundry. I’m happy to be good enough at baking, and I don’t feel the need to become a pastry chef. It’s okay to keep knitting as a fun hobby without turning it into a big thing. We each get to choose our own things.
Anyway, whatever your thing is, I’m here to help you with your knitting.
These classes are friendly, welcoming spaces for knitters of all skill levels. The students choose the subject each day with their current projects and questions. I often find myself revitalizing projects that have been stuck in time-out for a long time, matching the knitting to the lost pattern row, interpreting sweater fitting instructions, teaching finishing techniques, explaining how to work special techniques like two-handed colourwork or brioche, fitting socks, starting someone on their knitting journey with their first project… I love to be surprised! And on days when the knitting is going smoothly for everyone, the class becomes a show-and-tell and knitting club.
So grab your knitting friends and bring your yarn and needles, and let’s have some fun!
To my regular students: you’ll notice a few changes. There will be a strict four-person minimum of monthly students for a class to run. Two days before the start of each class, I’ll send an email to confirm that the class is on. I’ll open up the drop-in class option once I know the class will be running.
There will be one class on Sunday afternoons from 2-4 pm, and a class on Tuesday mornings from 10-noon.
And, like everything else lately, the prices have gone up. I feel big feelings about this, but it’s a necessary evil to keep the classes sustainable.
And now, I’m off to daydream about cozy, cabled sweaters and cute fall mittens. I can’t wait to see you and your projects in September!
I have missed my students so much. I’m so happy to announce that I’ve booked my previous space, and I’m ready to resume teaching knitting while in the same room as other people!!!
So, if you’ve been missing that hands-on instruction and help, I really hope you’ll join me. I can’t wait to dive in and get my (sanitized) hands all over your knitting projects! Some problems really do get solved more easily in person, when I can see them up close. (Although, I’m really pleased with how much turned out to be possible over Zoom.)
I think our knitting-together reunion is going to be so great. I’ve been thinking of all of you, wondering how you’re doing (and what you’ve been knitting, of course!), and missing your faces and stories and personalities. I get to meet the coolest people at my knitting classes.
To ease us back in to meeting in person, let’s acknowledge that it’s going to be weird. It’s been awkward and a bit unnerving to re-emerge from my home cocoon. I think we’re all feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety, especially since COVID isn’t gone. So let’s lean in to the weirdness together and make space for each others’ discomfort. It’s a normal feeling, and I expect everyone to have varying levels of comfort with their personal space and health concerns.
I will have a mask with me, and I’m happy to wear it, especially when you need hands-on help. You may choose to wear a mask or not, and you won’t have to explain your decision to any of us. Do what feels best for your own health and peace of mind. I’ll also bring my hand sanitizer to use between projects. (I splurged and got a lovely moisturizing one from Rocky Mountain Soap Company after the first year of dry and irritated skin, so my hands can now handle frequent sanitizing.) We’ll be able to open a window in our knitting space to bring in fresh air, and if anyone wants to sit apart or hide away in a corner, no one will bat an eye. We’re all figuring this out as we go.
New and returning students are all very welcome! I really hope everyone will pop in for at least one class just to say hi. 🙂 And please bring your pandemic projects for some show and tell. I’d love to see what you made at home. I made a lot of really plain, soothing, low-concentration things. I designed zero new things over the last 2 years. But I sure knit a ton of stripey socks and Musselburgh hats! And I did practice my painting a lot. I suppose all my creative brain power went into the paintings instead of the knitting.
Thank you all for being part of my knitting circle. The best thing about knitting together is how much I end up learning from you — the incredible range of personalities, professions, interests, favourite colours, and, of course, book recommendations. My life is so much bigger because of all of you.
I hope you’re well, and I can’t wait to see you.
We start back in person April 24th. In the meantime, happy knitting!