When being bold pays off

Is it really true that you make your own luck in this life?  Maybe.  I just landed a job by using some initiative and making a bold move.  I have a very niche set of skills and experience which is under-valued in my present workplace, so for some time I’ve not felt as fulfilled as I could be professionally.  I’ve also been coasting on the same income for years, feeling that I should be earning more.  Had I hit some kind of career ceiling?  Was I the victim of prejudice?  No, I don’t think so.  In any case, I don’t believe that claiming victimhood is a good way of explaining a problem or a lack of progress.

I’ve been following Jordan Peterson and we have a copy of his book, 12 Rules for Life.  One thing he said about gender equality really struck a chord with me. To paraphrase, he suggests that women may be less successful in the workplace, or may not advance as far as men professionally, not because of any inherent sexism, but because they are too nice, too accepting, too reluctant to make a fuss. Ladies, could it be that we are just not assertive enough when it counts?

I took this idea on board, parked it, and got on with things. Then an ex-colleague got in touch and we met up for a drink.  He works in the exact niche field that I had to leave last year because my employer was in financial difficulty.  He said they really needed someone with my specific skills to take over some of the management and unite disparate teams.  If I applied to the MD, he said, they would employ me in a flash.  Well, that was overstating the case, but it got me thinking.  The more I considered it, the more I realised he was right.  In fact, my experience is so relevant to the product and the people that no-one would fit the role as well as me.  Sounds arrogant?  Maybe, but this is all about being bold.

The other thing in my favour was that I had actually met the MD before, at a trade show, where he was so impressed with my presentation that he expanded his range into the market as a result.  I also knew that there was a culture clash going on between departments and they needed someone with the calmness and maturity to diffuse it.  So I added ‘peacemaker’ to my CV, wrote an amazing covering letter, and sent it off.  No job was being advertised.  Bold move #1.

Then followed a couple of phone calls and an interview in the pub after work.  Soon after that, the question finally arose, what are your salary expectations?  This was a key moment, my chance to elevate myself after 25 years of continuous full-time employment and a stainless record.  I considered the salary I could reasonably be expected to be on (but wasn’t), and the salary I wanted, without being crazily out of the ball park.  And I asked for the salary I wanted.  Which is a heck of a lot more than the salary I am on now.  It was time to be bold.  I knew they wouldn’t just agree to it, they would negotiate and I’d end up somewhere in between.  Which is exactly what happened.  But it’s still a big step up for me, enough to make a huge difference to our household. And I’m going back to a sector where I’ve spent most of my career, where I have some great connections.

I start in 3 weeks.  Jordan, thank you for the inspiration.

 

Make your own giant yarn

Today I wet felted the whole batch of texel wool roving, to make my own version of giant yarn.  If it works, the cat baskets are back on.  This is a very exciting prospect for me, and worth the effort.

And it took quite a bit of effort too, transforming this

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into this

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and hanging it out to dry.

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Three and a half kilos of wet wool is really heavy, as I found when I lugged it down the stairs and into the garden.  It drips a lot, so that was the best place for it.

It took me about 4 hours to process the whole batch, including a couple of false starts and working out the best approach. There is nothing online that shows you how to do this (believe me, I looked!)  So it was a matter of trial and error.  I can see how my technique improved as I went along.  I needed to achieve an even thickness of yarn whilst not disrupting the fibres too much.  From about halfway through, I was happy with the result.

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The new yarn is a lot thicker than the yarn I used before, so I will need to re-write my patterns and possibly use larger doublepins than the set I have now.  Giant wooden knitting needles are easily available, as are giant circulars, but giant doublepins are rare so will probably need to be custom-made….

I’m very excited about getting my new yarn onto some needles soon!  Watch this space…

Wool has arrived…

…and it really is, actual, wool.  One continuous length of clean, combed, white fleece.  I even know the breed of sheep it has come from – the texel.

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A pedigree texel sheep

It feels wonderful and has that typically woolly scent, which is very evocative for me.  I realised as I opened the package and handled the wool, that this is what my Auntie’s house used to smell of, and it took me right back there.

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I adored visiting her as a child and some of my happiest early memories were made at her house.  She was brilliant at most hand crafts, and always had some wool at some stage of processing for me to get involved in.  I remember handling greasy, bitty raw fleece, preparing wool for hand-carding, and even had a go at spinning on her spinning wheel (I was rubbish at it).  I tried to knit up my hand-spun yarn and it was hopelessly uneven.  But such fun to try.  So in a way, embarking on this project feels like a home-coming.

Finding the ends of the strand took a while.  I had to tip the wool out of the bag and run my hands along it until eventually one end appeared, and then another.  I marked each end with a coloured tie.

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Now I have to experiment with preparing the wool for knitting.  Although it’s surprisingly sturdy in its unprocessed state, and I could go ahead and arm-knit with it, the kind of structured pieces I intend to make will need a firmer, more ‘finished’ yarn.

Friction felting is not that effective and takes too long, especially with a large batch of wool.  Wet felting is probably the way to go, but must be done gently by hand.   So I think I’ll be filling the bath tub, swooshing it around, and then trying to get it dry.

The resulting yarn will be thicker than the yarn I used before, so I will have to knit up samples and work out how to adapt my patterns.  There may be other advantages which I haven’t discovered yet.  What’s really exciting is that there are all kinds of wool tops available, from many different breeds of sheep, some of which are different, natural colours.  So I could work with beautiful shades of brown and grey – all undyed, all from the sheep’s natural colour.

If my Auntie was still here, how I’d love to tell her about this!  She was, and still is, my inspiration, and there’s a bit of her in all of this.

I just took the plunge…

…back into knitting, big time.  I had a word with myself, and went and ordered a load of natural wool tops from World of Wool.  I don’t know if it’s right for my project, so I will need to experiment, but this is the start of a creative journey, something that’s been missing for too long.

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Why on earth I chose to do it now, when I am busier than ever, I don’t know.  I checked back at my last knitting notes, when I was trying to source some alternative giant natural yarns, and I was shocked to find that I wrote them two years ago.  The article I stumbled across the other day, about knitting being really good for you, was undoubtedly needling away at my subconscious.

I can’t wait for my new yarn to arrive.  Actually it’s not even yarn yet, I will have to make it into yarn myself.  I will felt it into the size I need to fit the needles I have, and then test its strength and softness.  I’ve never custom-made my own yarn before so this is another dimension.

It’s time to stop prioritising everything else, get something on the needles and see where it takes me.

 

Knitting is really good for you

Knitting, apparently, should be prescribed on the NHS to reduce depression and ward off dementia, amongst other benefits.  Now that’s some claim!  So I read today in the Sunday Telegraph, in the Science section, so it must be true.

If that’s the case, I’d better pick up my needles pretty soon.  I’ve not knitted for a long time and I really miss it.  Other activities have simply taken over.  But it’s up to me to make time and space for it.

It was kind of a New Year’s Resolution to start knitting again.  I mean, whoever heard of a knitting blog with no knitting on it?  It’s not that I’m short of ideas, either.  I’m just not very good at blocking out time for it.

But I am taking some inspiration from last year, when I made a couple of radical changes to my life.  I quit my day job and got another (better) one.  I also decided to get a grip on my health whilst I’ve still got it, made some lifestyle changes and dropped a dress size.  So the next thing will be to get knitting.  For health reasons, to express some creativity, and for the joy of it.

Now that I’ve said it out loud, I’ve got to do it!

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Giant wool at the Knitting Show

Knitting with super chunky oversized yarn in the UK just got a whole lot easier!

At the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate (on till Sunday) I met Andrea of the superbly-named Woolly Mahoosive.  Giant merino wool and 2 acrylic alternatives are her speciality.  All the yarns are super-soft and come in a range of gorgeous colours.   They are for knitting on massive 25mm – 40mm needles.  They are also perfect for arm knitting!

Check out the display:

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See the ginormous chunky wooden needles with signature cubed stoppers?  They are beautifully made from tulipwood and rosewood, and come in different lengths.  These needles are just what I was looking for when I started extreme knitting.  There were none available commercially at that time, so after I got lucky on ebay with a pair of wooden 25mm, I had my uncle make me a set of double pins and circulars in 2 big sizes.

So how did Andrea get hold of this array of giant knitting needles?  Does she have a helpful relative beavering away in a workshop? No, she made them herself.  Yes indeed.  Having no experience of woodwork, she informed herself, got hold of the equipment and set to work.

This kind of initiative and dedication is truly impressive.  Their prices are utterly reasonable too.  Bloggers, I would urge you to pop over to Twitter and give them a follow. They deserve it!

My head is now popping with ideas about what to make with these fabulous yarns.  Inspiration – that’s what the Knitting show is for!

Till next time

L x

Purple and yellow cat baskets

Some fab new colours have arrived from Hoooked Zpagetti.

New arrivals

New arrivals

So far I’ve made a purple basket

Herbie purple basket 1and a yellow one. But Herbie has chosen purple.

Herbie purple & yellow basketI love the bright colours and how the light makes the giant stitches pop out.

Herbie purple basket closeupMore colours coming soon – and a cat cave!

Till next time

L x