Theresa Shingler Knits > inspiration

Chasing the light

DSC_0679DSC_0767DSC_0738DSC_0686-2DSC_0768At this time of year, when the waning of the light really makes itself felt, I find myself chasing the light intentionally. I’ve signed up to a Photography for Knitting and Crotchet course with the lovely Emily Quinton  and have spent the last week trying hard to follow her intructions and challenge myself to remeber everything at once. (I’m reminded of learning to drive when I found steering fine, changing gears no problem, using my mirrors a breeze, but I could only do one of those things at a time! I’m finding focussing, composition and lighting a similar challenge!) For our first lesson she’s reminded us of something that I already knew but had forgotten, light is king. My photos of knitting, yarn and especially finished objects are really fairly poor (and, quite strangely, the more finished the knitting is the worse the picture!!!) Anyway, I have high hope for some progress, even if I never reach the heights of Emily’s beautiful work, I’d be so happy to be able to convey my happiness and joy with knitting in my pictures. So much of my time is spent with wool, yarn and woolly ‘things’. I really look forward to being able to share more of that here with some reasonably good images. These pictures are from my first week, I can see progress, one week to go! :o)



The care and feeding of a handmade wardrobe – part 2

An ongoing series looking at what at the making and sometimes breaking of a handmade wardrobe

Part 2: Creating for the life you lead

Am I the only person whose head is easily turned by pretty delicate fabric, colourful yarns, patterns for glamorous dresses and thick chunky sweaters? Probably not, but I’ve got a houseful of small children, I wear quite a small palette of colours, my days of balls and clubbing are over for now and I don’t wear many think heavy sweaters; living in the UK it’s not often that it gets cold enough for anything thicker than worsted weight yarn, certainly inside.

piglet's slipover 001When I first began to sew and knit for myself, I was in what I call the delusional phase of my wardrobe making life, I made dresses that were hopeless for nursing in, little jacket toppers that in themselves were beautiful but didn’t go with anything else in my wardrobe. I knit cardigans that had necklines that I would never have bought. I found it a terrible temptation to lie about what the tape measure was telling me so everything was a size too small.  Thankfully the delusional phase didn’t last long, but it also put me off making for myself and I moved onto making for the children. Somehow those same temptations didn’t call so loudly when making for them. I made them what was missing in their wardrobes, I addressed the issues that I faced in dressing them. For my little boys, trousers that fitted comfortably over their cloth nappies, I knitted them woollen tank tops (vests) to keep their little bodies warm and their arms free. For my daughter, I sewed soft cotton nightwear that felt lovely to sleep cosily in, I knitted woollen cardigans to give warmth and not just the thin acrylic chilliness available in the shops at the time. And for them all I knitted woollen hats and mittens, knitted socks and sewed soft absorbent bibs and drawstring bags for their treasures. As the successes built up, my confidence in my ability to create slowly returned and grew.  It was through working on the small items that I learnt important lessons that I was (eventually) able to put into use when making for myself.

My self imposed rules for making for MY life


  • Look at what is missing and or worn out – if I’m always looking for woollen socks, only to find a ratty pair with holes, or I’m waiting for them to dry on the radiator, it’s a fairly sure bet that I could do with making some more.
  • And look at what is never worn. Conversely, when I’m carried away wanting to sew the next hot pattern (Anna dress – I’m looking at you) I need to remember the beautiful woven wrap dress that although I love, I very rarely wear and certainly can’t breast feed my baby boy easily when wearing. Jennifer Lauren Vintage has written a wonderful article on why we don’t wear our handmade clothes, a thing that she picks up on that certainly applies to me, is that they frequently don;t fit into our ‘uniform’.
  • Look at the shapes and proportions of what I wear happily time and time again? Consider why and what makes those garments so successful. Look for patterns that have those elements. A when I find a designer that designs the shapes and proportions that suit me, keep her or him in my favourites to look at when I next what a new pattern.
  • What do I wear again and again, should I make more? Last year I discovered a love of shawls and shawlettes, so this year I have more in the works, knowing that they will get lots of wear. If I …..
  • Use colours that you like to wear. When putting time and effort into a new make, that might not be the time to experiment with a colour that you never usually wear, certainly not over a large garment. It’s much less painful to experiment with a pair of socks or a shawlette than it is with a sweater or cardigan. I wear a quite limited colour pallet, unfortunately I don’t always remember that when buying yarn, those skeins either become small accessories or presents for my loved ones.
  • Be realistic about my speed and abilities, I find this very difficult sometimes and frequently draw up very ambitious wardrobe plans only to then crash and burn; I’m a much happier handmade wardrobe maker if I can avoid this form of self-flagellation.
  • It doesn’t have to be dull and worthy. It doesn’t have to be big and boring, shawls, socks and hats are arguably worn more than sweaters. I know that here in the UK with our wet and generally fairly mild climate that the socks, shawls, cardigans and fingerless mitts are worn daily from Autumn to Spring ( and frequently summer) whereas a heavy sweater will only be worn in Winter.
  • Sometimes, throw the rule book out of the window. I’ve very recently made an Enchanted Mesa, although it’s in my colours (as it’s made up of the left overs from my previous projects) it’s not at all what I consider a wardrobe staple, BUT I had the best time ever making it, an absolute blast – it flew off the needles, and what’s more, I’ve already worn it twice during the damp and dismal summer that we’ve ‘enjoyed’ in England this year.

20150910_093356-2These are my rules, of course yours will probably be really quite different. Different climate, different life, but by thinking clearly why you want to sew or knit a new wardrobe item at the beginning of a project will usually result in a happier result at the end of the project.

A great post about how one woman approaches building a capsule wardrobe can be found on the Kzjo’s Studio blog and really shows the process that she goes through to fill those spaces in her wardrobe for Autumn/Winter 2015

Another great resource for filling the gaps is the Colette Wardrobe Architect series

Disclaimer: At the start of the series I mentioned that I have a problem with knitting and sewing being seen as ‘useful’ and ‘practical’ no one expects golf or computer gaming to bring practical results. There is nothing wrong in ‘just’ enjoying the process and having fun making the world a more beautiful place. I almost never ‘make’ myself create something just for its utilitarian value. I crave the aesthetic delights that creating a handmade wardrobe affords me, but it’s not for everyone and if it’s not for you, don’t beat yourself up for it, enjoy the pretties.

Next time in part 3 : Caring for the handmade wardrobe, tending, mending and storing


The care and feeding of a handmade wardrobe

An ongoing series looking at the making and sometimes breaking of a handmade wardrobe

Part 1: Do you really want a handmade wardrobe in the first place?

There really isn’t anything wrong with knitting* for the sheer pleasure of the activity, for feeling the yarn move through your fingers, for enjoying the gorgeous panoply of colours available, just for the hell of it. If you are a process knitter who cares not a whit for the finished article, there is no shame in that, own it and enjoy it. (And perhaps come back later, this might not be the article for you)

(*substitute sewing as you see fit :o)

However that’s not me, I aspire to have a handmade wardrobe of my very own.


I’m not one to say that I’m a process knitter (or sewer for that matter), as much as I love the physical act of knitting I unashamedly love having the finished object more! Yet even so I’ve found myself getting cranky at the proliferation of handmade wardrobe posts springing up around the web. Very odd, some of my most favourite bloggers and designers are writing about something that I spend a fair quantity of my leisure time doing – creating a handmade wardrobe, and I get grumpy – why? And then it hit me, it’s the usefulness of the activity that rubs me up the wrong way, why should my leisure activity be useful? No one expects golf to have a useful outcome! (Cue gnashing of teeth at this juncture) Obviously I have some angst about this issue that has nothing all to do with the inspirational posts popping up all over the blogosphere – that I’ll come back to another day, for now a remedy.

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To counter the irritation the best course of action I find is to immerse myself in the flood of inspiration; I’m happily polycraftual and will as happily sew as knit (though it’s not as convenient for snuggling down with on the sofa) so my inspirations are mostly similarly polycraftual.

There are of course many and varied motivations to creating a handmade wardrobe, from concerns about ethical consumerism and worry about ecological sustainability to a wish to experiment with self-expression and personal autonomy.

Creator of the wonderfully inspiring Me Made May is Zoe at So Zo … what do you know? Her focus is primarily environmental sustainability, she sews but doesn’t knit, she has recently had a daughter and is clothing her in the same way that she clothes herself which is fantastically inspiring.

Someone else who I’ve been following for almost as long as Zoe is Libby at Truly Myrtle. Within the last few years, she moved to New Zealand and has taken up designing knitwear, she does sew as well though, often creating whole outfits and has a podcast where she talks through her creations.

Through the Truly Myrtle podcast  I’ve started following the wonderful Georgie Hallam (of the Milo  vest fame) on her website  As many others have, I’ve knitted the Milo vest more than once but I wasn’t very aware of her whole range, mostly of children’s patterns, I’ve quickly remedied that and am having my very own little Tikki fest knitting Posy and Jane for my girls this summer (more in a later post) I find her whole blog and website are very inspiring for me as I strive to create my own handmade wardrobe (and sneak a little into the children’s’ cupboards and drawers).


One of my biggest inspirations is Isabelle at I have followed her work for years from when she only sewed, then began crotchet and now knits and spins as well. Her work is amazing, she has a wonderful eye for colour and proportion and has exquisite taste, all the while managing a family life and a demanding professional career. She also has a podcast which has recently become a video podcast; my favourite as I love to see all the pretty things being talked about.

Of course, there are lots of wonderfully inspirational crafters whose work I love to follow, but if I need a quick fix, these are the ones that I go back to time and time again.



Next time in part 2 : Creating a handmade wardrobe that won’t be left at the back of the closet, aka making a wardrobe for the life that you lead.