The best kind of souvenirs

I’ve recently got back from a lovely holiday in a beautiful country I’ve not visited before, Slovenia.

As usual with holidays, there is a temptation to bring back all sorts of themed tat, just because you want a souvenir of your trip, but as anyone who has bought a key ring/giant pencil/eraser/pencil sharpener/novelty hat etc can tell you, once you return home you wonder why you bought something as classy as a kiss-me-quick hat from Blackpool and where on earth you’ll put that straw donkey!

But I still like to bring something home as a reminder of my trip, so I try to look for something that I like on it’s own merits, not just because it was the least worst item in the gift shop. I have a silver pendant that I bought in Italy which I wear almost every day, and although I’m fairly sure that I could have bought something similar elsewhere, I bought it because I liked it and every time I wear it it reminds me of my trip. Sometimes this approach means that there isn’t really anything that I want, but this time I found some really beautiful local crafts that I just had to share with you.

We stayed in Bled, a town on the edge of the lake of the same name, surrounded by the Julian Alps. On our first day in Bled, I spotted a few covered stalls in a little tree covered space near the lake. Taking a closer look, I discovered it was a craft fair which took place every weekend. There were lots of beautiful crafts on display, all sold by those who had made them and I spent quite a while looking at each stall, trying to decide what I could fit in my suitcase!

Eventually I settled for two rather different pendants:

Wooden and glass pendants from Slovenia

The top one in the picture is hand carved from plum wood and has the most incredible coppery colour when it catches the light because it is sanded so smooth that it almost gleams!

The second pendant is handmade glass and is an amazing blue colour that I just can’t capture in a photograph. I will probably buy a silver chain to wear it on, as the cord it came with has findings (clasp etc) which my stupid skin tends to be allergic to, so I’ve not worn this yet, but I look forward to it!

A couple of days after we arrived, we came across a jewellers which amongst other things had the most beautiful and finely detailed silver filigree that I have ever seen. There were so many stunning delicate designs that it was hard to choose just one, but eventually after much deliberation I settled for these butterfly earrings.

Silver Filigree Earring from Slovenia

The earrings were handmade to a traditional design by the lady who owns the shop, who told us that filigree is a dying art in Slovenia and that she is the last of her family who can make it. They are tiny (about 1cm across) and so incredibly detailed that I cannot imagine how many hours they would take to make. I’ve worn these almost constantly since I bought them so I can already tell that they will be a favourite for years to come and a constant reminder of my visit.

Last but not least is another traditionally influenced piece, this little wooden bowl:

Wooden bowl from Slovenia

While at first glance this may seem fairly unremarkable, a closer look reveals a lovely folk art style pattern painted on the side:

Wooden bowl with carnation pattern from Slovenia

The flowers are carnations, the national flower of Slovenia and I love the simple style of painting against the smooth wood. Surprisingly I found this in a gift shop next to the church of Saint Martin in a part of Bled called Grad (which means castle), but on this occasion I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the items in the shop were handmade locally, including knitted socks, silver jewellery and intricate bobbin lace. It seemed that crafts are more valued in Slovenia than in Britain, but whether this is because the economy in places like Bled is reliant on tourism is hard to say (the craft market, for example only runs in the summer when Bled is at it’s busiest).

There were lots more interesting and inspiring things in Slovenia which I’ll show you another time!

What’s the best (or worst) souvenir you’ve ever brought back from holiday?

Lottie xx

Why do we blog?

Why do you blog? That was the question posed on knitnrun4sanity’s blog last week.

For me this is a difficult question to answer briefly, as my reasons for starting my blog are now rather different from my reasons for continuing it.

To be blunt, I started my blog because I felt that I should. As a designer, it is important to have a presence on the Internet other than just Ravelry (which I still think is very important, as it gives knitters a very direct contact with you for pattern support, and also I love to see projects made from my patterns 😊 and help anyone who asks me a question, as much as I can). I didn’t have a presence like this and after researching a few options, I decided on WordPress.

But despite creating my blog in February 2012, I was too nervous and hesitant to post at first. I had so many doubts. What should I post about? Should I just post about new designs? If I posted on other occasions, what on earth would I post about? How would I keep it interesting? How would I find the time? How much of myself should I put out there? I’m naturally quite a shy person, especially around strangers, and I tend to keep myself to myself, so this in particular was a difficult question for me. It is important to put a little of yourself out there, otherwise your blog will lack personality, but I found it very difficult to open up.

Even once I had answered all these questions, one massive question remained. Would anyone even want to read it? I was so beset by these doubts that I did not actually post anything on my blog until June 2012. (Yes, I know, I missed my first Blogiversary 😳 oops! Let’s call this the Blogiversary post – shhh! I won’t tell anyone it’s late if you don’t – what’s three months between friends?).

What pushed me to post was my decision to release my first self published pattern, Moon River. I felt that I had to make the effort to post, so I jumped in at the deep end. But I remember how long it took my to write that short and uninventive post. I just didn’t know what to write and how to write it. Was it ok to just be myself? How does this WordPress thing even work? It was certainly a steep learning curve.

I continued posting intermittently, trying to find a blogging voice and get the courage to just be myself in my posts. The first time I thought I was maybe getting there was when I posted this, ‘Mae: from sketchbook to pattern book’ about the journey from initial design idea to published pattern, as I remember how many questions I had about the process before I designed myself. I was amazed by the response. People read it! They liked it! Buoyed up by this I began to post more, but then it all tailed off as I was quite busy with my designing and writing posts still took me a long time, with many edits.

What really turned my blogging around was Knitting and Crochet Blog Week from Eskimimi Makes. I came across it by chance and thought I should set myself the challenge of posting every day for a week on the topics that had been chosen. Although it was a lot of work, I found it very rewarding and also liberating to post about other topics and in other styles that I might not have otherwise considered.

Stuff like this:

Venn diagram

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

It also helped me to find some lovely people in the knitting blog community who I wouldn’t otherwise have found. Now I blog because I enjoy interacting with you all. I just hope that all enjoy reading it! I try to blog with a sense of humour, as I would if were chatting to you all in real life. I always look forward to your comments and to reading your blogs and leaving comments on them. I even get excited about particular posts because I’m looking forward to seeing what your reaction will be.

I feel much more confident on blogging about other knitting related things in between designs, especially at times when I don’t have any knitting to show you because it is top secret and I enjoy thinking up ideas for new posts 😊. A couple of days ago I reached the milestone of 100 followers, something I never thought I would achieve in the uncertain months after starting the blog, when I even wondered if it was something I should be doing at all.

Why do I blog now? Because of you!

Thank you!

Lottie xx

Inspiration is everywhere

Sometimes, when people find out that I design knitting patterns, I get asked things like:

‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ or ‘Is it hard to keep thinking of new ideas?’

But to be honest these are questions that I never really consider until they are asked. Inspiration is really all around you, but it doesn’t have to be specific. Sometimes a design has particular inspiration and sometimes it is much more nebulous and difficult to pin down.

I’m not really sure what the secret is to keeping inspired, or even if there is a secret. But from personal experience I can tell you this much:

  • Inspiration is almost impossible under pressure. I think it requires daydreaming and that is something that you can’t do when you are stressed.
  • I find it helps to keep thinking about designs while doing other mundane tasks. Somehow a routine task frees up your creative thoughts. Or maybe I’m just weird (probably the latter).
  • Be patient and wait for the right idea to come along.
  • Be curious. If something interests you, go and investigate it. It doesn’t have to be knitting related.
  • When you have an idea, even just a germ of an idea, write it down or sketch it, even if it is very half-formed. Often when you look over your rough sketches with fresh eyes the bits you were undecided about start to become clearer. Or perhaps the half idea will merge with another half idea and become something even better. But if you don’t write it down you might not find out!
  • Take in your surroundings, even if it is somewhere familiar, and try to look beyond the obvious features and notice something that you haven’t before. If you’re walking through a city, look up at the architecture above the shop fronts – often you will be surprised at how much diversity there is in the styles of buildings, particularly if it is a city with quite a bit of history and older buildings. If something fascinates you, don’t try to work out how it will inspire a design, just take a picture of it or draw a quick sketch of it if you can and look over your photos later.
  • Don’t just look at pattern, look at colour as well. Look for interesting or unusual combinations of colours. Try to find the colour that you wouldn’t have put in the scheme yourself, but somehow just makes the whole thing pop!
  • Inspiration is not a science. There is no magic formula.

The thing that I am perhaps most inspired by is nature, especially plants. Look at the fabulous colours in this Clematis!

Clematis flowers

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Or this one (I love the different shades of red/pink in the flowers – the newest flowers are the most vivid colour):

Clematis (Rouge Cardinal)

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

And the bobbing heads of these large daisies amuse me throughout the day as they follow the sun around the garden!

Daisies!

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Finally, I couldn’t resist showing you this hedgehog (at the top of the picture) that had snuck out to eat some scraps – they move much quicker than you would expect!

Hedgehog!

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

What inspires you?

Lottie xx

P.S. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time and trouble to like or comment on my last post, it has been great to hear your views. I’ll try to write another post summing up experiences and tips for gift knitting soon, so if you have anything you’d like to add I’d love it if you’d leave a comment with your views! πŸ˜ƒ