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These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things

November 28, 2019

I thought today I would share a little about myself, and my journey to where I’m at now: a 37-year-old knitting pattern designer, partner, learner, and mum of two. You have all long had a glimpse of Alexa’s and my life through this blog, our books, and our social media (we aren’t very private people). Here are a few things you may not know.

After studying architecture, and working the field for a few years, I decided to step sideways into a design niche oh-so-much less serious. As many frustrated emails as a pattern error may generate, as much angst as knitters feel about an ill-fitting jumper, it is still knitting. In my mind it doesn’t compare with the levity of tonnes of building materials, the coordination of a wide array of stakeholder all balanced against uncertain construction costs in a volatile economy.

Lush Cardigan
The Lush Cardigan was one of my early designs.

stepping into knitting pattern design

So I took the plunge, taking as much as I could glean from my design and technical training along with me for the ride. Alexa and I developed designs, planned our first book, worked part-time jobs to pay the bills, and as our business formed, Alexa began having babies.

I should take an aside here to tell you all that I feel strongly that parenting is NOT the be-all-and-end-all of a person’s life. Until I turned 30, my plan was to skip the massive time-energy-creativity-attention sinkhole of children and instead pursue other intriguing adventures in life. To this day I am inspired and intrigued by people who do not become parents and spend their energies on projects other than their own children. I also understand that although I felt I had the power to choose (a gigantic privilege), for many, parenthood is not really a choice, and I see immense amount of unjust stigma around that as well.

While not having kids was the plan in my 20’s, sometimes things change! After making a major career shift and a transatlantic move, along came my 30th birthday, a lovely man who wanted to have kids, and FOMO (that’s Fear Of Missing Out) and that plan flew right out the window. I went from all-round “meh” with respect to children to “oh my goodness how long is it going to TAKE to get pregnant”. Then “oh my goodness it sure takes a long time for a baby to cook”. Post-birth my optimistic / unrealistic inner script went: “I’m sure I can still do all the things I used to do…” (and yes, sigh, reality eventually hit!).

stepping into motherhood

Well, you may be familiar with our Instagram feed.

Vivid Blanket Pattern
I photographed a teeny tiny Max on this rainbow Vivid Blanket, wearing a miniature Flax Light pullover, just a week or two after he was born.
A laughing woman struggles to hold onto her kids, who are struggling to escape.
My 36th birthday… the kids didn’t want to have their photo taken with me, clearly!

John and I became parents, and then took a good long time to be molded into the role. Five years and a second kid later, I think I’ve accepted the label they give me, ‘Mum’. In my better moments I embrace parenthood as an awesome additional role, an extra skill-set. And looking back, I smile over these last years filled with love and frustration and joy that I’m pleased to add to my story.

Britannia Sweater Pattern
One of my all-time favourite photos of Neve. She was just learning to walk, and we spent a relaxing golden evening in the Meadows park, barbecuing with friends; here in Edinburgh it stays light till 11pm in mid-summer.

my knit photos record my story

Photography is a big part of my work. One side effect of always having the camera out, creating these images of knit designs, is that the story of my family is captured, crystallized.

Looking through photos takes me to those specific moments in time, how it felt to be in that place, the air on my skin, the smell, the emotions I was feeling. I am reminded of what my little ones were LIKE at that moment, and of who I myself was then. To you, these photos may just be ‘a kid in a cute sweater’. For me, they are pages in the story of my life.

So here, with no further ado, are a few of my very favourite things…

Stovetop Hat Pattern
Four days old, in his very first Tin Can Knits hat. Max was born a little jaundiced, so needed to be laid out mostly naked in the sun while he slept on those early days. This is when I learned how truly TINY newborn heads are, and then how quickly they grow! Out of frame was total chaos, floods of tears, worries that he was too sleepy and not feeding, the utter insanity of the first week with a first baby.
Gather Hat Pattern
My mum, all the love, and her first grand-baby! We visited Vancouver Island Max’s first Christmas, and spent a few days on the west coast at Long Beach. I remember the euphoria of early parenthood, feeling optimistic, but also uncertain, and often overwhelmed by emotions.
Bumble Beanie Pattern
While visiting Canada we stayed in a chic little flat in downtown Vancouver, where we took the photos for our 5th book, Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe. Alexa’s youngest, Bodhi, was 7 months old. Max didn’t crawl yet, so he was easy to capture, but Bodhi was roaming ALL over the show, so it was nearly impossible to get them both in the frame!
Playdate Cardigan Pattern
We returned to Vancouver Island the summer that Max was one, such a relaxing and joyous summer visit. Taking him to Miracle Beach Park, where I had spent days and days of my childhood roaming wild and free, was really nostalgic. It made me FEEL why some people move back to the place they grew up when they become parents.
Peanut Vest Pattern
This is quite possibly Max at Peak Cuteness! I was 7 or 8 months pregnant when we attended a family wedding in Aberdeenshire. It was early early spring and the snowdrops were just up, the landscape there was SO pastoral and picturesque. I’d made Max a teeny tiny kilt in a tartan that (almost!) matched John’s, and a Peanut Vest too. I just remember that time as so intensely full of pleasure, happiness, and joy (pregnancy hormones?!).
Pregnant woman at the beach, carrying a toddler on her shoulders.
Max wasn’t quite two years old, and although I was lucky to be strong and healthy, I found late pregnancy plus toddler care HEAVY on the one day a week he with me rather than in nursery. It was spring, the days were finally getting longer, and we spent a glorious evening down at Portobello beach, just waiting for baby. It was that moment of in-drawn breath, of delicious calm, when you know the storm of newborn-ness will begin at any moment. Neve was born a day or two later.
I Heart Rainbow colourwork yoke sweater pattern
When Neve was a newborn, I took more joy and pleasure had less anxiety than I had with my first baby! She spent much of her first month in tiny knits, as you can see in our blog post about Mini Me Made May! On her second or third day of life, she wore this premie size of the I Heart Rainbows sweater, which was my very first sweater design!
A toddler and a baby wearing matching Bumble sweaters.
While we worked to finish our 7th book, Mad Colour, Neve was just a couple months old. As you might guess, it was a wild time. She wasn’t a terrific sweater model, typically babies are a bit too floppy at that age! But I couldn’t resist making her a teeny tiny Bumble sweater, and this sibling photo was worth it!
Light and Shadow Hat Pattern
Immigrating to the UK is a process, and there was a period when John and I had to live apart, while I took the kids to Canada to await the results of our application. I was lucky to be able to live with my parents for a few months. Neve was just 3 months old, and Max was 2, and this felt like a sad and scary time for our family to be separated. But there were upsides; every day Max and I toddled along to the beach I grew up playing at. Neve came along for the ride in the sling. This evening it was autumn and the air had turned cold, and Max threw stone after stone in the water, as I took some photos for the Light and Shadow hat pattern.
Ironheart Sweater Pattern
Shortly after the three of us arrived back home to Edinburgh, I shot these photos of Max in the Ironheart sweater for the Heart On My Sleeve fundraiser for the Against Malaria Foundation. I remember my attitude of IMMENSE gratitude to have my family back together and safe. This bright autumn day we went to Hollyrood park, and Max hunted for dragon’s eggs in the fallen leaves.
One year old baby in a teal onesie, lying on a rainbow quilt.
Knitting isn’t the only craft I enjoy! I sewed this onesie from a thifted Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt, and made Neve this triangle quilt for her first birthday. She still really loves it, and is just so PLEASED with anything that I make just for her.
Two toddlers playing in a park, wearing colourful yoke sweaters.
I made these colourful sweaters to test out our Strange Brew recipe pattern as we were developing it. The kids wore ALL the knits to the park round the corner this crisp and bright winter day. This was the age when they first began really PLAYING together, which was so cute to watch.
A smiling man holds two toddlers, one in each arm.
On a weekend outing to Stirling Castle, I took a load of photos for our Week of Colour colourwork tutorial series. This outtake of John and the kids illustrates how what a glorious day it was!
A toddler with pigtails and a frowny face wearing a colourwork yoke sweater with lake and mountains in the background.
It was exquisite but COLD in the Canadian Rockies when we took a very special trip with both sets of grandparents. This meant that there were PLENTY of opportunities for candid kid shots, because they were wearing woolies every day!
Children in colourwork yoke jumpers holding hands on a frosty driveway.
For holidays we often travel north from Edinburgh to John’s dad’s house in Dundee. The kids love playing in his big garden. This Christmas day was a crisp, bright, and frosty, and it was relaxing and joyful to be surrounded by family.
Fleet Hat Pattern
I think many couples find that post-kids, time spent alone together becomes extremely precious. I feel like there’s never quite enough! I shot this photos of John in the Fleet hat I made him during one long lovely day that we spent kid-free, walking and talking for hours, swimming in the sea, and eating delicious food.
Smiling man holding two kids, all wearing colourwork hats.
Our two-family trip to Iceland was one of the greatest adventures we’ve taken, as a family, so far. I love that John is along for the ride whatever crazy ideas that Alexa and I dream up!
Strange Brew Book
The cover shot for our book Strange Brew, which we took on our joint family holiday to Iceland, is perhaps the peak of ‘my favourite things’. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to match this image for joyfulness, because it contains all that both Alexa and I love. The goofy personalities of our kids showing through, our supportive partners looking sexy in our knit designs, and ALL the colours, all at once!

Well I could go on, and on, sharing the stories behind the pictures. But you get the idea, right?

It makes me very happy that my job, making patterns which bring joy to knitters, has the side-effect of capturing many of my joyful moments, and telling at least a part of the story of my life.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter Ludeman permalink
    August 6, 2020 4:40 pm

    Thank you Emily for sharing your journey!
    I must admit it brought tears to my eyes and joy in my ❤️

  2. KoKo Lockwood permalink
    December 7, 2019 9:48 am

    I think this is just so wonderful! I follow you on Ravelry and I have made a few of your patterns but this is the first blog post I read, and I’m so glad I did! I do have one question if you don’t mind me asking…what knitting g style to you use? I’m just wondering how you knit all of these wonderful pieces so fast. I’m very, very interested to know this. Anyways, thank you for sharing the private pieces of your lives. It was nice to read!

  3. December 7, 2019 5:01 am

    What a beautiful recollection! Cheers to many more years of growing, beautiful pictures and endless blessings.

  4. Colleen permalink
    December 3, 2019 10:21 am

    I have been enjoying watching your family grow into all these precious knits and it so inspired me to do the same for my family! Appreciate you!
    Colleen

  5. December 2, 2019 5:43 am

    That sweater on Neve is gorgeous!

  6. Mary permalink
    November 30, 2019 9:50 am

    What a lovely story. I enjoyed it. Happy Holidays!

  7. November 29, 2019 7:32 am

    Wow, I don’t know why but I shed a couple tears while reading this. It might be because I just got married and want kids in an abstract sense but am afraid of all the realities of it… so you writing about your hesitancy and then all the good things that have come when you took the plunge was really beautiful (and thank you for being honest!).

    And that Strange Brew cover is really the ultimate #SquadGoal. I have yet to knit a Strange Brew but it is in the queue! I particularly love Jones’ version one the cover.

    – a long-time TCN fan

  8. November 28, 2019 8:46 pm

    Thank you for this look into your life! I loved it and seeing all your pictures!

  9. Anya permalink
    November 28, 2019 10:14 am

    Love this. Also, I have always loved Neve’s name because it’s so close to my sister’s name— Niamh. :)

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