edinburgh · Uncategorised

Stockbridge

Stockbridge is another area of Edinburgh that is packed with independent businesses and interesting shops. It’s also full of charity shops, and as it’s a rather nice area you can often get some lovely things at super cheap prices. I always enjoy the walk into Stockbridge, as the path from my house leads along the cycle path network. During the summer the trees almost meet above your head, creating a canopy of greenery. It’s very restful to walk through the dappled sunlight with the sound of birdsong all around you.

Once you leave the cycle path, you cross the bottom of Broughton Street and head out to Stockbridge itself. This area is at the foot of Edinburgh’s New Town, so there are many grand townhouses with basement flats. Some of them have been made into hotels, and one in particular has a great display of flowers outside, grown in and around bicycles and wellington boots amongst other things. The road leads past Benjamin’s Barber Shop, which has a unique bench outside made of skateboards.

stock7

The Stockbridge shops are mostly independent businesses, from bakeries to opticians and every type of shop in between. It would take hours to mention them all, but there are a few in particular that I always like to visit. First up, unsurprisingly for someone with a sweet tooth, is the chocolate shop. Coco Chocolatier is great for a fancy gift – they sell chocolate bars with original wrappers designed by artists, as well as chocolates and truffles. These aren’t your everyday bars of chocolate, flavours include gin and tonic, rhubarb and ginger and Earl Grey tea.

Further along the street is Caoba, a family business selling authentic Mexican goods alongside cards, soaps and other gifts. The shop smells amazing, the scent of incense hits you as you walk past. They also have a great blog where they feature projects that customers have made with their wall tiles, recipes, and background information about their products. The website outlines their fair trade policy and their aim, which is to sustain traditional handicrafts.

stock1

A few minutes walk away, and a little closer to home, is the quirky An Independent Zebra. This little gift shop exclusively stocks products from Scottish based designers and makers, with a wide variety of goodies for sale. Just inside the door are some prints from the amazing Grey Earl, and then this little shelf which always makes me smile. These cacti are crocheted by Emily Sian Hart. Each one is unique and super cute! I was also admiring these beautiful geometric knit scarves from Frances Teckkam, knitted in wonderfully soft wool.

The shop stocks a wide selection of greetings cards, but there’s a stand in the corner which is particularly suitable for those who don’t take things too seriously! I love these cards designed to welcome a new baby, made by The Fuzzy Bee.

Talking of babies, Stockbridge has a shop mostly dedicated to babies and young children. The Willow Boutique sells accessories by Sass and Belle, clothes from Blade and Rose, and toys by Jellycat. However they also have a great range of greetings cards from Wee Blue Coo and cards and prints by Kate and the Ink.

stock6

There are lots of other places I could have mentioned – the vintage clothes shop, the children’s shoe shop with a hairdresser’s inside, and the Skylark Cafe where folk singer Gill Bowman leads a song circle for toddlers with her acoustic guitar. However I hope this brief tour of Stockbridge makes you want to hop on the bus and have a wander round!

 

Uncategorised

Leith

Previously, I posted about the wealth of independent shops on Broughton Street. Last week I went for a wander around Leith, another area of Edinburgh with lots of small businesses. It’s the port of Edinburgh, with a harbour dating back to the 14th century. Leith Walk is a long road leading down towards the water, although you only officially cross over into Leith when halfway down. The view from the top of the walk is pretty impressive, you can see right out over the water from John Lewis’ cafe.

dav

Near the top of the walk is the Cat’s Miaou. This is an independent gift shop selling ethically sourced, fair trade and locally made items, ranging from clothes to cards and most things in between. I popped in to get a badge for my brother’s birthday, and picked one that said “bawbag”. I have “bolt ya rocket” on my bag, from the same range – love a good Scottish insult, and they only cost £1! There are some lovely things in this shop, and it’s all quite reasonably priced. I noticed these cute little ceramic animals hiding in a corner, made by Ken Wilson.

dav

Further down the walk, across the road, is the Leith Walk police box. Sometimes it hosts a tool library where you can borrow saws and drills. Other times it might be an art exhibit, or you’ll find a book shop or a mini cinema inside. You can even hire it to hold your own event – it’s a tiny space with lots going on!

Nearby is a relatively new shop called the Creative Showroom. Opened in 2016, the building houses artists’ studios as well as a gallery shop. This is a great place to go for unique gifts, such as these little earrings and necklaces made from recycled coloured pencils by Zinc White. They also make amazing homewares, including bowls and boxes, all from old pencils.

dav

I really like this range of little monster purses and zipped bags, and the wooden cards. There’s also a small selection of artists’ materials for sale.

Leith Walk has lots of charity shops, so as you walk down you can pick up plenty of second hand bargains. Most of them are super cheap, offering clothes for under a fiver or having a £1 rail. I particularly like the St Columba’s Hospice shop, which has a large selection of vintage yarn, fabric, buttons and patterns. I picked up a piece of oil cloth patterned with lemons for only 25p.

Across the road and hidden down a side street is the fabulous Out of the Blue Drill Hall. Originally built in 1901 as a military drill hall, it’s been refurbished in recent years and now houses a community cafe, artists’ studios, rehearsal and performance spaces. The cafe has blankets and children’s toys dotted around, and their freshly baked cakes are always delicious. The venue hosts popular flea market and vintage clothing sales, among a whole host of other activities.

Near the bottom of the walk, many of the shops have been closed and boarded over. Unfortunately a whole block has been sold to be demolished and redeveloped as student housing, flats and a hotel. The businesses in the block include small coffee shops and restaurants, a music shop, yoga studio and a vintage sweet shop. Part of the appeal of Leith is it’s individuality and character, so it’s a real shame that this is being gradually eroded. There are already two new housing blocks further up the road, which are quite out of place amongst the original buildings. There’s a lot of support for a campaign to save the walk and the boarded up shops are covered in supportive messages and crochet yarn bombing slogans.

Across the road is the Edinburgh Remakery, an organisation which runs classes to teach people basic repair skills. Their ethos is to try and reuse and remake rather than buy new.  The classes cover a wide range of skills – October’s selection includes hand embroidery, woodwork, upholstery and felting. The Remakery also sells upcycled second hand furniture and refurbished electronics.

At this point in my day out I popped into tiny Greek cafe Qupi for lunch. It’s a wonderfully quirky place, with pink velvet chairs in the back room and a selection of vintage hats hanging from the ceiling. I got my favourite ciabatta, filled with chorizo, halloumi, beetroot and rocket.

mde

Leith isn’t just one long road though. Further down towards the water you’ll find Sofi’s bar, a tiny pub with mismatched vintage china where you can go to a knitting club, a clothes swap or watch a film. There’s the famous Mimi’s Bakehouse, a haven of delicious cake and velvety sofas. In the same area you can also visit Coburg House, a collection of artists’ studios with a gallery shop. Leith is full of creativity!

Finally, down at Ocean Terminal, is the Scottish Design Exchange. This is a social enterprise that supports local creatives to sell their work, with branches here in Edinburgh and in the Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow. The Edinburgh shop has some really quirky little gifts, as well as a book store and clothing for adults and children. You’re guaranteed to find something unusual, such as this cross stitch kit from Son of a Cross Stitch or these pots from The Tit Shop.

No blog post could cover the huge range of independent and creative businesses in Leith. It’s a diverse area, with high rise flats round the corner from exclusive restaurants, and residents from all over the world. I’ve probably missed out lots of places, but you’ll just have to visit and explore for yourself!

Uncategorised

The Dreaded Self-promotion

Self-promotion. It’s a necessary evil of being self-employed, but probably the thing that most people dread having to do. There are countless blogs, websites and books dedicated to the subject – how to do it, how not to do it, and how not to come across as an arrogant annoying person. To be fair, I think that’s the main concern with self-promotion. This is the Oxford English Dictionary definition after all –

self-promoting

ADJECTIVE
  • Promoting or publicizing oneself or one’s activities, especially in a forceful way.

    ‘a conceited, self-promoting charlatan’
    ‘a self-promoting political publicity stunt’

Now, I challenge anyone to read that and then say that they feel totally comfortable with the concept of self-promotion, either online or elsewhere. Generally, people don’t tend to feel confident when they’re outlining their skills and achievements. Personal statements are notoriously hard to write, and you only have to watch the Apprentice to see how easy it is to go badly wrong. Creative people have the hardest job though. I used to work more frequently as an actor, and although I miss this being my full-time job I don’t miss the constant need to tell people about yourself. You might be on stage in panto every night, but you still have to be looking for the next role, updating online profiles, sending out CVs, and generally reminding the casting world that you still exist. If you have an agent the promotion part becomes a bit easier, but you still have to be able to sell yourself at audition. The problem is that actors are often very insecure people and are more likely to have mental health problems than the general population. They’re working in an industry where they are the product. You open yourself up to very personal judgement on a daily basis and it’s not easy.

Being an anxious, insecure person myself, I decided to do less acting and more of something different. Of course, I didn’t make it easy for myself – I now do a lot more knitwear design and making. This is another creative profession which requires me to tell people about what I do. I use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and this blog for business, and although I often find it really fun there are days when it feels incredibly hard. I have to promote new designs, and every time I post I wonder if it looks boastful or if people are reading and thinking that my work is rubbish and I should just shut up. However, I absolutely LOVE reading other people’s blogs and social media posts! I always like to see what people are making, get little snippets of their day to day lives, or discover new patterns to knit and pretty things to buy. This gives me a wee bit of hope that there will be people out there like me, reading my posts and finding them interesting. If there are people who see my latest update and think “ugh, not again”, I’m very lucky that none of them have chosen to comment and tell me that yet!

I’m currently developing my business to cover more than just knitwear design, so I know that there’s going to be a lot more necessary but dreaded self-promotion in my future. The more time I spend working on the business, the more I discover other creatives who are making beautiful things. I’m planning to feature some of them on this blog, perhaps as an independent maker Christmas gift guide, because they deserve to reach a wide audience.

Are you self-employed? Do you hate the whole promotion side of things? I’m interested to know how other people deal with it, and if you manage to be confident or press “Post” with a tentative finger like I do!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Uncategorised

Knit Now Issue 94

There are many things that make me feel old, but I felt ancient today when I realised that Knit Now magazine is almost at 100 issues, and I had a pattern published way back in Issue 1! Time certainly flies when you’re having fun. That pattern was the Snowflake Baby Set, and it’s reprinted in the upcoming Issue 94 and can be seen on the cover in the picture below. It’s a cute little set of cardigan, hat and mitts, sized to fit babies and toddlers from 0-3yrs. It features a stranded snowflake design, but it’s very simple and ideal for beginners to colourwork.

KN94 RGB

I love to design colourwork patterns almost as much as I love to knit them, and Issue 94 also features another two of my stranded knitting designs. The first is the Spruce Hat, a fair isle hat in four sizes. It’s knitted in Cygnet Truly Wool Rich 4ply, which is an ideal yarn for accessories such as socks, hats and mitts. It knits up so nicely with great stitch definition, and has a good range of colours. The hat will fit head sizes from 46-56cm, so you could make matching winter hats for all the family!

Finally, this issue comes with a festive yarn kit, and I designed a wee baby set with this in mind. The Baby Elf hat and mitts come in two sizes, to fit babies from birth to 1 year. They feature Christmas motifs, simple geometric patterns and stripes, and would be a great quick gift knit.

Baby Hat & Mitts set

You can get your copy of Knit Now in most supermarkets and good newsagents from 4th October onwards! All photos featured on this blog are from the magazine.

Uncategorised

Beginner Knits

I’ve recently started going through all my old designs and editing them, redoing some of the photography and having them tested again. Some of them were designed way back in 2010, and so a few of the yarns have since been discontinued. The first two patterns to be relaunched are two free designs. They’re really good for beginners as they use chunky yarn and simple instructions, and work up satisfyingly quickly.

First up is the Chunky Woven Scarf, which comes in two widths. It uses knit and purl stitches to create a textured basketweave effect. The scarf is knitted on 12mm needles, using Cygnet Seriously Chunky yarn. This is an 100% acrylic yarn, so it’s machine washable and super soft. There’s a really wide range of colours – I used Burnt Orange and Slate Grey for these two scarves. The scarf only uses two or three balls of yarn, although you can adjust the length and width to use more or less yarn if you want.

The second pattern is the Super Chunky Hat. This also comes in two sizes, to fit average and large adult heads. It uses just one ball of yarn, although again you can add length to the hat if you like. I knitted my sample in Emerald.

If you’re a knitter with a wee bit of experience, these two patterns will knit up in just an hour or so. However, they’re still really quick and easy to make if you’re a beginner. Don’t worry if you’ve never picked up a pair of knitting needles in your life, there are plenty of resources online to help you!

First of all, get yourself signed up to Ravelry. This is an online database/discussion forum/source of inspiration for knitters and crocheters. It’s free to join, and you can search for patterns and add them to a wish list. The really cool thing about Ravelry is that people can upload pictures of their knits and notes about how the pattern worked for them. This lets you see the designs worn by a variety of people, and gives you an idea of things to try or to avoid. You can ask for help with different stitches and techniques in the forums as well.

Next, check out some of the great videos on YouTube. This one is really clear and simple, and shows you how to cast on, knit stitches and cast off. There’s also one for purl stitch and one for knitting different stitches such as rib and seed stitch.

Then all you need is a pattern, some yarn and some needles – feel free to download my hat and scarf patterns and have a go!

Scarf – download now

Hat – download now