Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Mysore 2016 - Visiting Projects

Along with all the knitting and yarn related things we have been up to over the last 10 days we have also been visiting some of the projects funded by the Charities Advisory trust and in turn the Knit For Peace charity. On Thursday of last week the group visited a supplementary school and a slum area of Mysore.

The images below were taken by Jenny on her visit to both of the projects.

We have also had the opportunity to visit some of the local schools and one of the girls orphanages sponsored by the charity. All these visits were a real treat - the children were so excited to meet us and keen to speak to us. They are really inspirational with dreams of careers in medicine, engineering and computer science, as well as the usual wishes to become actresses, singers and dancers!

On Sunday the children came to the Green Hotel for afternoon tea and did a lovely performance to us which included yoga, dancing and singing. The boys dancing was especially energetic and they did some daredevil acrobatics too!

Friday, 29 January 2016

Knit For Peace Workshop - Mysore 2016

We left home a week ago today for our long awaited trip to Mysore. After a short delay at the airport we made the plane journey to Bangalore, then travelled by coach to Mysore, arriving at the Green Hotel in time for lunch on Saturday. After our long and tiring journey it was lovely to sit within the gardens of the hotel, which is a former Palace set within what was once a rural part of Mysore.

On Sunday, after a day of rest, we had our first official workshop and I introduced the group to a few projects that they could choose to work on. My first task for the workshop participants was to knit a tension square – a task that few knitters enjoy, but hopefully an undertaking that ensures that projects turn out close enough to a determined shape and size, whilst also giving the group a chance to chat and get to know each other without having to concentrate too much on their knitting techniques. Within no time the group were embarking on their projects, getting to grips with the techniques involved and happily chatting and making plans for their holiday.

For the last 5 days we have had workshop time in the garden in the morning while it is cool. We have covered the fairisle and intarsia techniques, basic crochet, beading and textural work and in the afternoons participants have been free to continue on their projects or go out on sight seeing or shopping excursions into town.

 On Sunday evening we all headed out to Mysore Palace to see the lights and since then the group have independently been out for morning and afternoon walks around the lake, visits to the local shops and markets and short excursions to other places of interest around Mysore such as the Chamundi Hills and the famous market. It is easy to get around here – the tuctucs are easy to hail and the drivers are willing to take you where you want to go and happy to wait for you. Cars (and drivers) are easy to hire and incredibly cheap, so some of the group have already been out to a bird sanctuary and a safari park to see crocodiles and elephants, whilst others have stuck closer to home, finding beads and braids, fabrics and gifts in the shops and markets in the centre of town.

We are a large group – there are 18 knitters and 8 partners/spouses, so 30 of us in total counting Dame Hilary, her husband Micheal Blume and Avril from the Charity Advisory Trust. Although a large group everyone is getting along wonderfully and looking forward to another week of blissful creativity here at the Green Hotel in Mysore.

Getting to know Dame Hilary Blume

I was in Hyderabad in India this time last year when an email popped into my inbox from a lady called Dame Hilary Blume – the mastermind behind the charity Knit For Peace. Dame Hilary had just returned from a 12 day long knitting workshop at The Green Hotel in Mysore India and was looking for a tutor to teach at a duplicate workshop in 2016. As you will know (if you read any of my blog posts from my trip last year) I am a major fan of India and loved the amazing tour I took with my mum, so the chance to return with a group of knitters was an opportunity I found too hard to resist and so here I am writing my blog sat in the beautiful gardens of the Green Hotel surrounded by a fabulous group of wonderful knitters!

Over the past year since my first email encounter with Dame Hilary I have become a real fan of the Knit For Peace charity and where possible have tried to support them as much as I can. In an ideal world I would love to spend far more time as a volunteer at the charity head office in Hampstead where all the wonderful knitting arrives on a daily basis ready for sorting to be sent off to those in need around the world. However, having told Dame Hilary that I would like to spend a day in the office on a regular basis, I very quickly let her down because finding spare days is now so hard amongst the madness of our lives in the wake of the Lily Pond and Persian Tiles blankets and all that has gone on over the last 9 months at Janie Crow.

After a few months of worrying about the lack of support I had given Dame Hilary and her charity I realized that realistically the best way for me to help them was to give them monetary donations rather than my time as a volunteer or by donating them specific designs, so we decided to build a donation amount into the price of the Mystical Lanterns kits, which meant that between us as a company and each person that bought a kit we could donate £5 for each kit sold. Making this decision meant we couldn’t be sure just how much we could donate to the charity (who need monetary donations as well as knit/crochet contributions to fund their work). If the kits sold poorly we may only have been able to give the charity a small amount, but thankfully we have already been able to donate over £1000 thanks to all of you guys who have bought a Mystical Lanterns kit.

Dame Hilary told me yesterday that for every £5 donation she is able to send as many as 100 things to Kurdistan, so that means that you lovely crocheters have done a fantastic job in supporting a really worthwhile charity whose main aim is to help those most in need by sending items of knitting and crochet or by giving people the means to knit and therefore create for themselves, whether it be the homeless or the premature babies in the UK, those living well below the poverty line in places like India and Africa or helping the Syrian refugees.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Remembering 2015

On Christmas Eve we had some good friends over for a few drinks and after a while we all started to reminisce about songs from our past. While they played out on Youtube we recalled our stories relating to the song - told each other why we liked the track and what it reminds us of. We had an amazing night singing and dancing along to tunes in the kitchen and it got me thinking about the relevance of songs throughout our lives and how certain things can punctuate our memories.

When I look back at being a teenager it feels like I knew almost every song in the charts off by heart and when I hear those songs now I can visualise a place and a time that I listened to it - it could have been in the school grounds, at a party, on a radio playing in the background somewhere - I am instantly transported to that place and can tell you what year it was released and relate a personal story to that song.

There are songs that remind me of being a teenager at school doing my O levels (The Stray Cats, The Clash & Killing Joke) then there are songs from when I was doing my A levels (New Order, Depeche Mode & the beginnings of my love affair with Rock music), songs that take me back to Art School and the 3 years I was away from home doing my degree. There are also lots of songs that remind me of when we moved into our first home (Oasis, Blur, Pulp) and when we had Charlie as a small baby.

From the time that our first child was born my knowledge of current songs became a bit patchy - there were songs that the children danced along to and lots of really awful auto tuned pop that was in the background at kid's parties, but somehow I think a load of it kind of washed over me. While the kids grew up I know I sang along to a few real corkers (Mr Brightside by The Killers, I Try by Macie Gray, Here With Me by Dido, I Got A Feeling by Black Eyed Peas to name a few) but I couldn't tell you what year they were released and don't conjure up particular scenarios related to those songs in my head, with the exception of Mr Brightside which now reminds me of a friend we have recently lost.

Since I launched my first Crochet Club in 2011 the subsequent 4 years followed a very similar path work wise. Most of my time was taken up with designing, making and dealing with the club and, whilst it was a great adventure and taught me a huge amount, I don't look back on it with any great fondness. I don't look at the 2011 club and think of a time and a place that it reminds me of and the same goes for all 3 remaining club projects, although obviously they all took place in a particular year. You would think wouldn't you, that the clubs would remind me of something that happened that year, in the same way that a song would, but none of them do. When I think of the projects I think of all the hard work attached, the deadlines, the stress and I have to admit that even now I don't find much satisfaction looking at the completed projects even though design wise they are probably as good as any of my current work and crocheters still want to purchase them and make them.

The 2014 Crochet Club project was my last one - when the club finished in July of that year not only did I know in my heart that I didn't want to do another club, I also wondered whether I would ever want to design another crochet project again! With no inspiration and no wish to sit and crochet, Andy & I threw ourselves into building the Janie Crow web site, purchasing stock to sell to counter balance the fact that we had no new design work to sell and no club to keep the pennies rolling it. Andy built the Janie Crow web site and took over many of the roles within the business that I had grown to hate - the only problem was that he didn't crochet, so I couldn't off load the design side of things too!

By the late Autumn of 2014 I was beginning to think that maybe I could work on a new club project - lets face it, financially I had to sort something out as we were beginning to really struggle, even though Andy still worked full time at his 'proper' job. So when Stylecraft approached me with the idea of designing a crochet along project for them I thought there was no harm in giving it a go, after all I didn't really have anything to loose and had run out of excuses for not starting on a new project.

I started work on the design of the Lily Pond CAL project in December 2014 and took 'in progress' pieces of it pretty much everywhere I went for the next few months so that I could get it completed for the Spring launch. When I look at the design, each of the pieces reminds me of something along the way. One of the Lilies (which I think ended up being pattern set 4) reminds me of being in Jaipur with my Mum; another of the Lilies always reminds me of a pre Christmas lunch date with a friend in a local cosy pub and the bobble edging reminds me early Spring (possibly March time) when the crocuses and daffodils were beginning to bloom and the evenings were getting longer and I could crochet in good light.

When I look at the completed Lily Pond project it gives me a sense of enormous achievement, partly because it is a design that grew into itself as I designed it and never once made me scream in frustration, but also because of the reception it received when it was released as the CAL in the Spring. I can't even begin to count the number of lovely emails we have received, the number of lovely comments posted on social media and the number of times people have made a point of coming to talk to me about their own version of the project at shows and demonstrations. Somehow the Lily Pond blanket project captured the imagination of thousands of crocheters across the world and I am truly grateful for all the positivity that has surrounded this project and for the fact that it made me fall back in love with my crochet.

We are getting ready for our New Year's celebrations later on today and no doubt will be singing and dancing along to some old and new songs that hold great memories for us and hope that you will all be having a Healthy and Happy New Year too. We can't begin to thank you for all your amazing on going support and hope that for some of you one of your memory triggers for 2015 might just be your Lily Pond Blanket - it will certainly be mine.

With Much Love
Janie x