I occasionally indulge myself in a flat lay. If you don't know what that is, it's an image composed on a flat surface, essentially. The thing is, and this in itself is weird, flat lays have become somewhat controversial within the social media context. Lots of people love them; lots of people think they're overly-curated/styled and too fake. As always, I rather think all view points are valid and there's no right answer. Anyway, I'm not here to be controversial (hell no), but it's something pertinent to me so I thought I'd share my thoughts on it. _DSC7743.JPG As I said, I do occasionally indulge. It's got to be in summer when there are plenty of flowers to choose from in my garden, and mine usually just feature flowers and yarn, because that's what my life (sad as it is) generally revolves around. For me, the first step in creating a flat lay is to gather some yarn and take it outside in a  wooden fruit crate. It might be what I've dyed that day/week, or just something I have lying around. Or perhaps I've noticed that a colourway I dyed would look really nice with some flowers from my garden. Either way, that's how it starts. _DSC5976.JPG The next step is, for me, one of two creative aspects of the flat lay. It's the step of going around my garden picking out flowers, leaves, or anything else that I think will go with my yarn as well as together. Now this is the main aspect of creating a flat lay I think - or it should be - because every time I do it I spot new things in my garden, I connect with what's growing/dying at the time, and I find myself suddenly appreciating plants I may not have done previously. _DSC7522.JPG I don't have a huge garden. It's not even that nice most of the time. But every year I throw down a load of wildflower seeds, so those along with the odd other nice bits are more than enough to fulfil my creative inspiration purposes. Don't tell me you don't have access to flowers - you can put bulbs and seeds in one indoor plant pot if that's all you have space for. If you put in winter or early spring bulbs, then a layer of later bulbs, then seeds on top, you'll have flowers for most of the year. _DSC6270.JPG Anyway, so that's how I get the most out of creating a flat lay. The next step though is also really creative (for me) - and that's arranging your piece. It's easy to get carried away with moving colours or shapes to see how they affect the overall picture. I've always really enjoyed photography, so I photograph a lot. You're not paying per picture so get snap happy! I find that this process encourages me to analyse composition and colour in a really positive way - it's the same for any photography to be honest - I do find that it makes you a lot more analytical and observant, which is cool. I've noticed it in other people too; for example using my partner David to photograph me modelling knitwear for work has made him noticeably more observant and creative. _DSC6451.JPG (I know that mine are not all entirely flat but they're close enough..) Back to the flat lay though. For me, it's a very creative process. It's the same as sketching, painting, general photography - you look for your subject, then seek to capture it. I know there's now a cynical aspect. I know that some people think that an Instagram feed full of carefully curated images is 'not real life', and it's a valid point, but it's only like saying that going to an art gallery and looking at a room full of pretty watercolours is also 'not real life'. Of course it's bloody not - it's picking out pretty things and appreciating them because art enriches our lives. I'm very much a glass half full person, and I believe that however crappy or stressful life can get (which I am not immune to, believe me) there's always pretty stuff around too - you just have to look and appreciate it. Let it take you out of the stresses of life, if only for  the briefest moment.  _DSC7383.JPG By the way, over on Instagram my feed is actually not filled with carefully curated or styled images, but I do like to see them peppering it. Since I run a creative business and am under a permanently huge amount of pressure to be creative, I always seek out inspiration (which I find everywhere - I'm quite eclectic) and I like to share it. Don't worry, I will always retain my cynicism too - I'm northern after all. Disclaimer: I have no idea where this outpouring has come from. It's Tuesday lunch time and I was happily dyeing away in my kitchen, looking over the blooms in my garden - maybe a stray thought entered of 'I've not done a flat lay for a while' - I don't know, but suddenly all these thoughts happened and I sat down at my laptop and just typed. It's not stimulated by anything I've seen or read recently, and whatever you think about curated imaging on social media I most likely agree with you.  I never write this much; I'm pretty freaked out by it. Normal yarn stuff will resume now. Happy yarn-and-flowers spotting!

5 comments


  • The thing is this: Instagram has two sides. One is creativity. The other is self-presentation and self-promotion. For a business, promotion is totally fair enough. Presumably anyone following a creative business on Instagram actively wants to see their stuff. The complicated, potentially icky part is the “personal brand” side, showcasing your life in an envy-stoking, artificial way – but I believe that is more a thing for fashion/beauty bloggers etc, not so much crafters. (I do have some concerns about craft blogging/microblogging, perfectionism, personal brand and where they all intersect, but that’s another conversation, really.)

    Your photos are ridiculously beautiful and a complete treat. But they are simply still lifes (and product promotion). There’s nothing of the “lifestyle brand” in them. They make me want your yarn, and your photography skills, but they don’t make me feel bad about my life. So to my mind – that issue doesn’t even arise. Oh, and btw, thank you for eschewing the more typical, single-plane flat lay! I just find that composition kind of boring and much prefer your style.

    woollythinker on

  • I always admire your IG feed and these pictures are also beautiful – I love the last one (ivy/copper yarn) in particular. I’m not into photography per say, but I hear what you are staying about enjoying gathering all your little wonders together for a picture party! Keep up the good work and pay no mind to the knit pickers who enjoy complaining about anything + everything ???

    Francess on

  • I completely understand. You do have to hit the unfollow button (and not just on social media!) sometimes, don’t you? I’m glad you’ve done it; it’s the best way to protect your sanity. The one thing I get, which is hard to avoid, is people openly comparing me to other dyers, and I hate it. I’ve always been really careful to largely not follow other dyers, in order to avoid either feeling inadequate or end up influenced by them. It’s really hard running a business and deliberately keeping it small for whatever reason. People assume there’s a problem, and they don’t hesitate to comment on it! I had a really tough time last year with that, but have learned to ignore it now. :/

    Victoria on

  • I guess you follow an account because you like the pictures, and maybe you find the content “aspirational” – but aspiration can so easily turn into that icky feeling that you yourself just aren’t good enough. I’ve had to be careful myself, and unfollow certain blogs/Twitter accounts because I ended up feeling crappy that I wasn’t doing the amazing work that they were doing. Totally not the bloggers’ fault though; it was just that, for where I’m at right now, I’m particularly vulnerable to that sense of inadequacy. So I’m particularly aware of how that can play out. Nothing wrong with pretty pictures, but consuming too much of that can be very hurtful. And there’s a dicey area where “lifestyle” creeps into things that aren’t intrinsically lifestyle at all.

    woollythinker on

  • Good points, and Thankyou for the compliment!
    I find it weird that people follow accounts that make them feel bad about their own lives – that’s like me following a dieting account and it making me feel bad because I’m fat – there’s just no need. It’s the same with newspapers and TV though – I don’t get why people buy things like newspapers then get really wound up about what’s in them.. Don’t bloody buy it! Needless to say, I don’t follow any lifestyle people online.. ? To be honest I think it ultimately comes to self confidence and happiness with your own life. If you have that then no one else is going to be able to make you feel bad. I think for people who are lacking in confidence there’s just so much out there (across all media, grr) to totally derail them. Don’t even get me started on the ‘beach body’ thing. ;)

    Victoria on

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