Friday 29 June 2012

12 Women in 12: Heather Ordover

When I decided to pick up the microphone and tried my hand at podcasting, I had a few heroes in mind. I am thrilled that I managed to snag a podcasting hero for this month's 12 Women in 12. Podcasting is a project that can be a huge platform for promotion, information and building a community and when it is put together with professionalism and style, is addictive to listen to. I caught up with podcasting legend Heather Ordover to ask her what it takes to make a great podcast the phenomenal success 'Craftlit' and its sister podcast 'Just the Books' have become.

(c) Heather Ordover
CraftLit is a free podcast for readers whose hands are too busy to hold a book and follows a format of an 'audiobook with benefits'.  When Heather started back in 2006, she realized it would be a great way to wed her crafty side (which was largely knitting at the time) with her literary-teacher side. (After a stint behind the scenes at Disney, Heather taught reading, then high school English before moving on to writing curriculum and eventually teaching writing at the University of Arizona).

However, in talking to Heather, it's clear that the format of the podcast wasn't always so clear cut and that she is a person constantly seeking improvement either for herself of her projects. It's something I can definitely relate to as a podcaster and demonstrates that no matter how much you've 'made it', there's always challenges to be lived up to if you are a person who strives for that.  Heather admits that orginially she was so nervous about being hyperbolic that she started with the tagline "a Podcast for Crafters Who LIKE Books." As she heard people say it was "for people who love books" she realised she had hit upon just what she was hoping to achieve and worked hard to create a perfect experience for her listeners.
As CraftLit grew in popularity, Heather realised that there were listeners beyong the crafters she orginially targetted and so began a parallel feed for 'Just the Books', a podcast with all of the book talk and none of the crafting. It meant that Heather was rapidly becoming the go to source for quality audio about books.

What's more, the quality of readers on the show has gone from strength to strength, attracted by Heather's commitment to her craft no doubt. Heather admits that over the history of the show they've had a number of times where listeners have stepped up and provided audio. She particularly loves this as it is a community that podcasts can provide, working together to keep the show fresh and alive.

"It means a lot to me that people took time out of their lives to record for us and it makes me really proud of all of us."

The reader's didn't stop there and over time Heather has included fabulous readers such as
Josie Henley-Einion of the CastingPod podcast. When Heather was stuck for a voice during the 'Woman in White' she turned to Josie who performed brilliantly and gave Heather the confidence to approach others. Previous readers have included talents such as Jon Scholes of, Ehren Ziegler (, listener Arielle Lipshaw and prolific Librivox reader Elizabeth Klett.  These are practiced and experienced voice artists, drawn to Heather's project and understanding for the need to add elements such as vocal depth and variety.

With this professional cast comes the draw back that Heather now feels unable to return to her listeners as readers for more free readings without a promise of some kind of compensation. So this time round she has asked Ehren to help her record the current book 'Gulliver's Travels' and when he's done, will be releasing the readings as a downloadable audiobook. Any monies that come in from those sales can then be split amongst her readers. It's a plan Heather is hoping to replicate with the upcoming work on Canterbury Tales and thus develop the podcast further still.

It makes you think when you hear this story, just how much time and commitment goes into making such a rich audio experience. The podcast is still freely downloadable and it's budget relies entirely on listener support, as do all podcasts. Heather is respected as highly as some of the big publishing houses that release audio yet with minimal budget and staffing. Heather is amongst a small band of podcasters that create quality audiobook experiences for crafters, book enthusiasts, students and homeschoolers alike, for free. 

As a podccaster myself I know how time consuming it can be to create something of quality that you can share with listeners so I nervously asked Heather how much time all of this took her. Heather admits that it's grown over time. Once Heather started getting emails from mother's of special needs children who used the show to learn literature so they could graduate from high school, she began planning more clearly for the future of the show.

(c) Heather Ordover
However, it wasn't until What Would Madame Defarge Knit? got picked up by Cooperative Press that Heather felt a very clear opportunity to use the book and podcast as support for each other. Coupled with her understanding of the importance of what she provides, Heather knows that both her podcast and 'In Your Shakespeare' by Ehren Ziegler are crucial to reviving interest in Literature. Both podcasters are incredibly passionate about how important it is to read, watch, and listen to these texts; how important it is for people to grow and become both more aware and more curious through hearing classic tales.

So finally, what is her advice to those wishing to follow in her footsteps?
Get a great mic!
Heather explains that when people comment about the audio quality (good or bad) on podcasts it almost always comes down to the mic. A good mic doesn't have to cost a lot of money, but comfortable ones often do. Heather suggests doing a test run on a friend's son's gaming headset before you buy something new. Heather uses a Plantronics DSP-500 headset mic because she likes to move when she talks.
Heather also learned from early feedback on sound quality that recording with a dying mic or in the wrong environment for the sake of a weekly schedule is not going to cut it in what she is trying to achieve. She explains: 
When you have my voice in your ear you seriously DO NOT NEED to have the added background noise. Clear audio is a must.

Oh and if ever you want to smile when you listen to Heather's voice, just remember she's using a mic she's specially modified to achieve the quality audio she wants. The trick? Roving and handpsun added to get it to sit right and avoid popping Ps. Brilliant.

Heather's final words that she left me were:

(c) Heather Ordover
"I am really not full of it when I say CraftLit people are just better. I've met many, many, many listeners over the last 6+ years and seriously—no bad apples in the bunch. I love my listeners. We're all so nice on the Ravelry group—not that we don't differ in our opinions, just that we're nice about it. It's just a joy to know that everyone is out there, living their lives and making the world a better place by just being themselves."
I like to feel I'm included in that bunch as a loyal listener. A huge thank you to Heather for taking time out from her busy life to answer questions to share with the playful readers. If you would like to keep up to date with all of Heather's projects, you can follow them on her website or twitter feed.
Stay tuned for more 12 women in 12 and please do join in to show your appreciation for great business stories by either tweeting along on twitter (#12womenin12) or sharing your feelings on your own blog. Be sure to let me know/ link us in, I'd love to know what you think!

Thursday 28 June 2012


I am big on play, you may have noticed. Providing the tools for play for children and adults can lead to amazing things and I watched a video last night that made me grin from start to finish. If ever a video was made to confirm the amazing potential that can be unlocked through play, this has to be it. 

It's a ten minute video so please find the time today to sit and learn about Caine and his arcade. I promise you, you'll be left smiling for the rest of the day. 

Wishing you all a playful day!

Tuesday 26 June 2012

It's been FAR too long

I realise as I start this post that I cannot remember the last FO I shared here on the blog. It's best I don't check. Let's pretend it's only been a month shall we? I've always thought we were good friends. Let's keep this little fact between you and I, yes?

So, here's a very unseasonal but very lovely FO. The design is the 'Eternity Scarf' by Michelle Wang and I cast on after a bit of an obsessive period of stalking eternity loops. I wanted all my scarves to be round for some reason. I also wanted texture and something to show off the lovely Berry Colourful Yarnings yarn that I'd been sent for review. 

The yarn in question is BC Yarning's Worsted MCN base in the colourway 'Cinna'. It's an 80% Merino, 10% Nylon and10% Cashmere base that is sproingy and pleasing to work into a squishy fabric. This is not a lofty yarn, nor one that has no life to it. Instead, I'd describe it as full of energy and yearning for ribbing and swaths of stockingette to showcase the variegation of the colour. I began with this:

And found the textured sections really pleasing close up.....

I'm not convinced I've got the size right as it won't go round my shoulders as planned but it loops really satisfyingly around my neck and I know it's going to wear well due to the twist of the yarn. I predict a very stylish Autumnal key accessory. So I'm thinking a good yarn for high wear accessories and I'm eyeballing the DK I have in my stash too...... hmmmmmmm....

Sunday 24 June 2012

Tag! You're It! feat Woolly Wormhead

A Playful Day is kindly sponsored by Superknits, now with a super new website. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above- go on, spoil yourself!!!.

A Playful Day is also kindly sponsored by NorthboundKnitting, uniquely hand dyed yarn, spinning fibre and modern knitting designs. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above.

A Playful Day is proudly sponsored by Candy Skein, hand dyed yarns sweet enough to eat! Please support our playful friend by supporting the banner above.

Show notes:

The readalong has begun for 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness, the playful group on Ravelry

Ravelympics is also heading this way. Are you ready?

Woolly Wormhead, fabulous hat designer, joins me for a giggle and a chat. We discuss her previous work such as Going Straight and Wee Woolly Toppers and her forthcoming work. 

Giveaway: please leave a comment on this blog post in order to win a single downloadable pattern of your choice from Woolly's extensive collection. 2 lucky listener's will be chosen by the random number generator on 7th July 2012 so please enter before then. Please tell us which hat you'd love the most and why. Good Luck!

Fly, Fly, Fly by Adrina Thorpe, available on Music Alley
Gene Kardos Orchestra, available on Music Archives
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Sunday 17 June 2012

Fearless George

CITIZENS OF THE WORLD! You can sleep safe tonight. Rest assured that while you slumber, fearless George is guarding you from those killer cushions out there. 

He has this covered.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Answer Me This

In the UK, the deadline for making your feelings known about civil partnership and marriage change is today at midnight. If you haven't already, please fill in this simple consultation for the Home Office. It take 2 minutes and is quicker to do than arguing the issues raised. 

Have you say.

-Hoping to attend my friend's wedding in the near future- x

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Wait? What?!?!

One of the things that I've enjoyed most about this blog is the space to share things I care a lot about. A lot of the blog as a result has been knitting, crafting and food related. These are my everyday experiences, things I now make a living out of and that keep me ticking. This is after all a playful blog and these are the things that keep me playful.

Tucked into this blog though have been posts about issues I care passionately about, politics and women's rights. These too are a huge part of who I am and I would be lying if I said they're not the kind of thing that I talk about daily. It really is very normal for me to talk about an issue such as gender stereotypes on an average day.

It's why when I discovered that I was pregnant I was faced with a slight dilemma. I loathe oversharing and I am very icky about sharing my personal life. Small snippets, yes.... a child? No. It's just not for me. The internet is a vast and huge presence and I like the inner sanctum of my personal relationships and soon to be family. 

However, as I experience my pregnancy and society's expectations of how a woman and her partner should behave, I have felt a growing need to share some of these experiences. I don't want to share gross out stories or wax lyrical about the joys of motherhood (hello, I'm only just entering my 5th month??) but I do want to voice some of the things I'm experiencing.

For example, our first maternity appointment started something like this:

Midwife: Come in! Mum, why don't you sit here and your husband can sit there?

Me: We may be in for a mighty long wait if you're waiting for my husband. 

I mean, really?!? In this day and age? I'm also stunned by the lack of mixed race couples portrayed in any literature about pregnancy and the complete lack of advice if you do not have a partner. As for same sex couples, they are thoughtfully bracketed under 'partners' while the rest of the sentence constantly refers to your partner as 'he'. 

In an effort to carve out a safe space for me and prepare for the birth, I took a pregnancy yoga class where the teacher actually said 'ladies, imagine your bundle of joy is in your arms and glow' before crooning on, 'of course, boys never sit still but some of you might be lucky enough to have a little girl'. In fear of howling in frustration during the meditation I promptly walked out. 

But luckily, there is a ray of sunshine in my week and I'm going to write about it soon as it has reminded me that I don't have to buy into this stereotyped drivel. Until then, I couldn't help but share my ever growing list of comedy fails. I can't call them anything else, it's too terrifying otherwise.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Episode 30: Planning is the Same as Doing. Right?

A Playful Day is kindly sponsored by Superknits, now with a super new website. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above- go on, spoil yourself!!!.

A Playful Day is also kindly sponsored by NorthboundKnitting, uniquely hand dyed yarn, spinning fibre and modern knitting designs. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above.

A Playful Day is proudly sponsored by Candy Skein, hand dyed yarns sweet enough to eat! Please support our playful friend by supporting the banner above.

Show notes:

The readalong has begun for 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness, the playful group on Ravelry
WWKIP day is coming! There's a thread in the group to help you find somewhere near you or tell people where you will be.
Ravelympics is also heading this way. Are you ready?
Fibre East is on 14th-15th July 2012. I'll be there on the 14th and hope to see you too.

Rose Beck joins us as a new blog sponsor. Read the blog post introducing her and her designs here

A huge thank you to everybody who sent well wishes and kind words and thoughts for our upcoming playful babe.

Off The Needles
The Eternity Scarf by Michelle Wang in Berry Colourful Yarns Worsted MCN in the colourway 'Cinna'.

On The Needles
Julissa by Vanessa Smith in Miss Bab's Yowza! Whatta Skein! in the colourway 'Catherine'.
Totally Vanilla Socks by Alice Yu, taken from 'Socktopus: 17 Pairs of Socks Worth Showing Off' which I reviewed in this episode. Using my own handdyed yarn from Fyberspates. Useful hand dyeing groups on Ravelry: Kool Aid group, Love to Dye and Colour by Hand.

Munch, Burp, Schlurp
I share audio from Guildford Farmer's Market and talk about one of my favourite comfort food recipes. Basic cheese sauce blog post here

Fly, Fly, Fly by Adrina Thorpe, available on Music Alley
Every Morning by Apocalypse 5 and Dime, available on Music Alley
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Sunday 3 June 2012

For the love of.... baking.

I know I boasted about my recent efforts on Twitter and the podcast but I couldn't leave it at that now could I? I HAD to share some photographs of my yummy baking session. 

First there was the wonderful Rye Soda Bread from the Super Natural Every Day Cookbook by Heidi Swanson. This recipe was perfectly written and I had great results as you can see:

Pre oven

Ready for buttering!
Then I made the most delicious snack bars I've made in ages. They are called 'Honey and Peanut Booster Bars' and can be found in 'River Cottage Every Day' by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. This is one of my absolute all time favs and I go to this book time and time again for failproof wholesome recipes. 

You may notice this picture shows the uncooked version.... I forgot to take the end result as I was too busy cutting myself some and stuffing it in my mouth but it was good- trust me.

Friday 1 June 2012

Face Lift


Just wanted to write a quick post to say things are looking a bit 'odd' on the blog. I removed Shabby Blogs due to continuous virus threats after much wrangling as the stupid thing embedded in my template. So now I have a weird template and a weird clashy colour scheme. I need to play some more but I don't have time today, so please just ignore the random colours and strange birds. It was the best I could do with 5 minutes and a coffee this morning!

More soon x