The Book is Here!

So…

Yes, there has been a bit of radio silence over the last few months.  Not because I haven’t had lots to tell you about (trust me, I have a list!), but because I haven’t had a moment of brainspace or energy left to tell you about them.  So rather than post a massive blog covering everything, I have started to write up lots of shorter ones that I will start to share with you over the next few weeks until I am back in step with myself.

This one is all about the rollercoaster ride that has been the publication of the Shawl Club Book.  For those of you who are new to the blog, here is the background.

  1. Over the last couple of years I have written the crochet shawl patterns for a shawl club run by unbelievawool.
  2. Increasingly folk were asking when I was going to publish them.
  3. In January I launched a kickstarter campaign to raise funds to cover most of the costs of publishing the book.  This received a really good response, meaning that we hit our target after just three days (also meaning that I had to go ahead and do it).

Now, on one level, getting the book off of the ground was easy, in that all the patterns were already written and well tested. The sticking point was the need for some good photography.  I was lucky enough to find Offshoots Photography who were willing to do the shoots for me, and we had a great time pulling together the pictures and generally goofing around with friends.  Picking the final selection of pictures was the hardest part. There were so many I loved that I couldn’t include in the book, including this one below of my friend playing with one of the models.  But we got there.

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The next job was to consider the typesetting and layout.  On Facebook we had a bit of a discussion about the visual preferences and needs of people.  Like me, many folk experience some form of problem with their vision, and in many cases this is linked to chronic health conditions.  Everyone seemed to prefer a full page width layout to sentences, rather than the column format that is more common in pattern books.  The next issue was to do with visual comfort – no harsh black on white text.  The book looks like it is black on white, but in fact uses a greyscale for the main text so the contrast is softened somewhat. Finally, everyone agreed that big margins and plenty of scribble space was needed.  This is the benefit of self-publishing a book – full editorial control.

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Not all things go to plan.  There were some incidents along the way with couriers and printers which were none’s fault but were a test of nerve at times, especially running up to the launch of the book at Wool@J13.  But we got there.  Just!  I also had the pleasure of running some workshops at the show, teaching folk how to create the Friendship Meditation Shawl.

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Self publishing does have technical and legal hoops to go through.  You need to purchase an ISBN number, register that ISBN, deposit a copy of your book with the British Library and generally act as a professional publisher would.  You feel the responsibility of creating something, and launching it on the world.

I am pleased to say that all the kickstarter supporters have received their copy of the book (as far as I know anyway!), and I have been able to get the book into some local yarn shops already.  Yes, I do have a lot of cardboard boxes at home containing the books, but I am slowly finding places to stash them until they all go.  If you want to buy a copy, drop me an email or message me on my Facebook page and I can arrange to get one out to you.  Alternatively, have a chat with your local yarn shop and ask them to get in touch with me to stock it.

I do have an idea for the next book already but its a wee while off.  What the process has made me do is realise that publishing crochet / knitting books is something that I really could do.  I just need to lie down in a darkened room for a year first…

Possible back cover

Meditating on friends and gratitude…

Ok, so this is a little embarrassing and exciting in equal measure. This week I launched a kickstarter to see if I could raise funds to get the book project underway. The plan was that this weekend’s blog would be a chance to spread the word and nudge a little more interest. However, I completely underestimated the response I would get, so here I am already in a position to confirm that we have hit the minimum target I needed to get the book printed! I am so overwhelmed and buoyed by the support I have had. The kickstarter stays open for more backers until 10th Feb, when it closes and the work begins in earnest. So there is still a chance to support the project and get a copy of the book as soon as it’s printed (ahead of its official launch in May) if anyone is interested in getting involved.

The cover image for this week’s blog is an extreme close up of the shawl I designed for the Christmas shawl club, known as the Friendship Meditation Shawl. The reason for this is linked to the beading. I love crochet because it is the closest I get to meditation and I also love a bit of beading, as you know. At the end of the year it’s worth taking stock of all that you have to be grateful for, and my friends are a big part of that. So every bead is a prompt to think of a person or memory that means something to you. And this is a shawl that just grows and grows, so you can keep going and make it huge! I love the grey silk one I made using some elegance yarn that Sam dyed, but I am planning a bigger one using the yarn that Lollipop Guild Yarns put in their End of Year box. It’s loud and proud and I just need to get some beads to go with it. I love the colours in this.

I am starting to plan new shawls for this year’s shawl club that will start again soon (we plan the first box for March). I have some themes in mind but I would love to hear from you if you have an idea you would like us to explore. Last year we were really impressed by the response to the unicorn themed box. The unicorn rainbow wrap I designed to go with it is a mini-skein project, pictured here using an ombré set in blue, but for the box we went with our interpretation of a unicorn rainbow, so bright pink, orange, turquoise, blue and green. But I have to say that I love the colour blend in this one.

Hello, fancy seeing you here…

Hello! Happy new year and all that. I know, since getting the new job things went a bit quiet on here as finding the time to blog has been a bit tricky with the extended commute, but I am back, and I have a lot of catching up to do!

I am going to do some new blogs for the patterns that have come out on Ravelry whilst I have had my head down, and I also have plans to update my photo archive too. But at the moment I am typing this on my phone on the way back from the annual new year pilgrimage to mum’s house. We spent Christmas with my in-laws, and I got the chance to use up some of my stash on small projects while I was there, plus I finished this pretty lovely retro fit jumper designed by Sue Stratford (who also writes the Knitting and Gin blog). The yarn is by For the Love of Yarn, and is a sparkly merino and silk blend that has been in my stash for a while now. I’m really please with the fit of this, and need to make one for me now!

My mother-in-law has asked me to make some lap blanket and so I am busy stash busting with those. My progress is shown at the top of the blog, and the yarn is recycled from an abandoned blanket club make that I lost interest in. I’m using the ripple technique described in the Attic24 blog and I love it in these colours.

But I am on a very strict yarn ban for 2018. I have a crazy amount of very lovely stuff and I have no more room for additions to it. So it’s a year to mobilise what I have, and to prioritise the important stuff – family, making, and getting my act together. I have a very intense six months coming up on both work fronts, so I need to plan and get organised. The book is going to happen this year, one way or another, and I will keep you all posted. But in the meantime here is to a very happy and productive new year!

Amigurumi wrangling

I am an impatient person.  With myself, that is.  I like simple makes, that look impressive but work up quickly.  I like crochet for that reason but other than a swiftly made spider for my toddler’s Miss Muffet costume a few years back, I haven’t really been drawn to amigurumi.  It’s relatively slow, monotonous and fiddly and unless you like making toys etc it’s not really very satisfying.  Plus, I have real issues trying to pronounce it.

So there I was last week, going through crochet mags for quick makes suitable for the school fundraiser when Small pokes her finger at a novelty toy donkey and demands I start work.  He was massively cute, and there was enough colourwork to make it interesting.  I also have huge amounts of acrylic to work through, so I thought I would give ‘Pedro’ a stab.

The head and ears worked up quickly but then I had a 30 min + fight with the safety eyes.  How do they expect mere humans to get those washers on? What followed was much swearing, bashing the donkey’s face on a wooden table, some supplementary swearing, squeezing until I had the imprint of two tiny plastic eyes on my thumbs, and then defeat – which involved my strong-thumbed other half.  I then got to watch someone else swearing, bashing the donkey’s face on a wooden table, swearing some more, and threatening to get hammers and pliers.  Finally, after much gurning, the eyes were in.  I had asked an online crochet group what they do in this situation, and the responses involved multiple pairs of pliers and learning to become zen about extreme thumb pain.  I was starting to wonder if I had joined some sort of masochistic cult.


The body was fiddly but ok and surprisingly I didn’t mess up the stitch count. When I stuffed him, he stood up!  I lovingly inserted his mane one strand at a time, and even tried to do my best embroidery on his acccessories.  I confess I stopped doing his full fancy tack, but was pretty pleased.

So now I have the dilemma of do I extend my repetoire or run away quickly? There is no denying the smug factor when you finish one of these is off the chart.  And as a stash buster they are hard to beat:  that little donkey used up a good chunk of a new ball of stylecraft DK plus lots of little colour scraps that needed using up.  But goodness me I won’t weep if I never see another safety eye again, and fringing, tassels, and micro hair transplants are very tedious.

Seven’s Shrug

So, as you know, I don’t usually go for trying to create clothes that need to ‘fit’ – shawls can be as big or as small as you want them to be and so gauge and sizing really don’t matter too much.  However, Sam contacted me as asked if I would consider writing a shrug pattern for one of her yarn boxes, and I decided that I would have a go and see if I could come up with something that I liked.  Used a skein of ‘euphoria’ which I still had left over from when I did the show and started to develop what has turned into this shrug. Apologies for the terrible pictures – I didn’t have anyone to model it for me!

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It is called the Sevens Shrug because the body and the border is worked in sets of seven rows or seven stitches. I wanted something pretty but not too frilly and I am quite pleased with the result.  The gauge and sizing issue has been tackled directly because the pattern is sized individually based on the crocheter’s measurements and their own starting chain.  And it is a pretty quick make too.  It can be made in a day or a couple of evenings (less if you are making one for a child / small person).  The design is simple, as most shrug patterns are, and it would look pretty special in a graduated yarn I think.  I hope you like it!

British Summer Time…

This week has been switching between beautiful blue skies and sudden and torrential rain.  Usually within 10 minutes of each other.  This is challenging when you have a small who just want to go to the local park.  In fact, I have just resorted to buying her a waterproof onesie so that the rain can’t interrupt play anymore!  But you can tell she is starting to feel the cold when in the middle of August she starts to pick through my DK stash to identify the yarns she wants to go in her new blanket.  Lots of different shades of grey with the occasional flash of colour.  I think she has an eye for it, if I am honest.

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And I really, really haven’t forgotten that I need to do the last 2 parts of the Granny Blanket pattern.  I have the squares and I think I will pick those up and get cracking on those again next week so that I can finish the instructions for the complete blanket.

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I really love that pattern.  The first one was made in Ice yarn and its soft and cosy, but acrylic, and I noticed the other day that there is a honking great error (which you have to look closely to spot) in one place.  It has taken me a long time to notice it, and it won’t stop me using it, but its annoying me.  So I really want to finish my current incarnation of it, which is being worked up in hand-dyed merino yarn and which I intend to bury myself under as soon as its made.  Its a good hibernation blanket that one, and mercifully  it is quick to make.

Small person has asked for a square-based blanket but I am keen to try out a stripey blanket based on V stitch, as I saw one the other day made from scraps and it was just beautiful.  So I will have a little play with that and, of course, I will document it on here in case you fancy making something similar.

Blankets were the thing that got me into crochet in the first place.  It was my (still unrealised) desire to make a 1970’s style granny blanket that made me keep trying to fathom crochet out.  I have made one for my Mum  (shown below) and another for my daughter (pattern is the Attic 24 Cosy blanket, for those who fancy one of their own).

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I have been pleased by how much she seems to enjoy it – it is a night time ‘wave’ when I tuck her in, a play mat, and a poorly blanket.  It is something she can’t outgrow and will always have for as long as she wants it.  And when she doesn’t want it any more, it will be a cherished momento of her childhood for me, as I sit and dribble into my cocoa, and wonder where the time went…Probably still watching the rain run down the window!

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Disorientation and the Ocean’s Edge

Today is a very strange day.  I have a day off work, but the small is occupied elsewhere for the whole day.  I am not entirely sure what to do with myself.  I think my options are:

  1. run naked around the house, swearing vigorously (because I can, right?)
  2. clean the house (because it needs it)
  3. attempt to scythe the back garden into semi normality (there is a limit to how far my love of blackberries will allow me to ignore the brambles that are galloping through the bottom half of my garden)
  4. knit / crochet all day long
  5. write a blog post

I have decided against (1) as its too cold today.  I have done some mild tidying up.  Its been raining and so the garden option is a bit more problematic than it should be.  So I think I am going for a mixture of (4) and (5), with possibly some pattern writing thrown in for good measure.

So to the blog – I can now reveal my latest shawl pattern, which is called the Ocean’s Edge Shawl.  I like shawls that are quick to make.  I also like ones where there is an incremental change in the texture or lacework of the shawl.  In this one I was a bit inspired by a trip to the Scottish coastline earlier in the year.  The water washed up on the small beach we were at and as it receded you saw how the water revealed things on the beach and the foam created patterns.  So this pattern is written in sections, starting with the water and ending on the shells washed on the beach.

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It is such a quick pattern to make that one of the shawl clubbers has already finished hers, and so it is with thanks to Joanne that I have this picture above.  My own attempts to photograph it were terrible (I don’t really know my new work colleagues well enough yet to get them to model for me), so I am very grateful to have this picture which shows the transitions of the shawl so nicely.  It doesn’t show off the pretty, pretty sea-inspired yarn that Sam dyed for it, but I have so say that it does suit a turquoise yarn.

So I am not sure what to do next.  I might make a brew, put Judy Judge on (I don’t know why, but she is my current daytime TV addiction), and see if I can finish the last sock in my current binge.  I will do a bit more tidying I think, but that might just be in my yarn room, where I have a lot of caking to do and I might have to re-organise my yarn storage at its getting out of hand.  And then I have a jacket to start to make. A friend asked me aged ago to make her a crocheted cardigan thing and even sent me the yarn but I haven’t really got stuck into it yet.  Today may be the day.  Too much time, not enough decisiveness!

Travels with my yarn

Hello!  Yes, back again after a much longer break than I had planned.  Since I last blogged I had to go to Canada for a work trip (Nova Scotia, just beautiful).  Now this was to attend a Big Grown Up Conference Full of Important People.  Fortunately, they are also rather nice and lovely.  Most importantly, the outgoing president of the society organising the conference has recently taken up spinning and weaving.  She is a good friend and utterly spoiled me by gifting me these four beautiful skeins of yarn that she had spun.

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Spinning fascinates me – I would love to learn how to do it but I am a bit scared on two counts:

  1. I will be rubbish at it and this will break my heart
  2. I will be good at it, I will enjoy it, and develop a new fibre-related addiction

Secretly I have a hankering after a beautiful wooden spinning wheel but at the moment I am going to resist.

I had promised myself a drop spindle to play with when I went to Fibre East at the end of July.  However, I made a bit of a boo boo.  This year we have been a bit restricted re when we could get away as a family and after much nagging we finally agreed a week we could both do and a location and we booked it quickly as the date was only two weeks away.  After we had booked I realised it clashed with the long planned trip to Fibre East with two friends.  I have to confess to being more than a little bit gutted at this point.  I love that show and this year there were dyers I really wanted to meet, and whose yarns I was keen to see close up.  I had set aside a little budget for a yarn splurge.  And so it was I found myself on Etsy in the car on the drive to Cornwall, picking some very pretty yarns to compensate myself.  One purchase was waiting for me when I got back home. The beauties pictured below are by All Wool That Ends Wool – she dyed for my first show and the intensity of colour she achieves in her yarn is very impressive.  Anyway, I love these colourways and even though I have enough sock yarn to last me a couple of years (!) I succumbed.  I’m not even sorry.  I mean, just look at them.  The fact that they barely fit in my box of sock yarn is not something I am going to dwell on….

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The last minute nature of the holiday also saw me sitting up the night before we left madly caking yarn ready for some holiday knitting.  At the Canadian conference I promised two of my former colleagues and another friend there that I would knit them socks, as none of them had ever experienced the sheer delight of having a warm bath and then popping handmade sock on your toes when your feet are tired.  There is nothing quite like it.  So I managed to get two sets of socks made while I was away, between trips to the beach, Tintagel, Eden Project and other pretty wonderful places.  The third set of socks is on the needles now.  As ever, I want to keep all the socks, but this time I really do want to keep these – the first ones are on Electric Boogaloo yarn by Lollipop Guild Yarns, and the second is on Jimi by Jo.Knit.Sew.  Jimi is a yarn I had in my stash for a long time, and as it has a little bit of sparkle in it.  They twinkle in the light and are so pretty in real life.

This week I am attempting to work from home with my small, which means logging into work email after she has gone to bed and pretty much working nocturnally.  Said small has agreed to go to bed an hour earlier than normal so that I am not completely tired by the time I start the night shift.  We will see how this works out, but she seems very committed to it at this point!  What I have been able to do, however, it get the signup form for my very first (and currently one-off) yarn box, nicknamed the Brain Box (well, why not?).  I am very, very excited by this as it gives me the excuse to commission some new yarn from my favourite indie dyers plus also go shopping for brain-related extras.  I am really pleased with some of the ones I have sourced.  If you would like to sign up, the link to the form is here.

I am hoping to pick up the pace with the blogging this month if I can so watch this space!

La Parisienne

I am so happy to finally be able to share this shawl with you.  In this month’s shawl club box, Sam wanted to have a Paris theme to the crochet set.  I had been playing around with some triangular-based stitch patterns and felt that they were a little bit reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower (tenuous, I know), so I started to work up something a little bit different.  This shawl has a central ‘lace’ section which is worked first and then wings are added to it to frame the lace part and add width.  It is worked here in a 120g red yak singles sock yarn from unbelievawool which was just beautiful to use and it has a wonderful drape to it.  The shawl is a big one!  As you may be able to tell, I was quite pleased with how it came out.  Red is one of my favourite colours and so this is going to be used quite a lot.

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The edging is the same one I used on the Escapism shawl, as I wanted neat triangles along the border and that method is the best one I have found for achieving that effect.  The shawl shown here was the sample I made, but I think that a plain border along the bottom edge looks neater, and so that is what I recommend in the pattern itself.

Sometimes something very simply looks the most striking!